I live in Newport in Melbourne with my wife and two young boys, on the lands of the Yalukit Willam people of Boon Wurrung Country that is part of the Greater Kulin Nation. My mother was born in Melbourne and my father was born in Sweden, from where I have inherited my name, a second language, and a strong belief in the potential of the next economy. I work as the Head of Strategy at the Small Giants Academy, a storytelling platform and education institution dedicated to the accelerated transition to a more just and sustainable society.
In 2050 my eldest son will be the same age as I am now. There are seven themes across my most hopeful vision for Australia in the 2050s. The first is that the natural environment is now regenerating at pace. Much damage has been done and it will take generations to repair, but the arc has turned, and we no longer view the environment as a resource to plunder. We have deeply understood, in a painful way through increased fires, floods and droughts, that we are an interconnected part of our environment. However, we have also rediscovered nature’s potential to nourish and replenish us and to create balance and peace in our lives.
The second theme relates to deep time and long-term thinking (with a nod to Roman Krznaric’s work in this area). In 2050 we have come to understand our long-history and have begun to integrate the wisdom of our First Peoples into our national story and our vision for the future. We have also come to prioritise long-term thinking across our economy. We have a Commissioner of the Future who assesses all policy proposals from the perspective of future generations. We have long-term incentives in business and have reformed the stock-market to limit short-term trading.
Thirdly, we have remembered that the meaning of the word “economics” is actually the art of household management. This has dramatically widened the measures of success beyond profit for businesses and GDP for nations. Our government’s primary responsibility is handing down an annual wellbeing budget, which comes ahead of the traditional budget each year.
The fourth theme is a revitalised and participatory democracy. We came through the turbulent decades at the start of the century with a newfound respect for the basics of our democracy. This evolution was in part driven by a new government program that funds a gap year for young school-leavers to volunteer in their local communities. It unleashed a wave of local democratic engagement that led to countless reforms of our parties and our institutions.
As our privacy disappeared in the digital revolution, our society woke up to the severe threats, not of the technology itself but of the monopolies and the centralisation of power they had created. Our public policy response, to dramatically limit the business model built on surveillance capitalism and data exhaust, broke apart the monopolies and unleashed a wave of new innovation centred around digital dignity and the public good.
In 2050 new houses are energy and water independent by default and older housing has been retrofitted to these same standards. We have understood the benefits of universally accessible and free public transport which have removed most privately-owned vehicles from the road. Limitations on housing as an investment option stabilised prices long ago and, alongside unprecedented investment in social housing, has largely ended homelessness and the housing crisis.
Finally, the widespread and deep respect for our Indigenous history, alongside the renewed celebration of the cultures who have come here, has finally broken the back of racism and structural disadvantage. Our shared sense of belonging is underpinned by the elevation and reinvestment in the arts, which sits alongside sport as the glue that binds our nation together.