Global Sustainability–The Great Transition Initiative

Sometimes I accidentally stumble across a well-hidden door to a mysterious building. Construction is not always tenant-ready but some dwellings are occupied. Others have completed their entire life cycle and are ready for demolition. The most recent door is to an in-process project–the Great Transition Initiative, and one specific essay in particular from the GTI website on meaningful work. A two- tweetworthy excerpt of the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) narrative from the meaningful work essay:

Our mad rush to accumulate wealth and a standard of living through material things and conspicuous consumption has degraded quality of life and endangered the sustainability of humanity. The way out: “create an environmentally and socially sustainable future that provides decent, meaningful work for all.” (The Struggle for Meaningful WorkKent Klitgaard February 2017) 

A Great Transition is needed. We have maxxed out the earth’s capacity to support humanity, moving  dangerously close to or past the hard limitations of every critical resource needed to sustain the species—water, food, land, air.

Social sustainability may be even tougher to achieve. The Great Transition Initiative  explores the future Klitgaard references. This essay looks only at what and why. The more challenging “how” including meaningful work is later.

GTI first started taking shape a quarter century ago, and their message and approach resonates with me. Their assessment of the current global state and vision of a desired future, as well as the issues and concerns driving the initiative all align with what had been percolating in my head for some time. My goal for this post is to do what I can to promote the cause, we need a vast grass roots movement. As this is important stuff. I hope this short summary will push you to the GTI project.

This is also selfishly motivated. GTI is new to me, and this will help me to better understand the issues, the framework, and where I might fit in. Lots to explore, lots of opportunity for all of us.

About that pesky rubber-hits-the-road “how”:

(1) Meaningful applies not just to work but to the  development of young people and older folk alike, and to lifelong learning and growth. Humanity has lost its mojo—stay tuned.

(2) Engagement theory and the connection to social-emotional well-being, productivity and personal achievement holds great potential.  Leveraging attributes across-the-board for all stakeholders that enable people to more fully engage is a critical “how” in the great transition. See Supercharging Engagement.  Also, Supporting data.

CREDIT WHERE DUE! Italics are excerpts taken directly from GTI. 

**********

Where are we?

“Great transition” refers to a set of core concepts for understanding the contemporary world and shaping its future.

We’re a frog in a water-filled saucepan that’s slowly heating up on the stove top. We’ll be boiled alive before it registers that a life-threatening change is slowly taking place and we really should consider hopping out. The stage has been set for a potentially deadly clash of radically changed current state vs deep-seated past perspectives and practices. Something has to give.

GTI calls our current status the Planetary Phase of Civilization—the profound shift in the condition of society and the dynamics driving change: threads of interdependence—economic globalization, communications technology, and climate change are among the most salient—are binding people, places, and the wider community of life into a single social-ecological system.

These powerful forces are exerting all kinds of pressure on global systems. However….the worldviews and institutions of the past persist…counter-tendencies—local initiatives, post-consumerist subcultures, sustainability and justice campaigns, public awareness and concern, visions of another world—may portend a rising social force for addressing the systemic challenge of the Planetary Phase.

Operative word = “may” portend a rising social force. This isn’t something we can leave to chance.

Yes, there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run…..there’s still time to change the road you’re on (Zeppelin, of course)

Where are we going?

…contrasting paths into the future are possible, distinguished by the ways social-ecological crises and our collective response play out. These global scenarios fall broadly into three types: evolution, degeneration, and transformation.

(ONE) Evolution, Let It Play Out which quite likely would lead to degeneration. Basically doing the same old same old. Evolutionary / Conventional Worlds scenarios …incremental responses to 21st century challenges …free market solutions (aka: profit before people and planet, greed, corporate control, short-term focus on profit-earning action and results) and international cooperation for sustainable development (barrier: the uptick in populist movements, nationalism). However, the efficacy of market and policy adaptations is sharply constrained.

Translated: the probability of the same old same old working in this new global environment is slim to none. Or, per GTI:  a state-centric geopolitical order undercuts global imperatives, while the dominant development paradigm privileges profits over needs and economic growth over ecological resilience.

NOW                                   NEED

State-centric                       Global Imperatives

Profit                                   Need

Economic growth              Ecological resilience

 

The risk of evolutionary drift followed by catastrophic descent is all too real, yet by no means inevitable.

Where do we want to go? Make the Transition to Transformative

The only viable path toward sustainability and nothing less than survival of the species, is transitioning to a new paradigm redirecting the global trajectory toward a socially equitable, culturally enriched, and ecologically resilient planetary civilization. A walk in the park, right?

Very Macro “HOW”

Individualism to Human Solidarity

Consumerism to Quality of Life

Domination of Nature to Ecological Sensibility

  1.  The ascent of a constellation of values—human solidarity, quality of life, and ecological sensibility—to moderate (neutralize or eliminate are more appropriate words, but “moderate” is a start) the conventional triad of individualism, consumerism, and domination of nature.
  2.   Upon this normative foundation, governance and economic institutions can be redesigned to balance the imperatives for unity and diversity, to nurture social cohesion and eradicate destitution, and to support human well-being and a vibrant natural world.

Which is the toughest challenge–(1) to fundamentally change human nature and our core values / social norms?  Or (2) to change the strongly entrenched power base of systems and structures? Regarding the first challenge, humans are rabid about protecting the core of who they are and what they believe. Second challenge…those in economic and political power are violently protective of their gravy train. No rose-colored glasses. This isn’t a no-brainer.

OK…so how about what needs to come first—change people (1)  or change systems / structure, policies / practices (2)? My opinion: If you try to change something while retaining old mental models, perspectives, paradigms, values and norms you’ll go nowhere fast.

So, what would the Planetary Phase of Civilization look like?

Far from the end of history, a Great Transition would be alive with peaceful political contestation, cultural expression, and scientific exploration. Even as it opened a new and hopeful chapter in the story of civilization, a Great Transition would face the lingering scars and instabilities of a fading past and the unfathomable struggles of a distant future.

Maybe it’s out there but from what I’ve seen, the GTI project could use a stronger, clearer, more compelling narrative that everyday people will readily embrace. Create the case for change then build a critical mass of awareness and commitment. Schein’s burning platform works for me: if people are leery of making a blind leap of faith toward the new world, set the old world on fire (in a manner of speaking, not advocating arson!).

I am driven to further the GTI cause by boosting awareness in my own meek and minor way, to help make it absolutely clear that it’s life-threatening for the frogs to stay in the pan of water on the stove. To make the case abundantly compelling that to continue in this current reality is certain disaster and will eventually lead to certain extinction. That should be a pretty solid dose of WIIFM.

There’s already a good deal of thought and effort by many to secure a decent future for mankind, on a planet that we haven’t totally messed up.

The big need is grass roots…1) awareness and concern; 2) committed, involved activism-grassroots implies effort from many; 3) collaborative effort, synergy. Too many splintered initiatives can be counter-productive…where do I start, what do I do, who and what can I believe in? And 4) a sense of urgency to change the path we’re headed down.

There’s already a good deal of thought and effort by many to secure a decent future for mankind, on a planet that we haven’t totally messed up.

The big need is grass roots…1) awareness and concern; 2) committed, involved activism-grassroots implies effort from many; 3) collaborative effort, synergy. Too many splintered initiatives can be counter-productive…where do I start, what do I do, who and what can I believe in? And 4) a sense of urgency to change the path we’re headed down.

If you hear the calling share the word about GTI and find your own well-hidden door you’re your own mysterious building. We must build broad awareness by lots of people dropping pebbles into their own little pond. Ripple Power, baby!

Next Up: more in-depth how as proposed by the GTI project.

Advertisements

One thought on “Global Sustainability–The Great Transition Initiative

  1. Pingback: To do or not to do what? That is the Activist’s Question | One Pond-Ripples

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s