Welcome to Our World

Our World is a webzine and video brief series from the United Nations University. We focus on global affairs—beginning with climate, oil, food and biodiversity — at a time when we are witnessing a convergence of these issues.

It is ever more clear that everyone will be affected by the resultant problems. No one can say: “This does not relate to me.” In this globalized and inter-connected world, it is almost impossible to live an insulated and carefree life.

Business as usual is no longer an option. That is how we got here. Thankfully, we are also seeing a worldwide merging of agendas as people from varied fields begin cooperating to solve the current and coming challenges.

Business unusual is the way forward. We are re-making Our World with each passing day but we need to start re-thinking the way we do things. For this is a fantastic opportunity and one that we should welcome with open arms: the chance to make a better world.

Why that name?

Our World is a second chance for the planet. It is a new narrative, a new story. Technology is great, but won’t answer all our questions. The challenge is more in our mindset. We need to fundamentally change how we think about environment, economy and technology. We have been talking about this for a very long time, but quite simply we have not changed. Now is the time.

Our World is inspired by the idea of Web 2.0. For those of you new to Web 2.0, let us briefly explain. When the World Wide Web was first created, most early websites were essentially just “About us”. This first version of the web has been described as pushing information onto e-visitors. Very little thought went into what visitors actually came looking for or what they might want to say. Frankly, it was just a reflection of the real, everyday world that wants to spoon feed you information.

Web 2.0 describes a new version of the web, based on sharing and co-creation. There are many examples of how this works. Bloggers, for instance, connecting up ideas across their blogs. People writing, editing and administering wikipedia. Others uploading videos to Youtube. Photographers sharing their photos via Flickr. Millions and millions of people commenting on everything they see, find interesting, love and hate.

Everything can be connected. Now it is a lot easier to do more. It is possible to pull content from diverse sources on the web — videos from here, photos from there, news feeds from somewhere else. If you set yourself up properly, others will start to pull content from your website. It really is a massive, inter-connected and living web.

And it is having an amazing impact on how we do things. More and more people are collaborating to co-create content and knowledge in diverse fields from music to the human genome. And this is only the start.

So what?

So, what if this amazing transformation of how we generate and share knowledge could help us solve the problems of climate, oil, food and biodiversity? This won’t happen by magic, with a click of the mouse button. It is going to take time to understand how to effectively use this powerful opportunity to bring about the widespread changes we need.

Through the webzine and video briefs, the UNU will work with you to define and better understand the kinds of changes needed and those that are already happening as we re-create Our World.

We are adopting a journalistic style, backed by research and hard evidence, based in friendly and positive language. This is not something that we have tried before, but we feel a need to deepen our conversation with you.

Our World will invite contributions from anyone who wants the share their ideas and experiences.

Why now?

We have just over four years to reduce CO2 emissions in order to meet the Kyoto Protocol targets. To reach these target reductions, some fairly dramatic changes may be needed. Even if we don’t meet the targets, we want to track those changes and learn from them.

The price of oil recently crossed the US$140 per barrel mark and continues to climb, with some predicting US$200 very soon. This has a major impact on economies that have a heavy dependency on oil.

Many countries rely on the cheap import of food. Is this sustainable? What is the carbon footprint? Will increasing oil prices affect this movement of food? Will climate change impact on these trends? What about the effect on agricultural land of a shift to bio-fuel production?

Biofuel production and mono-culture agro-industry impacts negatively on global biodiversity, which is already under threat from climate change.

The situation in developing countries is much more precarious. Individual households have very limited disposable income and small fluctuations in prices for food can have serious impacts extremely quickly.

All these factors suggest that the issues of climate, oil, food security and biodiversity will continue to be of increasing concern for years or decades to come.

Our hope is that you can help us mount a design for Our World that will smooth the creation of future versions of an optimal global lifestyle, if they too become needed.


Sean Wood has been the Creative Director at the UNU Media Studio since 2004. Over the past 20 years he has worked as an art director/designer in motion graphics and interface design. This includes experience with design companies in Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo. He has worked for an extensive range of clients from multi-national corporations to small design studios.

He was won numerous awards including the Hong Kong Design Association’s excellence award and the Society for New Communications Research 2007 Award of Excellence in the education division.