Science Book a Day Interview Jonathon Porritt


Special thanks to Jonathon Porritt for answering 5 questions about his recently featured book – The World We Made

Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, is an eminent writer, broadcaster and commentator on sustainable development.  Established in 1996, Forum for the Future is now the UK’s leading sustainable development charity, with 70 staff and over 100 partner organisations including some of the world’s leading companies. – From Jonathon’s Homepage

Jonathon’s Homepage:
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#1 – What was the impetus for The World We Made?

Ever since we set up Forum for the Future in 1996, our sole purpose has been to try and get people inspired and excited by the world of sustainable innovation. Pretty much everything we do is focussed on that goal – through all sorts of different initiatives and partnerships. So The World We Made grew out of that kind of background, simply using a very different device!

#2 – The conceit of talking from the future is an interesting one. Your tone is a positive one. What made you choose this positivity as a way of exploring the future?

One thing I’ve learnt over the last 40 years is that it’s very difficult to get people to change their mind, let alone their behaviour, by beating them over the head with messages of constant doom and gloom! It’s critical that we give people a sense of hope for a better world, including a realistic assessment of what’s going to make this possible. Writing from the perspective of 2050, looking back to where we are now, made it possible to conjure up what that world might actually look like – just so long as we get our act together in the very near future! As we acknowledge in all our work in Forum for the Future, the challenge now really isn’t about technology, or even about finance, but rather about mindsets, political will and so on.

#3 – Visual elements appear to be important to your book, including photographs, infographics and hand-drawn sketches. How did you use these visual elements to help your narrative? Are visual elements important to you in the communication of science?

People often comment how difficult it is ‘to see’ what a sustainable world would actually look like. It’s as if they’re looking for some kind of physical manifestation – however impossible that might be! So the visuals became a very critical aspect of showing at least some glimpses of what that world would look like, with a view to providing some reinforcement to the rather more abstract world of words and ideas.

#4 – Coming out in 2013, what has been the response to your book?

Happily, the response has been really positive. Although there are some (particularly in the USA!) who think I’m still wearing rose-tinted spectacles in terms of my hopes for political change, I think everybody accepts that leadership is not going to come, in the first instance, from the political world, but from all sorts of other places – and this is very much what’s happening today. And it’s heartening to see just how many people really do appreciate having the opportunity to think in rather more upbeat ways about the future than they’re accustomed to doing usually!

#5 – Are you working on any new projects/books you can tell us about? 

A book is, after all, just a book! So right from the start we thought about this as part and parcel of a much bigger campaign to get people focussed and excited about sustainable innovation. We spent a long time researching how best to do this, and in particular how to make it relevant to today’s so-called Millennials – the generation on which we certainly depend to accelerate some of the changes that one can already see emerging in our midst. Forum for the Future was instrumental in setting up a new web-based platform ( showcasing all those kind of brilliant examples of sustainability in practice – in a way that will be relevant and appealing to Millennials. Just the start, but it’s beginning to grow encouragingly, and we have big ambitions for 2015!

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