Those who are mindful are beginning to realize that only an entirely
new operating system can prevent the collapse of civilization. However,
to date, no one has presented such a system. This presentation outlines
a system that has the potential to serve as a viable replacement for
the current paradigm.
The following sentence appeared at the end of this article: "Growth is dead. Let’s make the most of it. A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
This is a good time to go back and review several items that were posted on this site over the last four years. At the time they were posted, they may have not appeared as compelling as they do today. Let's not waste this crisis.
the World Resources Institute, a Washington-based environmental think
tank that Gell-Mann had helped set up in his capacity as a director of
the MacArthur Foundation, founding director Gus Speth and others have
argued that global sustainability is possible only if human society
undergoes at least six fundamental transitions within a very few
1. A demographic transition to a roughly stable world population.
2. A technological transition to a minimal environmental impact per person.
3. An economic transition to a world in which serious
attempts are made to charge the real costs of goods and services --
including environmental costs -- so that there are incentives for the
world economy to live off nature's "income" rather than depleting its
4. A social transition to a broader sharing of that income,
along with increased opportunities for nondestructive employment for
the poor families of the world.
5. An institutional transition to a set of supranational
alliances that facilitate a global attack on global problems and allow
various aspects of policy to be integrated with one another.
6. An informational transition to a world in which
scientific research, education, and global monitoring allow large
numbers of people to understand the nature of the challenges they face.
The trick, of course, is to get from here to there without one of
Cowan's Class A global catastrophes. And if we're to have any hope of
doing that, said Gell-Mann, the study of complex adaptive systems is
clearly critical. Understanding these six fundamental transitions
means understanding economic, social, and political forces that are
deeply intertwined and mutually dependent upon one another. You can't
just look at each piece of the problem individually, as has been done
in the past, and hope to describe the behavior of the system as a
whole. The only way to do it is to look at the world as a strongly
interconnected system -- even if the models are crude.
But more than that, said Gell-Mann, the trick in getting from here
to there is to make sure that "there" is a world worth living in. A
sustainable human society could easily be some Orwellian dystopia
characterized by rigid control and narrow, confined lives for almost
everyone in it. What it should be is a society that is
adaptable, robust, and resilient to lesser disasters, that can learn
from mistakes, that isn't static, but allows for growth in the quality
of human life instead of just the quantity of it. [p.351]
original universities in the middle ages were simply collections of
teachers who attracted students because they had something to offer.
They were the marketplace of ideas, located all over town, where people
could shop around for the kinds of ideas and learning which made sense
to them. By contrast, the isolated and over-administered university of
today kills the variety and intensity of the different ideas at the
university and also limits the student's opportunity to shop for
ideas. [Page 232]
might the company of the future look like? Lawrence Summers, a former
Treasury secretary who is now president of Harvard University, suggests
in the latest Harvard Business Review that the American research
university (ie, Harvard and its few peers) might be a model. He does
not mean that firms should set up their own "universities" -- although
plenty, from Motorola to McDonald's, have done that. Instead, they
should adopt the research university's fluid and decentralised approach
to creativity and hierarchy. "If you look at the organisations in the
economy where the greatest value is being added," argues Mr. Summers,
"they are increasingly the organisations that share the values and
characteristics of universities."
you answer the title question, you should be aware of a few key facts.
I heartily recommend that you take Chris Martenson's Crash Course.
It may cause you to have doubts that the current system will deliver.
This is not new information. However, Chris has done an outstanding
job of presenting the information.
After you have watched and digested the Crash Course come back
here. I have known that we have a sustainability problem for a number
of years. (The problem has been written about comprehensively for at
least 50 years.) All of my thinking has centered around coming up with
a way to live that sets a new course. Most ideas that are
tossed about these days will only help at the margins. Most, if not
all, institutions that exist today are only positioned to help at the
margins. They are not able to effect meaningful change and
really serve only as a balm for the ill-informed and those who want to
delude themselves. (If you are interested in a deeper understanding of
the problem, read this article.)
Freedom is the most important ingredient to a happy and healthy life in
my opinion. (Freedom, of course, has to be balanced by responsibility.) Therefore, freedom is my "measuring stick."
Ask yourself whether you have tangible assets or whether you have
paper assets? If your system provides only -- or mainly -- paper
assets it will not provide freedom in the long run.
Ask yourself whether your system is flexible enough to handle
global climate change? Will you be stuck with a living environment
that may end up beneath the surface of the oceans? Losing most of your
assets in the rising seas is not freedom.
Will you be stuck in a community that you have outgrown? Freedom is not having to listen to those who are not well developed.
In an age of ever increasing energy prices, will you have the resources to heat and cool your home?
Is debt the cornerstone of your system and your balance sheet?
Debt is not freedom. Indeed, it is probably the most insidious
component of any system.
Does your system provide a quality living and working environment
to all participants? It should. Our freedom is contingent upon the
happiness and healthiness of all.
Does your environment promote stimulating intellectual discussions? Freedom is the offspring of such discussions.
Will your system leave something for future generations? Does your
freedom come at the expense of others -- now and in the future?
Does your system provide plenty of leisure time or does it sap so
much energy from you that you plop yourself down in front of the TV
when you get home from work?
The system that currently dominates our culture does not provide
any of the above freedoms. The institutions that exist today do not
provide any solutions. Maybe it is time to explore other options.
have no alternatives to the models of corporate capitalism, social
democratic or Soviet socialism, or technocratic "fascism with a smiling
face." The popularity of this view is largely due to the fact that
little effort has been made to study the feasibility of entirely new
social [and financial] models and to experiment with them."
We actually don't have to give up or adopt any particular system.
We simply need to be creative about rearranging the furniture on the
deck. Fromm was one of the first to integrate several disciplines as
he explains in the introduction to The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness.
He realized that this was necessary in order to comprehensively explore
the subject matter in the book. We are doing the same here.
Integrating several components of life that for hundreds of years have
been separate. And, integrating them in a way that is necessary in
order to live comprehensively.
Can we "rearrange the furniture" in a way that gets our footprint
below one (two?) and improves our quality of life at the same time? Is it
time to come up with a way of living that provides the freedom that is
so lacking in the current system? A structure that divides work
into meaningful components? A structure that integrates shelter, food,
education, work, and leisure? Real sustainable development?
have described this integration over the years in various posts.
Although it has evolved and will evolve in the future, the concept is
Capital from members/patrons is used to build pedestrian-only campuses around the world and as working capital.
Living quarters will be approximately 500 s.f. with separate gourmet kitchens and dining areas dispersed throughout each campus.
Those who build and operate the campuses are independent
contractors with rolling quarter-long contracts. These contractors
The entire campus will be a classroom at all times as we should all continue to learn as we live.
On-site gardens and orchards will provide fresh fruit and produce to the extent possible.
Reservations will be based on seniority. Those who reserve and
occupy specific living quarters will have options to reserve those
living quarters in the future.
Members/patrons will draw down their membership accounts as they
utilize/occupy the properties. They can deposit additional membership
funds at any time. So long as funds to cover a stay have been on
deposit for at least a year in advance of the commencement of any
reservation period, members can reserve one or more living quarters.
If there is a sufficient amount of cash in the working capital
account, members can opt to withdraw all or some of the funds in their
Please note that this can serve as a comprehensive alternative to the current carbon offset schemes.
It is important for those with savings to recognize that our lifestyles will likely contract in the future. This does not have to be unpalatable. To the contrary, it can be invigorating. Those who want to store their wealth may be amenable to the idea that it is better to preserve their principle rather than to expect a return over and above their principle.
One cannot expect everyone to shift immediately into more sustainable ways of living. However, those with the capital need to realize that assets with sustainable "footprints" represent a more secure place to store wealth than non-sustainable assets represented by almost all of our current infrastructure -- offices, large homes, sprawling subdivisions, most restaurants, most retail, etc.
The physical campus described above represents a sustainable footprint. It also represents an environment where participants are continually researching, learning, and adapting to the new reality of contraction rather than expansion. The future must focus on the expansion of minds.
This will be easier to launch with the endorsement/participation of an established institution. Does this institution exist?
ParadigmClub.org offers solutions to many of the problems that plague society today. Some examples are as follows: Carbon Offsets
Carbon offsets are typical of the existing paradigm whereby we use elaborate mechanisms -- complete with an office full of employees and bumper stickers -- to address problems. Carbon offsets effectively involve a transfer of funds from those who feel guilty about their carbon usage to an office full of employees who are professional carbonists. We need to switch from being professionals to being producers. As a refreshing alternative, we can make membership deposits into a club that actually constructs environmentally sound infrastructure and provides livelihoods -- operating and eventually building first class lodging properties around the world -- for a group whose quest for knowledge has no boundaries. As members utilize the property, they draw down their membership accounts.
Inflation and Deflation
Because members can access the properties at the lesser of cost or market, they are protected against hyper-inflation and deflation with respect to their membership deposits. This enables those who are morally opposed to usury to be protected from inflation and deflation.
One of the problems with the carbon economy of the past 100+ years is that we built an infrastructure that is of a scale that is not hospitable to pedestrians. It also created a tremendous amount of noise pollution. ParadigmClub.org properties will be built to human scale -- no buildings taller than 5 stories, for example -- and will banish automobiles to the periphery of any property. Asphalt and concrete -- major causes of environmental degradation -- will not be used or used in a minimal way.
An infrastructure built to human scale will lead to a more civil environment. We can actually acknowledge each other as we meet on tree-lined and perma-culture lined pathways. All electronic devices will be "banished" to private quarters in order to encourage members and scholars to live in the moment.
Access, Not Possess
Although private property rights are important, we place too much emphasis on ownership. Property ownership is a burden and makes it difficult to be nimble and expose ourselves to new ideas. If we deposit our capital in a "bank" that owns many properties, we gain access to all of those properties. We also create a system that encourages 100% occupancy. Empty rooms are the antithesis of environmental responsibility. The survival of the human species and all other species requires that we lower our footprint considerably.
A Taste of Freedom
The design of the reservation system permits one to essentially "bookmark" a place in the club system. We can make a small commitment and if we like what we see, we can make additional deposits for extended access to the system. It is hoped that members will eventually live all year round in this infrastructure that will permit members to live well with an ecological footprint that is far smaller than is the average today for those in developed countries.
This type of system is far more comprehensive than anything that exists today. It should attract start-up capital from any non-profit interested in sustainable development. Instead of providing grant money that is never seen again, non-profits will see their capital returned as members make deposits.
I found the link to this lucid analysis at Jim Kunstler's website. Highly recommended. If you read it and think that it is amusing, alarming, or both, come back to integraljournal and take a look at the concept that has evolved here over the past few years. It beats the hell out of wasting our time with the run-of-the-mill carbon offset schemes.
Will American Express post my submittal to The Members Project? As expected in this age of evading the real problems (carbon offset schemes come to mind), most of the submissions seem to focus on cures rather than prevention. My submission of June 13th is "pending approval" as of a few minutes ago. Is there an approval backlog or is American Express unwilling to consider submissions that make us/them uncomfortable?
In the event that it does not make the cut, I have posted it below:
Project Liberal Arts Renaissance Education
Project ID: 06630 Date Posted: 6/13
Project Description: We have many problems that appear to be intractable. How did we get to the point where our resource use far exceeds a sustainable pace? One answer is that our institutions of "higher learning" stopped educating students starting in the late 1800's. Instead of providing an education that leads to critical thinking and liberty (a comprehensive liberal arts education), these institutions have been certifying students and grooming them to participate in a system that is completely driven by consumption and short-term gratification rather than long-term investment and long-term health and well-being. In order to solve the many problems that we now face, we must have a liberal arts renaissance. The project would bring together seven (it's hard to come to a decision with more than seven participants) interested officials from liberal arts colleges who realize that -- to paraphrase Albert Einstein -- we will not solve our problems with the type of thinking that created the problems.
Update as of July 10, 2007: To the best of my knowledge, my submittal was never approved. MH
No maximum membership deposit – it is anticipated that some members will live full time at the various clubs
Members can also build their account through the contribution of land or leasing land to the club (why give up access to family property?)
Members can reserve space so long as they have had the funds required for the reserved stay in their account for at least one year prior to the arrival date. In the event that space has not been reserved in the six month period prior to the date of arrival, members may deposit the funds at the time of reservation
For those who work to live
Escape the pollution of society
paradigm |ˈparəˌdīm| noun
1 technical a typical example or pattern of something; a model : there is a new paradigm for public art in this country. • a worldview underlying the theories and methodology of a particular scientific subject : the discovery of universal gravitation became the paradigm of successful science.
A new system has to have a new educational base. Robert Thurman describes a key ingredient in a lecture that can be linked to from this page. I found the second half of the lecture to be the most interesting. However, it is important to watch it in its entirety. The new system that is described on this blog would likely include elements of the type of education that Thurman describes.
Why is this categorized under carbon offsets? As explained earlier, carbon offsets are an existing system "solution" and as such contribute to the delusion that is a hallmark of the existing system. Education of the type outlined by Thurman has the potential to aid us in a transition to a new system.
...Elman Service applied his 'Law of Evolutionary Potential' to
suggest that older, established states become fossilized, unable to
adopt innovations, and are thus outcompeted by newer, if smaller,
peripheral peoples. [p.200 of Collapse of Complex Societies]
Imagine substituting the word "systems" for the word "states". While states imply boundaries, systems (and reality) do not have boundaries. There may be some value left in the current managerial/hierarchichal system, but there is simply no counter-balance to it at this time. Everything we do -- including finding ways to reduce carbon emissions -- is done within this dominant system. Determining why we do not develop as individuals has been my quest of the past 14 years. The answer is that the dominant/hierarchical system does not encourage development.
Please note that much of this 14 year quest to understand the current system -- and find an alternative -- is not just altruistic or driven by intellectual gratification. The underpinning of it is an attempt to find a way to make a living that suits me (and my spouse) -- a right livelihood, if you will. I believe that there are others who will find it attractive. Characteristics of working, playing (leisure) and living in a new, more comprehensive system are as follows:
Quality -- Every aspect of the operation and facilities will be first-class. Quality is a key component of sustainability. (The poor pay more per day for the shoes they wear than the rich do.) First-class environment.
Leisure -- 20 hour commitment per week for hands-on work of building, gardening, cooking, serving. I once read that we can only develop in our leisure time. (Lacking the inclination is a product of our dominant system and all our dominant institutions are complicit in encouraging us to remain stagnant.) All these are activities that the wealthy -- the interesting ones, at least -- do if they have the time and the inclination. Wealthy lifestyle without the burden of accumulation and possession.
Wellness/Health/Prevention is the goal of the system. A Spa Lifestyle
Independence -- System is operated by independent contractors with a rolling 3-month contract. At the end of a three month contract, contractors can travel to another facility or re-join the dominant managerial/hierarchical system. A Lifestyle of Independence and Travel
Sustainable -- Most -- if not all -- independent operating contractors will live on-site. Sustainable Lifestyle
Why would someone want to "invest" in this system? As has been described before, the system is structured like a private membership golf club. In return for a membership deposit, members have access to First-Class Spa facilities operated by on-site independent contractors providing organic, fresh cuisine and superb service at cost. The reservation system will grant priority based on length of stay and seniority of membership.
How does something like this get launched? A convincing case can be made that this is the most sustainable system of living that has been designed to date. It permits a quality life with little accumulation for both the independent operating partners and the members. There is not any need to pay the salaries and the expense of a managerial/hierarchical system that typically involves office and living space that is empty much of the time. Therefore, it can be marketed as a carbon offset "scheme" and can be marketed by established environmental non-profits with say 2% of deposits funding their operations. The trustees for the system could be the trustees of the non-profit.
We hear a lot about the downside of our less than resourceful lifestyles -- and the gloom and doom of the consequences. What we do not often hear are suggestions for a much more resourceful lifestyle that is far more livable than the current one. Ask yourself whether you would rather go into an office or store or wherever you currently work...or spend 20 hours a week building, gardening and cooking in first-class surroundings.
I posted the following in response to the comments at this post:
I just got "tuned in" to the carbon offset discussion a few days ago. What I have noticed so far is very predictable. The Professional Carbon Offsetter is defending carbon offsetting -- it pays the bills. The Professional Conference Convenor is defending carbon offsetting as it helps justify the carbon emitted in bringing people together -- an activity that probably pays the bills. The Professional Carbon Offset Watch group is critical of the Carbon Offset Professionals -- it pays the bills. Due to the complex nature of the way we live (and earn a living), we need specialists -- professionals who generally defend what they do in order to earn income to pay the bills. Unless we change the system (something mentioned briefly in the Professional Carbon Offset Watch Group report), reducing our carbon emissions will only happen in a marginal -- rather than meaningful -- way. The discussion that needs to take place should center around how to change the system.
The above relates to the prior post, in particular, and the rest of the blog, in general. I'm not picking on only the two entities mentioned in the prior post. They are simply responding to what they believe to be markets that exist. However, these are two cases that are fairly extreme in their ineffectiveness to make a real impact on sustainable living. It should be noted that the current system is so complex that very few are even able to discuss it -- not even system specialists.
According to Terrapass, the genesis of their concept was a professor who wanted to continue an activity that generated a lot of carbon. To assuage his guilt, he offered up $5000 for someone to come up with a way to "offset" his carbon emission. The result is a company that could have been born in the Silicon Valley and indeed now resides there. Complete with start-up capital and all the accompanying baggage.
Now may be a time for reflection. Why did the professor take such pleasure in his activity? Driving itself -- for the aware -- is not a very pleasant activity. Is there another way that the professor could have had the same experience, but without having to accumulate the pickup and the property and the tools, etc.? There is, but it involves sharing and creating a sense of community. (See the past few posts for a sketch of the same.) I could pick on any one of a number of well-meaning organizations in this same way. The pattern of "development" is the same and the result is the same. More levels of complexity and a need to devote time to getting a return for investors and defending the actions of the company.
And speaking of community. I ran across a company the other day that I found to be interesting. The stated goals are lovely. What is interesting is that Steve Case, creator of AOL, just invested in the company. Here is someone who helped create online communities that took real face-to-face community away from us. He is investing in a resort concept that has a goal of permitting families to have more face-to-face time with themselves and others. Of course, these new communities may be thousands of miles from the ones in which they actually reside.
The goal should be to create communities in which people reside full-time and interact face-to-face. Why do we insist on following these models described above? Why do we insist on delusion, rather than facing the fact that our lifestyles are not sustainable?
Indeed, the above resort concept is just a version of New Urbanism -- and it suffers from the same delusion. This is the belief that changing design will lead to community and more sustainable lifestyles. However, in New Urban communities, men and women drive off every day to jobs where they sit behind desks and attempt to justify whatever it is that they are paid to justify and promote -- regardless of whether they are computer specialists or the master bullshitter that sits at the head of the company. The resort community is just a place for them to rest up from the very stressful day-in-and-day-out bullshitting of others -- and themselves. The problem is the design of the entire system -- not the design of our residential or resort "communities."
So long as you follow the model, however, capital will come. In the case of the offsetting scheme, people are sending in money without even asking how much of it is actually going to build wind turbines and how much of it is going to the wind machines -- all well-intentioned, of course -- that sit behind the desks.