Shifting the Conversation

Shifting the Conversation

Every human endeavor is or presumes a certain “conversation,” a way of framing the issues that is both useful but also at some points limiting. Every academic discipline, trade, or way of life is a particular conversation. Our postmodern culture is a vast and multidimensional conversation that shapes our politics and our thinking. It provides the context for our response to climate change, to species extinction, and to habitat destruction. But as Einstein pointed out, we often cannot solve problems at the level of thinking that created them; we need to seek a larger framework in which to understand the shortcomings of the past and the possibilities of the future.

The question is, which conversation are we going to operate inside of?

What is the Possible Planet conversation? Essentially it’s the view that humanity needs to change course, to redirect its efforts to restoring the Earth and re-creating community. “Overshoot Day” occurred on August 2 of this year. What this means is that we have used up a year’s worth of resources, and we’re now eating into our capital. We have a growing collective ecological debt — a debt that is much greater than, and much more important than, the U.S. or any other national debt. What we need to do is to turn around the economy, indeed the bulk of all human activity, to have it focused on restoring the Earth, its fertility and fecundity or productive capacity, to serve the needs of our growing global population. This is our fundamental context, the foundation on which we have built our work.

If you want apply this idea to your workplace or your community, join one of our Possible Planet Groups, and invite us to speak with you or your organization.

The Unsustainable Course of “Business as Usual”

Even though most of us can see that it is unsustainable, and indeed leading us over a cliff in terms of catastrophic change, altering the course of our entire global civilization is not going to be easy. As Buckminster Fuller argued, what we need is a “trimtab” — the small rudder inside the main rudder that is easier to move and that begins to create the drag that slows and can eventually cause the larger shift. That trimtab, we argue, is an alteration in our collective mindset or awareness, in the dominant ideas and understandings of the era. Once that occurs, we see that the only useful course of action is to begin to build that better world, rather than trying to fix the old one. Again, as Fuller argued, if you try to fight with reality, it just causes resistance; but give people a better system, a more effective way to operate, and they’ll adopt that.

Victor Hugo, c. 1880


An Idea Whose Time has Come

We believe that this is an “idea whose time has come,” which as Victor Hugo pointed out, is more powerful than armies in shaping the course of history. That idea is that another future is not only possible, it’s necessary, and it’s inevitable if humanity is to survive, let alone to thrive. “Utopia or Oblivion,” was Buckminster Fuller’s way of putting it, and while either as an extreme is unlikely the basic impulse is right. We must create a better world for all, or we will likely face collapse, as other civilizations have, and what’s left of humanity will have to start over. The stakes could not be higher.


Beginning with the Basic Resource of the Economy, Capital

But where to start? One of the first steps is to recognize that very large economic incentives need to shift. Our work in this area has involved two major initiatives: Global 4C, a monetary policy proposal for central banks to hedge against the risk of catastrophic climate change through a sort of “green quantitative easing,” and new approaches to clean energy and resiliency financing, including not only Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), but also our own innovative PACE-like approaches, DREAM and NICE, that do not require state legislation or municipal approval.

For more on our philosophy, see Key Concepts.

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