4a Those Who Envision
Acronyms used within this text:
BPG (Blue Planet Governance)
MES (Monetary Economic System),
Realities – human created entities such laws, governments or a ball game)
2010 book, Zero Point Of Systemic
Collapse, Pulitzer Prize winner
Chris Hedges opens the text with this comment:
speaking a century ago to a group of anarchists about how to overthrow the
czar, reminded his listeners that it was not their job to save a dying
system but to replace it: “We think we are the doctors. We are the
disease.” All resistance must recognize that the body politic and global
capitalism are dead. We should stop wasting energy trying to reform or
appeal to it. This does not mean the end of resistance, but it does mean
very different forms of resistance. It means turning our energies toward
building sustainable communities to weather the coming crisis, since we
will be unable to survive and resist without a cooperative effort.”
the business of envisioning
getting into our own envisioned sustainable future, it is instructive to look
at what others have said when considering this area of thought.
For the past half century, Donella
was a leading-edge thinker about future issues. She was co-researcher and writer of the
controversial report, Limits to Growth,
in 1972. The basic criterion for
this book was specified by the Club
of Rome (COR). At that time, Donella worked with her husband Dennis Meadows, both
were MIT researchers. They created a
computer program that used systems dynamic principles to analyze such
things as changing global statistics in population, resource use (both
renewable and non-renewable), and also ecological change rates. The program analyzed these data and
projected them graphically over time to see where past trends take us in
the future. Various projections were
made to show what would happen in the future if: we reduced population and
consumption rates; if business-as-usual continued and if we increased
population and consumption rates.
The business-as-usual graph indicated that peak-energy and food
would become serious issues in about 50 years from that time, during which
both pollution build-up and resource depletion would herald the beginning of
the down slope. It is now about 40
years later and it appears the projections were correct. The denial industry that vocally
discredited and smeared the COR projections, in the years after
publication, was very wrong.
Three decades later, in 1992, the Meadows team
published, Beyond The Limits:
Confronting Global Collapse and Envisioning a Sustainable Future. Gro Harlem Brundtland, chairperson for UN- commissioned 1987 Brundtland Report, [R3],
says this about the Meadows’ book:
This book is essential reading for
everybody who is concerned with the central issue of our times: how to
achieve a transition to a sustainable global future.
The late Donella
Meadows was quite experienced in the business of the future, quoted here is
an abstract of a keynote
speech she gave at a meeting of the International Society for Ecological
Economics, in 1994.
Vision is the most vital step in the policy process. If we don’t know
where we want to go, it makes little difference that we make great
progress. Yet vision is not only missing almost entirely from policy
discussions; it is missing from our whole culture. We talk about our fears,
frustrations, and doubts endlessly, but we talk only rarely and with
embarrassment about our dreams. Environmentalists have been especially
ineffective in creating any shared vision of the world they are working
toward -- a sustainable world in which people live within nature in a way
that meets human needs while not degrading natural systems. Hardly anyone
can imagine that world, especially not as a world they’d actively like to
live in. The process of building a responsible vision of a sustainable
world is not a rational one. It comes from values, not logic. Envisioning
is a skill that can be developed, like any other human skill. This paper
envisioned society must be based on what has been established as real and
can be justified in terms of both science and human nature. Blue
Planet Governance (BPG), as
described in the next few chapters, describes such a system. We hope our envisioned outline of Blue Planet Governance (BPG) at 50
years After Paradigm Change (050APC) will be a clear enough alternate
system to gather the teams of specialists needed to begin building the
prototype infrastructure models.
Envisioning is recommended by Robert Costanza
[R4], for the
Ecological Economics, in developing their policy analysis
techniques. This organization
promotes changes to the monetary system.
Brown, founder of Worldwatch Institute and Earth Police Institute,
has written several Plan B’s, most recent being Plan B4 [R5]. Brown has made heroic efforts at
awakening society to its destructive course into the future, starting with
his annual State Of The World
books in the ‘80s. These books were
essential reading for those of us beginning to learn about the human
long-time friend and one time director of the Gaia Preservation Coalition, the late Dr.
Bruce Buchanan (psychiatrist, systems thinker, member of Noetic Institute),
had written a series of articles for COMER (Canadian Monetary Reform Organization). Quoted here is the lead-in to a section
on visioning called The Vision Thing:
In politics a vision usually implies some kind of
idealized aim, able to structure and guide hopes and plans to satisfy
fundamental human needs, and attract votes. If the vision is not to be
empty its realization requires, in effect, a systems approach: goals must
be articulated, efforts evaluated, and information provided to remedy
inevitable problems and errors.
An adequate vision must be more than an expression of
hope. While it must be grounded in specifics, it must also reflect a
holistic view and new possibilities.
It will likely call for increased understanding among stakeholders.
This may entail some risk, and bring about some anxiety. Yet the greater
risks may lie in hunkering down with the familiar, for some problems cannot
be solved within traditional frameworks of understanding. What is required
is a leap out of the box, to a new level or paradigm and expanded
remaining sections of the envisioning sections will endeavour to follow Dr. Buchanan’s criteria as closely as possible. The chapter called, UR – The Wheelhouse, will give an overview of the proposed
dynamic governance, while the sections called, The view from 050APC and Dynamic
flows, will be, grounded in specifics’.
In his ‘98
book, Earth at a Crossroads: Paths to
a Sustainable Future, [R6]
Professor Hartmut Bossel uses the term, pathways to the future, in his
envisioning effort. Bossel’s book is primarily about dynamic systems and
also how dynamics can apply to social organizations such as
governments. As such, Bossel’s pathways
scenario has many details that are closely aligned to this troubleshooter’s vision of BPG, including the need for
a new and different monetary system.
A changed monetary role is lacking in other Plan B’s, although some
do call for reform to the old. In a
paragraph to justify the need to change society to operate by dynamic
principles, Bossel explains why something less will simply not work. In a “Reality Check for Path B” he
Path B flies in the face of current mainstream economic
thinking. It would require drastic
changes in the current system. It
would have to turn around very strong current development trends. So is it realistic? And above all, is it really necessary to
change the current system so much to make it sustainable? Couldn’t we perhaps just introduce small
changes in the present system to achieve the same result? No.
“In looking for
another riverbed of future development, one tries to find a solution that
is as close as possible to the old one.
Path B is as close to the old one as sustainability would
allow. If one compromises on this or
that, the path is no longer sustainable.“
Even though the dynamics of the monetary
system would be significantly changed, Bossel goes to great lengths to
assure the reader that he is introducing nothing different from others who
envision change toward sustainability.
He points out that suggested different social scenarios do not need
to be immediate, and can evolve over time, at different paces in different
places. These thoughts are in close
alignment with this BPG proposal, which also gives details of the
interactive system function, and how the social transition may occur by
dovetailing with many of the growing number of localization movements.
Here is a
list of 14 comments based on Bossel’s book that
are in line with the background thinking for BPG, as I understand his intent:
in its current form be should be seen as evil. p10
have common understanding of the nature of and importance of systems
can learn to accept a feeling of moral responsibility toward our common
future and of those who will follow.
must accept that we are a part of nature, not a special species.
standards must be developed and respected with regard to the environment,
trade and other areas of common interests.
some common standards are essential, a robust system requires diversity of
subsystem components such as diverse local cultural practices within
unaccountable shareholder”, must be removed from control of local
resources, e.g., absentee landlords.
ownership of the commons must end.
available for human activity must be dynamically tied to the availability
of replenishable resources to support the activity.
sanctions, tariffs and education must be the primary tools to coerce
reluctant regions into participation in the global BPG agreements and
standards – instead of war.
related to sustaining the living systems of Spaceship Earth must be taught
in schools from an early age. And
understanding of foundational issues must become a prerequisite to the
right to vote.
need to have control over their populations.
need to have their own currencies.
needs to be an agreed balance between one’s personal right to procreate,
and the right of people of the region to have a sustainable future.
All of these points will be addressed in the
following chapters that describe the political layout of a society 50 years
after Paradigm Change. At this time
the world is divided into highly autonomous regional units where the
monetary wealth of each region is based on a number of measured
wealth-factors that represent real wealth (details in Chapter 4d). Regional wealth is expressed as wealth
per capita to bring regional population levels into the mental-sphere. Development of the monetary/economic
system took into account the wisdom of many others, including enlightened
economist Manfred Max-Neef who states:
One, the economy is to serve the people and not the
people to serve the economy. Two, development is about people and not about
objects. Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does
not necessarily require growth. Four, no economy is possible in the absence
of ecosystem services. Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite
system, the biosphere, hence infinite growth is impossible. And the
fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic
interest, under any circumstance, can supersede the reverence for life.
Prior to launching into the envisioning session, here’s a little
background on an organization called the Gaia Preservation Coalition (GPC) [R7]. GPC was
formed by myself and others about 1988. It became an official federally registered
NGO in 1992, and has existed since that time. It was Canada’s first official NGO
approved to conduct all meetings and decision-making via internet. GPC has directors in Canada, USA and New
Zealand. The Toronto Ontario group
held by-monthly meetings in Toronto and made efforts to reach out to others
to share the news that all was not well in our world, particularly our
future world. We made public
presentations with data explaining the human population growth issues, we
provided data illustrating widespread ecological decline, and pointed to
article explaining that we have an unstable economic and banking system
that is incapable dealing with zero growth or negative growth. While most individuals seemed to accept
the reality of individual components of the message most people would not
accept that these data would affect them personally and would impact on
their future life expectancies, and especially affect their children and
grandchildren’s future. Denial,
cognitive dissonance appeared to generally prevailed. In one group a woman spoke out almost
tearfully saying, “How can you live with horrible this information?” She did not deny the information; she
just found it quite upsetting. I
never saw her again.
In order to help more people make the personal
journey to consciously accept the big-picture implications of what our
current paradigm’s apparent future appears to hold, GPC members developed a
12 step approach, collectively developing the 12 Personal Gaia Principles. The concept was borrowed from the Alcoholics Anonymous organization
where the 12 step approach has been an effective addiction recovery tool to
help those who have bottomed out, a descriptive term describing the point when an
individual finally realizes that alcohol or drugs are destroying their
world and they accept that their survival depends on a significant change
in lifestyle. The AA support group
offers hope to the addict with a shared vision of a sober life.
However, about that time, GPC meetings in Toronto ended as some
members moved elsewhere. The 12 step
approach was never tried in this application. The official GPC registration
was dropped and GPC has been mostly an internet exchange think-tank-like
group. Ongoing discussions have a
wide range of subjects, but most relating to the human predicament, with a
constant flow of relevant new information from around the world. Many of the background thoughts and ideas
going into the envisioned dynamic society have been germinated by
participation with the GPC group, and also from other list servers on
related issues. This information
sharing continues today.
past 20 years, there have been significant areas of awakening in new waves of enlightenment, leading to social
unrest, amplified by social media.
In 2011 The
was in the headlines. Thousands of
NGOs and individuals lobbied the public on the issues of their primary
focus, but are the times ripe for a sea-change in social attitudes, such as
the significant political/economic changes that would be needed to deal
with the 13 points above?
Perhaps there has been some improvement in general acceptance, but
recent experience of some acquaintances who have made big-picture overview
presentations about the human predicament to university level groups
suggest only a few percent appear ready to acknowledge that
The Future is Not What It Used To Be
Perhaps a reminder of the 12 Steps of the Gaia Personal Principles could become a common
bonding element within community or student group discussion sessions? But but we
also need shared vision of what a vible
sustainable future could be like.
The following chapters propose such a vision.
Gaia Principles as agreed by consensus 20 years ago:
acknowledge that uncontrolled human population growth in conjunction with
the unrestrained consumption of earth resources have brought about a crisis
that threatens all life on earth. To work toward reducing the human impact
on nature so that future generations can enjoy and share the fruits of this
Principle 2: To recognize that humans, individually and
collectively, possess characteristics that may blind our objectivity
regarding an unpleasant reality. By
interacting with fellow humans we can help each other recognize,
acknowledge, and understand these weaknesses, enabling us to deal with
Principle 3: To modify our personal expectations in life from
expectations based on the past, to expectations consistent with a
Principle 4: To assume responsibility for personal change because in
a free society no government or world-wide organization can force upon us
the required behavioral and attitudinal changes. Personal long-lasting
freedom requires personal responsibility and compromise.
Principle 5: To be undaunted by the enormity of the task at hand and
to work around problems that cannot be dealt with effectively and
Principle 6: To establish the common good as the highest priority,
while preserving individual human freedom and rights where possible. The
long-term well-being of Gaia will be the primary consideration.
Principle 7: To work toward living within our global means with
regard to energy usage and to recycle consumer goods rather than extract
non-renewable resources from Earth.
Principle 8: To work toward the elimination of man-made
classification barriers that have historically
caused conflict between groups of humans.
Principle 9: To work for the maintenance of the democratic process
in countries where the democratic process is functional, and to bring about
change within the rule of law.
Principle 10: To recognize that humans must become stewards of the
planet, but that stewardship does not make humans superior to other life
Principle 11: To lobby governments to assess all legislation
considering the full dimension of time, including life on Earth in the
Principle 12: To accept personal responsibility, and to help in
one's own way toward communication of the GAIA PRINCIPLES, either
individually or collectively to others both at home and abroad.
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To next Chapter
Donella H. Meadows
Adjunct Professor, Environmental Studies Program, Dartmouth College
Hanover NH 03755 USA
Written for the Third
Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics,
October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica
death in 2001 she was Adjunct Professor of the Environmental Studies
Program at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
The Meadows team worked along with Jay W. Forrester, an
early thinker in cybernetics and dynamic systems.
This graphic, from Meadows’ ‘92 book, Beyond The Limits To
gives a look at projections from data
available in 1992 compared with what was predicted in 1972. The standard run of business as usual shows little
change from their original projections of events (Note: a projection is not
a forecast). Human die-off from
Mother Nature’s cull has started well before 2050.
On April 2012, 50 years after Limits were published, the Smithsonian
Magazine again brought the graphs of the past up to date and projected
them into the future. Review the Smithsonian study here.
graphs remain virtually unchanged from the original.
Brundtland Report, a
UN commissioned study or the state of the world, resulted in a 1997 book
called Our Common Future. In my earlier, A 21st Century Steward’s Handbook, I made reference
to this book in a chapter called, Evidence
of the SCSyndrome. I used this expression, Sacred Cow
Syndrome, to allude to the seemingly large-scale avoidance of key
issues such as the human population issue or the physical impossibility of
the economic growth era to continue much longer. Reference was made to writings by Al
Gore, Lester Brown and other well-known writers. Here’s a quotation from the Brundtland Report:
“The period ahead must be regarded
as transitional from an era in which energy has been used in an
unsustainable manner. A generally
acceptable pathway to a safe sustainable energy future has not yet been
found. We do not believe that these
dilemmas have yet been addressed by the international community with a
sufficient sense of urgency and in a global perspective.”
Despite the fact that the energy issue has not been
solved, the book then carries on with plans for global business-as-usual as
it coins the much touted oxymoron, Sustainable
Robert Constanzs, Institute for
Ecological Economics, University of Maryland
Lester Brown of
World Watch Institute and Earth Policy Institute.
Plan B4 recommends a zero growth economy. However, it appears that this is not good
Hartmut Bossel was professor of environmental
systems analysis and director of the Scientific
Center for Environmental Systems Research at the University of Kassel, Germany
Author of Earth at
a Crossroads: Paths to a sustainable future. And many other
Preservation Coalition was formed in late 1988, and became an
official NGO in 1992. On this web
page you will find the 12 step personal principles.
[R8] Joerg Friedricks, associate
professor at Oxford wrote, The Future is Not What It Used To
Be, and indicates that only a few
students are willing to discuss seriously the issues that relate to our
common future. Similarly, Nate Hagins, who has
had a diverse career, had made many presentations to
university students, recently to University of
Minnesota. Nate also indicates a
very low rate of acceptance of the data presented as being meaningful to themselves.
“but-not-yet” syndrome. MS]
This four minute video with Hans Rosling
shows how general health of the people increases with a rising income per
Ted Trainer Senior Lecturer, School of Social
Work, University of New South Wales (Australia):
envisioned list of requirements for a sustainable society.
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