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Recently I met a few biologists. I wanted to relate allergies of pollen with our measurements of air pollution. Pollen is not necessarily a pollutant but a natural contribution to our environment. It becomes a pollutant when the pollen reaches huge quantities due to the intervention of human regional design that focuses on the concentration of single species for urban or rural planning purposes. When in a cocreation process of healthy cities all these issues are relevant. Human influence is much more widespread than the simple registration of particulat matter.
Our discussion took a strange turn when I refered to our awareness driven multidisciplinary actions around core human values (sustainocracy). The biologists raised their sholders and claimed that nature would take care of us as a polluting species that causes its own anthropocene. Afterall the human being is a simple and temporary wrinkle in the evolution of life forms and will eventually be eliminated in the natural processes of cleaning up.
I refused to go along with this simplistic attitude of laisez faire, the reluctance that everything is outside our scope of influence anyway, which would give us as species the free ticket to do whatever we like. I asked the biologists what the purpose of life is if we are exempted from protecting and sustaining it? To my surprise their reaction was that life has no purpose at all. In their view the essence of life is useless, senseless and without any special contribution to anything. How could seemingly intelligent people, who had made it their scientific job to research lifeforms, come up with such statement?
There was no discussion possible and I left with the inner query to prove the contrary. Life in my view is the most valuable thing that the universe has produced, a miracle of dead material that groups together in a diversity of living formats. How can that be called meaningless and useless? But then we get to the question of its “purpose”. Why does life exist? What does it contribute?
When I studied the mechanisms of the first sparks of life in a specific environment, that moment when molecules group together and become a life form, just like that moment of our own individual conception, I had determined that unique and rare ability in the universe called “awareness” even at the most elementary level of our submolecular existence. It is this unique way energy and mass combine in vibrant frequencies that interact with their surroundings. As soon as this happens the molecular and energetic reality actually starts to exist. Something that we are not aware of does not exist. Awareness hence is a fundamental condition to elevate nothing into something. Life forms develop around awareness to feed, meet, breed, sense danger and love, react and make choices.
The purpose of life hence is the confirmation that the universe exists, that we exist and that we have reached a point to actually try to understand what existance really is. We can perceive, process and reflect about it. What use would a universe have if it is not conscious of its existence? It would cease to exist if there is no way to be able observe or sense it. Our evolution within life is based on the development of awareness, the processing of what is. In that sense life is the single purpose of any existence whether dead or alive. We need to protect life and develop our awareness as we live in order to observe the intensity of what it is to exist, not just as a human being but as a living self reflective universe. The purpose of life is the awareness that things exist.
I am aware so I exist. I am aware because I am alive. Life’s purpose is hence our proof of our existence and that of all living and non living forms.
With the kickoff of the first sustainocratic initiative in the city of Eindhoven (the Netherlands) the first step is made to create a “purpose driven economy”. What is the difference with what we have today? And why is it important for the rest of the world to follow the experiment in Eindhoven and, better still, start one of their own?
Our current economies are not purpose but consequence driven. The human being is positioned as compulsory consumer. The entire institutionalized society is focused on creating a mountain of wealth around this consumer that gives a sense of abundance at all times. The only way to access this abundance is through financial means. Some of these means are individually obtained through the production, logistics and sales infrastructure necessary to maintain this mountain of abundance. Other get paid out of the hierarchies funded through taxation on this consumer organization. Or through speculation on material resources contained in this “having” type of culture. And finally also debt.
The consequences of such consumer economy show a growing tendency of (negative) influences that need attention through investments. Think of infrastructures, healthcare organizations, police, etc attending the attitude of greed and its effects on the human being, physically and mentally. This also shows an exponential growth which is equally reflected in the world economy through the costs of societies. At the same time we see our environment and human behavior deteriorate fast.
The model of economies of growth purely based on unlimited consumption and the consequences thereof, is obsolete because we use our natural resources wrongly, destroy our environment, sicken ourselves and eventually eliminate our evolutionary chances.
Fragmented complex society
We know this now, including scientific proof, but have difficulties in changing the course of society. We created a very complex mesh of fragmented financial entities with dependencies and interests among each other on which powers and influences are being based. Each institutions has a perceived right to exist and defend its own interests. There is not one single institution that takes full responsibility for sustainable human progress. The institutional mesh is based on fragmented self interest and competition.
Key is the understanding that no institutional specialization can take holistic responsibility for human safety, health or sustainable progress. It is the human being itself that needs to take this responsibility. What went wrong in the consequence driven consumer economy was that the human being delegated its wellness through fragmented institutionalized structures that grew into tremendously inflated organs like an abscess or cancer would do on a sick body. Instead of serving humankind they try to serve themselves. This fragmented type of human organization is institutionally sick with the risk of the cancers to develop themselves further and destroy our evoutionary chances.
Purpose driven economies
The big difference with the old consumer economy is that it is not based on consumption and growth but on true value creation (purpose). It is not based on massive productivity and distribution but on local content. It is a circular type of economy where “purpose” is defined according local human needs, obtained through local effort and using local resources in a circular way.
To achieve a purpose driven economy an intense transformation is needed. But it can be done using the same institutional instruments of the old society. Each participant needs to cure its cancer like development and abuse and become functional again within the scope of local for local requirements. It requires a different mentality and true transformative leadership in each institution involved.
Abundance is not presented through logistic channels from around the world, it is created by local cooperative efforts. In such local cooperation we see the four traditional human values come together: attitude, creativity, environment and wisdom. Those values in the old economy were split into separate institutions that do not act locally but globally, not in an integrated way but based on self interest, greed and fragmented excellence. Now we bring this global expertise back to the local context.
Using what we have learned
The great advantage of today is that the old consequence driven consumer economy has left us with a huge amount of accumulated experience and material knowledge thanks to the concentrated specialized, fragmented functions of expertise that developed over time. This would never have occurred if this phase of humankind had not taken place. For a long time it was very constructive. Now it has become destructive.
We hence do not criticize our past but use the best of its elements in our new progress. We can of course be critical to those old time forces that try to prevent us from creating purpose driven progress. It is just a matter of time for that opposition to disappear. Eventually the purpose driven economies will develop there where the old one has become obsolete, entered into a crisis, providing room for renewal, not just in a physical, organizational sense but especially emotionally, spiritual and rationally when people become aware.
Complex transformative process
It is a complex process that is typically developed locally and bottom up with executive support to make it happen. The reason that it happened in Eindhoven first and not yet in another region is simply because this small Dutch town unites the essential ingredients to make it happen. What are these ingredients:
- Awareness at executive level
- Open democracy of true equality
- Level of education and experience
- The right people at the right time
These qualities produce the necessary flexibility that can address the future with adaptive determination in a complex modern world. People take responsibility individually, convince their surroundings to support change and find ways to make it happen. The purpose is found in the essentials of human existence: food, health, security, wellness (housing, energy, etc) and knowledge. When it becomes clear that the global consequence driven consumer economy is obsolete speed is required to create a new sense of reality and responsibility, including a change in behavior. When the time of old abundance is over, new abundance needs to be created, preferably on time.
Wellness is not a cost or right but the result of a responsibility and hard work (purpose) together. When circumstances change stability is found in change too. In a sustainocracy the purpose driven economy is initiated together. We do this by making human wellness a purpose driven issue of the local population with the support of the accumulated institutional excellence and enhancing potential.
Purpose driven economic development based on sustainocratic complexities is needed to save humankind from the present day destructive expectations caused by the consequence driven consumer economy. If not we will face disaster. Yet if we assume responsibility individually and institutionally we also face a huge transformative challenge that will upset everything that we have known so far. The choice between destruction or working together on a healthier perspective is easy for me. I have become self aware and dedicated more than a decade to come to these views and initiatives. It is a start, giving comfort that humankind has a choice indeed. A choice that simply depends on one own and not someone else. But I realize that it is a difficult one, not only when one has to make it, but also for me to reach out to the world and make the choice known to all. If one does not know than no choice will be made. My personal challenge is hence multiple. Make it happen for myself, provide proof to my surroundings and reach out to all of you with sufficient clarity that you take sufficient confidence in the course that I have taken in order to let go of old securities and create new ones for yourselves and your direct surroundings.
Sustainocracy is like playing football. You need four things: a ball, a goal, results through some sense of competition and room to play. This metaphore is surprisingly accurate to get different disciplines of people to work together in a result driven way. Sustainocracy is about results in human based progress, defined by sustainable progress placing the interests of human beings at the kernel of the activities. It requires team work of different disciplines. This can only be achieved if the practicality of the four football needs are respected.
Putting together a successful sustainocratic team requires therefor a bit more than an abstract humankind saving mission. The humanistic overall goal may be clear but what makes a team come together to play and eventually score?
The ball is the clear priority that the team needs to work with, a reason. Throw a ball in a court, a garden or field and people will come to kick it around. In the sustainocratic team of AiREAS the ball is represented by the environmental quality of a city. What is needed to make the city environmentally healthy for human interaction and residence? This defines the game and goal but the ball needs to be something touchable, something that can be passed between the players. In the case of AIREAS this became the highly specialised measurement system of fine dust making the “invisible visible” for all. Certain types of people appeared to play.
The specialised network of high tech hard and sofware is indeed already a mission that excites certain institutional people. But having a ball to play with what will make them win the environmental battle? After all, environmental quality is not just achieved by implementing technology and introducing new regulations. This usually gets people to kick the ball around without ever scoring. Bureaucracy we call that.
It also needs public awareness and behavioral changes. The competition is created by asking the institutional and civilian world to come up with solutions and work together. We have now two teams that interact by playing the same ball, with the same objective but with different talents and tactics. The institutional players with power, products, systems and regulations, the civilian world with awareness, behavior and adaptive creativity. Which will achieve the most goals? And will they compete or play together? Both worlds fear eachother but get excited when challenged to play the environmental game together. In the end everyone wins of course as the game will be never ending while success and bad play will show through the measurement system with me as independent judge.
Another example is performed by a colleague trainer and friend. He invites parents with their children to workshops and gets them to work together on some design made of wood. They follow the same learning routine as in AiREAS to gain teamspirit by playing the metaphorical game. The hamer represents the ball (instrument) and the object they have to make represents the goal (a table, bird house, chair…..). This is fun to do but gets exciting when father and child try to excell eachother in dispute how to do the work best. Or when they work with other parent/child combinations at the same time. There is no need or desire to create a formal competition because the human spirit does this itself, simply by comparison. “How did you do it?” “Show me yours”, “No dad, if you do it this way you achieve this”…..”Wow, yours is great”.
Admiration, comparison, positive feedback, recognition, celebrating accomplishments are positive triggers of human interaction and teamwork. Using the football metaphore in team building is useful to determine what is needed to get to great accomplishments. And if those goals are value driven for humankind then you play the City of Tomorrow game, the Sustainocratic way, improving the world with every play.
The last issue needed to succeed is “space”. When playing football you indeed need a field or play ground to kick the ball safely with out hurting or damaging anything. In the metaphore space also refers to the freedom to bring people together to play. In AiREAS it is made possible to play but other sustainocratic ventures have failed because of some old financial interest blocking it. In case of the parent/child relationship real life often does not automatically create space for parent and child to interact as a team and become constructive. Parents re often too occupied with work and other worries.
In all cases it is necessary to create or demand the space necessary to allow the team to assemble and play when a ball is there. Once room is created others may join in making the game more fun still.
Remember these four football issues (reason, objective, results and space) when in need of a team to tackle any issue. You may even become a champ by doing so. Then the game becomes even more fun as it will attract an audience. When people get applauded by the surroundings not even the sky becomes the limit.