Wales 2051

A mini series of stories to told through a series of characters living in 2051

Learning environments that created curious minds

Our previous story was about Adi showing Swansea to a journalist who was eager to learn why Wales in 2051 is such a thriving nation. But, it is not the end of his travels. Having spent time with Adi cycling around the city, he is now introduced to Cameron, an 11-year old boy who Adi babysits.

A day in life of Cameron

Cameron swung the door open, his mother right behind him. He looked out to see Adi accompanied by an older man who introduced himself as the journalist there to interview Cameron and his parents about his school and his experience going there. Cameron’s face lit up with joy at the sight of Adi. Adi was more than just a neighbour and babysitter; she was his friend. At least, she had smiled warmly and said, “absolutely” when Cameron had once shyly asked if she would be his friend.

He was always happy to see Adi because she would play fun games with him and tell him about her work projects of retrofitting the city sustainably, which he liked to hear about. He tried to imagine a mini version of his local area in his head; similar but more intricate to the car road map carpet he had had when he was younger, which his brother now played with. He liked to imagine the landscape as miniature from a helicopter view so that he could mentally view all the changes to the city scape Adi was talking about. He liked maps and nature. He also liked that Adi didn’t just tell him about the new building projects, but she would explain how all the different aspects had been thought about – like accessibility for all people, the most suitable building materials to minimise ecosystem harm, how waste was recycled or repurposed and how homes for wildlife were built in. The wildlife cameras and sonar equipment were his favourite and Adi always let him listen to her recordings. He was learning many of these things in school, but listening to Adi, these things were becoming more real, and he was able to imagine the miniature landscape of the area more clearly.

Learning through others

After the standard formal introductions, they had gotten comfortable in the living room although Cameron felt slightly nervous to answer the questions. The first question was about what Cameron enjoyed most about his school. Cameron thought about the question and responded that he liked the buddy system, the volunteering days, the building modules, seeing his friends, and learning in general. He described the buddy system as a programme where all students get paired up with a student from the year above to offer help with learning, and fitting in to the new year. At his school, primary and secondary school was on the same school grounds, which meant that Cameron mentored a kid one year younger than him from primary school, but he also had his own mentor from the year above him. This was put in place to prevent bullying which worked in the past in other countries and was rolled out in Wales too. He also felt a big brotherly relationship with the kid he was teaching and a strong desire to help and protect him. Cameron had also become good friends with his own mentor whom he had now known for 3 years.

Learning with food

Next, Cameron described the volunteering days as four days spread over the year where all students would get involved in a project in their local area – most recently they had all gone to the local community farm that helped supply nutritious and organic food to the school’s cafeteria. They had spent the whole day there, and they had all helped harvest crops, feed the animals, learn what is required for farming, and how healthy soil is important for nutritious food. They had picked fruit and berries to eat and bring home.

Cameron had really enjoyed seeing how the food he ate every day ended up on his plate and he enjoyed learning in a more practical way. This was a fixed yearly volunteering day, but the remaining 3 days were suggested and collectively chosen by the students with the only requirement being that the project would be a positive social or environmental contribution to the local area. The next volunteering day would be a regeneration project where students would plant native pest-resistant tree species in parts of the city suffering from the new pathogens introduced as a result of the warmed climate. The project, also introduced for shading and cooling had been agreed in partnership with the Welsh Infrastructure Commissioners Office.

Learning by designing

Third, was the environmental construction modules which Cameron described as weekly lessons where his class were introduced to technical environmental skills and able to put them into practice. Projects ranged from building hydroponics to bird houses with green roofs, nature ponds, edible gardens and rainwater harvesting systems. It was still sometimes called Forest School by the older teachers even though, Cameron explained, all his friends called it EC, short for environmental construction. Cameron was excited about all of the projects and he felt encouraged with everything he was learning, as he would also be able to help his community thrive despite the difficult environmental challenges that all nations were facing.

Once finished answering the question, Cameron looked between his mother and Adi for validation that he had done a good job explaining. Both looked at him with immense pride. He looked down on the floor with a cheeky smile across his lips, feeling a mixture of shyness and encouragement. The journalist looked excitedly at everyone and said, “wow, that’s incredible”. His next question was about what Cameron learned in school.

Learning by connecting diverse knowledge

Again, Cameron took his time to think about the question before he finally answered that he learned about history from different perspectives around the world including Welsh folk traditions, maths and economics, where he was learning about different economic models and their impacts on people and planet. He had learned about many different models, including the old-fashioned ones that had only measured outputs around money and productivity. He explained that now, the economic system was more complicated and was also about nations’ well-being, security, and ability to deal with hard times. Cameron asked what the water scarcity indicator was when the correspondent was in school and seems bemused when he hears that in the correspondent’s day, no such thing existed. Cameron shrugged and explained that he also studied English, Welsh, geography, science and sustainability. Other subjects were arts, music, PE, nutrition and computing.

Cameron explained that in all the different modules he had, he learned about impacts on people and the planet. Almost everything they learned in in the classroom, they got to try in practice. Meanwhile, the community volunteering and his country’s progress in the green transition made him feel a great sense of passion, excitement and belonging while simultaneously learning about and embracing his Turkish heritage.

Learning by drawing on social skills and feedback

He also really enjoyed that the teachers taught ways of learning. For instance, they not only set tasks for groupwork but also taught strategies for groupwork to teach effective collaboration. This went for other soft skills as well, such as active listening, leadership, communication, analytical thinking, etc. ‘No wonder an 11-year old can speak so eloquently’, the correspondent thought. Cameron also really enjoyed that the teachers offered students choices about what and how they learned.

Cameron’s dad had returned to the living room and added that from a parents’ perspective, he was happy that aspects of the curriculum was reviewed at fixed intervals and co-constructed by learners’ continuous feedback and input from parents/carers, the local community, and experts who all contribute to curriculum development to ensure it remains relevant to local and global circumstances. Moreover, local and national schools share best practices with each other, which has enabled a faster reworking of the curriculum to the stage that it is at today. Many of these practices were proposed by the Health WellBeing (Hwb) group of the Welsh Government around 2020. Cameron’s mother adds that they also feel grateful for the mandate to keep education free of costs to make education accessible for everyone.

Learning by helping others

When the silence in the room indicated that it was time for a new question, the journalist asked Cameron what he was most excited about doing a year from now. This time, Cameron didn’t have to think. He already knew the answer as he had been waiting for this for a long time. He was most excited about the next year’s opportunity where his year would try and learn how to use the most up-to-date technology at the local tech centre. His year’s computer learning class would progress from basic learning to more detailed study by learning from tech professionals.

The journalist asked how this worked. Cameron’s mother added that some of the profits from the community’s renewable energy farm had been spent on a shared tech centre for all schools in the local area to stay on top of emerging trends. Cameron said that he was also excited about next year’s 1-week work placement. Noticing the journalists’ confused expression Cameron’s mother explains that over the past decades there has been much more emphasis on helping all children find careers that suit their skills and helping employers understand the range of talent available to them. Work experience nowadays started at a younger age and had become much more integrated within the education system. This built ties between business and communities and had generated many different but equally respected career paths. Cameron adds that he can’t wait to start his first placement – at Adi’s company. At that moment, Adi felt like a proud sister, and she couldn’t believe that her presence had led to so much inspiration for Cameron.

Follow next week’s story about Cameron’s dad Luke, who runs a business benefitting not just his family, but the entire region and the planet too!

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for a free online Green Skills event on 28th May

Learning environments that created curious minds Read More »

Skills that made Swansea a nature and people-friendly city  

A day in the life of Adi 

What struck Adi immediately as she stepped outside her office building to meet the news correspondent was his unfeigned fascination with his surroundings.

The news correspondent was astounded to find himself walking through what felt like a small forest, a stark contrast to the highly industrialised area of Swansea he had known experienced 25 years earlier. He couldn’t help but share his amazement, talking animatedly for another five minutes about the innovative urban designs that supported climate resilience he had witnessed around the city. It was only then that he realized he hadn’t introduced himself yet.

“Adi”, she replied with a smile, extending her hand for a shake.

Building sustainable infrastructure with people and nature in mind

She welcomed him inside her office and explained the features and construction of the building, run 100% on community-owned renewable energy – meaning that all citizens and businesses in the local area co-own a solar and hydro plant that supplies the whole neighbourhood. In fact, most of Wales was now organised to foster greater collaboration, ownership, fair power and resource distribution between local communities and private and public sectors. Adi explained that her area’s surplus energy was primarily sold to companies in neighbouring nations, and the money gained was invested in community projects that enriched social life and improved transport and infrastructure systems following nature alignment principles. Investment decisions were collectively decided, overseen by a body of elected local representatives and community staff, whose salaries were also paid for by the profits of the energy surplus.

She looked over at the journalist and saw that he was frozen in his note-taking, forgetting to write down what she was saying. She chuckled and went on to tell him her role as someone who helped retrofit the streets of Swansea to create people and nature-friendly urban hubs with bigger, safer and thoroughly connecting transport lanes. This includes great amounts of green spaces, more public seating areas, and more rain-covered outdoor hang-out spots with play and sports areas for kids and adults alike. The infrastructure has been developed to ensure that all necessary daily needs are reachable within a 20-minute walking or wheeling radius – an ambition first set out in the early 2000s. The large amount of shared, accessible communal space has made the transition to reduced private space easier.

A shift for car sharing options and efficient and reliable public transport using clean energy had begun when growing public dissatisfaction had reached its peak with rising financial costs for transport and fuel, staggering pollution in the air from transport pollution negatively affecting public health, and excessive congestion from an increasing number of lone drivers. Efficient public transport connects different areas across Swansea. Making transport in its various forms accessible, reliable, and safe has contributed to 93% of the Swansea population cycling, walking or using public transport to get around the city. This transition, alleviating a lot of car parking, has freed up more space for transport lanes and the nature-inspired drainage systems that are needed to cope with the changed rainfall patterns.

For a moment, they are both quiet while Adi lets him absorb all the information. He squints as if thinking hard and finally shares an observation comparing other European cities he has travelled to with Swansea (the first Welsh city he has arrived to), saying that he has in fact, noticed that many more individuals, families and groups of friends spend more time outdoors in the urban green spaces and hangout spots. They look happier and healthier.

Collaborative and integrated thinking

“What enabled this transition?”, he asks.

Adi took a deep breath and explained that the current presence of an environmentally resilient infrastructure across Swansea has, in large part, been enabled by a shift in attitude towards an experimental and trial/error approach that was made possible by a collaborative effort of local knowledge, the latest technology, and historical resources. Citizen assemblies worked alongside engineers, builders, policymakers and ecologists. This hands-on collective intelligence led to clean air, a more active lifestyle, and greater environmental resilience due to nature and culture-inspired solutions. This was important because the effects of changing climate were still real. Still, thanks to collaboration and innovation across the city, the built environment could adapt to flooding/overheating/drought with much less disruption to daily life than had been initially feared.

During a tour of the office, he is introduced to Adi’s colleagues, who reveal an excited and happy attitude to work. They tell him about a flexible work week that gives staff enough time to recuperate and be more creative and energetic during work hours. They express the joys of a supportive work environment that empowers workers to grow their skills, knowledge and networks in a relaxed, full of plants office environment. He is pleased to hear that they all receive a fair wage that ensures that they can meet their own and their families’ needs (and recreational activities) while they are ensuring secure working conditions and safety. Adi explained that these favourable working conditions got put in place following the Welsh Government’s Guide to Fair Work which has now been in operation for decades.

One question that remained unanswered was how Adi came to develop and obtain her skills. But to find out, he first had to meet her parents, who were key to developing her learning mindset.

Learning mindset with intercultural roots

After shadowing her day at work, they crushed through the city by bike and were hit by the fresh evening breeze. Looking over her shoulder, Adi saw her new journalist friend grunting, sweating, completely out of breath, trying to keep up with her. She slowed down apologetically realising that he probably wasn’t used to regular cycling.

Upon reaching her parents’ apartment 8 minutes later, she offered him a glass of cold water while he, drenched in sweat and struggling to get a word over his lips, introduced himself to her parents. Adi’s father laughed a loud, heartwarming belly laugh. “That’s why I always insist on leaving 10 minutes before Adi to not end up like you”. Adi’s mother apologised on behalf of her family and offered him a seat and a spread of homecooked food that she had prepared for his arrival. Humbled and surprised, he accepted appreciatively. The food was traditional Zimbabwean cuisine from recipes passed on for generations, while all the produce was locally and organically Welsh-grown, as famers had embraced new crops and practices compatible with the changed climate. He couldn’t remember the last time he had such flavourful and nourishing food, so he relished every bite and, for a time, completely forgot that he was there to continue interviewing Adi and her family. The bubbling conversation around the table made him feel welcome, and only when Adi’s mother brought up the topic of agricultural drought being a considerable issue in Zimbabwe due to climate change contributing to their decision to move to Wales 40 years ago did he reboot and remember to ask questions. He learned that Adi’s parents had owned a large plot of land in Zimbabwe where they had grown all sorts of grains, vegetables and fruits. Their generational farming practices had mitigated a lot of the drought. They had become local leaders and experts for other farmers who had neglected traditional forms of farming and consequently experienced more agricultural drought. A movement for traditional farming practices had risen in the country. Yet, many neighbouring countries, still relying heavily on commercial farming practices, were struck by drought and were significantly affected by poor agricultural output. This reduced the supply of food globally, raising food prices to unimaginable levels even in Zimbabwe and creating a race to procure food, especially from high-income earning countries. Yet, this shift in the economic landscape determined Adi’s parents’ decision to move to Wales while they still had enough money to afford the expensive journey.

With his mouth still half full of roasted, seasoned green beans, the correspondent asked why they had decided to come to Wales and what the move had been like. With a heavy heart, they explained that it had been terribly hard to create a new home in a foreign country and to adapt to a different culture but that the familiarity with a family friend already living in Wales had made the transition easier. Besides having existing ties with loved ones in Wales, their choice for Wales was also rooted in the reasoning that they had to move somewhere further north to be further away from the impact zone of extreme weather conditions. Now their expertise in climate resilience and farming had positioned them as lead advisers to executing green transition plans in Wales.

Adi continued the conversation by saying that as a kid, her parents would always tell her stories of how they responded to drought and the associated agricultural challenges in collaboration with their local community in Zimbabwe. Hearing these stories growing up is what drew Adi to work with climate resilience in the infrastructural sector and become a voice for ethnic youth’s inclusion in the green transition.

Lived experience and intergenerational knowledge

She recognised early on that for a holistic transition in Wales to happen, it needed to welcome all ethnic groups, so she applied for a Leadership academy open to young people with a connection to Wales. The academy focuses on integrating technical knowledge with creativity, indigenous worldviews, and empathy to ensure that participants from all walks of life can develop solutions fit for this and the next generations. The academy produced exceptional talents that went on to teach, farm, care for the elderly, rebuild cities, use local energy, work in hospitality, planning, governance, and so forth. The principles behind this programme, which was started back in the day by the Future Generations Commissioner’s Office and had become mainstream in further education was one of the best investments Wales had made. The principles fostered by the Academy and similar projects recognised the wide range of skills in young people and helped preserve folk knowledge through intergenerational learning experiences.

After a delicious dinner, Adi and the journalist again go through the chilling evening breeze on their bikes. At 6:30 pm, she reached her home in a nature-inspired apartment complex where she would babysit her neighbour’s 11-year-old son, Cameron, for a few hours.

 Follow Cameron next week to learn about education under a green transition and the eco apartment complex he and Adi live in.  

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for three free online Green Skills events on 14th, 21st, and 28th May.  

Skills that made Swansea a nature and people-friendly city   Read More »

Welcome to Wales in 2051

Over the next few weeks, Camille Løvgreen and Dr Karolina Rucinska will share six stories to inspire the existing generation to take a creative approach to solving issues that previous generations left for us to solve.

Inspired by CAST’s social visions of low-carbon futures report, the manifesto by the Ministry of Imagination, Ciprian Sipos’ posts about future jobs, and Climate Outreach, Karolina and Camille hope to show readers that everyone can play a huge role in achieving a sustainable present and future.

More importantly, through these stories, they want to focus on the role of skills and enabling environments to illustrate that we need all kinds of ideas, people, and institutions working together as one creative hive mind. These stories make up part of Karolina and Camille’s current work on green skills, alongside a series of green skills events and advice sessions.

Here is what they said:

“Nothing moves us like a good story. Through storytelling, we can imagine the future we are working towards, build hope and momentum, and come together to take collective action. These six characters and their setting let us talk, creatively, about big ideas without using big words. This makes it possible for everyone to see how they fit into the current and future world visions” – Karolina

“The idea of exploring these characters  through an imagined society with different operating structures and a different priority on the way we live is not only to imagine what a healthy coexistence between people and planet may look like, but to explore how quality of life can improve with a deeper connection to the people around us.” – Camille 

What can you expect?

Thy start by setting the scene for what it is like to live in Wales in 2051. 

Each week, they introduce a character who describes their day. In doing so, they talk about things that have always mattered to us humans: home, food, community, education, health, safety, and a sense of belonging. 

These characters are:

  • Adi – a civil engineer with an expertise in environmental resilience
  • Cameron – a young school boy, friend of Adi and son of Luke
  • Luke – a family man and business owner
  • Aman – a community farmer
  • Cleo – a doctor
  • Gwen-Eddo – a policy-maker 
  • The narrator, whose name is unknown, works as a correspondent for a leading news agency. 

Each story leads onto the next, showing how we are all connected directly and indirectly and can positively influence each other’s lives.

They kick off the story by setting the scene in which a correspondent sends a message to editors of a leading news agency about the tour around Wales in…2051!

Read on for the first edition in the series…

Setting the Scene

In this first post, Karolina and Camille outline the world as they see it in 2051.

It’s 2051, just a year after what leaders of the past called the Net Zero deadline. Although the emissions continued to reduce over the decades, only a few benefited from the shift to low-carbon economies. Why? The transition worldwide was terrible due to the lack of planning, imagination, foresight, inclusion, and system thinking. Everything that was not meant to happen… happened. Between 2024 and 2035, the world experienced mass unemployment, instability, closure of borders, the collapse of ecosystems, barren agricultural fields, reversal of human rights, and collapse of economies.

A leading news agency correspondent visits nations worldwide to see how they are doing a year after the big two-oh-five-zero.  Most people forgot what 2050 was about, but a few remembered. 

Here is the reporter’s correspondence to the editors:

I have made it at last. 
As you know, Wales, like other nations, was not spared. But….after a decade of the Great Discontent, where everything seemed to be going wrong from economy to the environment to social systems, they did something spectacular yet pretty simple. Here is what I have been able to gather so far. 
First, they – that is, everyone from school teachers to policymakers to community leaders and influencers – took the lessons from what went wrong. Some outcomes were their own doing, and some were not. In fact, many things were left by previous generations, some going back hundreds of years! Because nobody was left to blame, a farmer called Anam told me, it was a blessing in disguise. They could move past talking about the problems facing their communities, and towards taking action to fix them! One of the inspiring people I met, Adi, said “We knew there was no point in just talking about our problems any longer, as we could not change the past, and we are living in the reality of them today.”
Secondly, they went back to the recommendations their predecessors have been gathering over the decades and decided to finally implement them, keeping in line with the principles of sustainable development. Their leaders, from all political parties, communities, and businesses, adopted the mantra “We are better than division, we are better than fear, and greed, we are a nation of sanctuary to people and nature, we can't live without nature and we can't rebuild lives without people”. I thought it was pretty inspiring, but I was not sure how real this was. 
Well, I saw for myself that they implemented the Well-being of Future Generations Act, which they had dug up from their documentation decades ago, to its full! They started with acting on what mattered to them the most. One of the leaders, a business owner named Luke, told me: “When we remind ourselves we are the homo resilient, living here in service of this planet and honouring the past and the present, we achieve all and more than our predecessors dreamt about.”
I know what you are thinking: "Ah, of course someone would say that if they knew they were going to be interviewed by a leading news agency.” I thought that too, but just wait till you hear more. 
Sorry for this short message, but having spent just one day here, I think these folks have mastered the art of the possible. 
This is all I have to say for now. I will update you again in a week!

Would you like to know more about Wales in 2051? Next week’s story follows Adi, a civil engineer, who spends a day showing the news correspondent around. 

How can we develop and use the skills needed to create a 2051 we are proud of? Join Karolina and Camille for three free online Green Skills events on 14th, 21st, and 28th May.

An image of a person's hand writing on a red background. Title text reads: Green skills and your workplace. An orange block with black text reads: What do we mean by green skills? Tuesday 14th May 1 PM. Green recruitment and inclusive job descriptions. Tuesday 21st May 1 PM. Greening every job. Tuesday 28th May 1 PM. Cynnal Cymru logo in bottom left corner.

Welcome to Wales in 2051 Read More »

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