The key component of ARCís Fifty Forward initiative is a series of quarterly future forums during 2008 and 2009 intended to explore trends, issues and possibilities for the Atlanta region during the next 50 years.
The goal of ARC Future Forums is to explore and frame new ideas, foster a regional dialogue and bring community leaders together to develop plans of action for the future success of the Atlanta region. At each forum, ARC will provide a keynote address by a national or international expert on the forum topic. After each keynote presentation, a panel of knowledgeable, local panelists will respond and add their thoughts and ideas, and engage the participants in the discussion.
In addition, neighborhood forums are being hosted by the Civic League for Regional Atlanta. The Civic League has partnered with ARC to engage metro Atlantans from across the region on the neighborhood level in the Fifty Forward effort.
ARC forums will investigate the following topics:
We are experiencing a global push toward more sustainable development and consumption patterns and metropolitan areas are at the heart of the movement. Nurturing a strong economy, while preserving our environmental quality, could prove to be our regionís greatest challenge over the next 50 years. What will the world-wide push toward sustainable development patterns mean for our regional transportation system? How will the ďgreeningĒ of our region impact our economy? What new skills will our workforce need to cope with a green economy?
The character and personality of any urban region is a reflection of the people who inhabit it. So when we ask the question of what will metro Atlanta be like 50 years from now, we are really asking what will the citizens be like at that time. How diverse will our region be? How tolerant of diversity will they be? How will that level of tolerance impact our economy and our ability to compete for human resources in the increasingly global marketplace? How will the move toward a more heterogeneous population impact our civic and political systems?
The growth of the strong urban centers of the Piedmont Atlantic Megaregion (PAM) leads to questions about how the Atlanta region will interact with and connect to Birmingham, Charlotte, Spartanburg/Greenville, Chattanooga, Raleigh-Durham and other metro areas. Will we need to develop high speed rail technologies? Will one urban center emerge as a manufacturing hub, while another emerges as a financial hub? How will we work with our sister metro areas to ensure that our collective economic, social and environmental future is secure?
The last 50 years has seen our society radically changed by advances in technology; the Internet alone has revolutionized the way we communicate with each other and the way we receive information. The pace of technological advancement is increasing such that the next 50 years could see even more radical technology-induced societal change than the last half-century. What will it mean for human health and longevity when the human genome is fully mapped and understood? What will be the impact of improved information systems on the way we manage water and transportation systems?
In light of the sustainability challenges and our population growth and change, what will the impact be to our urban form? Can we continue to use land and other natural resources in the same way we do now? Will peopleís age and ethnic backgrounds demand we provide different housing options than we currently do? Will we even be able to affordably house a population that could easily top 10 million people by 2060?
It would be folly to have a conversation about sustainability and land use issues without considering the impacts of our transportation system. How will people travel to and within the region 50 years from now? Will the need to travel be reduced by technological advances in the telecom industry? How will we fuel our transportation modes? And, how do we ensure that our development patterns and transport systems are integrated and mutually supportive?
The relationship between urban form, transportation, the environment and our health as a society and as individuals is becoming increasingly clear. As we continue to develop as a region, the question of how healthy we will be and the societal costs of decreasing health will be important ones. How can we or should we design our communities in the regional context to encourage healthy living across our lifespan? Additionally, how we best care for each other in times of poor health.
As the globe continues to shrink, competition for skilled and educated human resources will become increasingly tight. For our region to sustain its economic edge we will need to attract, retain and offer continual training to our workforce. Questions about what long-term investments we need to make in our educational system take on a new meaning in the light of global competition for economic development and human capital. Strategies for retaining the young, well-educated people that graduate from the regionís many colleges and universities are needed.
How will our society be powered over the next 50 years? Will peak oil have an impact on our economy or will we be able to develop significant alternative energy sources before we approach an economic crisis? Will we be able and willing to invest sufficiently in research and development of new energy technology to find alternative energy sources that can power our economic engine?