Utopia 2040

Dr Michael Johnston
Insights Newsletter
8 September, 2023

It was a sunny morning in 2040.

I got on my electric bike and rode through my Auckland neighbourhood. My destination was the local supermarket.

I fancied a hamburger for lunch. Although livestock farming had been banned in 2030, a tasty array of lab-grown meat was available. Some people preferred the more natural flavour of weta patties. They were a cheaper option too, ever since they had been added to the burgeoning list of GST exemptions. But I found them a little crunchy for my taste.

Aside from the odd electric bus, a colourful array of bikes were the only vehicles in sight. Petrol cars had been banned in 2032. An unforeseen consequence had been to drain the national grid as hundreds of thousands of people changed over to electric cars. So, a year later, those had been banned too – apart from a small fleet for the exclusive use of government officials. 

Had I been heading to the airport I might have used the newly minted light rail. This wonderous project had been completed in 2038, only nine years behind schedule and for just three times its original budget. It was widely hailed as a resounding success for the Ministry of Infrastructure.

I rode past one of the many free dental clinics established after Labour’s’ surprise landslide victory back in 2023. The clinics had proven popular. The only problem was a chronic shortage of dentists. Since the adoption of the 2024 science curriculum, the supply of secondary school graduates qualified to train for the medical professions had dwindled.

For a time, it looked as if immigrants from Equatorial Guinea might have been able to plug the gap. Unfortunately, problems at Immigration New Zealand had resulted in a 12-year waiting list for visas and they had all gone to Australia instead.

The next landmark on my journey was the now disused Paremoremo prison. The last prisoner had been released in 2034 after incarceration was banned as a cruel and unusual punishment. There had been a bit of an uptick in the murder rate, but it was a small price to pay for a truly progressive justice system.

Arriving at the supermarket, I joined the queue three blocks away. It had taken me just 15 minutes to ride to the supermarket, but now I faced a two hour wait to buy my lunch.

Life is all about trade-offs.

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