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Is (En-)Visioning Necessary for Establishing a Sustainable World?
Would Collaborative Modeling Do?

Setting 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, p7):

Envisioning 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 ways.
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 dreams.


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" like.

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 for themselves?
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 at all!

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, e.g.).

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.

Bibliography:

Fritz, Robert
        1984 The Path of Least Resistance.   Salem, MA: DMA Inc., ISBN: 0-930641-00-0. 
Meadows, Donella H.
        1996 "Envisioning a Sustainable World." written for the
        Third Biennial Meeting of the International Society for Ecological Economics,
        October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica.
        In Getting Down to Earth, 1996 Practical Applications of Ecological Economics
        editors Robert Costanza, Olman Segura and Juan Martinez-Alier Washington DC:
        Island Press

Meadows, Donella H."Envisioning a Sustainable World. is online:
<www.sustainer.org/pubs/Envisioning.DMeadows.pdf> (accessed 06/29/2010)
It is a must read document; it explains best what Donella Meadows' "visioning" is.

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