Year End Commentary 2010

Year End Commentary 2010

“Today the world’s nations are interdependent, like mountain climbers on a rope. They can either climb together to the summit or fall together into the abyss”     
                                                                    Mikhail Gorbachev April 1987

When the USSR dissolved from history, many of us simply felt that this was the West in triumph. However, now that the west has begun to hit the cusp of a radical transformation of our own, we may begin to ask – ‘what is really going on here?’ There are a few conceptual frameworks to see these changes, perhaps best described by one of the original futurologists Alvin Toffler, in his trilogy of books ‘Future Shock’,(1970) ‘Third Wave’,(1980) and ‘Powershift'(1990). One conceptual theory called Panarchy would call this the Omega or release phase going towards the Alpha or re-organization / renewal phase, where we have shifted towards another level or regime, in an evolutionary viewpoint. In societies that once were heavily industrialized, unions lament the loss of their industry to China or other newly industrialized countries, and economists lament the damage we have done to the value of our currency and economy. If this global financial collapse is simply a developmental change process to a new information age and a restructuring of our global currency and the meaning of money, are we really dealing with the issues in a forward looking manner? Interestingly enough, the man who coined the term ‘perestroika’ and ‘glasnost’ and who unleashed the change forces pent up in his own country and allowed it’s transformation to occur- Mikhail Gorbachev, was well acquainted with the Toffler’s. Whether we are speaking of ‘ecological phases’, or ‘waves’, we are speaking of transformative change.

We are facing the emergence of two major macro collapses. First, and already in process-the global financial collapse and eventual re-organization, and secondly, the recent emergence of what will be large scale changes in the global climate. We have been delaying real transformation for a long time. As Toffler put it, many in the ‘second wave’ even long to go back to the ‘first wave’. The ‘third wave’ is upon us and many institutions are still trying to stop real transformation, as once the ‘first wave’ tried to stop the changes representative of our ‘second wave’. Humans unfortunately, are often loath to change. We are at a point where if we do not chose change fast enough, a monstrous change will chose us, but perhaps not in the way we envisioned. We will be driven to change but will it be the ‘Golden Age’ or will it be the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’, or somewhere in-between. Our problems are quite large and require more than just our grid locked governments and agencies to act on our behalf. We must begin to act for ourselves and our children as a collective group in a positive manner, with focus, persistence, and calmness. Eminent scientists such as James Lovelock speak of utter devastation, the loss of billions of lives, and there are many books naming various end of the roads we face whether it be the end of cheap energy, ecological collapse, or other calamity. The ‘third wave’ is upon us, but must be engaged fully and utilized in a manner that allows us to optimize a bad situation.

Writers such as Thomas Homer-Dixon in the book ‘Up Side of Down…’ speak to us of the concept of a social ‘catagenesis’ and of being in ‘moments of contingency’ where immediate actions, and where being prepared or not, will determine our evolutionary pathway; while Graeme Taylor speaks of us as being at ‘Evolutions Edge’, the title of his book. Both books have broad systemic overviews. Added to these, Toffler’s works stand the test of time to also offer an excellent conceptualization of our past, present, and future.

We can not longer wait for some key player, as Gorbachev was, in unleashing the forces of change. We must organize, plan, act, and change our collective future together. We must focus to engage change in as fast and safe a manner as we can, and we must be much more open about the crisis we face. Denial is a common reaction to bad news, and we tend to wait to look for facts to prove our disagreement correct. We cannot wait until someone else sees the rain falling to tell us that it is raining outside for us to get our raincoats. The storm is here. Climate change has begun in earnest, and this statement is based on analysis, not just facts. We are behaving like the frog being slowly boiled in a pot of water. We have discounted small changes while the water temperature continues to rise.

We have to plan and act to adapt to our changing climate. Will we build domes over major cities? Should we biochar enmass? Are we testing small scale geoengineering now? Can we grow food in the oceans? Should we start resettlement of low lying areas now? Should we start with building an infrastructure in northern unsettled regions we could bring evacuations/migrations to? Are our current international organizations as functional as they could be? Will this crisis unite or divide us?
If there is a phrase we must speak of in 2011, it is ‘Rapid Transformation’.

It is not the strongest of species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’                    
                                                                               Charles Darwin