This article identifies the major problems currently facing our world and raises pertinent questions. The issues discussed are population dynamics, urbanization and land occupancy, water and food, energy and climate, technology and society, info‐rich and info‐poor, unchecked or uncheckable markets, affluence and poverty, and world governance or domination. Because we live in a world system, these issues are all interconnected and cannot be tackled independently. The article suggests a systemic approach using prospective studies to anticipate the future more effectively than our natural inclination to extrapolate. One of the simplest methods for this is the trend scenario which leads from the past and present along logical paths throwing light on possible futures. However, this leads to unacceptable situations in a not too distant time frame, and so a shared and sustainable development scenario is proposed which would emphasize the non‐material aspects of economic growth in order to handle natural resources wisely and establish the stable and equitable wellbeing of the human race. The main conclusion is that a real paradigm shift in current economic, social and environmental practices is necessary both at the individual level in terms of the perception of the limits, constraints and values of the world system, and at the world level with respect to the political will to build consensus around the new goals, with the major powers taking the lead.
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