Sunny (or spooky) greetings from your future!
By Lesa Griffith
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Lesa Griffith
Last week Bob Maynard, CEO of Aloha Petroleum, received four postcards, one a day beginning on Monday.
The first was an invitation to visit "the Commonwealth of Hawai'i" and asked for an R.S.V.P. by June 31, 2036.
"I thought maybe it's something to do with sovereignty," said Maynard's executive assistant, Joan Ellis. "Then I thought it was some sort of promotion that someone was using to pique interest."
The postcards are, in fact, part of FoundFutures, a project by Stuart Candy and Jake Dunagan, graduate assistants and researchers with the University of Hawai'i's Hawai'i Research Center for Futures Studies. They mailed them to 125 Hawai'i movers and shakers and distributed them at places such as Borders Books and Music.
Thinking — about the future of Hawai'i — is what they want the cards to trigger in recipients.
"We're trying to inject the future into the present," said Dunagan over coffee at Mocha Java in Ward Center. "(The cards are) puzzling, provocative — we're placing them around to provoke thought."
The project dovetails with Hawaii 2050, the state-backed program to develop a long-term sustainability plan to guide decision makers.
But Candy and Dunagan think Hawai'i can do better than that. "Let's complicate it a little by looking beyond sustainability, which is a bare minimum goal," said Dunagan. "(Sustainability) is a framework for avoiding catastrophe."
"We see sustainability as a kind of category of possibilities for Hawai'i, rather than a future in itself," says Candy. "There's more than one way to survive."
Futures work is not about playing Jean Dixon and predicting what the world will be like in, say, 2050. Rather it is about shaping the future — "what happens in 2050 relies on what we do now," explained Dunagan.
The research center was created by the state Legislature in 1971. Led by internationally known academic Jim Dator, it is one of futures studies' world hubs. The center has had clients that range from the City & County of Honolulu to GTE. Yet futures thinking is not part of our everyday consciousness, beyond wondering what we'll buy for dinner tonight or worrying about next month's mortgage payment.
"Everyone thinks about the future," said Dunagan. "They just don't do it very well."
So the postcards, which were created by graphic designer Yumi Vong, are an exercise in futures thinking. "It's a skill set everyone should have," said Candy.
The duo hopes the postcards, which they call a guerrilla alternative futures campaign, will spur people to think about the future.
Sustainability 2050 kicked off with a conference last August that saw 500 people role-playing in scenarios similar to those on Dunagan's and Candy's cards. But it's a single initiative and echoes a previous conference.
Hawai'i went through a comparable exercise in 1971, to produce Hawaii 2000 — a blueprint for a well-planned state. Instead of following it, O'ahu now finds itself grappling with transportation, water, waste and power issues as if they had ambushed us unexpectedly.
Futures thinking, said Dunagan, "needs to be planted in people, has to be institutionalized."
That's why the pair is trying to reach the public, said Candy.
Said Dunagan: "It's one of our efforts as private citizens."
Reach Lesa Griffith at email@example.com.