Constructing a distant future: Imaginaries in geoengineering

Grace Augustine, Sara Soderstrom, Daniel Milner, Klaus Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


We develop the concept of the distant future as a new way of seeing the future in collective efforts. While a near future is represented in practical terms and concerned with forming expectations and goals under conditions of uncertainty, a distant future is represented in stylized terms and concerned with imagining possibilities under conditions of ambiguity. Management research on future-oriented action has developed around problems of the near future. To explore distant futures, we analyze the case of geoengineering, a set of planetary-scale technologies that have been proposed as solutions to the threat of climate change. Geoengineering has increasingly been treated as if it were a reality, despite continued controversy and the absence of any implementation. We find that societal-level imaginaries that were built on deeply held moral bases and cosmologies underpinned the conception of geoengineering, and that a dialectic process of discursive attempts to reconcile oppositional imaginaries increased the concreteness and credibility of geoengineering so that it has increasingly been treated as an "as-if" reality. We suggest that distant futures orient collective efforts in distinctive ways, not as concrete guides for action but by expressing critiques and alternatives, that can become treated as as-if realities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1930-1960
Number of pages31
JournalAcademy of Management Journal
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • General Business, Management and Accounting
  • Strategy and Management
  • Management of Technology and Innovation


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