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accelerated innovation

What if we prioritized technological solutions to our environmental challenges?

The scenario at a glance

This scenario explores what could happen if the United States prioritizes technology as the solution to climate change and other environmental challenges, such as degrading water quality.

A series of climate-related disasters throughout the 2020s and 2030s incites a nation-wide prioritization of technological solutions. The public and private sectors pour money and energy into innovation and technology, specifically in the environmental, energy, health, and biotech fields.

With a strong university, private sector, and government, the Yahara Watershed emerges as one of the nation’s solution centers. In all facets of society, technology is given precedence: the government provides seed money for research and development, the private sector invests in innovation, and the university acts as an innovation incubator. Dramatic leaps in technological capabilities are made, especially in agriculture and natural resources management—e.g., laboratory-produced meat is common and phosphorus is recycled. Public-private partnerships drive economic development. The watershed’s population increases sharply as entrepreneurs and businesses base their headquarters here and the infrastructure for innovation and technology expands.

As a result, by 2070 technology has pervaded life and the physical landscape has become highly engineered. Natural processes are valued economically and controlled by market mechanisms, namely through the Ecosystem Services Exchange Consortium. Water quality in the lakes is improving, and climate change impacts become less severe. However, technologies sometimes have negative unintended consequences. Also, the focus on technology has degraded the intrinsic value of nature, and a subgroup of technology skeptics has emerged.

This scenario’s protagonists are Joel, Jed and Cole Shedden, a father and his sons who own and run a local farm, which, like all farms, relies on advanced technology and robotics to operate. The story gives a snapshot of what life is like for them.

Read their story.