THE GREAT TRANSITIONS SCENARIO
The vision of the Great Transitions scenario stems from developments
at the start of the new millennium. These include a conviction regarding the need
to embrace a new sustainability paradigm-one which transcends the dictates of
both the Market Forces scenario and the Policy Reform scenario and one which,
at the same time, prevents the occurrence of the ills associated with the Fortress
World scenario. Associated with these is a philosophical dimension, at both personal
and group levels, which holds that an end must be put to consumerism as way of
life, and that a search must be made for issues that can provide a renewed sense
of meaning and purpose to life. Consequently, the values of simplicity, tranquillity
and community begin to displace the values of consumerism, competition and individualism.
Voluntary reduction in work hours frees time for study, art and hobbies.
|Box 4.2 The twin challenge: the challenge of Africa and
the challenge of the future
'Thus, Africa today needs both new questions and smaller errors.The
project is primarily concerned with the former.The assumption being
that they are a prerequisite for adequately tackling the latter.There
is sufficient scientific competence available in Africa today for
new knowledge to be increasingly generated from within, as it were,
through the realignment of research agenda away from the 'short
term' and 'applied' towards the longer term and more basic questions
affecting the continent's future ...
'A first step in this direction is to examine critically the
conventional wisdom as expressed in dominant policy documents related
to Africa's present and future ... The second step is the development
of alternative future scenarios for Africa that challenge the 'surprise
free' projections of the current perspectives.'
|Source: Achebe and others 1990
In the Great Transitions scenario, lifestyles become simpler, in a material
sense, and richer, in a qualitative sense, as the old obsession with possessions
gives way to intellectual and artistic pursuits. In the new sustainability paradigm,
markets remain critical, in terms of achieving efficiency in the production
and allocation of goods, but well-designed policies constrain the level and
structure of economic activity, so it remains compatible with social, cultural
and environmental goals. A variety of mechanisms enforce these principles, including
regulation, international negotiation and market signals, such as revised tax
systems which discourage the production of environmental 'bads', and which reward
restorative practices. Environmental, economic and social indicators track real
progress at all scales-business, regional, national and global-giving the public
an informed basis for seeking change.
The assumptions of the Great Transitions Scenario may be summarized as follows:
- Neither the Market Forces scenario nor the Policy Reform scenario possesses
strategies that are adequate for addressing the ills of the assault on the
- Furthermore, given current trends in the adoption and effectuation of treaties
on environmental issues, policies alone cannot be sufficiently effective against
social inequities and environmental uncertainty.
- While market forces are not abandoned as a policy tool, social, cultural
and environmental goals take precedence in thinking about development.
- For Africa (and perhaps for the whole world), notions of sustainability
fundamentally change the values and lifestyles of peoples (an African Renaissance).
- In general, there is a cultural renaissance, which is not only critical
of past behaviour and effects on the environment, but which also outlines
new ways of thinking, and which fosters environmental goals.
- The affluent, having become disillusioned with consumerism, other ills of
society and the negative impacts of development on the environment, undertake
steps to develop new values and value systems. These are gradually introduced,
and promote a new set of ethics in society.
- A new generation of thinkers, leaders and activists join and shape national
and global dialogue towards environmental sustainability.
The Great Transitions scenario represents a very optimistic view of the development
of the environment in Africa, as well as all over the world. Nevertheless, it
is not as utopian as it looks at first examination, because its tenets are perfectly
achievable, given the right atmosphere. As mentioned in Box
4.2, and discussed extensively in Beyond Hunger, Africa needs a resurgence
at many dimensions. The beginning of the millennium is a good time to start
such an exercise. Africa must ask new questions, and must challenge the conventional
wisdom that has tied the region down for too long. Africa must be ready for
a surprise, rich future.