Green Channel - New constructs for betterment
As the Industrial Age gives way to a new era — let’s call it the Connected Age — this pivotal moment in human history offers us the opportunity for a sustainable, inclusive future for the world and all its people. We cannot rely on vague hopes that our problems will be solved by governments or scientists or God. We all need to change our thinking.
Our lives are now ruled by a set of beliefs and assumptions — I call them “constructs” — that drive our attitudes and actions. These seven constructs are success, learning, work, consumption, wellness, governance, and globalization. We have been acclimated to accept what the Industrial Age tells us is normal for each of those constructs. But these deeply rooted constructs have become constraints. We need new constructs to help us take the next leap forward in history.
As the chairman of an information technology company, my job is to find solutions. To find the best solutions, I need the best people to share their best ideas. This article is aimed at launching a community of ideas and discussion to help us move ahead and share our ideas for the new constructs.
Let’s look at where the old contexts have left us. Over 60% of the earth’s ecosystem has been degraded or used unsustainably, according the Center for Environment and Population, based in the United States. It is clear that our current way of life is unsustainable on this planet. China and India are starting to approach the levels of consumption of their role model — the US, the crown jewel of the Industrial Age and the old constructs. If the trend continues, the planet is literally going to be too small for the US, China, and India. Despite all this information and awareness, global leaders have been slow to address the looming problems. We, the average citizens, maintain our current lifestyle with occasional concessions to signal that we are environmentally aware. We hope for a bright future, and try to make our small contributions, but we continue to live as consumers under the old constructs.
With a world GDP of $60 trillion for a population just over six billion, simple math tells us that we have a GDP per capita of around $10,000, quite adequate to provide for everyone’s need and then some. We have the potential to create a sustainable world where 100% of the population lives comfortably and in harmony with our environment.
However, this would require a fundamental shift in our mindsets and assumptions about how we should live and operate as individuals, as organizations, as countries, and as a planet.
Here’s one example of how we might begin to shift our mindset. Steven Covey suggests that humans act out of two opposing perceptions — scarcity or abundance. Under the old constructs, we are motivated too often by a scarcity mentality. We look at the fast depleting oil reserves, the lack of fresh air, and the shortage of fresh water as signs of scarcity and predict a future of doom and gloom. In response, coming from a scarcity mentality, the US pressures China and India to set emission controls. The reaction, of course, is resentment. Why should those who have prospered under the old constructs deny the rest of the world the same opportunity?
In contrast, let’s consider an abundance mentality. Buckminster Fuller noted that we have a vast potential supply of solar energy that could be leveraged to sustain the planet with up to 400 million times the energy we consume today. Shifting to an abundance mentality requires us to channel human ingenuity into applying design principles for everyday living that emphasizes the productivity of natural resources, substantially reduces energy consumption and waste, and mimics nature in creating a zero-waste consumption chain.
The following is my summary of the constructs that need reinvention:
Success: Every age has its own definition of success that drives most behaviour. Do we need to move beyond material measures of success — wealth, market cap, GDP, etc., to more holistic measures of success in the new age?
Learning: Education is probably one of the most unscientific of human endeavours. We have never validated the utility of education, but have just used it as a passport to the right jobs, creating a self-perpetuating system. Do we need more integrative, just-in-time and lifetime approaches to learning going forward?
Work: Industrial Age has promoted division of labour, high levels of specialization and ‘silo-ed’ thinking. Will the new age call for a new definition of roles as well as new forms of engaging as teams, outside of an employment relationship?
Consumption: In today’s world, producers are distinct from consumers. It is taken for granted that higher levels of consumption are desirable to boost economic growth. Are these requirements for the new age, or will we need a different approach to consumption, leisure and entertainment?
Wellness: With the advancements in medicine and the focus on treating illnesses, are we losing touch with the need for wellness? Are the advances in medicine making us less accountable for taking ownership for our own health? Will approaches to healthcare be more holistic, treating the entire human being, and more open to alternative systems of healing in the coming age?
Governance: We have a single planet with more than 180 countries and 180 captains steering this ship. This is probably a major reason why we are not able to accelerate actions towards sustainability. Do we need to rethink governance at all levels to able to steer us forward?
Globalization: Movement of food nationally and internationally releases five to seventeen times more carbon dioxide than regional or local food systems, according to environmentalist and writer Bill McKibben. Further, food that is regional and seasonal is considered healthier, according to dieticians. Can we live and consume more locally that we have been doing so in the past?
These questions are merely a starting point for discussing the new constructs. What questions do you have? What answers? What thoughts to share? The new constructs initiative is an attempt to harness the connected intelligence and creativity of all it participants in the process of envisioning and realizing the new age.
As a modest start, www.TheNewConstructs.com is being set up as a Collaborative Book (C-Book) to create a community — people like you — who can share their ideas and experiences to explore, discover and generate these new constructs.
The problems facing humanity today are too large and too complex to be left in the hands of the few. All of us have to take personal responsibility for the world we will leave behind for future generations. New constructs is an opportunity for each one of us to connect, collaborate and co-create the world that we will rebuild for posterity. Long Live the Earth!