If You're Not Confused
Sep 18, 2010
3 minutes read
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Photo by B Tal

First of all I want to thank my friends for their feedback on these first posts. I realize they were somewhat confusing as I mixed quite a few things together and I am still in the process of weaving a story to go through the key stepping stones.

So here’s me taking a few minutes to recap and clarify some takeaways of the previous posts.

I understand sustainability in this blog as the viability of an endeavor. This applies to systems of various sizes from one individual to millions – like the Russian Dolls.

Sustainable development, or viable development of the system you’re looking at, is a multi-dimensional problem which makes it hard to grasp. One day they show you CFCs are bad for the ozone layer, then it’s dangerous chemicals in cosmetics, then it’s tuna fish, the day after non-renewable energy resources. What are the real issues? How are they related? Which one comes first? How do we address them?

We need to stop isolating problems and learn how to look at the big picture. That’s the systems thinking part of the story. This will also help us improve the way we talk about the problems which is an essential step if we, at whatever level you consider this (family, organization, etc.), want to conceive a shared future.

There are a number of initiatives out there who are just doing that such as Agenda 21 or Transition Towns. These initiatives seem disconnected. Global is disconnected from local and that’s not cool. Considering the progress of Internet technologies to coordinate efforts across the planet, I see an opportunity to consider applications of such technologies to coordinate efforts. Social networks help doing that and specialized companies such as Gaiasoft merge technology and facilitation to tackle important environmental issues.

But a fool with a tool is still a fool. Internet technologies alone are not enough unless they are used in the context of a blueprint, a methodology. I am currently inspired by Stafford Beer’s Cybersyn project and the potential of applying his Viable System Model in today’s age leveraging the tools and services Internet has to offer. What if initiatives such as Transition Towns had access to ops rooms ensuring the viability of their endeavor and balancing adequately autonomy and control such that global objectives are met?

We all live on a finite planet and we are growing in numbers. Things are changing at a faster pace now. It’s like folding a sheet of paper: it’s thickness initially remains the same until you reach a number of steps, at which point it grows exponentially. In order to face this new world, it seems to me we ought to prepare our children (because it’ll take a while) with new, updated tools and not sit back and wait until things unfold. That would be setting them up for failure.


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