Past, present and future perspectives



Humankind has, through the ages, employed various methods and devices to seek to know what the future holds. Indeed, there is a school of thought that humanity's concern with knowing the future, and the impulse to propitiate the future in order to avoid catastrophes and to produce blessings, may well have been part of the drive for knowledge. Be that as it may, any explorations about the future remain a major undertaking, and one which is designed to elucidate and educate. It is even more challenging when the subject of study concerns humanity in its domain, and humanity's ability to ensure self-preservation.

In our endeavour to chart a new course for the development of the African environment, we have made recourse to all the tools available at our disposal. For instance, as Achebe and others (1990) wrote in Beyond Hunger, 'thinking about the future requires faith and vision, mixed with philosophical detachment, a rich emotional life and creative fantasy as well as the rigorous and orderly tools of science'. Consequently, in looking at the future of Africa from 2002 to 2032, we have combined all these efforts to produce quantitative descriptions and rich narratives of the various scenarios, which we believe will assist in the major steps that must be taken in the new millennium.

AMCEN's concern with developing an AEO represents a significant landmark in the region's development process. It should also constitute a threshold in the way in which we relate to the environment. It is this understanding that constitutes the framework for the analysis described in this chapter. The four scenarios-the Market Forces scenario, the Policy Reform scenario, the Fortress World scenario and the Great Transitions scenario-were developed to facilitate the discussions on the future of our environment. The scenarios are simple conceptualizations of how the environment might develop in the next 30 years. The truth is that this categorization is convenient, and is not meant to indicate some compartmentalization of the processes of change. As we have shown in the narratives, it is possible, even within countries, to find aspects of each scenario occurring. The Fortress World scenario- though a doomsday scenario, which is heralded by apathy and the neglect of issues of sustainability-has many features that are present today in the socioeconomic systems of many African countries.

Nevertheless, writing about the future can be one of the most dangerous undertakings, because the future is essentially unknown and uncertain. It can also be a very challenging task, because it can be full of suspense and surprises. This is our understanding. What we have provided in this work, therefore, is both the quantitative and qualitative evaluation of the future of our region, in the hope that the minds of people in positions of authority, who can make and execute policies, are drawn to the crucial issues raised regarding desirable and undesirable trends. In this final section, we shall attempt a recapitulation of the findings.