If we are to thrive as a species in the 21st century and beyond, it is critical that we address the core symptoms and root causes of our society’s dysfunction from the inside-out, ground-up and top-down and evolve from an extractive, exploitative, war-based civilization to one that is regenerative, abundant, harmonious & thriving.
The Symptoms & Root Causes of Dysfunction in our Society
Pollution, war, poverty, disease, climate change and destruction of our biosphere are major challenges that threaten the thriving of humankind. However, these challenges are symptoms of two deeper core & causal problems – 1) fear and 2) disconnection .
“Fear is the path to the Dark Side… Fear leads to anger… anger leads to hate… hate leads to suffering.” ~Yoda
Fear is defined as “an unpleasant often strong emotion caused by anticipation or awareness of danger.”
While fear of real and present danger has contributed to the survival of humankind, the irrational anticipation of fear is a major cause of the destructive behaviors of humankind.
There are over 150 phobias listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) published by the American Psychiatric Association. We are born with 2 fears, falling and loud noises. Our cultural conditioning breeds the 150+ other fears.
Fear leads to scarcity, hoarding, lack of trust, control, war and brutality and competition. As General Douglas MacArthur said, “Our country is now geared to an arms economy bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and an incessant propaganda of fear.”
Humankind has become disconnected from nature, and each other. For example, the phrase “people & planet” demonstrates that we somehow believe we are separate from the planet.
“Nature, quite simply, is everything. It is the source of life. It is our foundation and our nourishment, our comfort and our treasury. And it is only by accounting for the full, comprehensive and irreplaceable value of nature in our decision-making that we can secure the future of human societies.” ~Peter Seligman
As much as our society has tried to “civilize” us and disconnect us from nature, we are just another species interconnected with nature. Everything that sustains our lives, including our next breath, water, food, shelter, energy and materials, are provided by Mother Nature, yet we, as a society, act with utter disregard to “our mother,” the provider of life.
The sociological disconnection from nature arises from 1) the delusional arrogance that we are smarter than, separate from, and the masters of, nature, and 2) from an intentionally engineered campaign to exert and maintain control over the masses.
For Dr. John Mack, inventing a psychology of earth is far more than an intellectual or therapeutic exercise. It entails a call for political commitment and activism.
“We do have a psychology, or a prevailing attitude, conscious or unconscious, towards the Earth. We regard it a thing, a big thing, an object to be owned, mined, fenced, guarded, stripped, built upon, dammed, plowed, burned, blasted, bulldozed and melted to serve the material needs and desires of the human species, at the expense, if necessary, of all other species, which we feel at liberty to kill, paralyze, or domesticate for our own use. This form of species arrogance has received little scrutiny.”
Michael J. Cohen, Ph.D., ecopsychologist, author and Director of the Institute of Global Education, wrote, “On average, society conditions us to spend over 95% of our time and 99.9% of our thinking disconnected from nature. Nature’s extreme absence in our lives leaves us abandoned and wanting. We feel we never have enough. We greedily, destructively, consume and, can’t stop. Nature’s loss in our psyche produces a hurt, hungering, void within us that bullies us into our dilemmas.”
Our disconnection from each other rises primarily from artificially created dividing lines including race, religion, ideology, politics, age, gender and geography. “Divide and rule” (aka “divide and conquer”) has been used for centuries by sovereigns, dictators and government as a process for gaining and maintaining power and control over the masses. This has largely been accomplished by disconnecting, dividing and pitting powerful and rebellious groups and individuals against each other to prevent the masses from gaining power and overthrowing the current regime.
“Until mankind can extend the circle of his compassion to include all living things, he will never, himself, know peace.” ~Albert Schweitzer, Nobel Peace Prize, l950
The Engineering of Consumerism and Societal Dysfunction
The root causes of fear and disconnection have been engineered by psychologists, corporations and governments in order to exert psychological and economic control over the masses. This was accomplished by psychologically disconnecting humanity from nature, farms and interdependent communities to create dependence upon a centralized supply chain and economic system requiring money to meet basic needs for such things as water, food and shelter. Moreover, war, mass consumerism and an expanding population willing to be exploited was required in order for the central banks to expand their control, influence and demand for their debt-based fiat money.
Psychology became the secret weapon of corporations, governments and the central banking system. According to Philip Cushman, Ph.D., author of Constructing The Self, Constructing America: A Cultural History Of Psychotherapy,
“Because psychotherapy denied the central influence of history and culture, symptoms reflecting the frame of reference of the modern Western world – such as loneliness and alienation, extreme competitiveness, and a desire for nonessential commodities — had to be considered natural and unavoidable. As a result, individuals have been constructed to strive tirelessly to consume and expand, and at the same time to believe that the search is simply an aspect of human nature.”
Predicated on the promise of politicians and corporations as the road to freedom and liberation, capitalism became the core value of the country and the individual. As the American culture began to see wishes as needs, the road to salvation and freedom known as the consumer movement created the “empty self” Cushman wrote:
“The empty self is a way of being human; it is characterized by a pervasive sense of personal emptiness and is committed to the values of self-liberation through consumption. The empty self is the perfect complement to an economy that must stave off economic stagnation by arranging for the continual purchase and consumption of surplus goods.”
Strategically the corporations infiltrated the collective psyche like “ghosts” with the idea of remaining invisible to make consumers believe the feeling of lack originated internally rather than externally from an outside entity.
Additionally, Edward Bernays, who is often referred to as “the father of public relations,” combined the ideas of Gustave Le Bon and Wilfred Trotter on crowd psychology with the psychoanalytical ideas of his uncle, Sigmund Freud. Bernays utilized propaganda techniques from World War I to influence consumer behavior and create the culture of consumerism. He felt this manipulation was necessary in society, which he regarded as irrational and dangerous as a result of the “herd instinct” described by Trotter. In his book “Propaganda,” Bernays openly communicates the engineering of our beliefs and society:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society. …In almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons…who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind.”
According to Bruce K. Alexander, Psychologist, Professor Emeritus at Simon Fraser University and author of The Globalisation of Addiction: A Study in Poverty of the Spirit,
“When a society introduces free markets, exchange of goods and services optimally are not encumbered by family ties, cultural traditions, religious values, or anything else that may impede free play of the laws of supply and demand. In other words, free markets create an “every man (or woman) for yourself” dynamic that puts me in competition with everyone else for jobs, insurance, a house, goods, services and Lady Ga Ga tickets. One consequence of this system is that people become dislocated, or disconnected from one another because of the time and energy necessary to keep up with the Jones. Free markets are incredibly proficient at knowing how to keep people focused on stuff over experiences. Flashy ads, mass media, and the latest gizmo from Steve Jobs keeps us always wanting more. In the pursuit of the American dream, what many get instead is isolation, fear, and dislocation, which ultimately leads to compulsive lifestyles where people develop addictive relationships to stuff and get further and further disconnected from nurturing human relationships.”
We are all interconnected, yet we seem to have forgotten this. None of us are immune from human suffering and ecosystemic destruction. When the biosphere and people suffer, we each are impacted. We can try to ignore it, desensitize ourselves, become callous, and misquote Darwin (e.g., “survival of the fittest”) to rationalize our behavior, but no matter how hard we try, we feel it in hearts and in our guts, we smell it in the air we breath, we taste it in the water we drink and we see it the eyes of the homeless and hungry.
Our society and the industrialized socio-economic-political matrix are plagued with war, pollution, over-consumption, over-extraction, over-population, social injustice, disease and poverty. About 80% of humanity lives in or near poverty and the planet’s ecosystems are damaged, over-burdened and suffering from human extraction and disrespect. 85 of the wealthiest people control more resources than 3.5 billion of the poorest people. The current matrix in which we each individually and collectively participate is unsustainable and often borders on sociopathic dysfunction. The very survival of humankind and the ecosystems of the planet are threatened by human dysfunction.
In his book, Earth in the Balance: Ecology and the Human Spirit, Al Gore diagnoses our ecological problem as being a symptom of a dysfunctional, addictive civilization. Gore writes:
“I believe that our civilization is addicted to the consumption of the earth itself. This addictive relationship distracts us from the pain of what we have lost: a direct experience of our connection to vividness, vibrancy, and aliveness of the rest of the natural world. The froth and frenzy of industrial civilization masks our deep loneliness for communion. The price we pay is the loss of our spiritual lives.”
“Dysfunction” generally means impaired functioning, or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group. Although the interpretation of “dysfunction” is often subjective, there is a groundswell of support for the need of humankind to make significant shifts in its unhealthy interpersonal, consumptive and destructive behaviors.
While there are some things about our society that are functional, there is significant dysfunction that is jeopardizing the health, well-being and survival of humankind and about 50,000 species per year. There are a plethora of examples evidencing “unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction (e.g., war, destruction, toxicity, suffering, poverty) within a group” (humankind) that demonstrate a high degree of dysfunction. Here are just a few examples:
• We spew over 5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Of this total, 82%, was due to carbon emissions from the combustion of energy fuels. Whether or not you believe climate change results from humankind’s activities, such as burning fossil fuels for energy to manufacture, transport, store and “dispose of ” massive amounts of stuff, there is practically unanimous agreement that we have air pollution, water pollution, overconsumption and are becoming overrun with waste, all of which are having a negative impact on our health and the biosphere’s ability to sustain human life.
• Over $29 trillion has been spent in the global economic bailout, according to Levy Economics Institute of Baird College.
• Over the last 5 1/2 decades, the U.S. spent $5.8 trillion on production of nuclear explosives and an additional $13.2 trillion on other defense spending, according to the Brookings Institution.
• Over $2 trillion has been spent on the Iraqi and Afghan wars, with a total price tag of $6 trillion, including interest.
• 5 billion people out of 7 billion live on $10/day or less, with 3 billion of the 5 billion living on $2.50 a day or less.
• Nearly half of the world’s species of plants, animals and microorganisms will be destroyed or severely threatened over the next quarter century due to rainforest deforestation. That equates to 50,000 species a year.
• According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS): “In 2008, over 7.3 million people in the U.S. were on probation, in jail or prison, or on parole at year-end — 3.2% of all U.S. adult residents or 1 in every 31 adults.”
There are some that would argue that, because the human population is still growing, our society is biologically functional. This view completely ignores that, according to the WWF, we surpassed the carrying capacity of the planet in 1979 and are living on borrowed time.
Some also argue that our society is ecologically functional because humans can still breathe the air and drink the water, that human activities have only minimal impact on our ecosystems, that burning coal and oil don’t pollute or damage our atmosphere, and that dumping petrochemicals into our rivers and oceans don’t cause significant damage to these ecosystems. These arguments border on absurdity, especially when there is a 97% consensus of the scientific community that human industrialization is a major factor contributing to climate change.
We spend almost $2.7 trillion annually just for military, gambling, cosmetics, pet products, chewing gum and ringtones (not to mention countless trillions on a plethora of additional frivolous consumer products), but can’t seem to come up with $6 billion a year to provide drinking water to save the lives of the 40,000 people that die each day from lack of potable water or $44 billion to end world hunger. We also seem to have little awareness of, or concern for, the devastation our overconsumption and industrialization causes.
I would posit that our socio-economic-political system is not only dysfunctional and obsolete, but has become sociopathic. What is commonly referred to as “Sociopathy” or “Psychopathy” is officially listed in the DSM as “Antisocial Personality Disorder.” Antisocial Peronsality Disorder is characterized by an abnormal lack of empathy combined with strongly amoral or reckless conduct but masked by an ability to appear outwardly normal.
Sociopathy = lack of empathy + amoral or reckless conduct + acceptance as normal
As a society, we somehow accept as normal, spending massive amounts of money, resources and energy on endeavors that foster war, starvation, suffering, pollution, exploitation of natural resources & humankind, and destruction of the biosphere (lack of empathy+ amoral conduct) rather than for the creation of beauty, peace, health, education and abundance.
“This world of ours…must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.” ~Dwight D. Eisenhower
The sociopathic and dysfunctional society we have created, and are perpetuating, as an expression of our fear and disconnection, is leading us to our own destruction like a bunch of lemmings jumping off a cliff. We are a critical juncture where transformation is required in order for the continued survival of humankind.
Fortunately, the emerging field of “Ecopsychology,” is focused on improving the relationship between human beings and the natural world through ecological and psychological principles. The field seeks to develop and understand ways of expanding the emotional connection between individuals and the natural world, thereby assisting individuals with developing sustainable lifestyles and remedying alienation, fear and disconnection from nature.
New Language + New Metrics = New Consciousness
As Albert Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
Unless we want to band-aid ourselves into extinction by focusing on the problems with the same mindset that created them, it is critical to the thriving of humankind that we heal the core problems of fear and disconnection with creative solutions and life-enhancing actions rather than treating the symptoms with same left-brain band aids and approaches that created the symptoms.”
The transformation needed will require new language, metrics of success and consciousness.
“Language is the crystallization of thought. But the words we choose do more than just reflect our thought patterns–they shape them.” ~Tom Kelley, GM of IDEO and an executive fellow at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business
The geopolitical Industrial Age language and approaches of “warring against,” “fighting against”, “eradicating” or “ending” the symptoms of pollution, war, poverty, disease, climate change and destruction of our biosphere, will be replaced with “biopolitical” language and approaches of the Regenerative Age focused on “creating an abundant, well & enlightened society that enhances the quality of life and eco-systemic thriving.
The more we use language of love, respect, wholeness and collaboration, the more our consciousness will shift. The shift in consciousness leads to new expression and behaviors that can profoundly and positively transform our environment (both inner and outer).
As Mother Teresa once told an interviewer, “I was once asked why I don’t participate in anti-war demonstrations. I said that I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
In addition to a shift in language, we need a shift the metrics by which we, as a society, measure success. The globally adopted Industrial Age quantitative measurements of “success” are Gross Domestic Product (“GDP”) and continual growth. As we move into the Regenerative Age, GDP will be replaced by qualitative measurements of success such as Genuine Progress Indicator (“GPI”) and Gross National Happiness (GNH), and sufficiency.
One of the greatest flaws with GDP is that it only measures the quantities of production, not the quality of life. Disease, war, increasing population, over-consumption, catastrophes and waste, which decrease quality of life, often increase GDP.
GDP, as measurement of success, actually squeezes the quality of life out of our lives. With more than 5 billion people (over 70% of the world’s population) living in or near poverty, the natural resources of our planet depleted and filled with toxins and the carrying capacity of the planet exceeded in 1979, it’s pretty obvious that GDP and continual growth as measures of success are not working.
Efficiency, sufficiency, on-site water, on-site production of food and renewable energy, good health, peace and social justice generally detract from the GDP, whereas the GDP benefits from reliance on an inefficient supply chain and centralized grid that requires people to use money for such necessities as water, food, power, shelter, healthcare and education.
For instance, if I pull an apple off a tree in my backyard, it’s efficient and healthy, but bad for the GDP. It did not provide jobs and taxable income. Pulling the apple directly off the tree disintermediated numerous industries including farming, petrochemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, packaging, shipping, trucking, logistics, oil, construction, storage & distribution, grocery & retail, utilities and automobile. Also, because eating fresh food is good for my health, the medical and pharmaceutical industry did not get its “bite of the apple” and because I did not use oil, petrochemicals or fossil fuels, there was little need for the defense industry.
The largest and most powerful economies of the world are members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). As of 2005, the OECD started formally re-examining GDP as a measurement and found that it is a flawed measurement as it does not account for the wellbeing of a country.
Measurements of wellbeing or quality of life of a population include access to goods and services, free time, optimal health, freedom, happiness, pure food & water, health, longevity, innovation and low crime rate.
True Cost Accounting measurements such as the Genuine Progress Indicator (“GPI”) include transparency of subsidies, environmental impact, health costs and social costs of a business or activity. GPI advocates claim that it can more reliably measure economic progress, as it distinguishes between worthwhile growth and uneconomic growth. Accordingly, the GPI will be zero if the financial costs of crime, poor health, pollution and environmental devastation equal the financial gains in production of goods and services, all other factors being constant.
Another metric used in Bhutan to promote a more kind, just, healthy and happy society, is Gross National Happiness (GNH). Using metrics and surveys, GNH is a measurement that defines quality of life in more holistic and psychological terms than GDP. The term was coined by Bhutan’s former King Jigme Singye Wangchuck in 1972. According to Adrian White’s study entitled “A Global Projection of Subjective Wellbeing: A Challenge to Positive Psychology?” Bhutan ranked 8th out of 178 countries in Subjective Wellbeing, a metric that has been used by many psychologists since 1997 and the only country in the top 20 “happiest” countries that has a very low GDP. The four pillars of GNH are 1) the promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development, 2) preservation and promotion of cultural values, 3) conservation of the natural environment, and 4) establishment of good governance.
Another metric to be evolved is the measurement of corporate value. The value of a public company is generally known as “Market Capitalization” (aka “Market Cap”). Market Cap is a measurement of corporate or economic size equal to the share price times the number of shares outstanding of a public company. While public perception and market dynamics are major factors in determining stock price, a major benchmark of that performance is known as Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (“EBITDA”). This is, in essence, a simple benchmark for determining the operating pre-tax net profit of the company before the creative accounting begins. EBITDA multiplied by the Price/Earnings (“P/E”) Ratio is another method of determining Market Cap.
For example, a company with an EBITDA of $1 billion and P/E Ratio of 10:1, will have a Market Cap of $10 billion. If the company’s board and management decide they want to spend $100 million on programs for social and environmental good, their EBITDA would be reduced to $900 million and the shareholders would potentially suffer a loss of $1 billion dollars of Market Cap. Suffering losses generally aggravates shareholders and they often sue the company, board and/or management for making a decision that cost them money.
The interesting thing is that EBITDA is not a GAAP financial measure, but rather a creative measure approved by the SEC that allows companies significant subjective latitude in defining their performance. Since most of the creative corporate accounting happens after EBITDA calculations, a new standard is proposed for baseline valuation. This baseline measurement would be known as Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, Amortization, Social and Environmental (“EBITDASE”). Thus, when P/E ratios are multiplied times EBITDASE, the company does not suffer a loss in valuation for doing social and environmental good. The trick is that the investment in such social and environmental programs must be objective, measurable and auditable. These programs can measurable in terms of dollars invested or objective impact (e.g., reduction of waste per ton as measured in dollars per ton). These programs can include investment in such things as (i) reduction of waste, (ii) reduction of resource and energy usage, (iii) implementation of proactive environmental programs, (iv) implementation of programs for employee education, advancement and wellbeing, (v) community betterment such as parks, victory farms, upgrading of schools, job training programs and promotion of community cultural events.
Working with such agencies as the U.S. Treasury, FASB, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (“PCAOB”), the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the White House to promulgate new legislation to redefine and implement these new standards that reward corporations for doing good without penalizing shareholder value, the foregoing goals can be achieved. Thus, with a little creative adjustment in performance measurements, the conflicts between corporate profits and social responsibility can be removed so that corporations, corporate management, shareholders and humankind can benefit from widespread corporate social responsibility programs.
Sufficiency and the “Shared Economy” will replace continual growth and exploitation. This realization is entering the early adoption stage and will fuel the flames of the rapidly growing demand for meaningful life-enhancing work, smart growth and self-sufficient communities. In the midst of the meltdown of the old and virtually bankrupt financial system, the “Shared Economy” based upon “Collaborative Consumption.”
“Collaborative Consumption” describes the rapid explosion in traditional sharing, bartering, lending, trading, renting, gifting, and swapping reinvented through network technologies on a scale and in ways never possible before.
From enormous marketplaces such as eBay and Craigslist, to emerging sectors such as social lending (e.g., Zopa), peer-to-peer travel (e.g., Airbnb), car sharing (e.g., Zipcar), and the increase in Intentional Communities (e.g., ic.org) Collaborative Consumption is disrupting outdated modes of business and reinventing not just what we consume, but how we consume.
75% of respondents participating in “The New Sharing Economy” study predicted their sharing of physical objects and spaces will increase in the next 5 years with drivers including global recession, internet technologies, online communities and environmental concerns.
Transforming from Dysfunction to Function
Our default approach for hundreds of years has been to identify and focus on the ending, warring against, fighting against or eradicating the symptom rather than curing the cause and creating (r)evolutionary solutions that renders the symptoms obsolete.
As Buckminster Fuller said, “In order to change an existing paradigm you do not struggle to try and change the problematic model. You create a new model and make the old one obsolete.”
Fear, disconnection, scarcity, toxicity, war & destruction are characteristics associated with dysfunction, whereas love, respect, wholeness, collaboration, abundance, wellness & enlightenment are characteristics associated with function.
If we are to heal the root causes (disconnection and fear) of our societal ills and create a world where future generations can thrive in abundance, health and harmony, it is critical that we transform our socio-political-economic system from scarcity to abundance. This can be brought to fruition by fostering qualitative measurements that mimic thriving ecosystems in nature to support a regenerative economy based upon a life-enhancing, collaborative, loving and respectful practices that synergistically reconnect people to each other and nature.
Functional abundance consciousness requires that we balance growth with resources and their equitable distribution to create sufficiency for humankind in a way that allows all life to thrive and be in balanced abundance.
In order to realize an abundant and regenerative economy, it is critical that we first evolve our beliefs about “success” from hoarding to generosity, from exclusive overconsumption to inclusive sufficiency and from competition to collaboration. This transformation in beliefs needs to be integrated with ecosystemic awareness and thriving in a way that creates abundance, wellness and enlightenment to humankind and allows all life to thrive. This shift in beliefs will lead to a shift in behavior.
These behavioral and cultural shifts include (i) using only abundant and renewable energy sources, (ii) eliminating the manufacture of unneeded collectibles and obsolescent products destined for landfill, (iii) adopting collaborative consumption, (iv) reusing and recycling waste, (v) providing water infrastructure along with necessary resources (e.g. agricultural education, tools, appropriate technologies and market access) to empower people living in starvation and poverty access to food and water, and (vi) providing education and capacity building that creates knowledge and skills to balance population growth with the carrying capacity of the local community and planet, and (vii) using the energy from polluting non-renewable energy source (e.g., coal fire plants, natural gas, diesel) to manufacture solar panels, wind turbines and other renewable energy sources.
Moreover, it is necessary that we use our individual resources to transform the system to functionality. Our time, energy, money, thoughts, emotions, words, actions, behavior and connection with nature are the resources we each possess. Just like Napster went viral and forever transformed the music industry, we can use our resources like a functional virus in a dysfunctional system to develop abundance, wellness and enlightenment for all ecosystemic stakeholders, rendering the current dysfunctional system obsolete. By 1) reconnecting with and fostering the natural abundance of our bioshpere, 2) consciously using our money and economic will to purchase lasting products and services from eco-social companies, 3) engaging in practices of collaborative consumption, sharing and sufficiency, and 4) by creating local self-sufficient supplies of water, food and energy, we can virally transform our social-political-economic matrix from dysfunction to function to sustain ecosystemic thriving.
Biologist, Elisabet Sahtouris wrote:
“Cooperation, collaboration and community empowerment are, as Nature role-models them and as I cannot repeat too often, more efficient and effective ways of doing business than living in fear of drowning in a competitive race or wasting energy and resources on beating down the competition.
Tachi Kiuchi, former CEO of Mitsubishi Electric, and Bill Shireman, an ecologist, put it this way in their important book, What We Learned from the Rainforest: “There is no problem ever faced by a business that has not been faced and solved by a rainforest.
“A rainforest is a Type III ecosystem in which mutual support among all species has proven more efficient and effective than spending energy to make war among species. (Note that predator/prey relationships are actually cooperative when seen from the ecosystem level of holarchy because prey feeds predators while predators keep prey species healthy.) The rainforest (like a prairie or coral reef) creates enormous new value continually by very complex production and trading systems as well as by recycling its resources very rapidly.”
For Dr. Bruce Lipton, a cellular biologist and author of The Biology of Belief: Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles,
“Nature is based on harmony. So it says if we want to survive and become more like nature, then we actually have to understand that it’s cooperation versus competition.”
“Through consciousness, our minds have the power to change our planet and ourselves. It is time we heed the wisdom of the ancient indigenous people and channel our consciousness and spirit to tend the garden and not destroy it.”
The transformation of the current socio-political-economic system requires a 3-prong approach: 1) inside-out, 2) ground up, and 3) top-down, as follows:
1. Inside-Out includes replacing old conditioned beliefs, patterns, behaviors and experiences (“ways of being”) that perpetuate societal and ecosystemic dysfunction with those that create abundance and increase love, respect, happiness, unity and ecosystemic thriving. The following are examples of keys to personal transformation:
• Elevate love over fear, peace over war, generosity over hoarding, respect over disregard, oneness over separation, and collaboration over competition.
• Each moment is an opportunity to express love. Connect deeply. Be vulnerable. See the divine in each person and respect the uniqueness of each person’s experience as equal to our own.
• Cultivate a state of awe with the earth and the universe. Marvel at the tiny miracles like your next breath and magical way life force runs through you keeping your cells multiplying and heart beating. Show reverence for the beauty of nature.
• Be inquisitive. Be in the question rather than the answer. Question prevailing knowledge, beliefs and authority and taking the risk to innovate and manifest an new and thriving world
• Provide compassionate, humble and loving support for the evolution and expansion of human consciousness
• Cultivate mindfulness, peacefulness, equanimity and joy
• Fill our minds, hearts and being with love, respect, compassion and generosity for each other and the planet and generously express this new way of being to create a culture of love, respect, compassion and generosity
• Focusing on what we want to create rather than what we want to avoid, fight against, war against or end
• Imagine, envision and manifest new possibilities (in a universe of infinite possibilities) that fulfill our potential for brilliance, beauty, love and compassion and expanding our consciousness through inquiry, imagination, dreaming and visioning
• Respect your body temple and increase your health and wellness through highly nutritious foods, pure water, clean air, healthy built environments and the integration of mindfulness and movement in our daily lives
2. Ground-Up refers to transforming the environments in which we live, work, learn and play to be ecologically conscious, energy efficient, sustainable, abundant, well & enlightened. Our environment is the most impactful influence on our lives – it creates beliefs, culture and feedback loops that reinforce our ways of being. To transform our environment requires the proactive commitment of energy, effort and resources including the following:
• Employ collaborative consumption, sharing and effective utilization
• Convert and upcycle waste into valuable energy and products
• Replace fossil fuels and other extractive energy and materials with renewable energy and materials
• Development of self-sufficient, healthy, beautiful and brilliant (beyond “smart”) “Regenerative Communities” that balance the community’s carrying capacity with its population. These Regenerative Communities will be based upon living systems planning, design and engineering processes with localized water catchment, energy generation, food production and waste upcycling to increase efficiency, decrease waste and lower the carbon footprint
• Restoration of the earth’s ecosystems
• Preserving earth wisdom and first people cultures
• Localized, healthy, renewable and efficient water, food, energy, transportation, built environment and waste infrastructure.
• Revolutionize education with applied immersive learning and capacity building for regenerative work (e.g., reforestation, restoration of the wetlands, cleantech, agritech, resource renewal, eco-engineering, conservation, water conservation and purification, waste upcycling)
• Balancing population growth and increasing carrying capacity with abundant food, water, energy and renewable materials
• Bring natural connection back into our lives, cities and communities
3. Top-Down involves using 1) our economic influence and power (“economic vote”) to support the thriving of conscious companies committed to eco-social responsibility and allowing obsolete, polluting, destructive and unethical companies fail, 2) the power of collective voice (e.g., internet & social media) to influence change in government, corporate leadership and the regulatory environment to enhance life and support people and planet. Recommendations for transforming business, government and the regulatory environment include the following:
• Innovative economic incentives and investment including tax credits, accelerated depreciation, credit enhancement, low interest loans, eco-social improvement bonds
• Development of life-enhancing qualitative metrics of success rather than GDP (e.g., GNP, Development of living systems trajectories, regulations and incentives that promote ethical eco-social conscious business and ethical government
• Commitment of resources for the life-enhancing benefit of people & planet
• Metrics for qualitative ethical and sustainable business practices, manufacturing processes and government
• Elevate the ethical and qualitative imperatives over the economic and quantitative imperatives knowing that ultimately what is good for life is good for business
• Having the courage and heart to stand for the greatness of humankind, empowering and encouraging taking risks, making mistakes, losing money, innovating, laughing, learning and evolving in the face of adversity, criticism and ostracism from mediocre minds
• Increase innovation over standardization, collaboration over competition, transparency over secrecy, wholeness over divisiveness, health over disease and function over dysfunction
• Develop new adaptable and resilient organizational structures, regulations and metrics that provide for the measurement and rewarding of qualitative life-enhancing value
• Economic, political and social reform that supports a regenerative economy
• Rewards for enlightened and ethical leadership
• Implementation of a people owned, ethical zero balance currency based upon contribution of value, collaboration and reputation rather than debt
Creating the Regenerative Economy
“We need red blood cells to live (the same way a business needs profits to live), but the purpose of life is not to make red blood cells (the same way the purpose of business is not to exist to make profits).” ~R. Edward Freeman
In our current society, money influences all aspects of our lives. Our economic system has grown so powerful that large money interests have seized control of our social, political and legal systems.
UNEA (United Nations Environment Assembly) estimates an annual cost of $7.3 trillion resulting from the degradation of natural capital and negative environment externalities. The World Economic Forum estimates that it will be necessary to invest up to US$6 trillion each year to 2030 to build clean transport, energy and buildings infrastructure. This is a $1.3 trillion per year ROI. And just consider all the meaningful work (rather than meaningless jobs) this will create.
There is great opportunity to transform our socio-economic-political system and build a world in which all life can thrive. In order for us to thrive, it is imperative that our socio-economic-political system evolve from destructive, extractive and exploitative industries (e.g., oil, mining and war) and quantitative measurements (e.g. Gross Domestic Product) to the “Regenerative Economy,” a socio-politico-economic system that integrates and promotes ecosystemic health and qualitative balance as the highest priorities of the system.
According to Storm Cunningham, author of ReWealth!, “If we wish to keep growing economically, the basis of wealth must shift to renewing what we’ve already built, and on repairing the damage we’ve done to our natural resources. Such wealth creating activities – redevelopment, replenishment, and restoration – comprise rewealth. This represents a $2 trillion market.”
The Regenerative Economy will be based upon regeneration, conservation, innovation, information and collaboration.
Regeneration, in biological terms, is the ability to recreate lost or damaged tissues, organs and limbs. Using biomimicry and the application of regenerative approaches can create dramatic improvements in our socio-politico-economic system. The application of such approaches will require us to utilize renewable, non-polluting and abundant sources to meet our needs.
This includes such things as (i) energy from plants, waste, solar, wind, hydro, tidal and geothermal, (ii) materials and chemicals from renewable resources (e.g. plants, algae, spider silk, bioresins, regenerative forests) rather than extracted materials (e.g., oil, metals), (iii) food from agricultural practices that return nutrients to the soil and support prolific reproduction, and (iv) balancing human needs with that of the ecosystem to support integrated ecosystemic health.
Conservation is the ethical use, allocation, and protection of resources with a primary focus on maintaining the health of the natural world. A primary focus of conservation has been the preservation of biodiversity and ecosystemic health. Using the ethics of rethinking, recycling, reusing, repairing and reducing consumption, conservation seeks to minimize negative impacts on the planet resulting from human consumption (e.g., food, energy, natural resources). For example, rather than consuming more energy to make more solar panels to support ever increasing consumption, Conservationists support both the reduction of consumption plus the use of ethical and non-destructive renewable resources.
Innovation is the creation of highly effective products, processes, services, technologies, or ideas for the betterment of society and the ecosystem. In order to facilitate the balance of human consumption and wellbeing with the carrying capacity and health of the planet, innovation in the fields of renewable energy, agritech, waste upcycling, biology, regenerative economics, living systems, communications, information and ethical nanotech will see massive explosion that will dwarf the current economy and can be used to repair the damage we have done to the planet.
Social innovation will also play a major role in reshaping our world. Social innovations include such things as smart growth communities, the sharing economy based upon collaborative consumption, global open source currency exchange, biomimicry, evolutionary consciousness, emotional literacy, social networking and applied education.
Information, for purposes of our discussion, consists of symbols, data, sensory stimulus and thoughts that are received, constructed and assembled to provide meaning, purpose, education, entertainment, empowerment and enlightenment.
Information consists of written, visual, audio, kinesthetic materials such as news, books, periodicals, blogs, music, art, film, research, reviews, recommendations and experiential learning. Information, media and communications have reached a level democratization never known in the history of mankind.
Internet, information and communications technologies (e.g., web, mobile, email, digital content) have already caused massive transformation in our socio-politico-economic system, launching entirely new industries and processes for the production, distribution and consumption of information. The information age has arrived and will continue to provide massive influence and wealth in the future. By coupling information with practical applications and capacity building for the regenerative economy, we can transform human machines doing destructive jobs into human being with meaningful and sustainable work.
Collaboration is a cooperative relationship of teamwork with the intent of yielding synergistic results based on combined efforts. Because the carrying capacity of the planet to address human consumption was exceeded in 1979, our future socio-economic-political system will require increased collaboration that will include sharing resources, living in sustainable communities, value-based exchange and currencies and conservation consciousness.
Regenerative economics differs from standard economics by valuing, respecting and regenerating the natural capital of the planet to provide for human needs (e.g., water, food, timber, feedstocks, materials, fuel, energy), and to clean, restore and regenerate itself in a way that contributes to ecosystemic thriving, including the well being for humankind. The failure to recognize the value of the planet’s ability to provide abundance and regenerate itself has led to unsustainable exploitive and extractive practices that have damaged the planet’s ability to abundantly regenerate it natural capital for benefit of the ecosystem and the well being of humankind.
By reconnecting with nature and valuing the unified ecosystemic thriving of nature and humankind, we can reshape our civilization from its current path of self-destruction into a regenerative life-enhancing society that creates a net positive ecosystemic thriving for all life.
The new regenerative social-political-economic model will provide for greater abundance and efficiency, with zero waste, through localized water, food, energy, bio-materials, waste-upcycling and a sharing economy (e.g., zero-balance reputation based economy). The new reputation-based credit score will be adversely affected by hoarding and practices that are destructive and exploitive and will be enhanced by objectively measurable acts of generosity, beauty, love, kindness, compassion and exchange that create value for our world (e.g., replanting forests, restoration of the wetlands and fisheries, greater collaboration and sharing, new living technologies that create ecosystemic thriving, elder, child & sick care, civic engagement, education, entrepreneurial support, donations to humanitarian causes).
The “Regenerative Economy” will create trillions of dollars worth of meaningful work for hundreds of years to come, including the following:
• Development and implementation of clean, cheap and secure renewable energy and sustainable infrastructure
• Production and distribution of abundant clean & nutritious food and pure water
• Waste recycling and upcycling
• Nature stewardship (e.g., healing and preserving the watershed, forests and oceans) and resource conservation
• Inspired, practical and interactive education that fosters each child’s brilliance and natural talents
• Social, ecological and technological innovation and entrepreneurship that fosters life affirming products, services and technologies.
• Optimal health & wellness programs integrated into daily life
• Whole, healthy and integrated living and working environments
• Sustainable planning, design and building of Regenerative Communities
• Regenerative urban renewal including edible landscaping, roof top gardens and hanging gardens
• Regenerative finance based upon eco-social impact
• Personal development and conscious evolution
• Eco & wellness tourism
• New education, transportation & communications systems
• New bio and renewable materials
• Ethical nanotechnology and biotechnology
The Regenerative Economy will dwarf and render the industrialized war complex and extractive manufacturing industries obsolete.
Abundance consciousness has many characteristics that parallel the nature of currency, which requires the consistent exchange of value for currency to expand. The expression of abundance consciousness leads to regenerative practices that create a world of beauty, health, happiness, sufficiency, collaboration, sharing, harmony, gratitude and peace.
Edward Norton Lorenz, an American mathematician, meteorologist, and a pioneer of chaos theory coined the term “Butterfly Effect,” as a metaphoric concept that illustrates whole-systems interconnectivity. In essence, the flapping a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world may create a hurricane in another part of the world. This represents the concept of sensitive dependence on initial conditions in chaos theory namely, in a complex system, a small change in one place can have large effects elsewhere.
Transforming our extractive world of scarcity to a regenerative world of abundance is critical for our continued survival and will lead to the thriving of humankind. By transforming ourselves, we can create a future that is Abundant (e.g., regenerative, collaborative), Well (e.g., healthy, vital, energized) and Enlightened (e.g., inspired, unified, beautiful, equitable, harmonious and awakened).
My firm belief is that, as a first step, we need exemplary demonstrations of new models of living within the next 5 years to have a meaningful impact on saving humankind from suffering and extinction. This can accomplished by developing Regenerative Communities at sufficient scale (500-1,500 residents) to be abundant, well, enlightened, self-sufficient and ecosystemically thriving and implementing large scale Regenerative Economy projects in urban centers and developments. When we physically demonstrate that we can live more abundant, healthy, happy and thriving lives, I believe market forces will take over and the demand for a new way of living will foster the Regenerative Economy to create a world that is abundant and thriving for all ecosystemic stakeholders. As mass adoption takes place, the ideology and metrics of success will be transformed to reward life-enhancing acts of generosity, eco-social responsibility and peace rather than destructive acts of greed, war and destruction. Meaningful work will replace jobs and we will not only see the dawn of the greatest economy in history, we will then see the symptoms of greenhouse gas emissions, war, poverty, inequality and separation being rendered antiquated symptoms of the past era of Industrial Age.