Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes
1.1. Contextual History of GSG
- What approaches and methods are appropriate for examining long-range socio-ecological prospects in a coherent and scientifically-grounded way?
- What policy adjustments in the near term are necessary to assure a vibrant and verdant civilization for the future?
- What are the implications for our values, behaviors, and lifestyles of taking seriously the concern for the well-being of people who are distant in space and time, and of the wider community of life with whom we share the biosphere?
|World end-state||Scenario variants||Archetypal Social Visions|
|‘Conventional’||Market Forces (MF)||A world that evolves gradually, shaped by dominant driving forces|
|Policy Reform (PR)||A world that is influenced by a strong policy push for sustainability|
|‘Great Transitions’||New Sustainability Paradigm (NSP)||A world where new human values and new approaches to development emerge|
|‘Barbarization’||Fortress world (FW)||A world that succumbs to fragmentation, environmental collapse, and institutional failure|
2. Comparing GSG Scenarios Variants with those from the Literature
|(MF) [ 21]||(PR) ||(NSP) [ 21]||(EC) ||(FW) [ 21]||(B) |
Business as Usual [19,81]
Markets First [17,18]
Economy First 
Global Orchestration 
Big is Beautiful 
Global Economy [78,90]
Great Escape 
World Markets [22,23,39,40,56,58,59,60,67,68,79,83]
Market World [11,42]
Blinkered Evolution 
New Frontiers 
Market Forces 
Business as usual 
Free Markets 
Riding the Tiger 
Triumphant Markets 
World Markets 
High Growth (F-0) 
GO for GROWTH 
Growing on 
Perpetual Motion 
Carry on Consuming 
Economy First [34,35]
High Emissions 
Market Forces 
Uncontrolled Demand 
Technology, Economics & the private sector 
Policy variants [14,15]
Policy First [17,18]
Global sustainability [22,39,40,58,59,60,67,68,79,81,83]
Knowledge is King 
Big Crisis 
Strong Europe 
Global Co-operation 
Policy Rules [34,35]
Global commons 
Green World 
Strong government 
Fruits for a few 
SUCCEED through SCIENCE 
Green policy 
Policy reform 
Leading the way 
Urban Colonies 
Low emissions 
Business as usual (F-1) 
|Jazz  |
Values and Lifestyles 
Sustainability First [17,18]
Sustainable Behavior 
Global Sustainability [22,39,40,58,59,60,67,68,79,83]
Global Responsibility 
Green World 
Living on the No.8 wire 
Civic Renewal 
CONNECT for LIFE 
Global Orchestration 
Global Commons 
Great Transitions 
Sustainable world 
The Triple Whammy 
Factor Four 
|Sustainability First [17,18]|
Local stewardship [22,39,40,58,59,60,67,68,79,81,83]
Transformed World 
Adapting Mosaic 
Local Resilience 
Tribal Trading 
Independent Aotearoa 
Lettuce Surprise U 
Evolved Society 
Regional Communities 
Sustainability Eventually [34,35]
Building Lifeboats 
Medium/Low Emissions 
|Security First [17,18]|
Fortress Europe 
Fortress World [11,25,30]
National Enterprise [39,41,59,60,68,83]
Order from Strength 
Clustered Networks 
Transatlantic Market 
Continental Markets [54,78]
Fortress Britain 
Provincial Enterprise [22,40,58,67,79,81]
Fortress Europe [34,35,42]
Lords of Misrule 
Turbulent Neighborhoods 
Boom and Blame 
Last Man Standing 
Brown Tech 
KEEP it LOCAL 
|A2  |
Decline to Disaster 
2.1. Conventional Worlds
‘MF is constructed as a future in which free market optimism remains dominant and proves well-founded ’. ‘Market-driven globalization, trade liberalization, institutional modernization—relies centrally on the self-correcting logic of competitive markets to address global challenges .’ Populations and the global economy expand and free trade and deregulation drive growth. The availability of sufficient resources—raw materials, land, water, energy—and the means of maintaining ecological resilience in such a huge economy are critical uncertainties. The challenge of satisfying bio-physical sustainability constraints is compounded by the challenge of maintaining social and economic sustainability in a world of profound inequalities between rich and poor countries, and within each country ’.
- First Raise Our Growth—FROG!—a familiar world where economic growth and success is a major concern and where human social systems are unable to meet the challenge of sustainable development, ;
- ‘Business as usual’—a continuation and extrapolation of current trends with limited investment in water infrastructure, ;
- ‘A1’—an integrated unsustainable world of very rapid economic growth , and
- ‘Markets First’—a world based upon market driven developments [17,18] (later developed to ‘Economy First’ [34,35], in which Globalization and Liberalization are embraced, economic growth is high and multinational companies dictate environmental standards, the close relationship being shown in Figure 1b).
|Performance in MF ||Worsens
|Generic qualitative patterns of change that resonate with other scenario sets||Emphasis on individuals, low public participation in governance. Uncontrolled urbanization and an increasing ageing population. A consumerist world where the rich get richer.||The focus is on economic efficiency. However, access depends on what you can pay for. Innovative technologies respond to consumer demands.||Strongest economy with International decision-making. However there is low government intervention in a highly efficient formal economy in which most people work.||Environment worsens due to high environmental impacts. Increase in pollutants, CO2 emissions, resource use/capita and water stress (quality and quantity of groundwater decrease). Net deforestation.||Weak social and environmental policies.|
- ‘Riding the Tiger’—a linear continuation of the current era ;
- ‘Triumphant Markets’—a world of materialism, consumerism, free trade and market integration, ;
- ‘World markets’—where material wealth and greater mobility is to the detriment of society and the environment ;
- ‘High growth (F-0)’—a throw away economy with a free market model ;
- ‘Go for Growth’—where economic growth continues to be driven by consumption and new technology ;
- ‘Growing on’—where high economic growth is at the expense of social cohesion and environmental sustainability ;
- ‘Perpetual Motion’—a society driven by constant information, consumption and competition ;
- ‘Carry on consuming’—where UK supply chains are dominated by a handful of companies and global competition has put greater reliance on production and processing within the European region ;
- ‘Bazaar’—a market world where free market policies, corporate restructuring and entrepreneurship offer a model for the rest of the world ;
- ‘High emissions’—contributing to high environmental impacts;
The PR path requires unprecedented political will for establishing the necessary regulatory, economic, social, technological, and legal mechanisms . This strong policy is used to meet social and environmental sustainability goals following widespread concern over environmental deterioration, social conflict, and economic instability. This leads to a marshalling of political will to implement comprehensive government action aimed at redirecting and constraining the global economy to achieve a broad set of social and environmental goals . PR assumes the emergence of a massive government-led effort to achieve sustainability without major changes in the state-centric international order, modern institutional structures, and consumerist values . For example PR is assumed to have adopted the best available technologies and yet behaviour has remained relatively unchanged . There is a deep and widespread commitment to economic equity and strong and harmonized policies are implemented that, by redirecting the world economy and promoting technological innovation, are able to achieve internationally recognized goals for poverty reduction, climate change stabilization, ecosystem preservation, freshwater protection, and pollution control .
- Global Ecosystem Organization—‘GEOpolity’—a world where an environmental and social crisis looms and the response is to build an interlocking governance structure coordinated at the international level, ;
- ‘Technology, Economics and the private sector’—where private sector initiatives lead research and development, and globalization drives economic growth, but the poorest countries are left behind ;
- ‘B1’—world that emphasizes global solutions to economic, social, and environmental sustainability with reductions in material intensity and the introduction of clean and resource-efficient technologies  , and
- ‘Policy First’—where strong actions are undertaken by governments in an attempt to reach specific social and environmental goals, [17,18]; developed to ‘Policy Rules’ where Europe is at the forefront of a new socio-economic paradigm of public/private partnerships and leads a global shift in direction, water framework directive compliance is higher than ever—the close relationship can be seen in Figure 1 [34,35].
|Performance in PR ||
|Generic qualitative patterns of change that resonate with other scenario sets||Emphasis on more community. Medium public participation in governance. Less chaotic urbanization and a growing population. User behaviors relatively unchanged.||Focus on general efficiency and environment. Promotion of technology transfer and diffusion. Best practice technology. Dependence on increases in technological efficiency to reduce consumption.||Strong economic growth with International decision making. High government intervention in an efficient and fair formal economy in which most people work.||Environment improves due to reduced environmental impacts. Reduction in Pollutants, CO2 emissions (20% of 1990 levels reached by 2050), resource use/capita and water stress. Moderately reduced deforestation.||Strong social and environmental policies|
- ‘Leading the way’—UK Government takes a hands on approach to ensure the transition to a low-carbon economy; investment in environmental research and technology is high ;
- ‘Prosperous stewardship’—a global player in economic terms with high regulation, innovation and a dry climate ;
- Urban Colonies—good environmental practice is at the heart of the UK’s economic and social policies; new urban planning policies; consumption has fallen; resource use is now a fundamental part of the tax system and disposable items are less popular ;
- ’ Low emissions’—resulting in reduced environmental impacts ;
- Innovation—Previously Alchemy, in this world people work in regulation and compliance; environmental concerns are the problem of manufacturers and service providers — supply side regulation (for water) is an accepted integral part of the economy ;
- ‘Business as usual—B-A-U’ describes strict controls for land-use planning, a balance between growing volumes and increasing recycling rates, and adoption of techno-fixes for carbon capture —as such it describes perfectly a policy-centric B-A-U for the UK; and
- ‘Powerdown’—refers to the path of self-limitation, cooperation and sharing; an orderly equitable transition to a low-carbon economy, which mirrors the steps being taken within a PR world .
2.2. Great Transitions
NSP sees new humane globalization (rather than localism) change the character of urban industrial society . A values-led change catalyzed by the push of deepening crises and the pull of desire for a just, sustainable, and planetary civilization. This new paradigm is rooted in human solidarity, universal access to education and health care services, ecological resilience, reduced consumerism (technology is as good as it gets but matched also by a step-change in behavior ), improved well-being, e.g., creativity, leisure, relationships, and community engagement) and quality of life . NSP is a more cosmopolitan vision than EC, because it is a world that would transcend and transform urban and industrial civilization, and maintain global linkages and solidarity, rather than retreat into localism . The improved social cohesion reduces conflict; crises may still linger, but the world is able to confront them with enhanced institutions for reconciliation and cooperation .
- Jazz—where markets are harnessed for finding solutions to sustainable development ;
|Performance in NSP ||Significant improvement
|Generic qualitative patterns of change that resonate with other scenario sets||Strongest emphasis on community. Highest public participation in governance. Large reduction in population. Significant voluntary Improvement to user behavior.||Best practice technology . Focus on general efficiency and environment. Promotion of Technology transfer and diffusion, encouragement of open source.||Sustainable economic growth with no dominant scale for decision making. Place of work is variable by region and societal group.||Lowest pressure on natural environment.Greatest reduction in pollutants, CO2 emissions, resource use/capita and water stress. Net reforestation.||Strongest social and environmental policies. Human well-being and the environment are central to long-term planning initiatives.|
- ‘Hearts’—Environment wins, Society Wins—This is a world in which demography, politics, economics, and sustainability gel. It is the future that the Brundtland Commission pointed us towards ;
- ‘Triple Whammy’—based upon a combined approach to environmental, social and economic sustainability ; and
- ‘Factor Four’—a more sustainable, low-impact food system that improves significantly demand-side management in addition to re-use, recycling and composting .
Eco-communalism envisions a patchwork of semi-isolated and self-reliant communities; quite sustainable with high equity, low economic growth, low populations [8,63] with a bio-regional focus, a highly localist vision and face-to-face democracy, . EC contrasts with NSP by: embracing the principles of strong decentralization; small-scale technology; and economic autarky . It has been suggested by Gallopin et al.  that an EC world could emerge out of an NSP world, if powerful consensus arose for localism, diversity and autonomy. Just as likely, however, it could emerge from the recovery of Breakdown . A major threat to sustainability could come from the possibility that some of the more or less isolated communities develop into aggressive, expansionist forces that attempt to dominate neighboring communities .
- ‘Local stewardship’—a world with conservative values, regional/national governance, locally-based financial and other services, and small-scale intensive agriculture and manufacturing [41,59,60]—like Denmark, Sami  — this relationship being confirmed by Pridmore , EA  and Pinnegar et al. , the last of these authors include also:
- ‘Delta’—an early version of EA’s ‘Survivor’ scenario, and:
- ‘Adaptive Mosaic’—a world of local regional co-management; common property institutions; integration of local rules regulating trade; local, non-market rights; local communities; local equity and cooperatives .
Authoritarian rule, elites in “fortresses”, poverty & repression outside; an authoritarian response to the threat of breakdown; from protected enclaves, elites control an impoverished majority and manage critical natural resources [9,10,33] Strategic mineral reserves, freshwater and important biological resources are put under military control, as are favored resort areas, including nature and hunting preserves, from which the poor are excluded . This is a world in which wealth, resources and conventional governance systems are eroding and alliances are formed to protect the privileges of rich and powerful elites in their bubbles of privilege. Outside the fortress, the majority is mired in poverty, denied access to scarce resources and restricted in mobility, expression and basic rights . Authorities employ geo-engineering techniques to stabilize the global climate, while dispatching militia to multiple hotspots in an attempt to quell social conflict and mass migration. But the results are mixed: emergency measures and spotty infrastructure investment cannot keep pace with habitat loss and climate change; inadequate food and water to desperate billions . Technology is maintained in the fortresses, even with some continued innovation, but deteriorates elsewhere. Local pollution within the fortress is reduced through increased efficiency and recycling. Pollution is also exported outside the enclaves, contributing to the extreme environmental deterioration induced by the unsustainable practices of the desperately poor and by the extraction of resources for the wealthy . In this kind of future, sustainable development is not in the cards, a half-remembered dream of a more hopeful time . Global equity is very low, though it could be high within the fortress, and outside. For those unfortunate enough to be born poor, life is Hobbesian: nasty, brutish, and short. A general uprising of the excluded population is plausible and the collapse of FW could lead to Breakdown [8,23,53].
- GEO-4, 2008, this was developed by Duel et al.  into ‘Fortress Europe’ as shown in Figure 1b; a world in which Europe closes its borders and concentrates on a series of security issues, a central goal of which is self-sufficiency; co-operation is are difficult, alliances change and water conflicts intensify) and
- AEO’s ‘Fortress World’ scenario, the later being developed from the former .
|Performance in FW ||Worsens Substantially
|Generic qualitative patterns of change that resonate with other scenario sets||Focus on individuals Lowest public participation in governance due to its breakdown. Human wellbeing, the environment and natural resources are victimised to meet security demands.||However, there is a huge increase in R&D for military. The emphasis is on security of supply and access to technologies is closely guarded.||A weak economy with national decision making Disintegration of economic and social fabric accompanied by emergent underground economies.||Highest pressure on natural environment. Increase in pollutants, CO2 emissions, resource use/capita and water stress (quality and quantity of groundwater decrease). Net deforestation.||Weakest social and environmental policies.|
- ‘Lords of Misrule’—a fortress world with socio-political backlashes and regressive development in institutions ;
- WBCSD’s ‘Rivers’ scenario—a world of ‘Haves and Have-nots’ ;
- ‘Turbulent neighborhoods’—a world of physical security, muscular military action and the formation of a fortress Europe ;
- ‘Boom and Blame’—a world of privileged enclaves and ghettoized communities ;
- ‘Last man standing’—the way of war and competition operate in this world—globally disconnected, a survivalist approach ;
- ‘Brown Tech’—a world in which the security of the “haves” is a constant issue with gated communities, and apartheid style townships and barriers for the “have-nots” ;
In this variant, the vicious cycle of chaos, conflict and desperation spiral out of control. The security apparatus within remaining privileged areas cannot contain the tide of violence from disaffected individuals, terrorist organizations, ethno-religious groups, economic factions, and organized crime. Collapse of civil order becomes widespread, as populations become increasingly desperate and governments weaken. Refugees fleeing from chaotic zones destabilize neighboring areas, inadvertently contributing to widening waves of disorder. To stem migration, increasing resources are devoted to police powers, border security, and control of the activities of citizens. The global economic, finance and governance systems founder, though the media lingers to spread fresh news of upheaval. The retreat of globalization is particularly devastating for industrial economies highly dependent on trade and imported natural resources. The results are: rising unemployment, economic depression, political instability, and outbreaks of civil disorder, even in rich countries. This self-reinforcing chain of events eventually leads to a general disintegration of social, cultural, and political institutions, deindustrialization (to varying degrees in different regions), and in many regions a return to semi-tribal or feudal societal structures. With the collapse of markets and investment generally, technological progress halts—and the level of technological capability regresses. Population eventually begins to decrease as mortality rates surge with economic collapse and environmental degradation. Many couples, deeply pessimistic about the future, choose not to bring children into the world. In a bitter irony, equity increases but only because everybody gets poorer. Breakdown conditions could persist for many decades before social evolution to higher levels of civilization again becomes possible .
- IPCC’s ‘A2’ scenario —a fragmented unsustainable world. It is interesting to note that Raskin does not align ‘A2’ with FW and yet this shows that incredible similarities do exist.
3.1. Archetypes: Are the Three World End-States Proposed by GSG Appropriate?
|Archetypes ||Scenario Sub-Group : [7,8,9,10,12,13,16,21 and 84—126] Those highlighted in bold are also included in Table 2||No Scenarios||Link to GSG|
|‘Current Trends’||Conventional: no significant change and/or continuation of current trends|
High Growth: government facilitates business, leading to prosperity
Asia Shift: economic power shifts from the West to Asia
Economy Paramount: emphasis on economic values deterioration in environmental and social conditions
|‘Sustainable Development”||Our common Future: increased economic activity is made consistent with improved equity and environmental quality|
Low consumption: conscious shift from consumerism
|‘Pessimistic’||Breakdown: Collapse of Human Society|
Fractured World: Deterioration into antagonistic regional blocs
Chaos: Instability and Disorder
Conservative: World economic crash is succeeded by risk-averse regime
|‘High-Tech Optimist’||Cybertopia: information and communication technology facilitate individualistic, diverse and innovative world|
Technotopia: technology solves most of humanity’s problems
|Archetypes||Details (refer also to Figure 3)||Link to GSG|
|‘Business as usual’||A world that prioritizes government and the economy.||MF|
|‘Sustainability‘||A world that prioritizes the environment - through efficiencies of scale in urban settings, or through decentralization and focus on communities and locales.||PR, NSP|
|‘Paradigm shifts’||A world where current assumptions about future governance or the economy are overturned. They are often connected to worldview and value shifts that are enabled by new technologies.||EC|
|‘Collapse (vulnerability)‘||A world with economic difficulties, social schisms and/or environmental degradation.||FW|
|‘Technological Age’||A ‘high tech’ world transformed primarily by technological fixes.||-|
|Archetypes||Details (refer also to Figure 1a)||Link to GSG|
|‘The Global Market’||Global developments steered by economic growth result in a total dominance of international markets with a low degree of regulation. Environmental problems are being dealt with when solutions are economically interesting||MF|
|‘Global Sustainability’||A globalized world with an increasingly proactive attitude of policy-makers and the public at large towards environmental issues and a high level of regulation. Three main variations can be discerned. One where the global solution is technology change, one with strong governance structures and one with a broadly supported paradigm shift.||PR, NSP|
|‘Regional Sustainability’||A regionalized world, where most—broadly supported initiatives improve the state of the environment and move toward sustainable solutions are bottom-up with a major role for NGOs and multi-level governance structures||EC|
|‘Continental Barriers’||A regionalized world based on economic development. The market mechanism fails, leading to a growing gap between rich and poor. In turn, this results in increasing problems with crime, violence and terrorism, which eventuates in strong trade and other barriers||FW|
3.2. Scenario Variants: Are Six Variants Appropriate?
3.3. Can GSG Scenarios be Used with an ‘Axes of Uncertainty’ Approach?
Conflict of Interest
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© 2012 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open-access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/).
Hunt, D.V.L.; Lombardi, D.R.; Atkinson, S.; Barber, A.R.G.; Barnes, M.; Boyko, C.T.; Brown, J.; Bryson, J.; Butler, D.; Caputo, S.; et al. Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes. Sustainability 2012, 4, 740-772. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4040740
Hunt DVL, Lombardi DR, Atkinson S, Barber ARG, Barnes M, Boyko CT, Brown J, Bryson J, Butler D, Caputo S, et al. Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes. Sustainability. 2012; 4(4):740-772. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4040740Chicago/Turabian Style
Hunt, Dexter V. L., D. Rachel Lombardi, Stuart Atkinson, Austin R. G. Barber, Matthew Barnes, Christopher T. Boyko, Julie Brown, John Bryson, David Butler, Silvio Caputo, and et al. 2012. "Scenario Archetypes: Converging Rather than Diverging Themes" Sustainability 4, no. 4: 740-772. https://doi.org/10.3390/su4040740