Planetary Thinking

About Alex Steffen

Alex Steffen

“Alex Steffen, a designing optimist, lays out the blueprint for a successful century.” -The New York Times

“One of the world’s leading voices on sustainability and the future of the planet…”-The Vancouver Sun

“Alex Steffen explores our planet’s future, telling powerful, inspiring stories about the hard choices facing humanity … and our opportunity to create a much better tomorrow.”

“Want to know what greens will be talking about in a few years? Follow Alex Steffen. He’s talking about it today.” -David Roberts,

Alex Steffen thinks, writes and speaks about humanity’s future, from vast planetary systems to subtle but rapid changes in our daily lives.

He is an award-winning author and noted futurist, who has spoken to audiences around the globe and advised many of the world’s most forward-looking companies, NGOs and public institutions.

He is currently Planetary Futurist in Residence at the design and innovation company IDEO, where he is exploring the practice of design thinking as applied to the anticipation of large-scale change.

His last project, Carbon Zero: Imagining cities that can save the planet, is an exploration of the kinds of design, technological and policy innovations that could transform our cities into low-carbon engines of prosperity. Earth Day founder Denis Hayes says of Carbon Zero that “Alex Steffen may be the world’s boldest, most innovative thinker about future cities.”

Much of Alex’s current work focuses on planetary thinking: strategies for better understanding the large human and natural systems that increasingly impact every aspect of our lives, and using our new insight to focus on breakthrough efforts to increase the odds of humanity thriving over the long-term while we succeed now.

Previously, Alex was Executive Editor of, co-founding the organization in 2003 and leading it until it closed in 2010. In those seven years, Alex made Worldchanging one of the world’s leading sustainability-related publications, with an archive of almost 12,000 articles and a large global audience (Worldchanging reached over 8 million unique readers and was rated the second largest sustainability site on the web by Nielsen Online in 2008).

Worldchanging’s solutions-based journalism played an important role in revealing formerly obscure innovations and groundbreaking ideas, thereby pushing forward the sustainability movement and changing the way we think about the planet’s most pressing problems. The critically-acclaimed site also won the Utne Independent Press Award, and was a finalist for Webbys (the Oscars of the Net) for Best Blog and Best Magazine, as well as Bloggies for Best Writing and Best Group Weblog.

Alex’s role as a leading voice in planetary futurism has inspired over 600 stories in the media, including a CNN documentary and a New York Times Magazine profile. Alex was named to the GOOD 100. Other media include The Guardian, Time magazine, Der Spiegel, Business Week, Fortune, Wired, US News and World Report, USA Today, the L.A. Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Times, Le Monde, The Independent, The Chicago Tribune, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Fast Company, SEED, ID, Dwell, ReadyMade, the Associated Press, The New York Review of Books, The International Herald Tribune, The Globe and Mail, The New Statesman, The Nation, New Scientist, Sierra magazine, Outside, Audubon, and The Sun. Steffen has also appeared on the Today Show, LinkTV and several CBC television programs. Radio appearances include numerous NPR and APR programs, the CBC’s the Current, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Steffen also edited of Worldchanging’s wildly successful first book, Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century (Abrams, 2006), a 600-page compendium of leading solutions from around the world, with a foreword by Al Gore, an introduction by Bruce Sterling, and design by Stefan Sagmeister (winner of the 2005 Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award). Worldchanging (the book) has been an Amazon bestseller in the U.S. and Canada, won the Green Prize for sustainable literature and has gleaned wide acclaim, including being named as one of the books of the year by BusinessWeek. The book has been translated into French, German and Korean, and other languages.

A critically-acclaimed second Worldchanging book, greatly reworked and updated, was published in March 2011. Along with hundreds of new and revised entries, Worldchanging 2.0 features a foreword by Van Jones and an introduction by Bill McKibben.

Alex’s third book Carbon Zero: Imagining Cities That Can Save the Planet is a short, clear, optimistic look at how cities can succeed in the age of climate consequences. It has been widely praised, including by The Atlantic, which said “[Carbon Zero] could help us find a way to survive and even thrive in the face of a planetary challenge that political leaders… have been reluctant to face.”

He is now at work on a fourth book, one that explores the practice of planetary thinking and shows how seeing the big picture can help us find prosperity, security and purpose in an age of chaos and uncertainty.

Alex also loves speaking for audiences and has become well-known for his onstage presentations. He regularly speaks at and consults to leading companies such as Nike, Amazon, Arup, Nau, Steelcase, Carrier, Weiden + Kennedy, Yahoo!, the National Association of Realtors and the Urban Land Institute. He has also spoken and keynoted at many of the most renowned innovation and design conferences in the world, including TED, Picnic, Pop!Tech, Design Indaba, South by Southwest Interactive and Doors of Perception, as well as at some of the world’s leading universities, including Harvard, Yale and Stanford. He has also worked with governments ranging from the City of Copenhagen to the Government of New Zealand. His speech about carbon neutrality in Seattle in 2010 lead to that city adopting carbon-neutrality as a city-wide goal.

Alex can be booked for talks through the Lavin Agency.