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.
Again, from Complexity...:
At 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 decades:
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 "capital."
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]
Read the following and consider the possibilities:
First, from Dark Age Ahead:
has long been recognized that getting an education is effective for
bettering oneself and one's chances in the world. But a degree and an
education are not necessarily synonymous.
Credentialing, not educating, has become the primary business of North American universities.... [Page 44]
Source: Dark Age Ahead
Second, from A Pattern Language:
The 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]
Third, from The Economist:
What 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."
Source: The Economist, July 26th, 2003, P. 62
Education has tremendous potential to be reshaped into a more comprehensive institution.
So...A university. Although I got away from the university idea for two or three years, I eventually came back to it:
Will Your System Provide Freedom?
Before 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.
"...we 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."
--Erich Fromm, To Have Or To Be?
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?
I have described this integration over the years in various posts. Although it has evolved and will evolve in the future, the concept is simple:
- 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 live on-site.
- 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 membership account.
- 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?