This time last year, a group of twenty people from around Hull came together to talk about the future of the city.
All over 60 – the eldest born in 1934 – we looked back at the changes over the past 80 years. Central to the discussions was how communities around the city had transformed. Many in the room had lived through the clearance of the neighbourhoods around the Hessle Road, and the creation of Europe’s largest housing estate in Bransholme. In Aarhus too, the 1960’s saw an ambitious re-building of the city at Gellerup following the modernist ideals of Le Corbusier.
The space age of the 1960’s offered a bold future. One lady at the Hull workshop jokingly remembers: “They promised us jet packs…” – but the reality of the 21st century is somewhat different. The dream of flight, for example, is less marked by adventure than it is by queues at the airport, endless security checks and long haul flights full of red-eyed backpackers and business people. Restless sleep and a feeling of being detached and unrooted are the norm. This summer’s British Airways inflight magazine carried a supplement un-ironically called ‘Belonging’ – showing glossy photos of Caribbean islands where those with enough cash to invest in property can buy their way to citizenship.
Back in Hull, a feeling of belonging turns out to be central to discussions of the future – though property ownership doesn’t figure at all. Instead, the focus was how to support young people to live in the city, how to support and grow communities, and an unsentimental recognition that the city is bound to change to survive.
Though there were few firm answers, these discussions and the challenges they raised inspired where we began with the stories for 2097. What is it that makes a community? And what are the things that sustain us in the face of change?
Watch the films here
Donald Trump’s rejection of the Paris Agreement this month could be the most harmful decision to the future of our planet, ever.
His intention to resurrect the United State’s old industries of mining and coal has brought widespread condemnation from business leaders and oil giants alike. Facebook’s founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said that the withdrawal was “bad for the environment, bad for the economy and it puts out children’s future at risk”. This was echoed by Lloyd Blankfein, the chief executive of Goldman Sachs, who condemned the President’s move in his first ever tweet.
Potentially turning the clock back decades on environmental policy, what does Trump’s decision mean for the future?
As part of the research for our upcoming sci-fi films imagining life in 2097, we spoke to university professor David Gibbs about the challenge of reconciling global industry and consumption with the need to live sustainably.
David argues that sustainable economies depend on transformations at every level: from government policy to local networks and ‘green entrepreneurs’ such as the UK farmer who transformed his farm to grow crops for eco-friendly building materials. Ideas such as the ‘steady state’ economy and the ‘circular’ economy – championed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – seek to accelerate this transformation.
David points to these and to the development of renewable energy, like the gigantic Siemens factories in both Hull and Denmark – producing 75 metre long rotor blades for wind farms in the North Sea – as showing promise that sustainable thinking is now going mainstream.
He frames the challenge today as one of imagination and re-invention.
Can we transform industry to meet our appetites for consumption in a way that is sustainable?
Watch David’s interview
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At the back of a courtyard, along a narrow street busy with cyclists in Aarhus is a room with high ceilings and a long wooden dinner table.
When I first arrived the room was busy with people. A group of about twenty getting ready to sit down for lunch together. This is Sager Der Samler, self-described as a ‘house for everyday activism’. I had come to interview one of the founders – Kristin Birkeland, about the some of the projects she’s been involved in, and how she sees the importance of belonging and community in shaping the future.
In workshops, people from Aarhus and Hull counted rebuilding community and a sense of inclusiveness as central to their hopes for the city. Both cities have struggled with rehousing communities in the last 60 years. In Hull, I met Stacey Windley on our workshop about the city in 2097. In her video she explains why politics should be taught in schools to increase access for working class people.
According to Kristin in Aarhus, community begins with individuals who find ways to take positive action to change not just their own situation, but also that of those around them. Projects such as Anaobaba TV – in which refugee parents created an online TV channel to teach their children about life in Denmark, highlight the potential for digital tools and storytelling in these actions.
Watch Kristin’s interview