Enabling Environmental Activists to Identify and Refine their Objectives by Using ‘Future Reflective Backcasting’

George, Lisa. 2011. Enabling Environmental Activists to Identify and Refine their Objectives by Using ‘Future Reflective Backcasting’. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

Future narratives can be a useful way of conceptualising environmental problems and constructing solutions. Existing ecological future narratives such as sustainable futures and global warming have been effective at relaying the seriousness and scale of ecological problems but they can also be ambiguous, overwhelming and lead to stasis. In this research, I explore backcasting as a useful mechanism for creating detailed preferred futures and mapping out how those future states can be realised. During my exploration of backasting processes, I identify the possibility for backcasting to move beyond a simple outcome-driven process and instead become a process that creates a space for reflection, formulating and reformulating solutions.

I examine four case studies: Cradle-to-Cradle, Transition Towns, Melbourne 2032 and case study 4 which involves 5 workshops in 3 secondary schools. These illustrations present how the creation of alternative futures can be used to address ecological problems. I developed, tested and participated in a variation of backcasting, called future reflective backcasting, in a workshop format. The workshop was enabled by my involvement in an activist group called Culture Jammers. My involvement with Culture Jammers not only reflected and encouraged my growing concern about environmental issues but it also motivated my interest in how small groups respond to such issues.

In the workshop, participants generated preferred future states that shaped conversational exchanges which helped them to critically reflect on existing circumstances and identify actions to take in the present. Based on the case studies and participant feedback, I produced a set of recommendations detailing how the future reflective backcasting workshop model should be conducted as well as how to set up and manage the future reflective conversational exchanges. This thesis contributes new knowledge to academic research by identifying a form of backcasting that has not been acknowledged in futures literature or design practice.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


backcasting, future-oriented environmentalism, design activism, design, futures

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Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2012 14:02

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 13:42



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