Why we explored two starkly different futures for the Earth in 50 years – March 25, 2020

They saying is so well known that most of us can finish the sentence: Those who cannot remember the past …

… are condemned to repeat it.

It’s a fitting reminder this month as we mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. For the occasion, we’ve created the first ever “flip” issue of National Geographic—essentially two magazines in one—to revisit environmental milestones of the past half century and to look ahead at the world our descendants will inhabit in 2070, on Earth Day’s 100th anniversary.

Two scenarios emerge.

On the magazine cover, there’s a verdant Earth. Welcome to the optimistic view of writer Emma Marris, who sees a world that is changed—we cannot undo some damage we have done—but one in which technologies will be harnessed to “feed a larger population, provide energy for all, begin to reverse climate change, and prevent most extinctions,” Marris writes. “The public desire for action is bursting forth on the streets … Just as in 1970, the electric crackle of cultural change is once again in the air. I believe we will build a good 2070.”