"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.
Here’s a couple of perspectives from Bill McDonough and Michael Braungart taken from Cradle to Cradle:
If we were to have intentionally designed the industrial revolution here are some of the specs we would have needed to follow:
- put billions of pounds of toxic material into the air, water and soil every year
- produce some materials so dangerous they will require constant vigilance by future generations
- create gigantic amounts of waste
- put valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
- require thousands of complex regulations-not to keep people and natural systems safe, but rather to keep them from being poisoned too quickly
- measure productivity by how few people are working
- create prosperity by digging up or cutting down natural resources and then burying them or burning them
- erode the diversity of species and cultural practices
Now, if we were to do a redesign around eco-efficiency and other current definitions of doing less harm the specs would look like this:
- release fewer pounds of toxic wastes into the air, soil and water every year
- measure prosperity by less activity
- meet the stipulations of thousands of complex regulations to keep people and natural systems from being poisoned too quickly
- produce fewer materials that are so dangerous that they will require future generations to maintain constant vigilance while living in terror
- create smaller amounts of useless waste
- put smaller amounts of valuable materials in holes all over the planet, where they can never be retrieved
A couple of key points here. No one designed the industrial revolution and, really, we aren’t doing a very good job of designing for a sustainable, much less an abundant future. No one intended to flood their communities with toxic compounds, create large whorls of plastic trash in our oceans, collapse the banking system and kick off a worldwide recession or alter the climate of the planet on which we depend for existence.
We, all of us, just drove on oblivious to the signs warning that a pretty precipitous cliff lay dead ahead. Now we are flailing around with a lot of our energy being expended on figuring out how to drive toward (and off) the cliff more slowly. Not good.
It’s hard. Just ask Henry Waxman and Ed Markey, the rest of the House of Representatives and legislators, policy makers and leaders all over the world as they wrestle with climate change legislation and regulations. Let’s face it, most of us, in some way, depend on the current state of things to get by.
Yet, the question I think we should be asking is not “How to we keep what we’ve got?” but “How do we give up what we’ve got in order to get more for all of us in the future?” In aikido (thanks to the late Terry Dobson) we call this “giving in to get your way”
So, what to do? We’ve got to get everyone involved. Less bad is still bad. Less bad is unsustainable. As we continue to meet the needs of the present we’ve got to come together and design for a future that is not less bad but more good. While meeting the needs of the present we need to collectively imagine, design and implement a future that gives us, our children and grandchildren our best shot at living lives of sustainable abundance.
This goes beyond ideology, industry and ego. It is at the heart of community and living and working together well. This is a game we all can play. The rules? Design, develop and implement for a sustainable present and abundant future. Do it together. Do it well. Be present, build resilience. Be disciplined. Do it ASAP. Have fun!
Tags: aikido, banking system, Bill McDonough, climate change, climate change legislation, collapse, Cradle to cradle, design, eco-efficiency, Ed Markey, Henry Waxman, Michael Braungart, recession, resilience, Terry Dobson, toxic material, waste