26 hopeful visions for a sustainable future 

...through the eyes of those trying to build a better one.

Published 4 Nov 2021, 19:46 GMT, Updated 5 Nov 2021, 19:14 GMT
Some of the voices speaking out for the future profiled in National Geographic's #26visions social campaign, ...

Some of the voices speaking out for the future profiled in National Geographic's #26visions social campaign, running throughout the COP26 climate conference on @NatGeoUK's Instagram and Facebook channels. 

Photograph by Credits in story / Incidentals by Unsplash

To coincide with the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, National Geographic UK asked a range of voices – from climate scientists to young people campaigning for policy change – what they would like a sustainable future to look like in the next 30 years. Here's what they said.  

(Read more of National Geographic's COP26 coverage here.)

Ali Tabrizi, filmmaker “One of my visions is that by 2030, the world will have transitioned to a more sustainable and ethical future by shifting towards a plant-based diet.” 

Brian Buma, climate activist and National Geographic Explorer “Sustainability for me means not only learning to give up on some of the modern conveniences that seem to make our life better, but learning to like giving up those conveniences. We should learn to enjoy living as part of our natural world.” (Read about Brian Buma's search for the world's southernmost tree.)

Celia Harper, founder, Junk London “My vision for the future is that we have a fully circular economy by utilising all of the waste we have already created and regenerating it into something new particularly within the fast fashion industry.” (Read more about the impact of fast fashion on the environment.)

Chloe Nunn, multidisciplinary marine ecologist and National Geographic Explorer “I'd like to see the ocean become a sustainable source of food, pharmaceuticals, coastal protection, biodiversity, clean water and community resilience through multi species farming of seaweed and molluscs.”  

Dan O’Neill, wildlife filmmaker and presenter “My vision for the future is one where we stop needlessly extracting at the detriment of both people and planet, and move to a just transition away from fossil fuels.” 

Disha Ravi, climate justice activist and writer “If there’s one thing I hope that we achieve in the next 30 years, is that we have phased out fossil fuels completely and switch to a green energy that is sustainable.” 

Left: Disha Ravi; Right, from left: Celia Harper, Chloe Nunn, Dan O'Neill (top); Ali Tabrizi (middle); Dominique Palmer, Laura Young (bottom). 

Photograph by individual featured, except Ben Harris (Dan O'Neill) and Elena Cremona (Dominique Palmer)

Laura Young, climate activist “A sustainable future is one where everyone lives in a fair society, in a green way and we are protecting the planet and people. The way we are going to solve the climate crisis is through community action and grassroots movements.”

Dominique Palmer, climate justice activist “For me, when I think of a sustainable future, I envision a world in which the wellbeing of our planet and people is prioritised. One where everyone has access to a healthy environment. In the next 30 years what I would like to see achieved is a just transition to zero emissions, in line with 1.5 degree targets.”

Eleanor Medhurst, fashion historian “I hope that within the next 30 years, we can turn the climate crisis around. We can already see people changing their behaviours with a move towards sustainable fashion for example. But it’s not just individuals who need to change, but the global production line.”

Erina Molina, marine conservationist and National Geographic Explorer “I'm from the Philippines, and my vision for the future is for all people to be reconnected with nature and for people to realise their love for our planet.” (Watch a Q&A session with Erina Molina).

Flossie Donnelly, climate activist “As a 14 year old climate activist, to me, a sustainable future is plastic-free oceans — a place where we have no carbon emissions and where we’re all working together.”

Top, (left to right): Eleanor Medhurst, Erina Molina, Flossie Donnelly, Francesca Vitali; Bottom: Isias Hernandez, Gautam Shah, Imogen Napper.

Photograph by Individuals featured

Francesca Vitali, veterinarian, PhD student and National Geographic Explorer “For a sustainable future, wildlife from the smallest invertebrate to the biggest mammals, need to get more recognition from us for their incredible service they provide to the ecosystem to maintain them healthy.”

Gautam Shah, founder, Internet of Elephants and National Geographic Explorer “My vision for a sustainable future is one where technology helps the billions of people that are living in cities stay connected with nature everyday even when it’s very far away.” (See what Gautam Shah thinks about turning gamers into conservationists.)

Geraldine and Taz, The Useless Project “Our vision for the future is all about community. Engaging in global citizenship is how we see impactful, meaningful change happen.” 

Imogen Napper, marine scientist and National Geographic Explorer “My vision is that we change the way that we view plastic – it’s a fantastic material but we use so much of it unnecessarily. My top tip is to try to reduce the amount of single use plastic that we use day-to-day and remember the small changes we make can have a huge difference.” (Watch a video about Imogen Napper's work with marine plastics.)

Astrid Hsu, marine ecologist, climate scientist and National Geographic Explorer “One of the best ways to solve the climate crisis is to expand access to clean energy which reduces greenhouse gas emissions and supports a healthier and more equitable society.”

Isaias Hernandez, environmental educator “Something I wish that can be achieved in the next 30 years of my life is having equitable forms of environmental education. We must push for more accessible forms of education that empower our future generation.”

Kyle Mattison, That Property Guy “In 30 years time, we could dramatically improve the energy efficiency rating of all of our homes. You can find your home’s EPC rating online as well as ways to improve it.”

Top (left-right): Geraldine and Taz, Brian Buma, Noga Levy-Rapoport, Rudiger Ortiz-Alvarez; Middle: Michaela Strachan, Astrid Hsu; Bottom: Kyle Mattison, Ben Garrod

Photograph by Individual featured except Elena Crenmore (Noga Levy-Rapaport) and Darren Williams/BBC (Ben Garrod)

Michaela Strachan, wildlife presenter “One of my many visions is that we’re successful with roads that charge up electric vehicles as you drive them.”

Noga Levy-Rapoport, climate activist “My vision for a sustainable future is based on equity and justice. It’s about totally decarbonising our systems while ensuring a just transition to renewable sectors so that no one gets left behind.”

Ben Garrod, Professor at University of East Anglia “What do I want to see for the future? I want to see so many more of us living alongside the natural world, not opposing it, not fighting it, not living despite it. It's only by embracing the world around us and engaging with our natural environment that we will have any chance of living sustainably and cohesively.” 

Rudiger Ortiz-Alvarez, ecologist and National Geographic Explorer “Within the next 30 years, I envision cities where we can hear birds and other animals thriving with us. In the future I hope we have reconnected with nature and our surroundings.

Top, (left-right): Nick Cutsumpas, Tyrone Scott, Lizzie Carr; Bottom: Vianet Djenguet 

Photograph by Individual featured, except Sam Gonzalez (Vianet Djenguet).

Lizzie Carr, environmental campaigner “Over the next 30 years, my vision is to see a global effort in the restoration of our freshwater environments through tighter governmental policies and better monitoring and enforcement protocols.”

Nick Cutsumpas, urban farmer “A sustainable future is one in which we greenify our cities and decentralise our agricultural system.” (Read about 26 ideas for a greener future.)

Tyrone Scott, social change consultant “For me a sustainable future is a world in which we really begin to put the planet before profit.”

Vianet Djenguet, wildlife cameraman “A sustainable future is pretty simple: stop poaching and give support to communities that live around national parks so that there is harmony between the wildlife and the community.”

Read more: Some of the contributors to 26 Visions also took part in the Constructive Visions project, led by National Geographic Explorers from around the world, which envisions a happier, more sustainable future after the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out more here.

National Geographic is committed to encouraging positive action at an individual level to help curb climate change. In light of COP26, discover more ways we all can live lighter on the planet here.

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