Can we transform the world by 2031? A new BBC Ideas video shows how we've made major shifts before

We really liked this video from veteran environmental campaigner Andrew Simms, on how we shouldn’t be so daunted by the IPCC’s challenge that we have 12 years to avert runaway and cataclysmic climate disruption - because we’ve made rapid transitions before.

And then we remembered we had blogged this argument a year ago - based on Simms’ excellent paper on the subject. Enjoy the above, but head here for the deeper arguments in their booklet (launch page, download PDF). The contents page lays out the key examples of rapid transitions they cover:


  • When volcanoes erupt: the Eyjafjallajökull explosion in Iceland, and how people adapted to when the ashes shut everything down

  • In extreme circumstances: How Rojava and Greece responded to economic and military shocks

  • When work changes: The Netherlands' 4 day week has embedded itself in the society

  • When culture shifts: How consumerism shifted, when Sao Paulo began to ban adverts

  • When new movements emerge: Transition Towns and Ecuador's Buen Vivir as inspirational exemplars


  • When homes are needed: After the Second World War, millions of houses were publicly built in the UK

  • When you need transport: Post-war highways, containerisation and electric trains were grand acts of construction

  • When you need clean energy: Costa Rica, Denmark, Germany and the UK show how quickly it can be generated

  • When the world suddenly shifts: When the Soviet Union ended, Cuba was unplugged - but responded powerfully, improving health and wellbeing


  • When Banks Fail: After the Crash in 2008, the state did what it had to, to save the economy

  • When you need a new deal: Franklin D. Roosevelt turned the US around in the 30's with visionary legislation

  • When a country reinvents itself: Iceland after the financial Crash fundamentally reexamined its way of governing 

  • When industries become obsolete: it's possible to shift spending from military industry to other forms

  • When conflict calls: faced with Nazism, Britain reorganised itself with startling speed

More here.