Climate change is having a huge impact on how we live. Our relationship with nature is an integral part of the natural world that will help lead us to a more resilient planet. Climate change affects the world’s food system and is a leading cause of growing rates of hunger. Balancing equitable access to water for everyone with conservation of our water resources is paramount. And conserving our forests also plays an important role in making us resilient. We know all of this.
Enter Youssef Nassef. An expert with more than 30 years of experience in diplomacy and international environmental policy, he is the director of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change adaptation workstreams. In 2019, Nassef created the Resilience Frontiers Initiative, a global cross-agency, forward-thinking endeavor that applies foresight and future studies for attaining post-2030 resilience. He points out that the world is not very well equipped to handle global problems since the primary responsibility of state governments is to serve their populations; elevating the discourse around climate change and resilience must go beyond local governmental thinking.
At the Resilience Frontiers five-day brainstorming conference in 2019 in Songdo, South Korea, for example, 100 visionary thinkers and thought leaders joined together from all walks of life, from nonprofit, private, and research bodies from all over the world. At that event, they envisioned how emerging soft and hard technologies—such as artificial intelligence and biotechnology, as well as social trends about sustainability and the role of ancient and indigenous knowledge for nature regeneration—are evolving. Out of this, they visualized desirable futures for climate resilience and how emerging technologies and social trends could enhance our world population to meet basic needs like water, food, and access to nature.
And, at the 2021 COP26 conference in Glasgow, Scotland, the UN initiative organized a Resilience Lab on shaping the future that went beyond gloom-and-doom climate thinking and instead looked for new paradigms of a more desirable future. By bringing together thinkers and interdisciplinary thought leaders including artists and scientists to envision climate-resilient futures, the workshop enabled participants to examine what types of new systems could be activated to produce a better world outcome. Based on its vision, the organization approaches transformation in a holistic way by exploring eight pathways into a future of permanent resilience, and challenges everyone to change their mindsets and imagine a better world, beyond 2030.
Architects and designers can’t do it alone. We’re all on the front line of the climate crisis, and we need to find new ways to look at the problem and find creative solutions in a climate-resilient way. The Resilience Frontiers initiative is a game-changing model that offers much hope for a more desirable future.
This article appeared in the October 2022 issue of ARCHITECT.