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.
Energy has always been the basis of cultural complexity and it always will be. … the past clarifies potential paths to the future. One often-discussed path is cultural and economic simplicity and lower energy costs. This could come about through the "crash" that many fear – a genuine collapse over a period of one or two generations, with much violence, starvation, and loss of population. The alternative is the "soft landing" that many people hope for - a voluntary change to solar energy and green fuels, energy-conserving technologies, and less overall consumption. This is a utopian alternative that, as suggested above, will come about only if severe, prolonged hardship in industrial nations makes it attractive, and if economic growth and consumerism can be removed from the realm of ideology. – Joseph A. Tainter
Can this dictum be overcome? Is it true at higher levels of personal development? Does this mean that we should just sit back and watch it unfold?
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?
It is obvious to the attuned observer that we are dipping into the principle of Nature* rather than utilizing the sustainable interest. Ironically, one of the reasons is that our financial system is credit-based. In a system that is based on usury, interest is a ticking time bomb that never ceases. There is no rest for those on the wrong side of the usury equation -- the borrowers. Tick, tick, tick. In current times, I have heard more than one person state that all they want out of the (financial) system is the principle. Maybe it is time to switch to an principle -- and principled -- system.
I think that it is worthwhile in these times to review the contents of this post. The excerpts from Complexity (the book) provide a guide to a sustainable future that is absent in all the conversations about the current economic adjustment.
* Note that Nature is capitalized. In a resource-depleted world, Nature is truly where we should focus our efforts. Not on whether or not it was provided/created by a god -- your god or anyone elses god. God only serves to distract us from our predicament.
B.S. in Nursing, B.S. in Public Admin, B.S. in Business, M.S. in Nursing, B.S. in Human Services, Master of Info Systems, Master of Counseling, M.A. in Education, B.S. in IT, B.S. in Management, Certificates, MBA, B.S. in Health Admin, B.S. in Criminal Justice.
So reads the advertisement for an on-line university at the head of a piece on our oil dependency. Joseph Tainter's theory is that complexity was the cause of the collapse of past civilizations. The complexity of our civilization -- as reflected by the specialized and bureaucratized careers that pay for our gas -- prevent us from nimbly reversing the death spiral so ably outlined in the article. A Pulitzer Prize winner in my opinion.
What to do? We need to provide a way for people to learn in a meaningful way. To happen fast enough, it must be in a conventional fashion with unconventional results. A Real Estate Investment Trust that directs capital to projects that combine unique, well-designed living spaces with a gourmet kitchen/restaurant. As ecological as practical. One-half open to the public. One-half private. Designed, built, and operated by independent contractors that teach and learn while on site. Rather than sitting on our hands and predicting doom and gloom, let's put our hands to work.
This post touches on almost every category that I have formerly established. I am sometimes asked what I do. Maybe I should start referring questioners to the About area of this blog. I'm trying to find our why we as a society do not live up to our potential. The fragility of our present circumstance requires some integral and creative answers. We have to create a system that competes with the prevailing system.
Why a "private" hedge club? A public entity requires the oversight of the government. Why anyone would want this government involved in their financial affairs is a mystery to me. Fiscal irresponsibility aside, the government has a "leader" who less than 15 years ago was placed on a board -- through a favor from the well-connected -- and proceeded to distinguish himself during his tenure by telling dirty jokes.
Why a private "hedge" club? Most people have put all their marbles -- literally and figuratively -- in a system that is fraught with corruption and inefficiency. They need to realize that there can be a way to "hedge" the current system. The fragility of the current system is there -- for us all to see -- but yet we remain in a state of denial. (To be up front, this also permits playing the "fear card." A tool that unfortunately seems to be required in order to get the general public's attention.)
Why a private hedge "club"? A private club seems to me to be the only entity that can encompass all of the elements necessary to create a new institution. Education, a physical infrastructure, lack of dogma and doctrine, and longevity. The term "society" works as well but makes it harder to define the rules that are necessary for sustainability.
Primary Hedge Areas
One of the dominant -- read thought-killing -- characteristics of the current system is debt. Debt is all about possessing. The irony is that so long as debt is involved, the system -- not the bank per se -- possesses you. This is unhealthy and one reason -- in my opinion -- for the high levels of depression. (This reminds me of the standard Christian response with respect to the poor: They will always be with us. Baaad Attitude!) If one wants to hedge the current system, one would create an institution in which "banking" is equity only.
As has been pointed out in earlier posts, our education is primarily geared towards producing certified individuals, rather than critical-thinking individuals. Another dominant characteristic of the education system is that it is concerned with turning out folks who work/manipulate behind a desk -- or in a hotel lobby with a laptop -- rather than doing something that is hands-on. In the new global economy, your desk job will soon be done somewhere around the world where the costs are lower. Why would anyone want to sit behind a desk for 8+ hours anyway? The hedge club will commit resources to shaping an education system that includes hands-on activity and real-world projects.
Opportunity, not charity or propaganda. The current system's tax laws either encourage charitable giving or cause (special interest) giving. A hedge club can be structured to encourage members to quit giving to charity and propaganda. Pay your taxes and use the balance to build up equity in a system that builds and provides opportunity, rather than tears down and gives hand-outs.
Anyone who thinks the current system is not sustainable should contact me and make a commitment to help get the ball rolling. Hit the "Email Me" button (above left) and contact me. We can change the course of history this afternoon.
Cultural Creatives are not necessarily better at tuning in to ecological needs than anyone else, but they want to be. In their personal lives and in the social ventures they are creating, they are eagerly - sometimes awkwardly and haltingly - making room to learn wholly new ways of working. And they are taking time, or trying to, to listen to how their consciousness and their conscience responds.
Amory Lovins, cofounder of the Rocky Mountain Institute, spent several years designing a large bank building in Amsterdam. He created a biological, whole-systems building, he says, using an integrative, engaging process. If there is an emblematic story about Cultural Creatives taking time, this might be it.
For the half-million-square-foot building, the bank’s board of directors told Lovins, “we want an organic building, full of light, air, water, Ecologist plants, nice sounds, happy people. And it shall not cost one guilder more per square meter [than any other design would].” Lovins and his team took several years to design this building because they created it as a living system. Evolution never designs one part in isolation, Lovins explains, “because, as we’re starting to learn in engineering, if you do that, you pessimize the system.” Meaning, you get the least out of the components instead of the most. The team in Amsterdam was intent on getting multiple benefits from each expenditure. And that took time.
The full design team included designers and artists and construction people and those who would work in the building and those who would run it and the landscape architects. Their agreement, according to Lovins, was this: “If anybody didn’t understand something, they had to stop the process until it was all satisfactorily explained. You had to explain the landscape design to the mechanical engineer and the air-handling design to the landscaper.” This extraordinary guideline led, he said, “to quite a magical level of integration where the expansion joints in the walls are brass and colored stone works of art, and where light bounces down the atria off these colored metal patches that the artist put there, so as the sun moves around during the day, you get different colors of light at the bottom.” And for humidity control and acoustic masking, a bronze flowing-form water sculpture runs down the banisters.
In the completed building, where people in suits now dabble their fingers along the banister handrails, the bank reported large increases in productivity. This was no surprise to Lovins, who has eight case studies showing the success of workplaces where people can see better and feel comfortable and hear themselves think. And the bottom line on the integrated design process? The building ended up using one-tenth of the energy and costing not one guilder more to build than one with conventional design constraints. Moreover, the designers evolved a way of working that mirrored what they ended up building: a dynamic, organic environment that was a lot more lively, creative, and humane than the static, mechanical work context that many Moderns take for granted. People, Lovins observes, are really complicated organisms, and part of the fun of working with this in mind is finding out “how that complexity can be turned into something quite wonderful.” Reference: Amory Lovins, “Designing with Biology,” Collective Heritage Letter 1, no. 2, 1998
Last year, I had an acquaintance -- who happens to be a religious fundamentalist -- inquire as to why everything had to be so complicated. My response was that there is a difference between complicated and complexity. Complicated should not be a goal. But, as we’ve seen above, complexity can be “wonderful.” The above excerpt describes the type of process that the private club mentioned in earlier posts will seek to encourage and produce. I particularly like the "integrative, engaging process" description.