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OHPE Looks Ahead: A Library for the Future

I Introduction

The first OHPE of the new year is often a year in review article. However, as long-term readers (and anyone besides myself who did an OHPE keyword search on "Hershfield") know, I am quite interested in the Future). (1) This interest goes beyond predictions and other futuring activities to include long-term planning and accountability. Each year we are living more and more in the short term. Business seems driven by quarterly results and end of day stock prices and not by long-term strategy. Governments seem driven by short-term standings in the polls and less by the long-term impact of their policies.

Is this any way to manage a global civilization and ecosystem?

II "Slower/Better"

One of my inspirations has been the Long Now Foundation, a group dedicated to taking the long view. They promote "slower/better" thinking and foster creativity--all within a 10,000-year framework. (2) Yes, there are important implications beyond the share price at the closing bell. Yes, politicians should think beyond the next election. And yes, my dog and I should both think past our next meal. Ultimately, by thinking and acting long term, perhaps we can better address some of the systemic problems and not just dally with surface, quick wins.

The 10,000 Year Library is one of the Long Now Foundation's projects. Their view is that this library would conserve the information needed for long-term thinking by building "a conspicuously durable Library" for increasing accountability. (3) Consider all the commissions and reports produced and how they don't seem to generate action before the issue drops from the agenda, the reports fall out of sight, and the window for important change closes. Or newspaper articles that contain irreconcilable views on critical issues that won't be resolved for tens or hundred of years. A 10,000 Year Library ensures that this information is available to us in the future.

But having access to the information is not enough to encourage long-term planning and accountability. Writing in The Clock of the Long Now, Esther Dyson suggests there are tremendous insights to be gained from reviewing the predictions made by opposing sides on issues and comparing with what really unfolded. (4) Imagine reviewing, at reasonable, long-term intervals, the promises, predictions, and assurances we hear every day from politicians, businessmen, environmentalists, and, yes, health promoters. Imagine being accountable for your predictions. (5)

So today, proud of over six years of achievement at OHPE and looking tens, hundreds, and thousands of years down the road, we start our own modest Library of the Future for Health Promotion. We would like to include issues with measurable consequences where collective memory and investigation is important for change; describe the current commitments, predictions, or controversies; indicate where you can get some key information; assign a long-term date for revisiting the issue and assessing the outcome; and describe what we'd like to add to our library on that future date. A few examples follow.

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III Library Holdings

Issue: Campaign Promises

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: Will the federal/provincial/municipal governments elected in 2003/4 keep their campaign promises?

Current holdings: Paul Martin's promises and record,; Dalton McGuinty Ontario Liberals,; and Toronto Mayor David Miller

Timeline: Revisit in 2007/8

Future Holdings: report cards on government action

Issue: Child Poverty:

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: "Fourteen years ago [1999], the House of Commons unanimously resolved to 'seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.'"

Current holdings: Honouring Our Promises: Meeting the Challenge to End Child and Family Poverty, 2003 Report Card on Child Poverty in Canada,; Campaign 2000: End Child Poverty in Canada,

Timeline: Revisit on December 2014

Future Holdings: annual report card on child/family poverty/health, Statistics Canada report on Income Trends in Canada

Issue: Tobacco

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: provincial ban on smoking in public

Current holdings: Ontario Liberal campaign promises,

Timeline: Revisit in October 2006 (3 years after election of McGuinty's Ontario Liberal Government)

Future holding: a copy of enabling legislation

Issue: Civic Engagement

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: voter turnout increases for provincial and municipal elections (currently at 55% and 38% respectively)

Current holdings: Ontario election statistics at

Timeline: 2007

Future holding: election statistics

Issue: Water

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: Constructing 6,000 housing units on the Oak Ridges moraine will not compromise Southern Ontario's water supply

Current holdings: provincial government page introducing the issue,

Timeline: Revisit in 2103

Future holding: environmental assessments (and who, we ask, will do this?)

Issue: Pandemics

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: Ontario is prepared for a pandemic

Current holdings: Robarts Centre for Canadian Studies reports on SARS,; Naylor Report, "Learning from SARS--Renewal of Public Health in Canada,"

Timeline: Revisit in 2014

Future holdings: An assessment of public health efforts and lessons learned from SARS for ongoing and future infectious disease control, mortality rates from future outbreaks/pandemics

Issue: Climate Change

Commitment/Prediction/Controversy: Is global warming a natural trend or a man-made, ecological disaster?

Current holdings: David Suzuki Foundation,; Canada and the Kyoto Protocol,; UN Convention and Kyoto Protocol,; Kyoto Protocol Thermometer,

Timeline: Revisit in 2050

Future holding: a review of progress on and adherence to international and national agreements on emission reduction, a definitive and widely accepted report on the causes of global warming

Issue: Wellbeing

Commitent/Prediction/Controversy: health promoters improve the quality of life for Canadians

Current holdings: Genuine Progress Index (GPI),

Timeline: Revisit in 2050

Future holdings: GPI index or equivalent

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IV Conclusion

This is a very small beginning; there are many programs, predictions, and controversies that would benefit from long-term thinking and review. If you like this idea as a way of building our collective future, send us your ideas using the format of our examples. We are planning to add a Library webpage to and we will revisit our Library in our annual year in review articles.

A happy 10,000 years to you, your family, and community from the OHPE Editorial and Management Team!

(1) Long Now Foundation (check out some of their projects at,

(2) Long Now 10,000 year diagram []

(3) Brand, Stewart, "The Clock of the Long Now: Time and Responsibility" Basic Books, 1999 p. 0094

(4) Ibid page 0098

(5) The Long Bets Foundation at

The Long Bets website is designed as an arena for competitive, accountable predictions; as a forum for focussed discussion and debate about prediction; as an attractive tool for philanthropic giving; and as a way to foster better long-term thinking. ( Predictions that are described with a rationale and dateline, are open for discussion, and when challenged, turn into bets.