The Mega-Drivers of Change

Ten or so years ago, while Chairperson of the then NZ Futures Trust I was lucky enough to be able to form a small group of internationally-recognised futurists, and, after considerable discussion and argument, compile a list of eight winds of change which would have major affects on the world to 2030. Over the last ten years, events have proved we did a pretty good job, as the impacts and consequences of these mega-drivers of change begin to emerge.

The eight megadrivers we identified are as follows.

New Knowledge

This has been selected as a major change driver, as often, when new knowledge combines with a perceived human want or need, new technologies emerge that change tremendously, the way we do things.  Recent examples include digital technology fueling computers, the internet and cell phones; the jet engine fueling growth in international travel and tourism; artificial fibre for cheaper, more effective clothing; the list goes on
New Zealand with a small population in an isolated part of the world will benefit from developing new knowledge and identifying early as many convergent opportunities as possible and thus new knowledge will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.


This has been selected as a major change driver as water is essential for life and is capable in natural and manmade circumstances of destroying communities and economies.

New Zealand as a primary producer and tourist destination will need to continue to ensure that there is an adequate supply of good quality fresh water.  It is an increasingly contested resource, and is becoming a significant risk management issue for farmers, dwellers by coasts, on hillsides and on floodplains, local bodies, and transport system operators and insurers.  Water quality in rivers, lakes and streams is a mounting and costly societal concern.

Our islands are surrounded by vast oceans of water that will continue to impact on our future. Coastal water management will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century

The Global Economy

The global economic situation is constantly changing and local economies are becoming more and more interdependent. The global economy has since 1970 has been defined by over-productive capacity and vast movements of capital, excess to requirements needing to find a home. Given this overheated economic situation and the considerable movements of capital, there is considerable uncertainty for the coming decades.
The New Zealand economy is deep in debt, and as a nation is very dependent on international trade.  The shape of the global economy will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.

Social Inequalities

Large social inequalities in societies tend to be destabilising and can result in civil war and anarchy.  Internationally troublesome social inequalities are becoming more prevalent and the situation may worsen as communities struggle for natural resources that are now becoming scarce and where extreme wealth coexists with poverty
Historically New Zealand had a brief period of several decades of relative social equality (circa 1945-84) but since then for various reasons a wider socio-economic spread has developed and more unacceptable social behavior is being reported.

Changes in wider s social inequalities will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.

Climate Change

The planet is experiencing a period of more rapid climate change over the whole planet than experienced before in modern human history.  The changes appear to be mainly unfavourable for humans and most other life forms as most are unable to adapt their lifestyle rapidly enough to survive.

Scientific evidence suggests that human activity is largely responsible for the increased rate of change.  This is a global issue and the future of the planet is going to depend on how we as individuals accept and support solutions, resolve the tensions that will arise as the present population distribution and our personal lifestyles are altered drastically.

New Zealand society and economic well-being is very dependent on stable weather patterns as agriculture is our main economic resource.

Rapidly changing weather patterns will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.

Belief Systems and Multi-ethnicity

The world population density, ease of travel and for many the personal desire to migrate mean that most communities are no longer isolated and that all communities now have a significant number of people with very different life-experiences and antecedents.

Change in community life is mainly determined by the current belief system of the group.  Rapid technology changes and the multiplicity of belief systems within communities is creating tensions and debate that need new social structures for communities to survive and prosper.

New Zealand is a country of migrants with about 20% of its resident population born outside of New Zealand. Our migration policy has led to a very diverse mix of cultures superimposed on the bi-cultural beginnings of the last 150 years of settlement.

How we learn to live together as a multicultural society will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.

Population Dynamics

Increasing population densities, migrations and population aging are features affecting most countries in some way. They are likely to increase in magnitude over the next twenty years, resulting in major changes to population dynamics and their secondary affects throughout the world.  Many developing countries are already unable and/or unable to afford, to feed their populations.  Many of these people are seeking better living conditions in other, more developed countries, usually against the wishes of the receiving countries.  This condition is unlikely to decrease in the foreseeable future, and could well become more pronounced if/as inequalities continue to grow.

Aging populations in the developed world will have major impacts on the cost of national budgets and change the mix of products and services expected by communities for example in health and housing.
Changing population dynamics will be a major driver of change over the next quarter century.


There is a strong probability that the international price of oil will increase to historically very high levels over the next decade and will become increasingly unavailable for widespread use, especially for transport.

The economies of the developed world, and much of the developing world, have been underpinned by cheap fossil fuels for nearly a century.  The shift from cheap fossil fuels to more expensive, alternative energy sources are likely to have profound impacts on the way individuals live, how national and global economies operate, and the manner in which international affairs are conducted.

Changing energy paradigms will be a major driver of change over the next quarter of a century.



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