Archive for the 'Nature' Category

Decoupling Society

April 8, 2015

Tight Coupling NO

In programming, we have a design principle of loose coupling, opposite of tight coupling where services are highly dependent on one another. Most of the time, tight coupling is bad practice because it reduces flexibility/reusability and increases complexity. We can use the same analogy for society. In the past, we have examples throughout history where things were once tightly coupled and later shifted to a more loosely coupled model like separation of church and state. Presently, in sustainability, I hear that we need to decouple natural resources and environmental degradation from economic growth. First off, there is a word for out-of-control growth. It’s called cancer. There are limits to growth, as Robert Kennedy once said,

“Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

I believe we need to decouple growth from the notion of progress. In the future, I believe we’ll need to decouple many more aspects of society to as we evolve to new levels of collective consciousness:

Decoupling technology from success

Humans have always been fascinated by tools. Sometimes, this leads to overconfidence that human ingenuity and newer technologies can solve the problems of today. In fact, this type of misthinking leads to a dangerous game of “our wits vs their genes” as seen in the rise of antibiotic resistance over the last few decades. Bacteria can replicate itself in under 20 minutes, evolving each time, while human generations span longer than 20 years. What would you rather place a bet on?

A less known phenomenon in economics is called the Jevons paradox. It states that as technology increases, efficiency increases, but then our consumption of the resource increases as well, negating the positive effects of that technology. From Wikipedia, “The Jevons paradox indicates that increased efficiency by itself is unlikely to reduce fuel use, and that sustainable energy policy must rely on other types of government interventions.”

 

Jevons Paradox

Decoupling work from income

The idea of getting paid to do an unfulfilling and unengaging job seems so Industrial Era factory thinking to me. Our societal systems of neoliberal capitalism and a gridlocked political system that seems more like a plutocracy than a democracy have wrecked havoc on our intrinsic motivations and social human nature. We know what motivates uspurpose, autonomy, and mastery. Why are we living in outdated institutional and societal structures that no longer best serves our needs, and what then can I do? I believe in a world where every human has the basic right to all levels below self-actualization in Maslow’s hierarchy, including, but not limited to (physiological needs) clean air/water, healthy food, clothing/shelter, (safety) personal/financial security, well-being, insurance/safety net, (love and belonging) family/friends/mentors/colleagues, (esteem) respect, autonomy, and mastery. This unprecedented level of equality would give everyone the real opportunity for “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” In self-actualization and beyond (self-transcendence, etc) could we truly have enough energy to explore our unique individual and collective purpose, contribution, and gifts. To do so, would require radically changing our economic and political systems, which decoupling work from income for the basic human needs of physiological needs, safety, and love and belonging, would be a good step in that direction.

 

Maslow's Hierarchy Of Needs

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Organizations

April 4, 2015

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh is one of my all time favorite books. It really resonated with me. Undoubtedly, when Tony sent out an internal memo to all Zappos employees about going all-in on holacracy, I was intrigued. He talks about transforming the company from hierarchical structures to a self-management paradigm. One of the resources he mentioned was Reinventing Organizations. I’ve started reading it, and it’s fasinating. The theme of the book is there are emergent ways of working together that create more productive, purposeful, and soulful organizations. The three breakthrough insights are 1) self-management 2) wholeness 3) evolutionary purpose. Again, this way of thinking really resonates with me. In the past, I’ve worked in corporations where many decisions are based on an ego/profit-driven hierarchy paradigm. Complexity gets pushed up, while decisions get pushed down without context or the buy-in of front line stakeholders who deal with the consequences of the decisions day-to-day. This requires each level you go up in the pyramid to have people with higher levels of skill, training, and consciousness to deal with the increased complexity. However, this gets increasingly difficult as the pyramid grows. Too many levels or incompetent middle management and the system starts to break down. Is it a wonder why employee engagement is so low? People don’t scale, but some structures and processes can. I encourage you to check out Reinventing Organizations and let me know what you think.

Here’s a video of a talk by author of Reinventing Organizations:

Human, technologist or technology?

June 21, 2014
nature_coming

Image credit Ransom & Mitchell – http://ransommitchell.com

Ever since Homo came into being 2.3 million years ago, we have been fascinated by tools. Evolution increased human brain size, and we quickly learned to use fire and complex tools. A subset of technology, agriculture has only been around the last 10,000 years. Based on Taleb’s anti-fragility principle, technology is much more anti-fragile than agriculture, since it has been around for a much longer time. Now, this only applies to human technology vs human agriculture. In nature, other species have been using technology for much longer. Take leafcutter ants, for example, who have been farming fungi in an ant-fungus mutualism, which evolved over 50 million years ago. Now, we could say ants are more anti-fragile than humans.

We could consider things in nature as technology. Could bees be technology? Technology is defined as “the use of science in industry, engineering, etc., to invent useful things or to solve problems.” We use bees in agriculture (the science of farming) to provide honey and pollination as well as beeswax for consumer products. If bees serve a purpose and are a species of nature, would it go too far to say humans might serve a purpose, too? What would that purpose be? What would it mean if instead of being the technologist, we’re the technology?

At some point in time, we decided to enact a story that says, “no, we’re separate from nature. We’re smarter. Humans were evolution’s last stop.” Ever since we were little, this is the myth drilled into us. Newsflash: it isn’t true. Out of the millions of species that live on this planet, does it make sense that one would be an outlier that exists to destroy the others, thus destroying itself? Life is conducive to life. Life is resilient. Resiliency is created thru biodiversity. We are not separate from nature. As hard as we try, we can never run away from our own shadow nor can we physically pull ourselves up by our own bootstraps. It is because we are nature, and we’re coming back to get ourselves.

What Did We Forget?

January 24, 2014

Gaia, Lee Welles

Last weekend, I participated in part one of a three-part course that teaches about reconnecting with nature, designing ecologically, and following life’s principles. This is a journal entry after that experience.

 

Saturday morning, I woke up early and started the trek out to western Mass. Already feeling a bit self-conscious driving alone in a fossil-fuel guzzling SUV, I gently put the thought aside and told myself that next time, I’ll try harder to organize a carpool, since at least five other people were coming from the Boston area. Upon arriving at the eco-village where the course took place, I felt a sense of serenity and awe that an intentional community of people could design such beautiful settlements inside and out. Sirius has been around for over 35 years. Most of it has been built slowly and deliberately with over 95% of the wood sourced locally. It took so long to build because each log was meditated with! One of the founding members told us stories of how they communicated with the trees, and the trees being happy to be used as shelter and resources as long as they were respected. Doesn’t that remind you of The Giving Tree?

 

 

We started each day around 8am with a skillshare (how a masonry heater works, meditation session) and end class around 5pm. The curriculum was balanced between sitting in a big circle listening/participating, doing group activities, and spending time outdoors. My favorite activity was a naturalist/tracker guest instructor taking us out in the woods and having each of us find a spot, sit there in the snow, and just observe nature. I plan to create a tiny habit of doing sit spot in my background to observe the environment where we’ll be growing food. My favorite thought-provoking talk was by a guy who said that a lot of our problems stems from this perception that we as humans are separate from nature.  Also, when the twenty students introduced ourselves in class, it was surprising that none of us came from a landscaping background. Something else had attracted us to the class. What could it be?

 

Illusion of Seperation

 

During a lunch conversation with the instructor, after mentioning how clueless I was on how to incorporate nature into the education of our two young kids and avoiding nature deficit disorder, she recommended Coyote’s Guide, so I’m reading it now. Protip: Buy the digital PDF ($20 vs $100 paperback) and convert it to Kindle version.

 

 

It’s fascinating that many indigenous cultures don’t have formal education systems, but rather a culture of mentorship, an invisible school with mentors that playfully guide us to the edges of our comfort zone where deep learning and experiences happen. This guy who lives in the woods teaches about the relationship between us and nature and the cyclical path we walk. Makes me wonder, as the pace of the world gets faster and faster, and we spend all our time in human-created environments, what have we lost along the way? What did we forget?

 

 

In other news, I’m planning to attend Charles Eisenstein’s event in Jamaica Plain on Sun 1/26/14 and would love to see you there.