(En-)Visioning Necessary for Establishing a Sustainable World?
Would Collaborative Modeling Do?
goals for oneself and then endeavoring to reach them might be easy
to do for an individual, but how to do the same for the whole of
humankind? To set a to all acceptable goal of existing on one
planet peacefully and sustainably is a thing necessary to do if we
all are to survive the ever increasing problems that we find
ourselves amidst. The goal to be defined for the whole of humanity
has to also be defined by the whole of humanity, with
excluding no one, so that no one is disenfranchised from the
political process of deciding our common future--any disagreements
and differences would and should be dealt with within the
continuously ongoing process of defining our common existence
directly, in order to prevent the creation of future problems.
Donella Meadows was one who tried to tackle this difficult task of
trying to unite and harmonize individual notions of how this world
should be run optimally, and since her demise no one is making any
headway in this although many people are trying to use Donella
Meadows "visioning"/"envisioning" (Meadows 1996) for various, not
always clear purposes, but as to trying to synchronize all our
diverse individual notions of what we would like to see in our
world into one coherent "vision", there have not been any news
about any such, or similar, so far.
"Envisioning" is a rather unfortunate choice of a term. It seems to
imply a from some supernatural source obtained mental imagery, as
it is discernible sometimes from people who use it in the context
of designing of our common future; Even Donella Meadows, who might
have started using the term in the context of co-operatively
defining "sustainability", seems to have used it herself in a way
that could suggest that "envisioning" could arrive as a kind of an
afflatus at least on one occasion, as seen in this excerpt from
Donella Meadows' "Envisioning a Sustainable World" (Meadows 1996,
a Sustainable World
So I invite you to join with me in building that vision. What kind
of sustainable world do you WANT to live in? Do your best to
imagine not just the absence of problems but the presence of
blessings. Our rational minds tell us that a sustainable world has
to be one in which renewable resources are used no faster than they
regenerate; in which pollution is emitted no faster than it can be
recycled or rendered harmless; in which population is at least
stable, maybe decreasing; in which prices internalize all real
costs; in which there is no hunger or poverty; in which there is
true, enduring democracy. But what else? What else do YOU want, for
yourself, your children, your grandchildren?
The best way to find your answer to that question is to go to a
quiet place, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, and put
yourself in the middle of that sustainable world. Don't push, don't
worry, and don't try to figure it out. Just close your eyes and see
what you see. Or, as often happens for me, hear what you hear,
smell what you smell, feel what you feel. Many of my visions are
bright, detailed, and visual, but some of the most profound ones
have come not through "seeing," but through sensing in other
In short, relax, trust yourself and see what happens. If nothing
happens, don't worry, try again sometime, or let your visionary
talent (emphasis by Hearthstone) surface in your sleeping
In order to correctly understand the concept of Donella
Meadows' "visioning"/"envisioning", one has to access its
source--Technologies For Creating (TFC) as presented in The Path
of Least Resistance by Robert Fritz (Fritz 1984).
In The Path of Least Resistance Robert Fritz calls the very
same concept (visioning) a "choice". A "choice" is that which one
would like to achieve, a goal worked out to as a minute detail as
possible before one would attempt to find ways of achieving it.
Robert Fritz shows that the difference of what there exists now in
regards to the "choice" to be achieved constitutes a "structural
tension" that is the driver of creating the "choice" in reality.
However, one doesn't have to be an adherent to structuralism to
understand the concept of "structural tension" as created between
the Fritz' "choice" and that which exists now in relation to this
"choice"--to know what one wants to get before one can get it is
trivial. Why it is important to re-member it is because this piece
of common sense is normally overpowered by humankind's fallacious
preoccupation with dealing with problems as the way to happiness,
not stopping and thinking what this "happiness" should be
constituted of, what that that we want to achieve should "look"
The way Robert Fritz presents the concept of "choices" leaves
no room for any ambiguities, as it, unfortunately, is the
case with the term "visioning" that seems to be defined nearly in
as many ways as the term "sustainable" is being defined by now.
It is true that Robert Fritz never mentions a possibility of making
"choices" by more than one person for oneself, but if it is
possible for individuals to make their own choices for themselves,
why shouldn't this be possible for groups of people to do the same
Donella Meadows started to deal with this quite difficult task, and
since she suddenly departed this life, no one has done any progress
in trying to make it possible for all to be able to govern
themselves directly by being able to design their lives themselves
in co-operation with all others.
This task of putting together a vision for the whole planet is
proving, in fact, a tremendous one. It would seem that since
Donella Medows' passing away, there has not been done any progress
Could there be an easier way of accomplishing the same end--that we
all end up living in a world that would be the optimal home to us
all humans together with all other species as well?
I think so: It could be safely assumed that any world worth living
in has to be truly sustainable. The whole thing boils down to
defining what "sustainability" should be; it seems to be impossible
to define, because true sustainability is antithetical to the
current day paradigm--it has no room for the concept of "profit"--a
concept characterized by "growth", exploitation, and expansion; the
only profit in transparently true sustainability is achieving the
optimal conditions for life for all (humans and non-humans alike)
who share the Earth system; the only competition there should ever
be in sustainability would be us trying to outdo each other in
devising better ways of achieving optimal conditions for all life
in the whole system.
I think that any and all sustainable lifestyles could
be accommodated side-by-side, providing that all those sustainable
life-styles would indeed be provably sustainable--all that needs to
be make sure of is to prove the sustainability of what-so-ever that
is supposed to be "sustainable".
The difficulty lies in that people have (sometimes even very)
different ideas of "sustainable" should mean. Some would like to
live sustainably at a very low level of complexity, some would like
to live sustainably, but without having to go without the many
things that they are used to having.
The most expedient way of proving anything purported to be
sustainable would be by showing that true sustainability processes
would prove their viability by being able to exist in models
perpetually, cycling around the mean values (changing with seasons,
Models, in this, would be any ways of presenting the
collective vision in ways best suitable for this task. One would
end up with (possibly multi-dimensional) models that would be
possible to critique, to amend, and that would provide instruction
to those wanting to input their ideas about what an ideal world
ought to be like by allowing honing those ideas in models till they
fully comply with all other ideas and with what we know about all
Earth and societal processes.
More on this in "The Ideal
Sustainable Earth Model: Proposal." and in a newer article
Universal Platform for
Developing Sustainable Earth Vision Co-operatively: Global Citizens
Envisioning the Future Together.
1984 The Path of
Least Resistance. Salem, MA: DMA Inc., ISBN:
Meadows, Donella H.
1996 "Envisioning a Sustainable World." written for the
Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics,
1994, San Jose, Costa Rica.
In Getting Down to
Earth, 1996 Practical Applications of Ecological Economics
Costanza, Olman Segura and Juan Martinez-Alier Washington DC:
Meadows, Donella H."Envisioning a Sustainable World. is online:
It is a must read document; it explains best what Donella Meadows'