Bright Spots: Seeds of a Good Anthropocene


This is a suite of research activities that aim to solicit, explore and develop alternative, plausible visions of "Good Anthropocenes" – optimistic visions of futures that are socially and ecologically desirable, just and sustainable.

Popular and scientific forecasts of the future are dominated by dystopian visions of environmental degradation and social inequality. These negative visions may inhibit societies' ability to move towards a positive future for the Earth and humanity. Whilst the global community’s efforts to imagine positive futures has led to visions that tend to be utopian, not well articulated, too much like the world we already live in, and unclear about the steps to achieve these worlds.

A future 'Good Anthropocene' will require fundamental changes in values, worldviews, relationships among people and between people and nature in many of today's societies.

Bright Spots aims to scope out some of these radical changes, and to initiate global discussions of the kinds of positive social-ecological futures people would like to create. It will expand discussions beyond efforts focused on avoiding negative futures or taking incremental steps with narrow foci forward.

'Ingredients' of a good Anthropocene already occur in many places around the world. The project thus also aims to identify and analyse these places - the 'bright spots' - and understand how and why their elements of positive futures occur and may make these bright spots seeds of a Good Anthropocene.



Do you know of a project, idea or initiative that could radically change the world for the better? Yes? Then contribute a seed here!

Read Bennett et al.'s Bright spots: seeds of a good Anthropocene (2016. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment) here.


The goals

Bright Spots brings together researchers from multiple disciplines and of broad geographical distribution to

  1. discuss the meaning and characteristics of a 'good' Anthropocene,
  2. develop criteria that can help assess seeds of a 'good' Anthropocene,
  3. design workshops and other means to collect ideas of seeds from around the world, and
  4. identify broader networks that could be targeted and involved in this process.

We - the project partners - anchor these discussions in a diverse global set of regional studies of human-nature interaction, in places such as South Africa, the Arctic and Sweden.


We started hosting a series of regional open science dialogues the first one being held by the South African Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (SAPECS) in South Africa in November 2014. We link this regional variation to a dialogue with a large range of global leaders to facilitate wide-reaching discussions and engagement with society at large via social media channels and our scientific networks.


The tools

Our tools to make this project work include:

  1. a blog called Seeds of good Anthropocenes to showcase narrative versions of socially-ecological bright spots,
  2. an online survey to collect seeds of a good Anthropocene,
  3. a database linked to the blog and survey that houses information about the bright spots for analysis, comparison and synthesis of seeds,
  4. a series of products that can be used to help partners and collaborators collect more seeds (e.g. a set of agendas for workshops, a game and a manual for the game).


Project progress

  • November 2015 - now (ongoing) • Building of an international network of researchers interested in Bright Spots/Seeds.
  • March 2015 - now (ongoing) • Ongoing collection of seeds. See survey here.
  • 19 October 2016 • Webinaron Exploring social-ecological transformations and seeds of a good Anthropocene by Albert Norström, Per Olsson and others. See information here.
  • 3 October 2016 • Publication of article Bright spots: seeds of a good Anthropocene (Bennett et al. 2016. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment) here.
  • 27 June 2016 • Elena Bennett gave a talk entitled Using Future Visioning to Effect On-the-ground Sustainable Change at the 2016 World Economic Forum on the project. See video here.
  • 6-7 November 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa • Workshop Bright Spots: Seeds of 'Good' Anthropocenes. See news here.
  • 27 February 2015 • Launch of the blog Seeds of good Anthropocenes.
  • 26-28 January 2015, Stockholm, Sweden • Workshop for framing and further planning of the project (27 participants). See news here.
  • 3-4 November 2014, Stellenbosch, South Africa • Open science dialogue on Seeds of a Good Anthropocene: A Southern African Perspective that challenged participants' thinking around profoundly different futures for humanity and the environment, especially from a southern African developing-region perspective (circa 60 South-Africa-based participants; organised by SAPECS). Read more.
  • 27 September 2014, Stockholm, Sweden • Small, informal planning meeting between project partners
  • September 2014 • Project starts. See news of grant announcement here.

October 2016