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How I Arrived at the Concept of Designing the Future Collectively.

Since early on in my life I had been attracted to self-sufficiency, feeling that the "system" I existed in was grossly inadequate to support intelligent, rational existence. I gravitated in my interests towards any examples of people providing for their needs "from the scratch", such as growing their own food, building their own shelters, making their own clothes etc. This continued well into my mature years when I already had children--I was imagining us living somewhere on our own land independently ... .

I am sure that many people entertain such, or similar, fantasies that eventually subside and become buried under the heap of quotidian existential concerns, but I had a "lucky break"--I was made homeless, and I had a few years to reflect on how to get out of my predicament; eventually it occurred to me that trying to re-establish myself into the same system that allows homelessness to exist in the first place did not make any sense--I would be putting my efforts into allowing the same to happen to me again potentially--I resolved to solve this conundrum. This is how it roughly happened:

While still homeless I enrolled in college in order to acquire knowledge and learn skills that would be good to have for a self-sufficient, of the society independent living. I started taking horticulture, weaving, and pottery courses. I was learning how to grow plants for fiber and dyes used in weaving--I even started a small garden at the college to grow those. I was learning to use locally found clay and minerals (for glaze) for pottery ...

With the time, though, I realized that even if I, with my family, did achieve self-sufficiency, without the whole of humanity becoming also self-sufficient, my family's self-sufficiency would be imperiled by the existing system that abhors anything not under its control. I decided to study social sciences and I enrolled in Anthropology classes in order to learn about human society.

In Ecological Anthropology I started finding out about how humans function within the whole Earth ecological system and I started being interested in ecological and social sustainability of humans. I realized that humans today were living "out of sync" with their environment, causing themselves and many other species on this planet great damage, and that humans becoming ecologically and socially truly sustainable was the solution to this.

The difficulty of how for humans to become truly sustainable is obvious--there are far too many opinions on what would constitute a "sustainable humanity", and also on how to achieve that state.

I was thinking about the problem of humans achieving some kind of consensus on what a sustainable humanity should actually be like, because I knew that without achieving such a consensus it would be unlikely for humans to ever become truly sustainable, due to the many, at times very different and even outright contrary opinions on the matter, when one day, after reading an article in a social science periodical (I cannot recall its name now) about using computer modeling to present complex social situations, I thought that, perhaps, computer modeling used to reconcile all the various ideas about what "sustainability" for humans should mean could be helpful. I first mentioned this, in the Fall of 1998, in a final exam for an Anthropology course--it is online at www.modelearth.org/Anthro415-1998-ModelEarthConcept.pdf.

Since then the concept developed farther into something that would not, perhaps, have to involve too much the use of computers:

The importance of sustainable solutions to our problems is obvious--any superficial "fixes" result in creating further problems, only transparently sustainable solutions that present situations that clearly show their ability to sustain themselves perpetually are worthy pursuing. All these "transparently" sustainable solutions could be tested whether they are really sustainable and compatible with each other in a sort of "sandbox", on a "platform", using definite, not vague, criteria that would be arrived at by using all that we know about how Earth and societal processes work--a sort of a "sieve".

The "Universal Platform for Developing Sustainable Earth Vision/Model Cooperatively: Global Citizens Envisioning the Future Together" - www.ModelEarth.Org/seed.html , is meant to be this kind of a "sieve" to enable us to see how any idea about "sustainability"/"sustainable" would work out in the context of a sustainable world; whether on a community, regional, or at the global level.

Two things made the concept of designing the future of the Earth collectively (as presented at ModelEarth.Org) possible: Mahayana philosophy and the book The Path of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz. (Fritz 1984), please see Credit and Dedication).

Mahayana philosophy - www.ModelEarth.Org/mahaecosoc.html - takes a holistic view of any system--all beings in any system (be it the whole Universe, or just a town locally) are equally important--roughly put: unless all beings are optimally happy within a system, no beings in that system can become truly happy--to present the whole of Mahayana philosophy in a single sentence. I consider Mahayana philosophy applicable to the collective situations in our world, as it becomes increasingly obvious that in any system, even a complex one (e.g. the Earth system) no parts of it are negligible; quantum theory, the science of ecology, etc., are attesting to this by their findings: all phenomena are intricately connected and influence each other in ways that we yet have to grasp, if we ever can.

The Path of Least Resistance (Fritz 1984) in essence says that one cannot get a desired result, unless one knows, into as small detail as possible, what that result should be; it also says, in a nut-shell, that fighting problems without knowing how things should ideally be (in relation to those problems) will lead nowhere--one just would continue fighting "problems" forever, because there is never any shortage of problems, but rarely people know what an ideal situation that would make them happy (that they should strive for, abandoning fighting problems as their primary preoccupation) should look like.
I find the ideas contained in the book very helpful in times when I am unsure about the direction I should take--they help me to keep clear about what I want in my life.

For an individual to eventually arrive at an ideal worthy striving for is easy when compared to the difficulty of arriving at an ideal that would be acceptable to the whole of humanity. That there is a real need to arrive at ideals that would be acceptable by the whole humanity is obvious once one realizes that humanity, at any given time, always shares the same planet!, and that most of the problems we experience come from humans not having a common idea of how we all, collectively, should share the same place at the same time successfully!

The challenge is to harmonize and unify all the various ideas that exist in this world about how this world should be ordered--ideas that often are contrary to other people's ideas, more often than not.
Donella Meadows in Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update (Meadows 2004), pondered a similar question: ... "How do we proceed in such a way as to test our models and learn where they are right and wrong? How do we speak to each other as fellow modelers " ... (Meadows 2004); I followed up on it in an article: "Donella Meadows' "Visioning": Global Citizens Designing a Sustainable World Together."

Using modeling as a way of resolving differences among people would bypass the hierarchy based systems in existence now that rarely succeed in resolving of such differences successfully for long, if ever. It would not matter at the start that creating a model of an ideal situation with the participation of virtually all among whom those differences exist would have no executive powers. By having a portrayal of an ideal situation that would be acceptable (ideally) to all individuals among whom the differences exist would soon positively and profoundly affect all attempts, even those undertaken by existing official mechanisms, at resolving of those differences.

It is difficult to know what people are thinking about what kind of future they might like to have, so that we never quite know whether our ideas about what the commonly shared reality are quite "in sync" with ideas that others might have on the same subject.

Ordinarily we try to find out what others feel about important issues by the means of public discourse, but this way has its drawbacks--the meek and the disenfranchised ones are not encouraged and enabled to participate in such a discourse, and whatever reservations and objections those might have usually remain unheeded, and their discontent is carried into the future to cause problems there anew. The "silent majority/minority" that rarely takes a part in the civic discourse might be enticed to participate in the modeling, because now they would have a chance to influence their own future by a process that would be freely accessible by anyone, and by having the opportunity to input the modeling process everyone would also learn about all the issues pertinent to what ever aspect of creating the common ideal--the ideal form of "education! - Ecologically and Socially Sustainable Education: Creating a Sustainable World. - www.modelearth.org/ecosocsused.html

It has to be born on mind that it would never be individuals somehow competing in the model, but rather that it would be ideas competing while forming the desired ideal common existence! By presenting all of these ideas in a model it would be easier to "see" what of these ideas are more realistic than others, whereas a "normal" political is not always this transparent.
Modeling our common reality by all who are supposed to share it would reveal what all those ideas are, and how they correspond to each other.

Initially the process of such modeling might, perhaps, be considered difficult to conduct, but it is worth starting doing, because the alternative would be to be sorting out the differences that there are among people in real life in same ways we have been using since time immemorial without much success so far, incurring real damage, more often than not.

Furthermore--I am convinced that with this kind modeling it would be possible to eventually start getting models/visions that would be depicting more and more a sustainable ways of life, as the model would be being honed to perfection continuously.

It would be impossible to introduce any opacity into the model (why bother?)--it is much easier and much more defensible to have the modeled situation as simple as possible, as transparent as possible. Imagine any social situation on Earth that would be transparent--as soon as any nonsensical element would start taking a hold it would be possible to deal with it before it would give a cause to any complications.

My CV is at www.ModelEarth.Org/cv.html .


Bibliography:

Fritz, Robert
        1984 The Path of Least Resistance.   Salem, MA: DMA Inc., ISBN: 0-930641-00-0. 

Hearthstone, Jan
        1998 Final Exam Anthro 415, University of Hawai'i at Manoa (The concept of co-peratively designing
        the future of the Earth Introduced)

Meadows, Donella H., Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows
        2004 Limits to Growth: The 30-Year Update.
        White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company



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