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1960-2012: Societal Pressure Waves

2012 Update: An updated version of my societal pressure waves analysis can be found on pages 4-5 (and elsewhere) in the latest Volans report, The Future Quotient. I have been extremely lucky, in one sense at least, that my working life has coincided with the rapid, global evolution of the environmental and sustainability movements, whose dynamics have done so much to power and shape the waves shown in our various trend maps.

For those interested, my sense is that fourth wave peaked in 2011, and that we are now in another downwave period. But that's no bad thing: downwaves, to date, have been the time when most of the serious work gets done. But it's ironic that we are falling back as the world limbers up for the 2012 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, just as we did ahead of its predecessor in 1992. 

Older Content (dating back to early 2008): Our waves analysis has been central to my work since 1994, when I began to plot societal pressures since 1960 on the public, private and citizen sectors. On the basis of later work, I would now change the start date of the third Downwave to 2001, specifically in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Subsequently, governments—and particularly the Bush Administration—defined security much more narrowly than had seemed natural only a few months previously. Issues like human rights and climate change were pretty much scraped off the table. The diagram plots the upwaves and downwaves to date again three trend lines: for total world population, for the global rural population (flattening out) and the global urban population (which depending on whose statistics you believe, either crossed the rural trend line in 2007—or will do so in 2008).

From around 2005, however, I thought I began to detect a powerful resurgence, as indicated in the diagram. Indeed, I think we are now already embarked on a fourth wave.Although in the early stages it will have to cope with what I expect to be an uncomfortably recessionary environment, my sense is that its focus will be very much aligned with the themes of our new book, The Power of Unreasonable People—focusing on innovation and scalable entrepreneurial solutions to the great global divides (described in detail in the book). These themes are central to the work of Volans Ventures (http://www.volans.com), launched early in 2008.

Into Wave 4: Upwaves and Downwaves, 1950-2050
Into Wave 4: Upwaves and Downwaves, 1950-2050
Crazy Horse was here
Plotted: My waves are graphically interpreted during a WEF event at HP in Palo Alto
Crazy Horse was here
Ready, steady: Against waves backdrop, Raj Thamotheram is wired at AXA event, France, 2007
Crazy Horse was here
Axis Mundi: Among the blue remembered swell of the Cotswolds, a place of relative calm as the pressure waves have worked their way through the global system. We moved to Hill House, Little Rissington, in 1959, on returning from Cyprus. This is a detail of an 11-foot-wide painting of the village from a nearby hill by my sister Caroline Elkington (http://www.carolineelkington.net), which now roosts in the Village Hall.

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