Archive for August, 2007

The Hidden Challenge

Today humanity faces its greatest challenge. It’s a challenge that has been theorized in the Drake equation and argued by environmentalists. While the arguments for sustainability are not sexy, we have grown too fat for our only pair of pants. Both our size and our demands on our planet are unsustainable and without action our day of reckoning is already on its way. The challenge is not a technical one because we do possess the technology and knowhow to solve it. But, rather the challenge is a social one to first recognize that we are at a crossroads and then to take action.

Technological innovation and communication have been the fertilizer of our population growth. It has brought us to where we are — being both the foundations of the problem and the source of our solution. Although we are already accustomed to a global marketplace, we have yet to take the next step in our social evolution and continue to resist the formation of global thinking. We continue to relate to our minority group and seek minority betterment rather than entire group interests. While greed may be an effective tool for the marketplace, it has its limitations and I believe competitive behavior among minorities will obfuscate the issues and prevent us from solving the “big problems”.

The fact that the challenge is invisible offers us at least two realities that, if we acknowledge them, will help us tackle it more effectively. First, the threat is such that if we wait until Joe Public can see it, it will already be too late. Second, if we want Joe to become part of the solution, he must understand both the issues and the stakes. This implies a process of public education and communication.

The difference between being an adult and a child is responsibility: adults acknowledge and accept their responsibilities whether they like them or not. However, our current modus operendi is out of sight, out of mind. Why do we continue to dump contaminants into our lakes and atmosphere? Because our simple, visually driven thought process rationalizes that if it looks the same after as before then it’s not going to do anything. We know better and now we need to act better. As a civilization, we too need to accept our responsibilities.

This is our greatest challenge and while I’d like to be positive, I honestly doubt that we will rise to the occasion. The history of human social evolution has been incremental in its changes. This results from fear for self-preservation and can be problematic in that we naturally resist drastic changes. And, for such crisis we usually rely on our leaders, the big thinkers of society, to inform the public. But like Joe Public, our leadership is dazzled by the glitter of our short term accomplishments and is content to manage the status quo. So how are we going to save ourselves? Your guess is as good as mine.

On the Web

11th Hour Action by Leonardo Di Caprio

The Drake Equation


August 27, 2007 at 9:34 pm 1 comment

If We’re Serious About Sustainability…

It’s kind of a silly title because if we were serious about sustainability, we would already be on our way to building a sustainable future. While some scientists and leaders have suggested that we may have 10 years (now 9 years) to make a course correction before it becomes unchangeable, since it’s not even a conversation piece yet, it seems we have a long way yet to go which brings me to the title. If we want to coax the rest of society into a sustainable direction, we have to acknowledge the obstacles we face.

For example, we would normally look toward government to identify the sustainability need and lead us toward it, but today’s governmental system is more managerial in nature and doesn’t want to “rock the boat.” Today we are offered a consumer based solution to a greener future, but a nine year timetable does not offer the immediate and drastic changes that may be required. The American Congress and Presidency are more concerned with how to reconcile the current revenue streams and capacities to maintain our economy rather than deal with some vague threat.

However, in last week’s entry I noted that a sustainable economy will be a subset of our current economy as it will be far more efficient with fewer resources. This is an interesting point because it suggests that such a sustainable system could also operate in parallel with what we already have. What is the significance of this? Well, it offers us a seamless transition to a sustainable economy without having to “dismantle” what we already have – one of the great fears of our government managers.

By “planting and growing” a system from the start, it offers several advantages. It offers a sustainable counter-balance to our consumer society providing immediate reductions in green house gases. A parallel system is the most efficient way because it encourages as many people to voluntarily migrate to the sustainable economy as possible. The pioneers of this sustainable system will also become examples to those living outside the system to encourage a new way of living. The beauty of it is that if it is good, it will grow and if it’s a bad idea, it will wither.

I truly believe that for any civilization, the road to a bright and hopeful future has only one path and that is through a sustainable way of life. So, if we’re going to get where we need to go, we need to admit what the obstacles are in order to develop solutions. The American government, for one, faces shortfalls in revenues for Social Security, Medicare, education and infrastructure repair and replacement. With some creative thinking, these liabilities can be managed and mitigated if integrated with a plan to develop sustainable systems.

On The Web

US Comptroller General Issues Warning

August 6, 2007 at 6:09 pm Leave a comment

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