What Can We Do?

When faced with an uncertain future, our best defense against unwanted outcomes is to plan.

Traditional planning methods simply consider historic trends, narrowing their focus to the most predictable or probable outcomes. Because the future is rarely a perfect reflection of the past, we must use planning tools that consider events that may alter the future in improbable way and unexpected ways.


“The problem with the future is that it is different. If you are unable to think differently, the future will always arrive as a surprise.”
Dr.  Gary Hamel, American Management Expert


How Can We Plan for an Uncertain Future?

The CLI uses Scenario Planning as the framework for our initiative. It is used widely in the business community to respond to the volatility of markets.

Scenarios are stories. Scenarios are not meant to be a prediction of the future, rather they serve to prepare us for those improbable, yet highly impactful events. The Scenario Development process also challenges us to acknowledge our biases, identify our shared values, and address unknowns.


So, What Are We Doing?

The CLI engages community leaders in a Scenario Planning process to produce alternative storylines of the future that will be integrated into our combined understanding of land use change and its impact on ecosystem services.

Our scenario planning process can be outlined in five steps:


What Are Our Scenarios of the Future?

With the guidance of our stakeholders (a group of conservationists, scientists, and regional decision makers) we created four scenario narratives, or alternative storylines of the future. We translated the scenario narratives into visual representations of what the land may look like in 2061.


We integrated details from the four scenario narratives into models to illustrate the differences in land-use change after 50 years.

A scientific model is a representation of a particular phenomenon of the world using something else to represent it, making it easier to understand.


In Scenario 2 and 3, development spreads in a diffuse pattern across a large area, often following major roads. This growth pattern can lead to increased forest/habitat fragmentation.

In Scenario 1 we see development concentrated around cities, but still a higher total development increase than in scenarios 3 or 4

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Virginia Working Landscapes
Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
1500 Remount Road
Front Royal, Virginia 22630
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