The “What to do… ?” question, still there!

“What to do” is a question I’ve tried to answer before. A Google search for “what to do”turns up 75 places on my web site where I use the phrase.  I like my May 29 post in response to “What’s one thing everyone could do to slow climate change?” for example.  It hits the nail on the head, ranging from advanced systems science to the every day practical necessities.

The more general message I keep telling people, though, is to become explorers of the real world that will be grading our exams… That likens our circumstance to not having paid attention in class, and finding a couple hundred years of back homework suddenly coming due.

Leo Cullen cartoon(1)

But, people also seem to really need cultural motives and visions to guide them. The guiding vision created by the 60’s generation for how to reinvent civilization is turning out to be full of holes, though, so someone needs to create a deeper new motivation and vision, somehow.

In my view the evidence of the problem is that for all the holes people plug even more holes appear, pointing to something not working. So a new vision and motivation needs to more or less start from scratch, scavenging things from the old one, but starting from something more complete to start with.

My own motives and vision seem to come from a scientific/design approach, involving a lot of direct observation of how the systems of nature operate and change, inventing my own new methods of analysis and reasoning to make sense of it. So… that’s not something to base a new popular motive and vision on. Large groups of people can’t pass on learning experiences of that kind, that they have not had themselves.

What I did, though, was to reground my own thinking my own way, studying nature’s old exams in effect, looking for what exemplified successful and failing strategies for inventing new things. Other people using their own starting points might develop more easily shared images of what nature’s requirements are. Lacking good pointers to what does and doesn’t work in nature seems to be one big hole common to many of the generally popular ideas of sustainability.

I’ve tried many times to point to what, for me, are clear signs of great learning opportunity, showing me what works/fails in nature. It always seems to be from my own scientific/design approach though, and that has not seemed to work for others.

The answers my approach finds are not so very hard to explain, or hard to “prove” in a technical sense either. They just leave people with no reaction, it seems, failing to stimulate their curiosity as if the practical solutions don’t also feed some emotional need they find missing.

Still, what the movement needs is a new motive and vision, that’s not full of holes, somehow. So someone needs to find other kinds of signals for where to look, ones that DO communicate … Can you think of any?


1) fyi – The cartoon is from the story on Leo Cullen, the New Yorker cartoonist, whose obit was in the paper today.


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