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You can’t solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis

“In the words of your kind of people, the planet will have a very, very bad user experience.”

2019 called and said it wants to pivot to 2040. It complained that everyone is so terribly pessimistic these days. “No one wants to work like this,” 2019 said.

I said nothing and thought about how to get out of this conversation, because I had work to do — I was past my deadline for this Nieman Lab prediction.

2019 paused. “But maybe I should pivot to the 3000s instead,” it said. “Why?” I said, instantly knowing I shouldn’t have asked. I wanted to write about how the publishing world will successfully enter the relationship economy in the coming year. I really had no time to think about the 3000s.

“Well, thinking about it, 2040 looks like it will be much worse,” 2019 interrupted my thoughts. “It’s getting hot in here, and I’m not talking about a successful upward curve in subscription revenues. In the words of your kind of people, the planet will have a very, very bad user experience. If you keep heating it up as you do, at 4 percent or so, a genocide is coming. Hundreds of millions of people will die. Dozens of cities will be drowned. Global GDP will be cut by 30 percent, 13 percent in an unlikely best case scenario. The wildfires from 2018 are a joke compared to the devastation the U.S. should expect. There will be food crises, floods, droughts, deaths…” — I hung up.

Having listened to 2019, it can be the year where the alarm bells ring in the broader public. The press will act as the moderator in the panic, advising people what they can do beyond not using plastic straws while there’s still time to act. They will cross the lines between journalism, campaigning, and activism, because there is no chance to solve a crisis without treating it as a crisis. They’ll become much more creative in covering climate change and go deep into direct audience engagement. Publishers who have been thinking about how to reach younger audiences will discover that putting atop their editorial agenda a topic that matters beyond anything to young audiences is a very effective way to reach them.

I called 2019 back and said it shouldn’t pivot to anything, just turn up in time, because it could become a year where the publishing world takes action — and for that, 2040 will be very grateful.

Pia Frey is cofounder of Opinary.

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