“What will the Watershed in the Madison region look like in the year 2050?”

“What will the Foodshed in the Madison region look like in the year 2050?”

These are two of the questions presented to us at the “The Future of Sustainability” workshop with Rebecca Ryan. Rebecca hit the stage with a boom; she was full of energy, declaring how we all are here for the same reason -to change the world for the better. But there was one problem: the majority of us lacked the necessary tools to really visualize this future and build a plan of attack.

Enter *Strategic Foresight*!

To introduce us to Strategic Foresight, Rebecca had each table (there were 50+) confer together to discuss the topic that was on a notecard in the middle of the table. Our table consisted of a fellow Organic Valley employee Jason Smith, the founder of Habitat Restore, a CSA farmer, a leader of Gundersen Lutheran’s sustainability program and two other ladies. We were all charged with answering an important question: “What will the Watershed in the Madison region look like in the year 2050?”

The activity consisted of 6 steps: Frame, Scan, Forecast, Vision, Plan, and Act. We all brainstormed potential outcomes of what could happen to the water situation of the Madison region. After brainstorming about 30 different outcomes, we all agreed that “National Water Shortage” was the challenge we wanted to continue to focus on. The next step was to refine down even further what effects a national water shortage would have on the economy, the land, and life itself. With this data we had to create a story that included our most important concepts. The idea of creating this story was to include hope in our vision of future struggles. Here was our story:

Amy’s World
The year is 2050… fresh water is scarce… 8 year old Amy lives in inner city Madison. The land outside of Madison has become almost unusable as the drought continues to spread from the west to the east. Inner cities are experiencing somewhat of a back-to-the-land movement. People have created communities that share everything. Water is so difficult to come by and so expensive that people collect rain water and filter it out for consumption. Amy goes to school every day where she learns about things like how to garden and how to forage for foods. Amy knows everyone around her and has built a relationship with the land. 

Amy’s world is a picture of a future where we are presented with this horrible scenario where life has drastically changed because we failed to care for the water supply that we were given. We see in Amy’s World that we have found a way to adapt; we have found a way to survive and thrive in a completely different way. In this scenario, 35 years into the future, we see that we are learning to look to the practices of the past in order to move forward.


Organic Valley is committed to building environmental sustainability and is happy to support Sustain Dane’s Badger Bioneers in their effort to create a “strong economy, a just society and healthy planet.”