Category Archives: Transformation

on the transformation of our experience of nature as we recognize our part in it

News of the Commons

The BIG news is that the commons got a lot of fresh attention in the 2012 RioDialogues, from the UN Commons Action Group site and its Facebook page, supporting proposals that Helene Finidori (1) and I submitted (2,3) for:

“New institutions.. for commons-based economic models”

a common trust and place to enjoy being at home

Helene’s proposal (1) won the voting for the“Sustainable Development as an Answer to the Economic and Financial Crises” topic in the RioDialogues vote, and good recognition!

The idea is to NOT use development, as the solution to the world economic crisis, but to create new institutions allowing develoment efforts to work together, to serve the whole.  It would create a sustainable world using “commons-based economic models”. The idea originates from the examples advocated by the Nobel laureate, Elinor Ostrum, as the collaborative framework that competitive interests need so the whole can thrive.

Helene’s proposal is found on the next page, or by following the links (1).  Her new (Aug 2012) collected thinking on it is in,


applying her insights gleaned from the further Systems Thinking World discussions on the UN Call for Action, she started, and her original proposal also came from.

– 1) Sustainable development requires new institutions … to adopt commons-based economic models, originally posted to the 2012 RioDialogues

– 2) Biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

– 3) Budgeting for “the commons” needs business “ecobalance” sheets

Helene currently lives in Barcelona. She devotes herself to “Connecting people & ideas across cultures, disciplines & sectors to shape a better future…”. Links to her other writing and visions for the commons are:  In my dreams… the Living WE… accelerating emergence… and  The Commons at the Core of our Next Economic Models?

Continue reading News of the Commons

“The next big challenge” a biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

Using a new paradigm of biomimicry
to create a global self-regulating financial commons.

This proposal was submitted to the Rio+20 Dialogues for comment and voting. See “News of the Commons” for introductions to the vision and the systems thinking needed. It’s part of the foundation of collaborative free markets needed for the health of the competitive free markets, as an element of Helene Finidori’s “Commons-Sense“.  In this case to recognize that the profitability of the whole is threatened by a continued common investment strategy for growth, and needs a way to change to a common investment strategy for well being.

It works for us

Nature systems initially develop using a “bootstrap” mechanism, growth, that continually expands their control of their environment.  For any system’s own internal as well as external needs that self-investment strategy needs to become responsive instead ever more controlling to survive.

See UN Proposal to guide the UN SDG’s by this principle for OWG 7 & 8
Early version: Jan 2014 –
A World SDG- and way to thoughtfully manage global systems
This and the earlier versions contain a lot of good thinking…
the Most polished final version is a Feb 2014 proposal to the UN:  
A World SDG



A new economic paradigm: The next big challenge

The proposal is followed by a discussion of some of the systems thinking
on “the commons” that developed with a group of contributors to a Systems Thinking World discussion group. It is intended as a sample of the kind of “commons based economic models”proposed in the 2012 RioDialogues, by Helene’s Finidori, to solve the global economic crisis by making the commons work for the whole, as a replacement for the paradigm of “prosperity” with ever expanding development. Below is the original article (with references) for the UNCSD Rio+20 Outreach Forum Continue reading “The next big challenge” a biomimicry for a self-regulating financial commons

A circle ever more broken

I’ve found that it eventually pays, to let my moral dilemmas hurt my feelings if I actually want to know the answer. I don’t ever dwell on emotional pain.  I just know I can learn from it if I attentively listen to what it’s about.  Our world is spiraling out of control, yet again, as if people had no clue as to why.

The Pentecostal anthem “May the Circle be Unbrokencontains a kernel of systems physics I hadn’t noticed until recently, in a spiral the circles don’t connect, but are eve more separated.   It came to mind when a question led me to think about the heartbreak of alienation that people all over the earth feel so personally, when they realize that are living in societies leading them into desperate troubles.

That was one of the common recognitions among the generation born after WWII, and the popular impetus for the “counter culture”.  The sense everyone seemed to share was that the post war culture seemed like it would just repeat the same sort of horrible sequence of global catastrophes it had just experienced, and might learn nothing from it at all.   That time lots was actually learned from the experience, of course.   Only thirty years later, though, world society is clearly creating conditions for the same scale of mega-catastrophe for mankind again.

It helps to face the fact “we’re doing it again”.

We have an economy requiring everyone’s energetic cooperation, running into destabilizing limits in virtually every direction at once, with no offer of a solution but “try harder”…   That’s a total formula for disaster.   It helps to face the fact “we’re doing it again”.   The “circle” today is ever more broken.

broken circle of growth
Growth is a chain of events for creating an ever more broken circle. It's a construction process leaving ever more unbuilt, to be completed or the spiral goes out of control.


People keep making cultures and economies that spiral out of control.  They abuse the love, cooperation and talents of their people, steering their lives toward performing tasks leading to great evil.   But.. who is society but a consensus on common purposes?   No one is “in change”.    Still people somehow build great societies with all good intent, that contain an internal logic that is “broken”.   Gradually over time we just notice them “spiraling ever further out of control”, each loop an ever further break from the past.

These aren’t metaphors, really.  Growth is a spiral process.  It physically builds upon the changes of to past to create ever greater changes in the future, diverging ever further from its prior path on every cycle.  That we’re now losing control of it is generally felt. It’s also accurately observed in the “fishtailing” of over-corrections and panicked avoidance of terrible consequences, dodging the consequent failures of guesswork on which excess reliance was placed.

Economic planners are “shooting from the hip”, unsure what to do, because nothing is really working.  The general progression is of events becoming ever more unmanageable.   Having things spiral out of control is a very natural process, like some cosmic storm of misfortunes, that happens in environments.   The error if there is one is our failing to notice it in time to reign it in, to make our “circle” unbroken again.

Questions from Bill Rees & response

Bill Rees asked some excellent questions about my submission to the Long Term Capitalism Challenge to use natural principles for managing growth to sustain the profitability of our economic system.    I think I made good responses too.


Hi Jessie –

Thanks for the opportunity to review your proposal.

I agree with your diagnosis of our economic malady but admit to struggling a bit with the remedy. Let me start with this sentence:

“When people spend their financial profits on good works it also [reduces the growth of money], with the added advantage when spent as for endowments instead of to compound profits, of doing a lot of good.”

Now, at the limits to material growth, the goal of policy should be to reduce the throughput of energy and materials to biophysically sustainable limits. So the above passage raises two questions.  First, what do you mean by ‘good works’?  and second, would the redirection of profits from investment in productive capital to ‘good works’ reduce total throughput?

/When financial earnings are not compounded to multiply investment, and the returns are not added to savings,  it stops the automatic compound growth of investments.    I’m using “investment” more broadly than usual, to make my statements inclusive, to include all ways in which money is spent with the intent of having it return profits.  I then break spending and investing in components if I want to study the details, using a “figure 8” model.  That’s a way to construct a global model of how income is allocated and returned as income, as a closed system with regulated money supply (Concept$).

/So, “spending” then means the opposite of investment, as money spent without an expectation of return, i.e. final consumption.  Then  “good works” most generally means final consumption used to maintain the profitability of the economy, as a universal good and necessity for survival.  One thing that economists would recommend, it think, if the added spending seemed to increase aggregate demand, is to make sure enough of it was used for non-consumption expenses like to retire debt.   The intent is to have investors treat their financial investments as endowments, and think of themselves as fiduciaries for the earth in general, to keep it profitable and using their money as the world is best served.

/Spending financial returns would reduce total throughput if it kept the funds available for expanding production systems from growing.   How the restraining aggregate savings would affect the movement of funds between ‘producing’ and ‘non-producing’ investments I have not really thought through.   One part seems to be that businesses would need to give their profits to their shareholders, to be spent, rather than to use them to grow while the whole economy is trying not to.

Our current growth course, growing resource depletion

Continue reading Questions from Bill Rees & response

Adopt natural system principles to keep economies profitable at their limits

The collection of “Hacks” for the Long Term Capitalism Challenge offered byHarvard Business Review, McKinsey and MIX, for the M-Prize for Management Innovation now has this proposal from me…

Please leave comments for reviewers on The official competition entry at the MIX site (here too is fine for conversation).  If you request information I’ll respond as I did for Bill Rees, and post it if it’s OK with you.

It’s a nice new version of the long series of proposals for using natural economies as models for better ways to organize ours, a kind of systems biomimicry.

General References: (added proposal references at the end)

  1. For closely related world system biomimicry see “News of the Commons
  2. To introduce systems ecology “Self-organization as “niche making
  3. I got very good detailed questions on the MIX proposal from Bill Rees, and posted my responses as Questions from Bill Rees.
  4. For an introduction to the physics and general systems theory of natural open systems, see Natural Systems Thinking


The Summary

A good goal for growth would be to end at a stable peak of vitality providing a sound capital endowment for life on earth.  That would be better than ending at a peak of exhaustion, like other “tower of Babel” societies of the past such as Rome and the Mayans.

It can also be thought of as a change of “ism’s”.

It would also represent a change in form for our economic system, while still being the very same economy with the same people and rights, and reliance on creative innovation funded by investors.   By giving profits an end purpose, of caring for things rather than just for multiplying profits, it woud give the whole economy a very different purpose.    So, it can also be thought of as a change of “ism’s”. Continue reading Adopt natural system principles to keep economies profitable at their limits

Why real economic ‘feedbacks’ are investment choices, and Keynes knew

A pair of systems thinking posts on how why the natural way to reform capitalism and bring about its stable and healthy climax. is to turn the world’s accumulated investment funds (the savings of individuals) endowments for their owners purposes other than piling up more money.   JLH

Posted by Ferenc Kovacs

@Helen, My systems thinking aptitude is simple minded. Follow the medical practice that cannot fully undersatnd what is going on in a living organism, has no clue of the causation chain of all diseases, but they heavily rely on the self-corrcting and healing nautre of organisms and time as the only cure without telling us how it works. Therefore I see humanity as the disease, but as we are successulf as parasites and society is built on parasitism, it is is difficult to get the message accross: stop being a parasite and acccept that you need to work to get rewarded. Go bakc to the Garden of Eden, check out what the knowledge of good and bad is really about and accept that life on earth is not optimised for the life span of individuals, not veent a happy life, but on the growth of species and offsrpings in a growing variety which was halted by hmans presence and growth in number. Surely, that will not go on like that, Nature will teach you by taking sanity away from us first. the rest will be easy. We are already insane in pursuing excitement, show and appearances and covering up knowledge and giving up common sense.

Jessie Henshaw • @Ferenc – You said to Helene, “Therefore I see humanity as the disease, but as we are successful as parasites and society is built on parasitism, it is difficult to get the message across: stop being a parasite and accept that you need to work to get rewarded.”

Why it’s “difficult to get the message across” is partly the difference between “feedbacks” as “ratios” and “feedbacks” as “investment choices”. That’s what I had mentioned, to which William Ross said “You have succeeded in expressing it well and succinctly.” as “one of the more fundamental differences between how models of systems and real physical systems actually operate. Particularly for growth systems that represent complex construction processes.” Continue reading Why real economic ‘feedbacks’ are investment choices, and Keynes knew

Steps to a natural systems view

Over the years I’ve made various attempts to give people a good set of principles for introducing my way of observing and understanding the workings of natural environmental systems (1).

9 steps of discovery

A suggestion that I try again resulted in the following page, describing 9 steps of discovery. They’re to be made meaningful to someone using them by leading to their discovering things they never would have guessed, about their own world.   The goal is gaining a far better general understanding how nature creates and animates her very complexly well organized systems.

The trick in all of it,
is that what we “see” is not what nature is doing, but what we’re thinking of,
making consciousness quite different from reality.

The real world system of nature to understand are the various familiar and unfamiliar things that develop and work by themselves.   That includes the weather, social systems, economies, ecologies, but also organisms, storms, currents, cultural events and emerging technologies, etc.   They’re also little things like rust spots that magically appear by themselves on your car or other small individual events.

Emergent complex systems that take place “by themselves” in the sense of there being no evidence of central deterministic control, are also found in any spontaneous gesture like a smile, a handshake, or even the experience of personal feelings and thoughts, as form of complex organization in nature that come and go, and lack a pre-existing template for how to do that.

These are clear case of nature having to invent the path in the process of building and completing the process.   What opens the door to appreciating them is having a method of observation that fits them all, as following the enduring pattern for all scales and kinds of observable events as completing their own individual life-cycle.

The critical observation is to answer the question “what’s piling up” NOT “what’s the formula”.   It’s only theory that world by formulas.  Nature works by piling up, so that’s what you study when the subject is how can nature behave in a way not in our formulas.

Observation (2)

something about both the thing developing is “in-spired” from inside
and why the environment it is in makes that possible


1) The Art of Observation from Physics for Open Systems, and added resources:

2) Image found at Homeschool Hints : Developing Observation Skills

Continue reading Steps to a natural systems view

All time Top 22

Top page Requests for:

 Reading  Nature’s  Signals   &

All time Top:    1. 22 of May/11,    2. 30 of Aug/11,    3. 39 of Jan/12


Top 85 Jun 2013 Top Blog PostsTop Archive Pages
Top 67 Dec 2012 Top Blog Posts & Top Archive Pages




# Reads                   Page/Post Title

3. Top 39  in Jan 2012

557           2007/08/18    Whether successfully averted for the moment or not/

328           2011/07/18    My most disturbing finding/

322                                 Phpub.htm (publications list)

302                                 Systems Energy Assessment (SEA)/

186           2011/07/27    Urges arousal and keynes animal spirits/

162                                 Design/dollarshadow.htm ($’s = btu’s)

118                                 Cartoons/ (mostly New Yorker’s)

115           2011/08/05    Its the leeches that make us strong/

101                                 Pub/EffMultiplies.htm (natural effects of efficiency)

100                                 Chapters.htm (“S” curve reading templates) Continue reading All time Top 22

With endless exploding energy…

“Endless exploding energy” is quite temporary, of course.

Think of any example, any case where it’s not just the start of things.  We might start our day or a new business effort with a burst of “endless exploding energy”, but not really mean that literally.  “Endless exploding energy”, if you mean it literally, generally causes things to rip themselves apart, destructively. With our economy there’s little doubt we mean it literally, is the problem, inherent in the universal plan for “real growth” at stable positive exponential rates.

Think of any of the quite common examples, and then wonder: Why haven’t people been curious about it? Our whole design for economic prosperity involves using energy to multiply energy use, to take endless exploding control of the earth’s energy resources, for empowering our social relationships,

to “take off”, and keep using ever more, ever faster,
the more we use.

The idea of our ever exploding future... literally!

I don’t know why I am perhaps one of the only living people to have had the curiosity to break free of the misconceptions leading our culture to be so committed to increasing our energy use by bigger steps the more we use, forever.  Somehow I both:

  1. noticed the signs of there being something deeply wrong with our knowledge of life, and
  2. discovered the universal solution for how to respond upon finding one’s own life rides on an exploding bomb of energy use, with no built in method of turning it off.

Survival is only possible if we use the energy it grows by… for something better,

The use of our own and the earth’s energies for further multiplying our energy uses, managed to explode at maximum rates forever,… is very explicitly managed for doing just that.   It’s readily apparent in our normal uses of money, if you look, found to be innocently posing as if designed to serve everyone’s “self-interest”. Continue reading With endless exploding energy…

Our great love affair with change

Love affairs begin with the thrill of an infatuation, and there’s always a risk of neglecting what’s more important.   We’ve had a long growing infatuation with technology, and reinventing our lives over and over, for example.    Such infatuations become just fond memories for how a true love began, if it’s true love that emerges from it, of course.   Whether it’s the beginning of a true love or not, is the question, as for any dream of expanding promises.

life is a love affair, a burst of investments followed by refinements

Write your own story of a love, a dream of promises either kept or not, as hasty as a smile shining light into two lives or as drawn out as the dreams of mankind and our many centuries of wandering from one wilderness to another in search of why some loves do last. but so many just don’t.

Getting lost in infatuations is one way, as with dreams of wealth, and so making the great errors of expectation and so losing it all.  Our infatuation with rearranging our planet ever more rapidly, consuming it as we go, has really gotten the best of us, and it has to do with money.  What would get us to commit to being its partner rather than its ruler?  That seems to be the question.

Continue reading Our great love affair with change