This work was written and published in May 2008 as a free-access online essay. A year later it was published as a book by Chelsea Green. The project coincided with record oil prices and focus on peak oil, accelerating climate change at the extreme end of scientific modelling, and the global financial crisis. I characterised these and other crises as symptoms of the energy descent future I articulated in Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability (2002) and in line with the seminal Limits to Growth report (1972).
In June 2010, prior to the Occupy Movement, in “Money vs Fossil Energy: the battle for control of the world”, I added fresh insights for empowering environmental and social activism in an age of climate change, peak oil and economic crisis.
In December 2013, my essay “Crash on Demand: Welcome to the Brown Tech future” laid out the case for why this scenario, out of the four in Future Scenarios, was best describing the emerging global conditions, especially in Australia. The essay was very controversial, not for the early call I was making, but rather for the suggestions about possible activist responses that might be able to prevent the worst energy descent segue to the ‘Lifeboat’ scenario over the succeeding decades.
In June 2016, “A History from the Future: a prosperous way down” was published. A local story from 2086, it used retrospective storytelling to breathe life into the future scenarios and contextualise them in the territory of central Victoria, my home for over 30 years. This work built on Future Scenarios presentations and workshops I had been doing over the previous decade, locally, around Australia and overseas. This story included an economic depression (a little premature for the pandemic-triggered economic depression that is currently unfolding) and a short war between the USA and China in 2022 that is looking increasingly plausible. The drought and east coast bushfire season of 2019/20 has provided a graphic sense of the similar events that are part of the local story in 2025.
“Aussie Street”, another storytelling presentation, which I have used to illustrate and enliven my ideas for retrofitting suburbia since 2005, was also extended to include a near future scenario of “the second great depression of the 2020s”. It became the prime act in promoting our manual for challenging times: RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future.
“Futures Framework for RetroSuburbia: Limits To Growth, Energy Futures and Energy Descent Scenarios”, is a concise summary of the Future Scenarios, specifically crafted for readers wanting to get the gist of my over-the-horizon view of the future that informs the permaculture-designed solutions of RetroSuburbia.
The contents of this revamped version of the original Future Scenarios website, including my photos that I used to enliven the basic description of each energy descent scenario, remain unchanged as a clear historical record of my thinking in 2007–08.