What Will Houston Look Like in 30 Years?

Forecasting how the future will turn out doesn't always go accordingly. Take 2001: A Space Odyssey for example. If that movie's predictions had been correct, by the year 2001 we'd be on a voyage to Jupiter in a ship controlled by artificial intelligence named Hal. However what the movie did foresee correctly was in seat entertainment, something which is standard on most planes nowadays.  So looking to the future can be hit or miss and that is some of the logic behind Scenarios 2040, which is the brainchild of the Center for Houston's Future. James Calaway is the center's Chairman.

"Based upon almost three years of research, based upon bringing community leaders from all walks of life of our region together over many thousands of hours of discussion…that we believe that these two scenarios are both credible, possible futures, and they help us to think about the critical things that we need to address for our collective well-being."

They used current data on Houston and predicted how that would change in 30 years time. The result was two scenarios and quality of life is the focus of the first scenario. It's been dubbed "Learning to Live," and it centers on the city's population and economy growing at a slow rate. Catherine Mosbacher is President of the Center for Houston's Future. She says their research shows this type of growth results in a narrowing of the gap between rich and poor and a population of about 7 million people. The second scenario has a very different outlook.

"The second scenario is called 'Playing to Win.' You'll find in this scenario explosive growth both in the economy itself and in the population.  You've got 12 million people. While the economy is booming, people are living in enclaves. Those that are the "haves" tend to live in these gated communities. Security becomes a critical issue, a lot of civil unrest, so while overall the economy is booming there are dire consequences."

So while the scenarios differ socially, they do share similarities on the economy. Both show that Houston's financial market will continue to be driven by healthcare, energy and the port.  While that may be the case, James Calaway admits nothing is set in stone.

"You can't create a credible plan to 2040, it's too far away, there are too many uncertainties, but that does not mean that you shouldn't be stretching your mind and really working to use scenarios to help frame alternative possible futures that are credible, and then working backwards to develop the critical plans in time."

The center's next step is to take both scenarios out into the community to get some feedback. Once the talking is over, Calaway says the next step is doing.

"In the beginning of next year, we're gonna bring everyone back together to talk about what are the thoughts that we've had from these scenarios that are cause for action."

If you'd like to take part in these discussions you can find more information on the Future Houston website

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