How I Arrived at the Concept of Designing
the Future Collectively.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
1984 The Path of
Least Resistance. Salem, MA: DMA Inc., ISBN:
1998 Final Exam
Anthro 415, University of Hawai'i at Manoa (The concept of
the future of the
Meadows, Donella H., Jorgen Randers and Dennis Meadows
2004 Limits to
Growth: The 30-Year Update.
Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing Company