"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry, it'll change. If you're in a good situation, don't worry, it'll change."
-- John A. Simone Jr.
W is for Me, Becoming We. John Lennon: Instant Karma’s gonna get you, gonna knock you off your feet. Better recognize your brothers, ev’ryone you meet. Why in the world are we here – surely not to live in pain and fear. Why on earth are you there – when you’re ev’rywhere, Come and get your share.
I wonder if these were the words dancing through Obama’s mind and the collective consciousness of other heads of state as they watched, helpless, as China systematically eviscerated the Copenhagen accord. China played a key role in wrecking Copenhagen because they are still firmly rooted in a scarcity mindset – our scarcity mindset.
In a growing number of commodities and products including grains, meat, coal and steel China and the Chinese are the largest consumers in the world. And, to paraphrase the Carpenters, they’ve only just begun…China is also one of the largest producers of consumer goods in the world, a growing number of which are being consumed domestically.
In Copenhagen China, and to a lesser degree, India demonstrated that they do not intend to let limits on CO2 emissions hobble their rapid economic ascensions. The problem is their rise is linked to models of straight line consumer spending and growth. To clothe, feed and outfit the burgeoning consumer class of China and India in the “Western” tradition of the last 100 years, requires more resources than we have on this planet. Is this an argument against abundance? No. It is a demand for true abundance-oriented thinking and action.
China is adapting a model development pioneered and perfected by us. At Copenhagen they flatly and consistently refused to deviate from this model. There are other models available. Look at what was accomplished at Kalundborg. Look at how companies like Burgerville are reinventing the business of fast food. Look at what plants like hemp can do to disrupt and reorient agriculture, energy, nutrition, building and manufacturing. Look at how you can go from one can of trash a week, to one can a month, and maybe, to putting out only one can a year.
“Me” becoming “We” is not about putting on birkenstocks, joining hands and dancing in fairy circles in a pollyanna world of ponies and rainbows. It is about self-interest. Self-interest in which our sense of “self” includes and transcends the ways of doing and seeing and being that brought a disingenuous China to the Copenhagen summit.
How dare they deign to beat us at own game? How dare we become passively complicit to a future of scarcity and suffering for our children?
The words of Larry Gopnick the Job-like protaganist of A Serious Man come to mind here: “I’ve done nothing”, he says in limp resistance to the calamities that befall him. And, when he does move in a desperate act of scarcity-minded self-interest, the phone rings with ominous news from the doctor and black, funnel-shaped clouds appear on the horizon.
Instant karma, baby. Instant karma.
We’ll be giving a talk on the connections between social media and sustainability next week. As I was doing some research on the topic I came upon this slightly dated piece over at Max Gladwell.
They make a good point that there is nothing “inherently green about social media.” Indeed. Social media is exactly what it sounds like: means for conveying ideas and information, connecting people and creating and maintaining relationships.
We also need to understand that sustainable sustainability is not “green” either. Or rather, it is “green” but it also red, orange, yellow, blue, turquoise, indigo, violet, etc. Simply, if we want to sustain our selves and the potential in the human endeavor for all sentient beings to prosper, we must go full spectrum.
We live in a value web. We need to manage multiple polarities and find a way to stream value into as many of the nodes of the web as possible. The more we are able to strengthen and enhance the web the more we are able to benefit in return. It is (almost) instant karma.
This is where social media comes in. The potential in social media to deeply interconnect us and provide cross-functional, cross-divisional, cross-industry, cross-sector collaboration is already being realized in technologies like Facebook and Twitter. A recent Business Week article shows how Accenture has developed enterprise versions of these systems as well. WiserEarth, an online community, also has adapted Wiki technology to connect sustainability-oriented groups and individuals.
Social media can accelerate and deepen the connection process. Interconnection is a key success factor for sustainability, and beyond sustainability, abundance. In the end, though, it is not the technology that matters. It is the intent and capacity of the users. Designers can and will design user interfaces that can meet a wide variety of needs. If we want to get the most out of Web 2.0, I believe we first need to design Sustainability 2.0. Sustainability 2.0 is a full-spectrum, value web centered, coherent approach to doing well together.
Let’s see what we can emerge.