Breakthrough Dialogue 2018: Rising Tides

Wednesday, June 20 through Friday, June 22, 2018


For the last eight years, the Breakthrough Institute has hosted a unique conversation with scholars, technologists, business leaders, philanthropists, and policy-makers in the Bay Area about how to build a future that is good for people and the environment. The Dialogue has been described as the anti-Davos, a place where leading thinkers on energy, conservation, farming, and innovation from across the political spectrum ask hard questions of their own assumptions, philosophical commitments, and ideological priors.

December 4, 2017 |

Breakthrough Dialogue 2018: Rising Tides will take place Wednesday, June 20 through Friday, June 22, 2018.

A rising tide can lift all boats or sweep us away. As the planet warms, tides around the world are literally rising while figurative tides of migrants cross borders and flock to cities in search of better lives. Technology, globalization, and markets have lifted most boats, if often unequally, while a growing global population continues to extend its influence across the land. 

But tides also recede. Fertility rates are falling and population should peak later this century. Economic growth slows and material consumption saturates as societies become affluent. Rising incomes in developing economies should reduce the inequities between North and South, and with that immigration flows. 

Ocean tides rise and fall inexorably. But much of the social and environmental change that we will experience in the 21st century will be profoundly influenced by human choices. Climate, energy, trade, immigration, and agricultural policies won’t necessarily hold those tides back, and in many cases shouldn’t. But they can influence how social and environmental change proceed and shape the biosphere.

In this Dialogue, we consider opportunities to shape human and environmental futures for the better. Which trends can we shape, which are inexorable, and how might we tell one from the other? Can we mitigate, adapt to, and manage the climate to assure it will be hospitable for people and biodiversity? Raise agricultural productivity sufficiently to spare forests and grasslands while assuring that the journey from agrarian life to urban living that accompanies agricultural modernization is humane and just? Bring back nature to parts of the planet that have long been dominated by human activities and if so, which nature and for whom? How should we balance the risks and opportunities that come with rapid environmental change and identify strategies that are robust to the deep uncertainties that are inherent to all hopes and fears about the human future? How, in short, might we ride the tide without being swept away?   

Stay tuned for more details on our 2018 speakers and agenda.

A Glimpse of the Breakthrough Dialogue: