In the first decades of the 21st century, stable energy prices and cheap, automated production led to a high level of consumption.
Due to accelerated climate change, the number of extreme weather events increased, causing numerous disasters. The mighty automated supply chains on which the global economy was relying proved to be highlyvulnerable. Frequent catastrophes disrupted lean production structures and oftentimes resulted in supply failures for all kinds of goods. In such an unstable world, costoptimized global supply chains were no longer viable.
These events caused a change in thinking among political and business leaders. The new economic paradigm is characterized by a shift away from efficiency maximization tovulnerability mitigation and resilience. This radical move towards redundant systems of production and a change from global to regionalized supply chains allows the global economy to better weather troubling times.
Countries in the same economic region cooperate in their endeavor of safeguarding supplies by devising joint disaster relief schemes. Artificial intelligence has made technology more flexible;the interconnected machines’ swarm intelligence enables quick reactions to surprising, sudden failures. Today, production sites and infrastructures may hibernate and be reactivated depending on emerging demand patterns. Efficient Materials, using little energy and recycling measures, all contribute to increased supply safety.
Similarly, consumption focuses on highly material-efficient goodswith long service lives.
Welcome to the Back-Up Economy
The world is heading for a long-term warming of 3.5°C. Many areas are frequently or even constantly threatened by disasters.
Some have even become all but uninhabitable. Water scarcity is an important issue that regularly sparks social unrest. The experience of the 2030s and ’40s – when crises were increasingly regarded as normal –triggered a learning and even a transformation process across societies:
What had to change to be better able to cope with the permanent natural and manmade risks?
The worldwide pattern of city development has changed in the past four decades – mainly because second and third-tier cities grew strongly in size and number.
High-density settlements have gradually shifted from risk areas to saferregions. Coastal strips, which are threatened by flooding, tsunamis, hurricanes and rising sea levels, as well as inland areas affected by earthquakes and floods, have been abandoned bit by bit, given the prohibitive sums consumed by risk prevention. The impact of this development is felt in regions like Florida, which is hit by hurricanes regularly, as well as in countries like Bangladesh and Japan,where many settlement areas are either affected by the rise in the sea level or situated in tsunami and earthquake regions.
Agricultural food production increasingly has to compete for land with other sectors, like biofuel production. As food and resource supply both have a high priority, a governance scheme clearly regulates the use of arable land.
To develop a backup system for the provision offood and energy, authorities foster urban farming and decentralized energy production. Parks and green areas in cities as well as roofs and the walls of buildings are used for smallscale farming. Renewables like solar and wind power are harvested not only in huge “energy parks” on the city’s periphery, but are also decentralized within the city proper.
Plants used on farmland and in urban farmingare optimized for the particular climate conditions and need little water, fertilizer or pesticidesTo reduce vulnerability, energy production takes place predominantly on a regional level. Renewables are complemented by domestic fossil fuels. Shale gas is being exploited as a new energy source in regions like North America and China, which have few conventional gas resources. Interconnected...