Nature’s path for thriving new lives starts with a burst of extractive growth. We did that, and overdid that, and it has become a mortal threat. There’s still a chance we can do “PART 2” of the natural growth process, the stage of repurposing the growth resources to maturing the new design and making it fit for its new life in its unfamiliar new environment.
A talk for the Bioregional Regeneration Summit by Jessie Henshaw on her Natural systems design science on the opportunities for growth system transformation… a little like birth actually… Lasting system climax often starts with the resource for endless multipying its scale are abruptly cut off … a crisis solved by it reallocating remaining resources from growing to caring for itself and learning about its new world to survive. Our change will be like that at first, but is we cooperate on survival and caring for each other, it does seem to be what nature has prepared us for, despite our huge missteps….
In nature… the MIDPOINT TURN at the end of growth toward real life very often works quite smoothly, with the new life being of ONE DESIGN and fabric, having grown from A WHOLE INSPIRATION of some kind and remaining whole as it grows. As a result, it is also able to make a whole respond with its internal connections to signals from the environment of when and how to turn.
We follow the very same plan with whatever we create and care for to last. A – Start something, then B – make it work. Humanity has not yet turned to making the world work, our next big job, while carrying on with our lives too.
The most normally successful rule of new system growth is “create things to care for,” whether by nature or people. What gets it going is some small way of accessing energy and resources for accessing more. It’s an emergent “expanding spiral” process that, for people, we’d often call an “in-spir-ation” or, in nature, a “germ-in-ation”. Many other names, like “startup,” refer to it too.
As what is growing is a system organized to build with captured resources, it is more of a “find & connect” process than a “cause and effect” process. Of course, there are cascades of cause and effect, but they’re mostly organizational breakdown processes (entropic), not organizational build-up processes (syntropic). Mainly studying cause and effect ideas seems to be why physics did not find how to do advanced growth studies, despite the name first meaning “the productivity of nature” in Greek and then changing in use.
As a practical matter, one can often observe the little burst of energy with which growth starts or see some remnant of it. That aspect is fairly universal, whether for how new relationships start or projects at work. The same kind of inspired startup begins the work on a home, a new community change, organizations, and even making dinner and gardening. The success comes from following the burst of creation with a more careful process of coordinated care for the new design and fitting it, at its new scale, to its new world.
ALERT – ambitious regeneration … faces rapid global decline!
I’ve been active in the movements for decades but have been unsuccessful in pointing out how we should address the symptoms AND the causes of rapid global sustainability decline.
That has not been happening at all, though. While trying to heal the world, the UN, environmentalists, and all the other regenerative movements have done nothing about what is causing the rapid acceleration of damage. Hidden in very plain sight it’s the regular financial doubling of the economy and its side effects for maximum profit.
However important the symptoms are, we have also been displaying about as much blindness to the real cause as the people actively managing or doing it. That is, the well-educated professionals with homes and families whose rules for profit tell them to extract multiplying wealth from the earth, blind to the costs! That’s the real cause in a nutshell.
I write lots of short pieces on it. The main possible saving grace is that the people managing the planet’s destruction are mostly well-educated, successful professionals with lives and families as threatened by global environmental collapse as anyone’s. That they are blind to how they are causing the threats to themselves is the weak point in the system.
It happens by their following the old rule for profit, to use profits to invest in multiplying profits, thus endlessly multiplying the economy’s power over nature. They don’t see it because “the rules do not connect with their contexts.” The people are then only guided by their social relations, which are mostly very positive due to all the profits, unaware of the existential threat!
The real key is for the movements to expand ourcaring to include those causing the harm but don’t see it, rather than despising them, as Marx and so many others have, assuming they saw what they’re doing. Their blindness is systemic and, largely, NOT THEIR FAULT.
The solution is for our care for them to let us serve their interest in caring for their homes and families at risk. That MIGHT trigger a realization that they need to fund all our cares for the future rather than deny our care and fund its ever-faster destruction. We’d be in good company then, as ALL natural and human systems that survive their growth exit growth that way, by shifting from extraction to care.
I wish I could attend some of tomorrow’s key Pollination & Ecocivilization meetings (ref below). I’m generally available to talk or consult. Would you pass the word that I’d love to help writers to write up some of this? I’m a scientist who writes and needs to connect with writers who do some science.
Jessie Henshaw – HDS natural systems design science ¸¸¸¸.•´ ¯ `•.¸¸¸¸ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Research Journal — Reading Nature’s Signals — Publication
Regeneration Pollination will be hosting its regular session (on our regular zoom link) this Friday in parallel with the Ecocivilisation 24-hr Connectathon that starts on Sept 22nd at 14:00 UTC. In addition, Regeneration Pollination will be hosting a 1 hr session pre-event (9/22 @ 13:00 UTC) and post-event (9/22 @ 14:00 UTC), which will be on the zoom link used for the Connectathon. Register for the Connectathon here and join us for the pre-and post-event session here: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/8206
Natural growth is the beginning of life for all systems with life cycles like ours. There are a series of built-in transformation challenges, though. We all know life’s a challenge, right? Nature has a tried and true path to success for the big one now approaching.
Upon approaching a new living system’s limits to its first phase of growth (its explosion of new designs), they can either a) respond with a survival instinct and change their growth strategy or b) not. So far, humanity has not. The severity of crises now developing might change that, but only if a clear understanding of what to do widely spreads. We don’t have that now, culturally, scientifically, or governmentally. Starts of it are only found in small, still ineffective, transformation movements.
Nature can be very persuasive though, making it more and more clear where the needs to divest and invest really are. Whether it’s cultural or financial, it is our investments in the future that steer where our lives go. So, it’s a matter of putting our resources where they are now most needed. Today our power centers are still obsessed with multiplying their power over nature and society, which forces ever-increasing pressures and disruption in everyone’s lives.
History offers several civilizations that have collapsed from their peak of power to leave cultural dark ages in their wake, evidently caught in following an MPP (maximum power principle) plan to the end. There are lots of others that achieved long and rich lives after their initial explosive growth, too, as people and lots of our plans also generally do. We have that challenge now, to find how to make the choice to end our growing power in a way that lets our world survive. This video linked above is the first of my talks on a fairly complete understanding of the problem and solution. Just read this and listen with an open mind, let the new questions register, and mull them over.
Unfortunately, I’m still tending to talk about what I find most fascinating about this crisis. I’m a scientist with a cool set of discoveries. It would be better if I focused mostly on what it would mean for those reading or listening!
What it is all for is to help people see why nature needs us to make better use of the world economy’s profits: A) to finally fund real-world sustainability as it should be and B) to help people learn about how to shape and prepare for the new lives our future. Both changing to investing in the long-term future and clarifying how to do it will relieve the extreme economic pressure everyone is experiencing.
What makes that possible and important now is our now finally crossing the “inflection point” in growth (the breaking point in the initial rapid growth curve), and in either smooth or disruptive ways the world will soon face reality in a very new way. On the positive side, that would allow whole systems like ours to become capable of acting in unison! Also on the positive side, almost everyone on earth is skilled at making the same kind of transformation in their relationships, as well as work projects all the time. The cycle is from inspiration to multiplication, to facing reality in having to choose what to do.
Self-interests and common interests in saving the earth then coincide. If there are leaders who understand what the needs real needs are, the whole system will turn to taking care of itself and maximizing its long-term interests. That is also what happens at the birth of organisms, growth leading to facing the future, suddenly exposed to a new world to find their way in. There’s much to learn when facing a new reality, but the first big change is less hurry for most parts of the system as the guiding principles of the system quickly change.
The shock of a new reality and big interruptions in plans, first relieve the pressure to change ever faster and by the whole system turning toward common purposes, that and getting to know what’s happening without nearly so many blinders. We’ll also need to understand the natural change to the heart of the economic system. We maximized the use of profits to multiply the system, even smoothly ending that is likely to be a shock. The values and needs for business and whole system profits will change from multiplying the system to caring for it.
Every kind of natural system starts with the same variation on accumulative explosive self-organization, getting started by an inspiration (awakening of new design) that captures energy to build more ways of capturing energy. We got stuck on it, though, in a very big way, over centuries developing expertise to continue it until suddenly by accident, quite blind to it really, threatening the habitability of the earth.
The grand surprise is that even that way of mindlessly pursuing and then having to rudely collide with self-destructive limits to that “limitless” explosive growth still does, from nature’s menu of options, offers a very satisfying and graceful end goal of perfecting the design and our ways of life in a long-lasting way.
Thinking about the global crisis, the people who feel it think so differently than those who don’t, and the solutions of the latter seem to be at the very root of the problem (problem A).
We need solutions that would work in practice. That would take a real understanding of the problem and its origins. Easy-sounding solutions only mention the endpoint and skip how the process of getting there starts and develops. Decentralizing the economy, for example, sounds good but would also destroy the economy, as every product today physically comes from everywhere! Social values can make excellent design principles, but they are not system designs. We have many good designers and managers, too, but they are not doing the job needed today. So “problem A” seems to be that our system designers and managers are following century-old rules that today have become globally destructive. That implies that changing their jobs is more important than changing the people. We still need the same talents but doing the right things.
That presents a huge but possibly practical challenge. The people we’d need to communicate with are largely very communicative and, from their view, caring. It’s our world culture of wonderfully educated, risk-averse, and successful professionals from good families – who steer the world’s institutions and economy while also being blind to the side effects of their steering. They even call the existential threats they cause “externalities” and don’t know what to do about them. In truth, those so-called externalities are internal system breakdowns caused by our long history of applying Many Too Many Solutions while Blind To The Side Effects.
This cream of the world crop of educated professionals is NOT intentionally blind to their impacts, now destroying the earth at the economy’s maximum rate of acceleration. They also do have access to the data on the global system breakdowns. However, their thinking is in terms of the CONCEPTS of their work (simple models of profit), not noticing how their choices became disconnected from their CONTEXTS (the rich meanings of all the living worlds they touch). So, the problem is they don’t-feel-a-thing.
Feelings and their meanings come from contextual awareness, not abstract concepts. So blind to the effects of their work, they blindly follow the outdated rules to multiply everything that was once highly creative but now is quickly destroying the earth. Yet, if you get to know them personally, it is quite ironic how they do largely seem to be caring, responsible people. They’re from good families and try their level best to secure their homes and care for their communities. Those ironies present are where the openings for real communication are!
So, how do we get them to look at different rules to follow, like for the rest of us, please “pay attention to the planet.” There are two necessary parts to freeing professionals from their “true beliefs” and opening their eyes. (((#1 One is experiential.))) Someone needs to personally lead them out to explore the world and have direct experiences of the natural beauty of life spoiled by rising global demands and dysfunction that urgently need relief from growing pressures and good care. (((#2 Another is mining deeper cultural knowledge.))) Caring for your home is as deep a tradition as any in human cultures, but our elite professionals have totally lost track of it in wildly shaping (and reshaping) our world. The first link shows some history of what happened to cause the blindness of experts to develop. It implies the task is to help the world’s leadership recover their ability to care for the earth as our genuine home, and NOT a concept (a). It helps to see the breadth of our crises (b). a) https://synapse9.com/signals/bronze-age-roles-of-hestia-and-hermes/ b) https://synapse9.com/_r3ref/100CrisesTable.pdf
They’d never do most of the wrecking crew work they do if they followed the customary practices of “homemaking” or if you prefer “home science.” They are fairly simple and reliable practices for 1) having wide awareness and 2) respecting common interests that we all follow in our homes. We all follow them when doing tasks, too, at home, at the office, or in the community. They are the same as the universal system-making model nature follows for Making Things To Fit The Context. When making changes, it starts with building on some idea, “confluence,” or inspiration of nature. When activated, it becomes the ‘germ’ of a new working system that grows as fast as it can at first. Then it sometimes passes the test of when and how to stop.
The universal test is simple, taking resources from growth for Responding To The Growing Needs Of The New System as those needs start competing with the values of more expansion. An endless expansion gives a system more to take care of (and more complexity that prevents it) than is manageable; a fatal problem. When making dinner, for example, the natural turning point is when you have collected and started preparing what is needed and then turn to finishing and gracefully serving. That must be before you startup too much to finish. That turn from starting to completing a design process also happens when new organisms become fully formed and ready to start learning about their new world. That occurs at birth for mammals when the new life starts to explore with family support for a while as they “fledge” and then be freed. People call it “youth” and “graduate,” the preparation and point of leaving the nest.
So, communicating to professionals about their ignorance threatening the planet is a dicey proposition. That is helped by really knowing what you’re talking, protesting, or singing about. Since negativity usually reinforces opposition, it helps to take a caring rather than aggressive approach.
A good example of that came up with the US supreme court starting to take away universal rights. The idea of forcing the country to adopt radical Christian Right (CR) values by packing the court came from their decades-long quest. Now it looks like there may be more to come than denying every woman’s right to privacy in their reproductive choices. Every living thing on earth needs individual and home privacy, though, so it seems to violate nature to deny it to others unless you are seriously injured.
So to turn that all around, ask: “What in the world happened to the CR to make them feel so directly harmed” And why was the only solution to deny the world around them universal rights??” Were they feeling an egregious loss of their home and privacy? The world around them has indeed been changing ever faster (due to problem A). The threat of ever faster change around their very fixed beliefs could have made them feel alienated, without a secure home anymore, and only able to think of lashing back? That makes it plausible that sympathy could sometimes be a better tool than antagonization, and of course, it would go both ways.
It may be the backstory to the imminent we all feel, that there seems to be a hidden center of pain being felt in some communities. One chart is of the rapidly increasing use of some very common terms for personal despair, measured by their frequency in English books scanned by Google.
The terms were picked for having curves “moving together as a group”, and include ‘love’ as one of the linked terms. Dynamic changes moving and fluctuating together as these do means they are part of one conversation, one culture, one community, all becoming increasingly desperate over time, and acting as a whole. If we consider them to be indicators of societal distress, the increases are from 200% to 400%. Who IS experiencing all that pain, is the question?? What’s happening??
The other chart we know a little better. It’s for the historic explosion of inequality in average US family incomes that began in ~1970. It represents an exploding loss of power for almost everyone, but oddly… seeming to MAKE US ALL AMONG THE POWERLESS. That growing inequality is connected with the imposition of shareholder value as the purpose of wealth, which has driven increasingly rapid disinvestment in skilled labor in an already very challenging productivity-driven society. A brief write-up is here: https://synapse9.com/signals/was-shareholder-value-what-did-it/
But the real questions are: WHAT IS the unified culture most feeling this apparent explosion of pain?? How else could we show the connection between two dramatic changes in societal cultures we are in the middle of?? AND Would that tell us anything about how to relieve it??
AND OF COURSE: Does it matter?? Are perhaps the big fluctuations since 2008 those of a boiling kettle ready to blow?? Are they instead indicating pressure relief, and now letting off steam?? Or something else??
AND: Why is LOVE so regularly growing along with the pains?? Who is this really happening to, anyway?? Wouldn’t it have to be a big enough cohesive group to move the average word uses of the entire language?? AND: why is it NOT the people that I know??
What do you think?
That’s it. Just some interesting questions. – Note: This also shows how useful a “natural systems method” of finding nature’s stories in dynamic change can be. A new paper preprint on it is at: https://synapse9.com/_ISSS-22/MS-HNS1-Design&Steering.pdf.
Also part of the path of discovery of where our cultures came from and the foundation we still need to learn from: The apparent Bronze Age roles of Hestia and Hermes
In terms of the ancient Greek history of our split consciousness marked by the emergence of modern science, between family order and societal order, I’m suggesting the one could come to the rescue of the other. The foundations of close-knit family and group life are still strong and seem to be, in turn, the foundations of all human societies too. So they’d be a healthy source of unified environmental rules that might communicate with societal institutions, and teach them how to see, by feeling their effects on their environments, reviving their instincts of wellness and survival. In Greek terms, it would be home life created in the early Aegean hearth home, the “Oikos” coming to the rescue of the “Polus.”
An opening came from distinguished Lehman College home science professor Pat Thompson. She found a way to reconstruct revisionist histories from what they disparage and what they are replacing, exposing the enduring Aegean Bronze Age culture,
One of the great turning points was the dawn of Greek science, with Thales, the first modern scientist, an Ionian trader who showed how to use math to make a fortune, set the new model. The idea of nature controlled by abstract rules of concepts and rules of control flourished and floundered again and again ever after.
At the same time, the new science culture proudly banished the earlier 2500 yr Aegean science of hearth and home, that our own family lives as centers with connection come from, associated with Hestia and Hermes, the first and only humble Greek gods.
The research leading to this came from Pat Thompson’s discovery of how to reconstruct revisionist histories and retracing the highly distinctive archeology of the Bronze Age Aegean hearth-home’s need for columns, leading to Greek architecture!
As a postscript — the problem with the great “centers with connections” of modern societies, commerce, and business is their losing touch with their contexts due to modeling decisions not on the common good like families do, but on abstract principles for ever-growing control of their contexts, human and natural. With the centers of power hoarding the profits of the societies being built, distributing enough to keep the peace but with no interest in distributing enough to care for our societies or the natural world all depended on, our ways of life were blinded to what became the “mysterious externalities” of global destruction directly caused by seeking limitless power! Who would have known? How did that get so confused?
More on the research is in my old notes on the Hestia connection called Hestia’s New World.
Yes, quite nice work. I think learning how natural systems develop and change as wholes seems needed too, though. We are often easily confused by how easy it can sometimes be to change the parts of systems we want to change as a whole. Systems generally develop as wholes and change as wholes, though, of course, unless broken up. Learning how to foster whole system change often comes from attempting to engineer some living system, to then see it fail over and over, learning how from experience by deep emersion in the context to understand its needs. That’s often how businesses evolve, by the deep emersion of its people in creating order from the chaos their first attempts cause. That’s still likely to happen, but might be made easier if people studied how actual systems emerge and change.
Real system change is more like the birth of a child, something developing as a whole and emerging as a whole, to then find it has to actively explore and adapt to find its place in the world. That applies to the birth of new ideas for new kinds of organization within a business, for or in a community, or in the world. It always first starts with the germination of its growth, then development and maturation on the way to having a life. Each stage is a unique challenge and experiential learning and growth process. The first creates its insides and then develops its relationships outside, to fit with the environment it emerges into.
What we’re struggling with globally is, of course, moving the world system in a profound and dramatic way. Though it is very different from learning to personally host and guide the birth of innovations in our work to fit their contexts there is a lot about global change we can learn from it. For a global change, we need to recognize first that we are not in control of much at all. Secondly, we need to recognize that systems are systems primarily because they are self-controlled, work as wholes, and though they have flexible parts and do often change by themselves, they really ONLY change as wholes and not by pushes and shoves, but by themselves something like we do.
That’s where it’s useful to study our experience with systems that change by themselves, our groups, friends, communities, selves, and children are things we know a lot about. There are only a few ways an outside approach can help, or hinder. For systems that one is part of one can spread the feeling of the pressures and any useful knowledge of opportunities for a whole to change on its own. There are often places where a developing whole system awareness is not getting through, and different forms of whole system awareness are needed. That is what seems to prepare a system for some sort of inspiration of its own, sometimes called “animal spirits,” that trigger whole system change, in a direction that motivates the whole.
We see it in our own behavior, as with what makes us overcome habits and do something new. It takes deep and ultimately inspiring feelings. If you think about change moments for other things, other words for it might come up, but it’s one or another kind of holistic response to awakening and opportunity. It needn’t be awakening due to growing life-threatening pressures, but we do hope indeed they will help motivate and inspire our world. When the system awakens to the opportunity it triggers the animal spirits to be felt by and move the whole.
Of course, that is IF successful. Let us hope that’s what humanity will have in mind to do as push comes to shove and the terrifying game of “chicken” we keep playing with ourselves, of using power to multiply power as a way of life, finally breaks.
I really like the idea of “Thrutopias: clear, engaging routes through to a world we’d all be proud to bequeath to future generations.” I thought some might benefit from a natural systems view of nature’s primary “thrutopia” (how growth makes it through to life) for the crises that all kinds of growth systems face. Perhaps check my recent research and writing and get in touch if you have questions. I generally don’t charge if I can fit it in.
Nature has one primary strategy for carrying emerging new systems through a whole system growth crisis such as our civilization faces at present. A growth crisis comes naturally for every growth system, as growth starts as a fixed design for multiplying the new system’s power and runs into trouble. Whether it is more or less severe depends on whether there is a good response. The crisis develops as its initial period of free exponential expansion begins to multiply internal and external pressures and conflicts instead. That threatens the system and its environment. Think of a personal relationship as a model. It develops freely and marvelously until some conflict appears, and the response to it determines the fate of the relationship and its environment.
It is quite surprising that this simple and obvious feature of how natural systems develop did not attract the attention of the leading sciences, apparently just believing some other story.
Telling it a story of nature managing the birth of new lives would fit a story arc of nature first promising new lives a gift much too good to be true, but that is true for a while. That confusing signal is part of the trouble. Nature knows all along that the initial gift is one to be taken away and for it to be unexpected for inattentive new lives. Then to select some for the gift of lasting life, nature gives ever new life a warning. Then she rewards those that change their fixed designs for maximum growth to adaptive growth and engagement with the world around them. That then stands as “the door to life,” an act of a new system choosing live, nature having gotten things started and leaving it up to new entities to switch to becoming internally adaptive and externally engaging.
You notice that I shifting back and forth between scientific and familiar discussion. It comes from my starting as a scientist and studying how language developed from people coining words and expressions to convey their experience with natural systems… ! So we have a natural systems language too.
It’s fairly easy to begin to study these transformations from familiar examples. Any of the many things we do or that happen in a day combine those startup and transformation stages. For example, the startup phase of tasks, projects, businesses, or relationships is always some natural or personal “urge to create.” If all goes well, that expansive growth follows for a bit, then at the right time, a turn toward making it a success by the system becoming adaptive to internal and external needs so it can live in its world.
Technically that first follows a design principle of maximizing power (called MPP) and then one for maximizing resilience (called MRP). The growth of the new system then climaxes at its peak of capability, resilience, and endurance. That change comes from the system changing its internal rule for how it invests its resources, going from multiplying its power to making it work by serving needs, including the needs of the system and the parts.
As one studies how these startup and resolution stages proceed in personally familiar cases you will find new ways of describing how it happens. That makes it easier to imagine how we could tell stories about the challenge before our world civilization, and people thrilled with it and lost and confused by it. The pattern to study and anchor other observations is that initial urge to create then accelerating activity followed by an urge to make it work and a climax with perfecting touches.
It’s wonderful to have so much movement in the movement now, the passion and connections making such awakening waves around facing our global crisis of growing crises. Capitalism isn’t amenable to the kinds of change mostly offered, moral suasion, that I hear voiced by the great host of determined voices rising in response.
The people actually most responsible are the class of highly educated successful professionals from good families ruling the world. We need to study ironies like that, looked at as non-verbal cues from nature to look more deeply at the problem. Another irony is that the educated professional class running the world, who like everyone else, exhibits highly successful survival instincts in their personal environments, evidently also seems to think nothing of destroying the home of nature and humanity at ever-accelerating rates; another irony.
The many ironies surrounding our escalating world crisis all suggest some kind of profound blindness, on the part of nature’s most intelligent species. There is one that the ironies can help us pick out. One of the other ironies that have been talked about for decades now, is that it seems our solutions are the source of our problems. That is particularly clear in how you just can’t talk to people offering great temporary solutions for growing long-term problems. They’re not motivated to look for the flaws in their proud designs. That disappointing truth is pervasive throughout the world sustainability movement. For the biggest example, even the climate change effort amounts to an enormous effort to find a temporary fix that absolutely can’t last. Its aim is to phase out one ever-multiplying energy source for another, taking no (0) account of the ever-multiplying impacts of generating and using the new source for multiplying our control of nature. What we’re using the energy for is probably a bigger actual environmental problem than how we obtain it!
In short, we’re behaving like confused 2-year-olds with respect to some of our most important tasks, as we also act like grownups with respect to some others. For some reason, I started noticing these kinds of ironies a long time ago. They would just pop out at me. I noticed in first-year physics almost 60 years ago, for example, that physics does not study the parts of nature that can’t be turned into a formula! Of course, no one would listen then or ever since, though recently I may be making little bits of progress. The insight that triggered that observation came while being taught about the parts of simple behaviors that fit formulas, like a ball thrown in the air. We were not taught about the little non-linear energizing and de-energizing transients that begin and end every case of similar events.
Conceptual thinking, the identification of simple patterns in complex contexts, is I think, at the heart of our problem. We spend so much time with our concepts, observed patterns simplified and detached from our contexts. that we lose track of their contexts, that is, except for the contexts we are deeply immersed in. The one you can’t feel and the other you can, and that has EVERYTHING to do with behavior.
Thus our good survival instincts are in familiar places and we tend to lose them if all we have is abstract data. That divide also means that we naturally think our social concepts and values rule the world because they touch our emotions so directly. It tends to make the behavior of the natural and institutional systems that really run the world go largely unnoticed. The worst part… is that the simple rules of science and finance for profitably (and blindly) growing our control over our nature and each other (rules we see as detached from their contexts), then also multiply ever-faster. So, naturally, they take over the world those “powers of our minds” (for multiplying our power) are unleashed. Looking at the long history shows the scope of the dilemma. We’ve been doing that for thousands of years, over and over, blowing things up and suffering the disaster. And we are still at it today. Of course, if this like of questions helps us see the problem, maybe we can do something this time.
So what do we do? Well, I can’t say what path to take, as that will be determined by first looking for then finding the openings in our blind convictions, to breathe fresh air into them. Then the need appears to be to at least start a cure for the very heart of the problem, how our powerful concepts blind us to the world we take power over. If we could feel what’s going on around their use we would be able to read the non-verbal cues to the state of our relationships, and not be helpless. Where we don’t feel the state of our relationships we’re blind to the effects of our choices and helpless. The main example is of course our pension for multiplying money, not having any feeling for the extensive evidence that what we do with money is rapidly destroying the earth, for example, the Top 100 World Crises Growing With Growth.
The list is too much to absorb all at once, but it’s one of the healthiest things to try. https://synapse9.com/_r3ref/100CrisesTable.pdf The solution is – conceptually – simple too. Learn from the examples of how both we and nature so often steer the growth of new systems to become lasting good homes for their builders!
So we need to somehow bring feeling to the environments our conceptual thinking has isolated us from and prevented us from feeling at home. Sound good? Do you perhaps wee any openings to explore? Lots of the ones I hear about people looking into seem to me to be just the right type. It’s a diagnosis connecting the emotional and moral openings with a practical behavioral understanding of the problem that is really needed. I think that coupling is what’s missing.
The radical separation of humans from nature, our being so self-absorbed and seeing nature as defined in our heads rather than the other way around, has been a deep mystery for a long time.
My interest in it came from noticing how mathematics became our standard for representing nature but cannot describe or help us study what makes life so lively, the abounding creative processes of nature.
I’m not against math, a fabulous art, that does help us identify certainties, however, our desperate search for certainty is what seems to have betrayed us, splitting our minds between attentiveness and total blindness to our environments, having defined in our minds nature as our rules for how to control nature…
The search for answers in mathematics, the language of determinate relationships that science uses, has proved extraordinarily profitable, leading to growing human comforts that have also taken us to the point of our increasingly destroying the natural world. Our mysterious detachment from nature seems very directly at fault. The animation of life, its rich relationships, and creativity are all left out of the formula when people are guided by determinate rules. It’s something I’ve long studied as a physicist, having first noticed that every event begins and ends with some little dynamic transient of change.
I think part of the problem is that language was actually reflected our first highly useful systems thinking, with all its words and grammar arranged to communicate important experiences, designs, and relationships IN THE NATURAL CONTEXT. Math makes rules abstracted from a natural context, that are most profitable when offering easy ways to control nature without concern for the context. So they work great but pass on no information on when they are being overused. That is as clear in the simple cases and most extreme cases, such as the world consensus plan to maximize our economic growth rate, for regularly doubling the wealth we extract from nature while ignoring its rapidly degrading impacts on nature, called “externalities.”
But who is it that is blind to what, and how in the world do we face an existential dilemma evidently buried so deep in human consciousness?
Finding the right path forward
We see humanity’s deeply split personality, generous and playful as well as obsessed with expanding our control of the world but need to find its source. Then we will finally begin to make progress, to slowly dig our way out of the terror our powerful minds seem to have created for us. Somehow we allowed our truly wondrous designs to create a new world of enormous cruelty, following their promise of relieving nature’s cruelty. That’s definitely happening, and definitely not good.
One of the paths to a cure could come from studying the differences between how people behave in one or the other way. We might then cure the blind way of abusing our powers by restoring the principles of staying in touch with environmental contexts. The direct approach, helping others immerse themselves in the natural environments they are in trouble with, works great using an experienced teacher. The living systems scientist like Ostrom or Midgley do it by lead communities through a process of exposure to how their worlds work, leading to their making much better choices.
As parents we also talk to our kids that way too, helping them to understand problems of insensitivity to others. Every good family does that, but the children still grow up to follow the rules of maximizing growing profits and ignoring the economy’s ever-growing impacts. That very clearly defines the split between how people behave in familiar contexts, where they can feel the strains on relationships, and in the public sphere where they don’t. In the public sphere rules for profit give people only feelings of self-interest and blind them entirely to the enormous building strains in the wider world’s relationships.
I’m not saying that is the only strong force causing humanity’s spiritual separation from life, but one we can see plainly enough to realize we very much need to act on it, despite the difficulty of communication that recognizing errors in our plans naturally creates.
Modern society presents other special problems of communication too, confronting us with thousands of self-serving silos of narrow beliefs, personal, social, religious, national, and professional. I look at them all as “cultures,” the “cells of knowledge” we build to guide us on how to think, work, live, and talk to give us some local sense of security in a confusing world. Cultures are also a saving grace as well as a way to divide us, given how most are deeply rooted in what worked in the past, with authentic copies passed on from generation to generation.
Of course, individual people have individual saving graces too, to use in helping us climb out of the trap we find ourselves in. Some have vision, steady hands, charisma, moral clarity, persistence, or wonderful person-to-person good hearts. Those don’t come from theories of control, that betray our powerful minds. They come from the opposite, from our loves and cares largely cut out of the public sphere by the rules we blindly follow. Saving graces in our institutions seem harder to find. We mostly built them around ideas of expanding control or being funded by it, not on learning how to make free associations work well.
What it seems we need to rely on is family culture and their central one for all and all for one life agreement. I’d include in that both the home and work families we center our lives on, which generally make us acutely aware of the non-verbal as well as verbal cues indicating openings and strains on our relationships. That is the very kind of environmental awareness that enables our personal and family survival instincts.
That is what seems most missing from the public sphere institutions, seemingly blinded by following abstract rules rather than navigating relationships with the world. It’s not even that the world doesn’t act as a whole. It certainly can and does, as you see in the effect of managing a global economy to work as a whole. To feel where the world is going, and change our collective steering, we’d need to count all the global strains we have not been counting.