by Adam Woodhall — “Power, Death and Money” was the provocative title of the first event run by The Future Men. They promised a rampage through the frustrations of today, and a scramble up into the foothills of a better tomorrow, and this small but perfectly formed event certainly delivered. Combining hard hitting insights, interesting speakers and laugh out loud sketches, they proved that whilst the challenges we face are worrying, we can still be optimistic, wear a smile and take the opportunities, many of them business related, that the future offers.
The Future Men, Mark Stevenson of We Do Things Differently and Ed Gillespie of Futerra, are both authors and consultants who found themselves being described as futurists. An early joke at their own expense was when they suggested that all you need to do to receive this seemingly notable title is say you are one. Joining Mark and Ed were John Sauven, Executive Director of Greenpeace UK and Peju Adeosun, of the Virgin Earth Challenge.
Stevenson and Gillespie used a number of comedic routines to highlight points. For example, they held a Newsnight interview from 1846, with Mark taking the Paxman role, and Ed becoming the captain of industry—in this case, the whaling industry: ‘Edvard Gillespio-ah’. The Captain assiduously tried to convince his interviewer that it was ridiculous for anybody to consider that there would be a shift from whale oil to alternatives. The analogy with the current captains of the fossil fuel industry attitude to renewables was not lost on the audience.
The Newsnight construct continued when Sauven of Greenpeace was interviewed by Geoff, the Reaper of Souls (Stevenson with a death mask). ‘Geoff’ thanked the current energy system for making his job easy, highlighting how air pollution is currently responsible for 1 in 8 of total global deaths. ‘Geoff’ and John then went on to talk about hopes and fears regarding climate change.
Amongst all the levity, Mark and Ed communicated a serious message: there are not only plenty of opportunities for non-fossil fuel to take over power production, this transition is already happening. For example, they highlighted that renewables energy generation has become so widespread in Germany that people are being paid to consume electricity.
“Power, Death and Money” finished with an interview with Adeoson (pictured above with Stevenson) who shared how the Earth Challenge is Richard Branson’s $25 million innovation prize to suck carbon. The aim is to find scalable and sustainable methods of taking greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere in a way that removes more GHGs over its lifetime than it emits.
Even for the ardently pessimistic, Gillespie and Stevenson gave pause for thought, partially due to their intelligent optimism and highlighting of the opportunities for a better world, and by demonstrating that sustainability doesn't need to be dull. As Stevenson commented after a survey of the audience had been completed, “We slightly lubricated the audience to optimism”.
We even received a sneak preview of breaking news: one of the evening's invited progressives, Luke Bigwood of Good Energy told us about meetings he had been at earlier in the day which revealed that the next day Theresa May would confirm the UK would be going ahead with the Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant.
Ed and Mark were dedicated hosts, ensuring that we were not only entertained and informed, but also fed, watered and left feeling guilt-free. They of course provided the gags and speakers, but the entry fee also included a cocktail at the start, chips in the break, and then we were told at the end that not only was the carbon footprint of the whole event offset, but so were our personal footprints of that day.
So it wasn’t surprising that they had Virgin’s Peju enthusing: “The event was incredibly informative, while also highly entertaining. I think we do need to start thinking of better ways of engaging people in conversation about difficult global challenges. I can’t wait to see what they come up with next!”
As it happens, if you missed this event you'll have to wait a little longer, as their next event has sold out in 48 hours, but they have plans for a review of 2016 in December, so make sure you follow them, so you can get along to that.