Sunday, April 30, 2017

Change Agents

"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."


  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.

limits-plus-climate-forecast.pngClearly 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.

Charles Darwin, Notebook, 1837

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:
humadescenttree.jpgThis 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:

    1. An elite incapable of governing in the old way and beginning to split into different wings, each seeking a different solution to the crisis. 

    2. A middle class in ferment. 

    3. A poverty class desperate for a way out, not on the basis of the old society, but of a new order. 

    4. Clear leadership, with the necessary strategy, tactics, and organization to assure victory.

MOD phylogenetic tree.png
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

The last 1% of the human genome
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,, 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.

Rxr1MNs.pngAs 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.



Danny C said...

Albert, I also think its a matter of visibility to the public by those who have a knowledge of systems thinking that is demonstrable. Let me explain. I joined a local Permaculture group looking to get my hands dirty but found it was long on talk short on action. There are/were a couple of heavies in this group and volunteering to do something for the public good/community to show how solutions can be ground level would have gone a long way towards the goals you are describing.

Don Stewart said...

I will be attending yet another annual Climate Change Conference in less than 2 weeks. I have not seen much of anything actually accomplished by previous conferences. This year we have a distinguished panel, after which there will be questions from the floor. I am trying to put together some questions which I hope may result in some thoughts which might actually lead to some action by the people in the room. Following is my draft. I welcome comments. (My idea is to copy the material and give each panel member their own copy to try to focus their responses.)
Thanks for your help....Don Stewart

FIRST: Two Quotations from Mycorrhizal Planet by Michael Phillips and from recent article in Nature

*Since the beginning of industrial agriculture, forestry, grazing, and suburbanization we have lost 2/3 of our soil carbon to the air and ocean.

*'Our collective future pivots on many people coming to understand that soil fungi matter. That plant ecosystems must be respected. That soil stewardship is our highest calling. Such has been said before, but now the jig is truly up. We either recognize the urgency involved at this critical juncture or the next century won’t necessarily include the human race. Take these as fatalistic statements if you wish…or come on over to the other side.’

And a Nature Article:
*'We found that by far the biggest drivers of biodiversity decline are overexploitation (the harvesting of species from the wild at rates that cannot be compensated for by reproduction or regrowth) and agriculture (the production of food, fodder, fibre and fuel crops; livestock farming; aquaculture; and the cultivation of trees).'

SECOND: Two contrasting thoughts are expressed in the Phillips book:
*Liberty Hyde Bailey at Cornell said ‘If a grower know why, he or she will teach themselves how.’

*Skeptics who point out how biological products are unnecessary are often the very people buying into the chemical mind-set wholeheartedly. Such will always be the disposition of our world.

THIRD: Is education and experience enough to motivate change? For example, does Gabe Brown doing his road shows on the profitable and health restoring methods he pioneered on his ranch in North Dakota motivate change? Do Christine Jones’ decade long studies in Australia prove to the skeptic that it can be done?

Are there other barriers which will make education and the accumulation of personal experience fail in terms of large scale change?

FOURTH: Phillips conclusion:
‘My take on “a future and a hope” lies in tangible things my family and I can do on land we love. Each of us must embrace the good life and return to simpler ways.’

Is Phillips hopelessly naive in a world ruled by Goldman Sachs? Or do those who control land for housing, for farms, for city parks, forests, and grasslands have the power to bring change?

Unknown said...

RE: "...this tip on this hair of our evolutionary sequence."

The Man Who Planted Trees: Lost Groves, Champion Trees, and an Urgent Plan to Save the Planet -

Ian Graham said...

There is far too much that has to change to shift the future trajectory to a viable one. but that does not stop any one of us from trying to shift our own trajectory. Evolution for humans is evolution of consciousness.

Ian Graham said...

"As overwhelming as this may all seem, our situation will compel us to make the leap."
Check out the Leap Manifesto, initiated in the spring of 2015 at a two-day meeting in Toronto attended by representatives from Canada’s Indigenous rights, social and food justice, environmental, faith-based and labour movements.
Even though it is Canada-focused, it well applies to any jurisdiction on the planet.

Ian Graham said...

Albert, would be most helpful if you would caption the graphics you grab for your essays and give source url so we can go study them. and understand your thinking for why putting them in when you do. thanks

Susan Butler said...

It should not be too hard before too long, perhaps after another large enough disaster, for national and international governments to agree to put millions to work in a new Civilian Conservation Corps restoring degraded lands across the planet. Migrant problem? Not anymore. We need all the human hands, hearts and minds we can find to install water slowing and sequestration infrastructures at a fine-grained scale across vast swathes of lands.
We know how to do this. We have the people and the money. For a fraction of the cost of drought or flooding disasters, millions can be educated and employed at all levels building gabions and check dams, earthen dams, dikes, balks, terraces, and contour ditches which can be created quickly without specialized tools or materials. These structures can endure for generations and so represent excellent investments. Water slows down and infiltrates into soils, making more groundwater available to sustain more plant growth for a longer time each season promoting better transpiration, cooling, cloud formation, and rainfall. This moderated rainfall strengthens springs, streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Water thus conserved can be put to work building deep rich soils and their consequent eco-systems, including agro-ecosystems for human nurturance. Starting with marginal lands, millions of new settlements across restored landscapes can quickly become self-supporting. This work can sequester enough millions of giga-tons of carbon to cool the climate to safe levels.
Once kickstarted at a large enough scale, this work will result in human communities self-organizing and evolving their new paradigms across the globe.
Let us all visualize this outcome and talk it up. It is already happening. We can all do our part, even if only in a flower pot on a windowsill.

Unknown said...

Susan rightly says,"Let us all visualize this outcome and talk it up. It is already happening. We can all do our part..."

Building a Bridge to a New Global Culture
Nov/Dec, 2008 Sustainable Land Development Today

"The mission of Sustainable Land Development International is the bridge to a new global culture…promoting and enabling land development worldwide that balances the needs of people, planet & profit for today – and future generations."




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