Global Scenarios: Descriptions

Conventional Worlds

Conventional Worlds envision the global system of the twenty-first century evolving without major surprises, sharp discontinuities or fundamental transformations in the basis for human civilization. Dominant values and institutions shape the future, the world economy grows rapidly and developing countries gradually converge toward the norms set by highly industrial countries.

Market Forces

Graphic depiction of Market ForcesThis variant incorporates mid-range population and development projections, and typical technological change assumptions. The problem of resolving the social and environmental stress arising from global population and economic growth is left to the self-correcting logic of competitive markets.


Policy Reform

Graphic depiction of Policy ReformPolicy Reform adds strong, comprehensive and coordinated government action, as called for in many policy-oriented discussions of sustainability, to achieve greater social equity and environmental protection. The political will evolves for strengthening management systems and rapidly diffusing environmentally-friendly technology, in the context of proactive pursuit of sustainability as a strategic priority.


These scenarios envision the grim possibility that the social, economic and moral underpinnings of civilization deteriorate, as emerging problems overwhelm the coping capacity of both markets and policy reforms.

Fortress World

Graphic depiction of a Fortress WorldFortress World features an authoritarian response to the threat of breakdown. Ensconced in protected enclaves, elites safeguard their privilege by controlling an impoverished majority and managing critical natural resources, while outside the fortress there is repression, environmental destruction and misery.



Graphic depiction of the BreakdownIn this variant, crises combine and spin out of control, leading to unbridled conflict, institutional disintegration and economic collapse.




Great Transitions

Great Transitions explore visionary solutions to the sustainability challenge, including new socioeconomic arrangements and fundamental changes in values. They depict a transition to a society that preserves natural systems, provides high levels of welfare through material sufficiency and equitable distribution, and enjoys a strong sense of social solidarity. Population levels are stabilized at moderate levels and material flows through the economy are radically reduced through lower consumerism and massive use of green technologies.


Graphic depiction of eco-Communalism under Great TransitionsThe Eco-Communalism variant incorporates the green vision of bio-regionalism, localism, face-to-face democracy, small technology and economic autarky.



The New Sustainability Paradigm

Graphic depiction of the New Sustainability Paradigm under the Great TransitionThis variant shares some of the goals of the Eco-Communalism scenarios, but would seek to change the character of the urban, industrial situation rather than to replace it, to build a more humane and equitable global civilization rather than retreat into localism.



See Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead for more details.