Interview about Futures Literacy with Riel Miller, Head of Foresight at UNESCO

For over thirty years Riel Miller has been pioneering advances in the theory & practice of using the future in order to change what people see and do. We caught up with Riel Miller to talk about climate action and how it relates to futures literacy.

What does it mean to be “futures literate”?

Being future literate means understanding that there are different anticipatory systems. These are different ways for us to imagine the future and different reasons for imagining the future. The basic proposition is that the future can only be imaginary. We need to understand why and how our imagination created images of the future, relying on assumptions or frames. So, in order to describe something that does not exist, we first assume that it will exist, then make assumptions about it and finally try and project an image into the future. These images are related to many elements including hope and fear.

How does it matter in relation to climate change?

The relation to climate change is obvious, meaning that the IPCC has generated an image of the future, on the basis of a certain methodology and with a certain purpose: warning or planning. Being future literate allows us to understand that the IPCC and the whole image of climate change is one way of imagining the future. This one way of imagining the future is not necessarily the best way of imagining other parts of the future, particularly when dealing with complex, emergent and evolutionary systems like human systems, or any other biological systems for that matter. So, when we think about climate change, we need to be able to think about the future in many different ways. That is what futures literacy is about.

How can futures literacy impact the financial system?

The financial system at its very root is a temporal system meaning that finance is about time. Value is a speculation; an assumption that for instance money or gold will be worth something in the future, or that our skills, our human capital, has value in the future. The financial system reduces it to money but the question of value is the more basic question: “how do we project value through time”? Here, the financial system uses different anticipatory systems, in another words, it uses elements such as the discount rate to imagine the future. So, the idea of futures literacy is that the financial system, just like with climate change, could potentially be much more aware of the anticipatory system it uses and also diversify the anticipatory systems that it uses. That would allow the financial system to be more in tune with complexity and uncertainty as opposed to now, where it is essentially oriented towards risk, which is already one specific way of imagining the future.

What do participants experience at a Futures Literacy Laboratory?

When you ask people to learn a new skill, they need to be aware that they do not have that skill. In a Futures Literacy Laboratory, people get the opportunity to use the future through a learning by-doing process, this allows them to begin to understand that they might in fact not even have considered how they think about the future, so this is the first step towards becoming futures literate. Another thing that happens, and this is what creates the motivation but also some premature expectations, is that the participants generally talk about an issue they care about: the future of their community, or the future of water, or the future of a country. And because they are thinking about it, using different ways of imagining their future, people are exposed in a structured, systematic and cumulative way to different ways of thinking. Participating in a lab requires a lot of work because one has to design it properly. It is like any good scientific laboratory; it tests hypotheses, it generates experiments and it needs to be designed in ways that are rigorous and produce discernible and understandable results.

What or who gives you hope or inspiration in the fight against climate change?

Climate change is inciting people to think differently. This is not the same as being told by some political leader that you should think differently because this will bring you to a better world. We are being asked to think about the way we relate to the world around us and to think about transition and transformation in ways that are not based on self-interest of a particular party or elite. So the combination of a realisation that we cannot solve old problems with old methods; that the problem is something that requires us to change in ways that are profound, and that we are discovering things like the importance of anticipation and futures literacy all point, in my view, to a transformation potential.

 
Location
Related Goal
Goal 10: Mainstream climate in financial markets
Articles you may be interested in
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC selects five partners in Global South to implement gender main...

The intersection of climate and innovation remains a male-dominated...

EIT Climate-KIC selects five partners in Global South to implement gender mainstreaming into entrepreneurship
In The News
Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven

A broad survey, possible solutions displayed on screens, inspirational...

Citizens inspire a car-free Leuven
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 

Climate-focused start-up teams in developing countries face distinct challenges...

EIT Climate-KIC accelerates climate tech solutions for a net-zero Africa 
In The News
New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions

EIT Community New European Bauhaus partners will be hosting...

New European Bauhaus Hackathons will reward most innovative solutions
In The News
Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity

Slovenia has decided to actively combat climate change by...

Slovenia takes a pivotal turn towards circularity
In The News
Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiat...

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

Innovative climate projects part of EIT Community New European Bauhaus initiative
In The News
A new air and climate plan for Milan

The City Council of Milan approved the Air and...

A new air and climate plan for Milan
In The News
Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards

Three innovators from EIT Climate-KIC’s community have been nominated...

Meet the three EIT Climate-KIC innovators nominated for EIT Awards
In The News
100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030

On Monday 13 June, the representatives of the 100...

100 European cities take up the challenge to become carbon neutral by 2030
In The News
The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains

Climate smart forest economies It’s a crucial decade for...

The role of cities and regions in transforming wood value chains
In The News
Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate acti...

Scotland’s largest city region is actively tackling climate change...

Glasgow City Region pioneering forest economy innovation to drive climate action
In The News
Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe

EIT Climate-KIC and Built by Nature, announce an initiative...

Forging sustainable timber construction in Europe
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme

EIT Climate-KIC is launching Circularity Thinking courses to tackle...

EIT Climate-KIC launches new Circularity Thinking training programme
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster

EIT Climate-KIC selected four cleantech start-ups to be part...

EIT Climate-KIC announces four winners of EIT Community Booster
In The News
Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage

Climate change is going to get worse, but curbing global warming is...

Science reveals last paths to stop irreversible planetary damage
In The News
EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners

Supported by the EIT Community, the New European Bauhaus...

EIT Community presents New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards winners
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate clima...

The Ministry of Agriculture, Food and the Marine of...

EIT Climate-KIC joins forces with the Government of Ireland to stimulate climate innovation in the agri-food sector
In The News
Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambit...

Climate Lab in Vienna will give climate actors an...

Climate Lab: EIT Climate-KIC co-initiates hotspot for Vienna’s climate ambitions
In The News
Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report

On 28 February, the IPCC Sixth Assessment Report (AR6)...

Seven takeaways from the latest IPCC report
In The News
EIT launches new Global Outreach website

The European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) has...

EIT launches new Global Outreach website
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups

Working on transformative, systemic innovation to accelerate a net-zero...

EIT Climate-KIC and Amazon launch call for sustainable start-ups
In The News
Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Awar...

Do you want to support innovative solutions that integrate...

Votes open for the 2021 New European Bauhaus Ideation Awards – Audience Award
In The News
Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storag...

Brill Power, supported by EIT Climate-KIC, has launched the...

Brill Power’s new innovation radically increases battery life and storage capacity
In The News
EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop delivered a talk,...

EIT Climate-KIC CEO Dr. Kirsten Dunlop gives TEDx Talk
In The News
Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek mar...

To tackle complex climate challenges, we need a broader...

Putting theory into practice: EIT Climate-KIC Pioneer innovating the Greek maritime sector
In The News
EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Instit...

Unlocking the potential of higher education institutions for innovation...

EIT launches call for proposals to boost innovation in Higher Education Institutions
In The News
The Dolomites forging climate resilience

The Italian Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are...

The Dolomites forging climate resilience
In The News
People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan

The region’s climate action plan has been announced, with...

People-powered resilience: Andalusia announces new climate action plan
In The News
Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable co...

The built environment accounts for close to 40 per...

Built by Nature: new initiative to accelerate the transition to sustainable construction in cities
In The News
The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate in...

Glasgow, 8 November – The California Governor’s Office of...

The State of California and EIT Climate-KIC advance partnership for climate innovation