IOS Longtermism Platform Member Spotlight: Johan Schot on how 'longtermism' will shape our future

Johan Schot is a Professor of Global History and Sustainability Transitions with Utrecht University’s Centre for Global Challenges. Professor Schot’s interests orientate around impact-driven inter- and transdisciplinary research that strives to accelerate long-term system change and a just transition towards sustainability.

What does 'longtermism' mean to you?

"As a historian, I see longtermism as one of the layers of time that has shaped our past, and which will shape our future. Historical events leave traces. They may be hidden or otherwise invisible, but at some point, people will have to face them. When we think about the future it is important to reflect on the traces we want to leave behind: not just the ones we’re creating for the coming days or years, but traces for the coming decades and even longer, because future generations will have to live with them and will have their future shaped by them.

The focus of my research is understanding radical change. I call this change ‘Deep Transition’ because it is about changing many areas of life — how we move, how we stay warm, how we heat our houses, eat, get water, maintain our health, and preserve peace in the world. These are changes that influence how we perceive the world, whom we work with, what policies and strategies we develop, and technologies and products we use. The First Deep Transition took 200 years to unfold, and in fact this process is still ongoing. However, it has become clear that the traces it leaves behind have made our lives unsustainable and are threatening the future existence of both ourselves and the earth. We need a Second Deep Transition and thus building up of new traces. What will these be? What will future historians find when they dig in archives or in the ground? This is what longtermism is about: what we behind for the future."

Stay tuned for more spotlights on the core members of the Longtermism & Institutional Change platform and how this idea shapes their perspectives and research endeavours.