Recently I summarized my long analysis of How to Save the World in four bullet points:
It’s a very ambitious goal, but after two years of study I don’t see how anything less that this revolutionary, worldwide program has a chance to save us from social and ecological catastrophe by the end of this century.
I have couched this program as a social and educational one, because it so threatens the established hierarchies of wealth and power (it almost inevitably would mean massive decentralization of power, and the collapse of much of the capitalist economic system) that, as I have argued elsewhere, I don’t see a political and economic program aimed at the same ends standing any chance at all of succeeding.
I’ve also said that I see innovation and technology playing a critical role in achieving these deadlines and targets, in three ways:
The idea of this third application of technology “just in case” has distressed many of my readers, but in my opinion if we don’t have this option available the alternatives could be much uglier and highly discriminatory. Likewise, I think we need a coercive “Plan B”, entailing the humane and carefully targeted sabotage of some of the most wasteful attributes of our existing economic system, to be used if and only if social and educational actions fail to achieve agreed upon deadlines and targets for consumption reduction: If you can’t get people to reduce demand, you have to intervene to reduce excess supply. I would hope that no “Plan B” would have to be deployed, but I also think it would be naive not to have one in case it’s needed.
So I got to thinking about the probability of success. Both our instincts and our reasoning ability motivate us to take action when the probability of success is reasonably high, and not to act if it isn’t. I’ve had enough experience in my life (both personal and business) with situations where people are asked to make “leaps of faith” to appreciate that trying to persuade people to do things they don’t think will succeed is an arduous, if not impossible, task. Just take a look at Bush’s efforts to persuade politicians and then the American people of the wisdom of invading Iraq: He argued (dishonestly but very effectively) that the invasion would be quick, easy, and inexpensive, that the Iraqis would welcome Americans with flowers and crowds of joy. If he’d been honest about the probability of success, he would probably have failed to convince either Congress or the people of the wisdom of the invasion.
What do we need to do to increase the probability of success of the 4-step change program above? Well, if we follow the most popular business change model, that espoused by John Kotter in Leading Change, we need to:
Kotter argues that you don’t bring about sustained, meaningful change by edict. You need to persuade, enthuse, and engage people in sufficient numbers to change behaviours, beliefs or processes. Miss one of these eight steps, or get them out of order, he says, and you’ll fail. How could we apply these eight steps to the 4-step process needed to save the world? Here are a few ideas:
The Kotter model, designed as it is for business, does not translate perfectly to a whole-world change program. As much as a ‘powerful guiding coalition’ for global change would help, it is probably unrealistic to expect global leaders in any sector, who have a vested interest in the status quo, to support the change, let alone guide it. This is going to have to be a mass movement in which the leaders follow (mostly reluctantly) the lead of the people.
The Kotter model also came out before the power of the Internet to galvanize and influence public opinion and organize for change was well established, and before the Wisdom of Crowds successfully repudiated the cult of leadership and the conventional wisdom that the work and advice of experts is more valuable than that of the mass of people on the front lines.
I don’t claim to have all, or even most, of the answers to convincing the majority of the people on this planet of the wisdom of my 4-point program. It’s an iterative process, and many of the ideas that will persuade people of its appropriateness, urgency and viability will come from the people themselves. But let’s suppose we are able to convince a few billion people that:
What’s next? Well, once someone is convinced of the merits of making a change, they want to know what to do, precisely and specifically, to achieve it. When it comes to overpopulation, that’s pretty obvious, but in the case of overconsumption, we need to have some standards that will provoke heavy consumers to cut back, and give them some specific ideas how to do it (kind of like an ecological footprint ‘diet plan’), and recognize and reward those who have already achieved that standard.
When you break the problem down into these components, and look at solutions at the individual level, intractable problems start to look a lot more solvable. Maybe the chances for our world, fixed from the bottom up, are better than we thought. Now we only need to convince a few more billion people.
The chart at the top of this post is explained in this article.
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My Bio, Contact Info, Signature PostsAbout the Author (2016)
--- My Best 100 Posts --
Preparing for Civilization's End:
What Would Net-Zero Emissions Look Like?
Why Economic Collapse Will Precede Climate Collapse
Being Adaptable: A Reminder List
A Culture of Fear
What Will It Take?
A Future Without Us
Dean Walker Interview (video)
The Mushroom at the End of the World
What Would It Take To Live Sustainably?
The New Political Map (Poster)
Complexity and Collapse
Save the World Reading List
What a Desolated Earth Looks Like
Giving Up on Environmentalism
The Dark & Gathering Sameness of the World
The End of Philosophy
The Boiling Frog
What to Believe Now?
Conversation & Silence
The Language of Our Eyes
Cultural Acedia: When We Can No Longer Care
Several Short Sentences About Learning
Why I Don't Want to Hear Your Story
A Harvest of Myths
The Qualities of a Great Story
The Trouble With Stories
A Model of Identity & Community
Not Ready to Do What's Needed
A Culture of Dependence
So What's Next
Ten Things to Do When You're Feeling Hopeless
No Use to the World Broken
Living in Another World
Does Language Restrict What We Can Think?
The Value of Conversation Manifesto Nobody Knows Anything
If I Only Had 37 Days
The Only Life We Know
A Long Way Down
No Noble Savages
Figments of Reality
Too Far Ahead
The Rogue Animal
How the World Really Works:
If You Wanted to Sabotage the Elections
Collective Intelligence & Complexity
Ten Things I Wish I'd Learned Earlier
The Problem With Systems
Against Hope (Video)
The Admission of Necessary Ignorance
Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish
A Synopsis of 'Finding the Sweet Spot'
Learning from Indigenous Cultures
The Gift Economy
The Job of the Media
The Wal-Mart Dilemma
The Illusion of the Separate Self:
Did Early Humans Have Selves?
Nothing On Offer Here
Even Simpler and More Hopeless Than That
What Happens in Vagus
We Have No Choice
Never Comfortable in the Skin of Self
Letting Go of the Story of Me
All There Is, Is This
A Theory of No Mind
The Ever-Stranger (Poem)
The Fortune Teller (Short Story)
Non-Duality Dude (Play)
Your Self: An Owner's Manual (Satire)
All the Things I Thought I Knew (Short Story)
On the Shoulders of Giants (Short Story)
Calling the Cage Freedom (Short Story)
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A Thought-Less Experiment (Poem)
Speaking Grosbeak (Short Story)
The Only Way There (Short Story)
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Flywheel (Short Story)
The Opposite of Presence (Satire)
How to Make Love Last (Poem)
The Horses' Bodies (Poem)
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