top of page

Sustainability is Not Enough

There is a growing recognition among an ever expanding population that we are in the midst of a poly-crisis. A poly-crisis is a set of interlocking and reinforcing wicked messes and mega messes that will require a wholesale rethinking of the human presence on Earth.

In other words, the worldviews that shaped the 20th Century are insufficient to the challenges of the 21st Century. Attempting to problem-solve, manage, and control nature is the level of thinking that created this set of seemingly insoluble problems and if we continue to use those modes of thinking we will only make our situation worse. We are now experiencing firsthand what Albert Einstein spoke of when he claimed that the unleashing of the atom had changed everything except our way of thinking.

Collectively we face a set of adaptive challenges. We need to face with clear eyes evolution's cardinal rule: adapt or become extinct. This level of challenge means we need to change the way we think about living on a finite planet. Can we do it? Of course we can! But it's going to bring us into a confrontation with humanity's numerous sets of limiting beliefs. Beliefs like:

• You can't change human nature - 1.

• There will always be poor people among us - 2.

• War is just a fact of life - 3

1) BS! Human nature has been evolving and changing for as long as there has been a hominid presence on Earth.

2) BS again! The presence among us of people living in poverty is a sign that a human-designed distribution system hasn't been properly designed to care for everyone. We have the technical means to feed, clothe, shelter and provide a decent standard of living for every single person, we simply have not designed and implemented a system to ensure that happens.

3 ) BS yet again! Humans evolved to be cooperative and to do what it takes to make the world safe for birthing tiny helpless babies and raising them to be caring responsible adults. War is a very recent maladaptation in our long history of living on Earth and it can be replaced with systems of care that make it obsolete.

Humanity needs a BHAG - a Big Hairy Audacious Goal. I propose that one worthy BHAG is to design the human presence on Earth to last for at least as long as the dinosaurs did. FYI, the dinosaurs had a reign that lasted roughly 160 million years and they had brains the size of almonds! Humans, with out giant brains are on the precipice of taking ourselves out of the game after a mere three million years.

One small but significant shift occurs in language, The language of sustainability is insufficient to crafting the kind of stories that can serve as aspirations for us to not only survive but to thrive and flourish. The video below shows how sustainability is the neutral point between a horrifying future and one with a story arc that can fire our imaginations and lift our collective spirits enough to overcome the inertia of our recent past and create a flourishing future.

bottom of page