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Using Scenario Planning to Shape the Future of the Southern California Bight

and the Southern California Urban Ocean

The Aquarium of the Pacific is releasing a new report from an Aquatic Forum that gathered ocean experts, policymakers, and other stakeholders to discuss the future of Southern California’s Urban Ocean that was held on July 24-26, 2012. Participants used scenario planning to draft descriptions of the best- and worst-case outcomes and made recommendations to get closest to the desired future. The scenarios and recommendations are collected in the forum report, Using Scenario Planning to Shape the Future of the Southern California Bight and the Southern California Urban Ocean.

Scenario planning was first used as a military planning tool after World War II and evolved over subsequent decades as it was brought into the business world. Shell used scenario planning to anticipate oil prices in the 1970s.

Coastal and marine spatial planning (CMSP) was among the solutions proposed for addressing future uses of the ocean in the Southern California Bight, the section of coastline and ocean waters between Santa Barbara and Mexico. CMSP is a process designed to allocate legitimate and important uses to appropriate coastal and ocean areas in an effort to benefit both environmental health and economic prosperity.

Participants discussed and debated the driving forces, predetermined elements, and critical uncertainties that will be in play in the Southern California Bight in 2050. Once break-out groups were formed and scenario planning got under way, the driving forces the participants used to frame the discussion were the level of education, awareness, and ocean ethic among Southern Californians and population growth and resulting consumption of resources.

At the forum’s end, participants submitted a list of recommendations for policy changes and actions that would get Southern California closest to the desired outcome in 2050: a rich mosaic of healthy, productive coastal and marine ecosystems existing with a diverse and robust ocean economy.

Last updated September 25 2013