For at least the past 45 years, (from publication of the Club of Rome’s Limits To Growth), we have been watching a debate rage over the concept of sustainability. That word gets overused and misused so we need to be clear what we mean — the ability to maintain for an indefinite period of time without degrading resources required for support.
Clearly any culture that depends upon nonrenewable energy and one-time use of finite resources is unsustainable. Merely switching to renewable energy doesn’t make you sustainable. Nor, for that matter, does simultaneously switching to renewable consumer goods. To be sustainable, it needs something going much deeper than that. One needs a pervasive credo of regenerative circulation.
Ever since we can remember there has been a political divide between those who believe such a credo is antithetical to avaricious human nature and those who believe it not only possible, but the only way forward for a species in mortal danger of outrunning its supplies.
What we have been doing with this Power Zone Manifesto that we began here in this space some months ago, is to lay the groundwork for a design science of intentional social change. We are putting it out there. Clarifying. Accepting feedback. Revising. Advancing the design by naming its parts.
With any hyperwicked, cross-cutting problem, a viable response needs to cut the sides off the box. We have to get holistic. This is going to involve a deeper understanding of planetary system dynamics, relationships of government and finance, the underlying fabric of market economies and herd behavior, the ways we get our information and pass it to others. Ultimately, we are proposing a wholesale redesign of civilization. Call it Civilization 2.0.
I just watched this excellent talk by @Paul Hawken about the combination of 100 interventions necessary to reverse the worst consequences of global warming. It is truly inspiring. Yet, the how of cultural change is completely absent. There is nothing said about the narratives and social norms that need to change, how to go about guiding the cultural evolution for implementing every one of these solutions, what is needed from the cognitive, behavioral, and social sciences to make this plan “actionable” in the real world.
Elsewhere Brewer added:
This problem that has not been named is The Great Transition Beyond Empires. We now have to choose between two metaphors for our planetary civilization — we can be a cancer that kills its host or a butterfly that arises transformed from the mindlessly consuming caterpillar. But it is incumbent upon us now to collectively choose before the choice is made for us by the cumulation of decisions made in the past. There are consequences for inaction in times like these.
More than a century ago V.I. Lenin instructed his readers that there are some preconditions for any revolution to take place:
We have the first two of those conditions in much of the world today. Witness Venezuela, or the uprisings in recent years across Spain, Greece, Turkey, Mexico, and many other places. The tinder for revolution has been laid across Lenin’s first three steps. What about the fourth?
Foundation Stones’ @Robert Gilman suggests that to be aligned and competent, change agents need to develop these capabilities:
- be adept with complexity
- treat diversity as an asset
- be skilled at collaboration
- be at home with high levels of interconnection
- foster sustainability in their personal habits
Besides a more profound systems thinking, change agents — the next generation of revolutionaries — need to learn to inhabit an Optimal Zone so they are less likely to get triggered into fight, flight or freeze and are skillful at getting themselves and others back from such triggering. They will need to go beyond the polarizing limitations of linear and categorical thinking and becoming adept at such things as proportional thinking, continuum thinking, layered thinking, visual thinking and kinesthetic thinking….
Borrowing from Brewer inspired groups, the Evolution Institute, TheRules.org, and Smart Ecologies, our next generation of change agents also have to understand tipping points, feedback loops, rules of local interaction, emergent behaviors, dynamic attraction, neural processing of language, how emotions shape reasoning, the making of meaning, idea propagation, applied memetics, viral media, and social analytics.
What is needed is to get the relationships right among:
- lifestyle, built environment, community, and the planet’s life support dynamics;
- economic activities between different communities, i.e. the rules of trade and social equity, and not just limited to human communities;
- fair and just governance at various scales to sustain the new paradigm.
As overwhelming as this may all seem, our situation will compel us to make the leap. If we fall short of our mark this will be our final attempt.
And on this moment of choice, whether it is named and made conscious or remains merely a societal drift based on bankrupt information pools, mistaken identities and erroneous assumptions, hangs the fate of this tip on this hair of our evolutionary sequence.
Aho Mitakuye Oyasin.