Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Using the Marshmallow Test on Our Value Personae

Here's a twist on a psychology classic: the Stanford Marshmallow experiment - a study on delayed gratification.  In the original experiment, a child was offered a choice between one small but immediate reward (a marshmallow), or two small rewards if they waited for a period of time alone in a room, staring at the marshmallow but not eating it.  In follow-up studies, the researchers found that children who were able to wait longer for the preferred rewards tended to have better life outcomes, as measured by SAT scores, educational attainment, body mass index, and other life measures.

A blog post from an old applied improv conference colleague brought this study to mind.  She spoke of what she referred to as Marshmallow Test 2.0, in which you conduct the experiment on kids living in the shelter system.  In that experiment, each trial is more a test of privilege.  The kids have to believe and trust that the original and second treat will be there if they wait.  It turns out, many under-privileged kids have learned to eat when the treat is available - not to wait for someone else to maybe take it first.  So naturally, their scores in later life are already skewed, not based on will-power but on their survival-oriented upbringing.

That's an interesting thought.

What came to mind for me, though, was the three Value Personae that I suggest operate within all of us.  (An idea from Robert Reich that I expanded on.)  I now theorize that the Consumer value persona - the one which values immediate gratification and looks after present needs - might be the earliest value persona, from an evolutionary perspective.  We see lots of plants and animals exhibit this approach to resources, and it's not surprising that younger kids will express this tendency as well.  There's a marshmallow.  I like marshmallows.  Munch!

The Marshmallow Test is kind of checking for the presence of our Investor value persona.  Are we willing to wait, resist consumption now, and reap some benefits in the future?  As animals evolve, some species seem to become more aware of future needs and have learned to set food aside for leaner times.  That Investor behaviour might be considered a sign of evolutionary progress (or a predictor of better life outcomes in children).

Given that perspective, I naturally had to ask myself where the third value persona - the Citizen - might fit in.  The Citizen is our value set that looks after the needs of others or the collective.  Perhaps a test could be easily devised with two kids, where, if the first child resists the temptation to eat the  marshmallow, then they both get one.  Surely that says something about the first kid's ability to co-operate, share, and show empathy for their fellow human being.  Since (I believe) we only tend to see such behaviours in collective-oriented or cognitively-advanced species, I recently posited that perhaps the Citizen value persona is yet another step up on the evolutionary ladder.

My Value Personae theory proposes that each one of us has all three values sets available to us at any time, and that they are exclusive.  If I give you $50, you can either spend it (Consumer), save it (Investor), or give it away (Citizen).  All three actions can give us joy, but you can only do one of those choices.

A Fourth Value Persona?

So, if you're wondering how humanity might evolve to the next level, what might that be?  Increasingly, I believe that the fourth value persona might encompass some kind of realization that we are all connected to our environment and every other living thing in complex and inextricable ways.  I'm still trying to figure this out and express it as a value.  One thing I'm sure of is that the fourth value persona would not be based on any kind of zero-sum game, but rather one where there is no game.

One of the real-world expressions of this fourth value persona is a Guaranteed Universal Basic Income.  I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that a Basic Income is humanity's way of severing the connection between the imperative of a job and basic survival.  That game-changing concept could be the first step to solving what I call the Value Change Conundrum, and escape the paradigm of "More is Always Better" that I suggest is at the core of civilization's ecological overshoot, sociological shortfall, and all major global disasters.

I guess in that study, we just give every child a marshmallow when they need one, and we move on to other life priorities.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Responses to Comments from William Rees

In October of 2023, I gave a Zoom talk to the Canadian Association for the Club of Rome (CACOR).  The requested topic was an overview of my sequel to "The Value Crisis", that being "Our Second Chance - Changing Course and Solving the Value Crisis".  Months later, the CACOR site curator sent me a copy of the Zoom Chat conversation from that talk.  It turns out that the most frequent contributor to the chat was Dr. William E. Rees, FRSC.  Bill Rees is Professor Emeritus at the University of British Columbia, and well-known as the originator of the "ecological footprint" concept.

Following the CACOR Zoom talk tradition, many of the chat room questions and comments will have been raised after the presentation, and some will be heard on the actual video.  Still, knowing that I have a huge amount to learn from this leader in ecological economics (and one of my heroes), I decided to devote a post to his comments and my more-considered reflections on them.

(It would obviously help a great deal if you watch the presentation first, but I'll try to craft this post in such a way that it's not entirely necessary.)

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 1:42 PM
What if the More is Better strategy is an innate adaptive strategy that worked in paleolithic times but is catastrophic today, when technology makes it possible?

Firstly, there is a very important distinction to be made here.  The value system that I claim to be flawed and unnatural is "More is ALWAYS Better".  Generally speaking, there are many times in nature when More is Better.  But more is never always better - everything in nature has sufficiency.  That's why, when more does happen to be better, it could indeed be seen as an innate adaptive strategy that worked in paleolithic times.  It is only when you have values measured by number (such as monetary wealth) that More is Always Better.  Having a limitless value, with no definition of sufficiency is where the trouble begins.  Add in technology that gives exponential growth, and that trouble does indeed become catastrophic.  This is not a value that has changed over time, because More is Always Better did not exist in paleolithic times.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 1:50 PM
We have to be careful about 'first nations' values.  The paleoecological evidence suggests that the spread of humanity over the Earth was followed by the depletion and often extinction of megafauna of all kinds.  Only after massive destruction, or at least alteration of their ecosystems, did indigenous peoples culturally evolve a stable relationship with their much diminished habitats.  That is what we see today.  

When you consider "the spread of humanity", you are really talking about a species of primate that was successful enough to produce a thriving population - one that did really well at adapting to other environments as well.  So whenever humans spread into an area where they had not existed before, they were essentially an invasive species.  We all know that any successful invasive species will invariably redefine the ecological balance of its new territory - sometimes wiping out previously existing species.  (This is easier to do when you are at or near the top of the food chain.)

I think another thing we obviously have to be careful about is generalizing "first nations".  There were/are hundreds of First Nations.  Some evolved into empires who adopted and applied a More is Always Better value system to territory, riches, slaves, and temple heights.  (Perhaps their demise was correspondingly predictable.)  Others are still living in relative isolation and in harmony with their original environment.

Still, I think your general heuristic applies.  When some First Nations people first came upon plains teeming with bison, they did not worry about the wastefulness of driving hundreds of them over a cliff, just to butcher a few for their needs.  And they did indeed alter their ecosystems - it would have been almost impossible not to.  However, for the First Nations that did not adopt a More is Always Better philosophy, they noticed the changes to their ecosystems and made various conscious choices to alter their behaviours.  The values that we associate today with indigenous wisdom are distinctly different and decidedly superior in terms of ecological economics.

BtW, modern techno industrial society is going the same way.  We will destroy our habitat to the point that it pushes back and forces an adaptive strategy onto the survivors of the great contraction.

This is my conclusion as well.  I believe climate change is one of the negative feedbacks that our habitat is going to push back on us.  The question of whether or not we will recognize our essential problem as a value crisis is still to be answered.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 1:56 PM
Overshoot is a function of population at any material standard.  Three billion over-consumers can be in overshoot: Ten billion people in poverty can be in overshoot.

This is very true.  Since ecological overshoot is based on available planetary resources, that quantity available doesn't change with population or lifestyle, but the amount lost to consumption does.  Right now, we have simultaneous examples of both kinds of overshoot (from overconsumption and overpopulation).

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:36 PM
Where does the wealth or money come from to fund the basic income?  Doesn't this require a complete reorganization of the income/tax/economic value system.  And what if the basic income destroys any incentive to fend for oneself?

These are three common concerns with a Guaranteed Basic Income.  The simplest answer to the first question is that the money is already there - it is simply redirected.  For a full explanation of this, see a previous blog post.  Money is not like material resources - this is simply a math issue, not a show-stopper.

The introduction of a Basic Income does not require a complete reorganization of the income/tax/economic value system - we saw that when we implemented the CERB program almost overnight during the pandemic. However, it could eventually lead to such a reorganization - and that's the whole point.  We need a complete reorganization of the income/tax/economic value system as part of our rebalancing of qualitative and quantitative values.  A Guaranteed Basic Income program is perhaps the best and most powerful tool for easing society into that paradigm shift.

Finally, Basic Income pilot programs have consistently demonstrated that such schemes do not destroy any incentive to fend for oneself - although current social safety nets often do just that.  Humans want to be productive, to contribute to society, and to better their lot.  Basic Income facilitates and encourages those activities.  See my explanation in an earlier post.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:41 PM
I don't see much new in the notion that natural systems tend toward more complexity.  In any case, this assumes a continuous supply of energy.  Reduce the energy flow and the system simplifies. Remove available energy and the systems ceases to function and moves toward maximum entropy or disorder.

I agree entirely.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:50 PM
The value of human life changes with the availability of vital resources.  Lots of resources, we share; land and resources get scarce with overcrowding and overshoot, then we devalue live, particularly other peoples' lives.

This is also fairly obvious.  However, I believe that there is a more important factor in how we value human life, which is defined by our relationship to that human.  Yes, we all know that we care more about the life of a friend or family member than we do about some stranger on the other side of the planet, but sometimes we just need a connecting narrative for our perception to change.  Think of how a simple photo of a drowned toddler washed up on a beach completely altered the way millions of people thought about the Syrian refugee crisis.

This introduction of compassion works both for and against us.  You might think me awful for saying this (which would in fact prove my point), but when we start to think of every child as our own, then we start to believe that every life is worth saving, regardless of the cost or quality of life being saved.  That may be all very well, but few people who aggressively pursue disease eradication and lifespan extension consider what the ultimate effect on our planet might be if we were wildly successful in those endeavours.  (Imagine what would happen if all mosquitoes born survived to adulthood.)  If you are going to cure everything and have people living decades longer, there will HAVE to be other changes.  Single lives are valuable because they become qualitative.  At the same time, we can kill thousands in war, because those people are simply numbers.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:53 PM
Stasis implies a steady-state economy, an idea that has been around for 50 years or more and rejected by mainstream economists and techno-optimists. (Steady-state implies a constant level of economic throughput compatible with nature's productivity and waste assimilation capacity.)

A steady-state economy also includes minimal fluctuations in population.  It is not the only possibility for a sustainable economy - which could also be achieved by an economy the fluctuates up and down in relatively bounded cycles.  I'm not sure why mainstream economists and techno-optimists reject the idea of a steady-state economy, unless it's because they feel it is impossible to achieve.  I would think it's a lot easier to prove the impossibility of an ever-growing economy on the finite resources of a single planet.  It may also be a case of them being NIMPLEs - leaving the consequences of continuous growth to future generations.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:56 PM
There are lots of studies on how many people -- even a book called "How Many People can Earth Support?"

Determining the number of people that the planet can support is based on many variables.  The whole exercise seems more academic than policy-based.  I think it safe to say that, in terms of environmental impact, there are too many humans, regardless of our adopted lifestyle.  Yes, the planet could possibly support more, but at what cost?

I believe our focus would be better directed towards more sustainable and qualitative lifestyles.  The population decline will likely follow.  If it does not, then nature will address our numbers in her own way, as she inevitably does for all species that get out of control.

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 2:58 PM
Ray's financial insecurity is the modern expression of our innate need to acquire the means to live.

[This was in reference to an earlier comment from Raymond Leury: "When I was much younger, being poor, my anxiety about the need to have money to survive was so big that it blinded me to just about anything else.  It also drove my strong desire to build up wealth so that I would have financial security."]

Actually, I don't entirely agree with the implications of this one.  All animals have an innate drive to survive.  For that they need the basics of life: oxygen, water, shelter (or appropriate environment), food, etc.  However, "financial security" is not focused on our immediate needs - rather, it is intended to address our future needs.  I theorize that conscious concern for future needs is a higher stage of evolution - perhaps even in a grey area between instinct and learned behaviour.

What strikes me as the most important takeaway from this is how financial wealth takes over our lives when we must struggle to have enough to survive.  Imagine how much collective anxiety there is in society right now, arising from this singular stress, and how a Basic Income would change their lives - and yours!

William Rees Oct 18, 2023, 3:16 PM
Great discussion. Thanks Andrew for providing the catalyst.

I hope my content will eventually prove to be more than just a catalyst.  Anyway, I think this made for a good blog post exploration.  Thanks Bill for providing the catalyst!

Friday, March 15, 2024

A Human Behaviour Crisis?

In September, 2023, a group of authors, led by Joseph Merz, put out a peer-reviewed paper that captured significant interest in the world of ecological economics.  The paper is titled “World scientists’ warning: The behavioural crisis driving ecological overshoot”.

It immediately caught my attention because, in line with my own thinking, the paper proposed that looming disasters like climate change and the loss of biodiversity were just symptoms of a bigger problem.  Instead of trying to fix symptoms, a far more effective strategy for humanity is to track down the causes and explore solutions to those.  I hope that, by now, we can all accept that human behaviours are behind our most serious threats to species continuance.  This particular group of authors suggested that this human behaviour crisis was driven by the intentional manipulation of innate adaptive behaviours.  Specifically, Economic Growth, Marketing, and Pronatalism (encouraging population growth) were being used to exploit populations into behaving in ways that were ultimately not in humanity's best long-term interest.

[If you are curious about the details, I encourage you to read the paper for yourself.  For an academic work, it is a fairly easy read.  It also proposes a solution, which I found intriguing but less compelling.]

This short reactive exploration builds on the content of that paper, which asserts:

“While human behaviours were implicit in the various world scientists’ warnings, we believe they need explicit attention and concerted emergency action in order to avoid a ghastly future.”

I believe this is absolutely correct.  For decades, world scientists have stated that human behaviours had to change, but they insufficiently examined the driving source of the maladaptive behaviours in the first place.  My graphic image above summarizes the premise nicely.  I want to now take this exploration one step deeper.

Who is holding the hammer?

This post asks:  Who (or what) is behind that exploitation?  Why have those behaviours been exploited?  Obviously, a select fraction of the population profited from it, but can we really assume that some kind of all-trumping wealth-maximization motivation is innate in all humans?  Answers such as “greed”, “wealth”, or “power” might be implicitly assumed, however, I fear they are untested.  For all the same reasons behind the identification of a human behavioural crisis, the perpetrators and values driving that exploitation need explicit attention, and that may well lead to a different concerted emergency action.

The paper hints very slightly at a factor where my own personal research began:

“Like other species, H. sapiens is capable of exponential population growth (positive feedback) but until recently, major expansions of the human enterprise, including increases in consumption and waste, were held in check by negative feedback – e.g. resource shortages, competition and disease – which naturally curbed continued population growth.”

I accept that each and every species has an innate drive to increase their population and expand into as much territory as possible – to grow, occupy, and consume.  In a system of negative feedback where each life form is ultimately consumed by others, a drive to increase population is necessary to offset risk factors and ensure a continuance of presence.  (Any species that lacked sufficient capability for that would have disappeared long ago.)  The drive to occupy territory corresponds with the needs for an increased population.  As for consumption, it is one of the basic conditions (if not definitions) of life.

The critical element in all of this is the concept of sufficiency.  There are peak values for growth, territory, and consumption, after which benefits to the individual life form invariably cease, to be replaced by negative outcomes.  I suggest that there is nothing in the ‘natural’ world where More is ALWAYS Better.  There are peaks and limits.  Furthermore, it could be argued that energy is the ultimate expression of value, but energy cannot be created from nothing, and entropy takes its cut of every transaction.  We exist in a world subject to the laws of thermodynamics, on a planet of finite resources.  A never-endingly increasing value does not exist anywhere in nature.

The measure of any resource value to any life form therefore expresses a qualitative value – one that depends on context and marginal utility.  More is not always better.

And yet, what if a higher species created another kind of value for itself – one measured by number, where (within that value system) more is always better.  Such a quantitative value system has no concept of sufficiency.  This is what I propose humanity has done, with the creation of the concept of virtual (monetary) wealth.  Within a monetary system, more money is always worth more than less.  In 1926, Nobel-laureate chemist Frederick Soddy (in Wealth, Virtual Wealth and Debt) pointed out that money is not subject to the laws of thermodynamics, even though all of the material things exchanged for it are.  Monetary wealth can be created from absolutely nothing (and is – as debt), and does not lose numeric value in transactions.  Being just a number, the potential value expressed is theoretically limitless, and it can exist virtually – it does not require material objects to back up that value.

This takes us back to the two significant questions that the paper raised for me:

a)      Who (or what) is behind that exploitation of behaviours?

b)      Why have those behaviours been exploited?

I suggest that the driving forces behind this exploitation would not be possible, or at least anywhere near as influential, without humanity’s adoption of an overwhelming precedence of number-based (quantitative) values.  The predominant overarching goal of the entities (be they individuals or corporations) is an increase in monetary wealth.  This is not a ‘natural’ value.

Contrast this goal, for example, with the human impulses listed in the paper – the ones that those entities are leveraging for their own gain:

  • seek pleasure and avoid pain;
  • acquire, amass and defend resources from competitors;
  • display dominance, status or sex appeal through size, beauty, physicality, aggression and/or ornamentation;
  • procrastinate rather than act whenever action does not have an immediate survival benefit particularly for ourselves, close relatives and our home territories (humans are innate temporal, social and spatial discounters).

I suggest that all of these are qualitative values, subject to peaks, sufficiency, and negative feedback loops.  Also consider the simple imperative of procreation.  The mathematics of population growth often produces exponential curves, but that is never the whole story.  Steep curves are brought down with equal speed by overcrowding, disease, food shortages, and increased predatory populations.  In nature, explosive growth always creates the circumstances required for that growth to collapse.  The same mathematics can be applied to unfettered economic growth – the major differences being that there is no limit to the potential monetary wealth, and there is no inherent negative feedback built-in to that growth.  (Most importantly, what if climate change is the negative feedback that has been inevitable from the beginning?)

According to the paper:

“Fossil fuels enabled us to reduce negative feedback (e.g. food shortages) and thus delay and evade the consequences of surpassing natural limits.”

This is quite true, and there is no question that the Modern Techno-Industrial (MTI) civilization that followed has been a major contributor to our exponential population growth and the resulting ecological overshoot.  However, I propose that our ability to reek havoc upon our environment is due to more than just the capability of our technology to outpace human evolution.  Something is still amplifying the incentives for that technology and defining the destructive principles used for its implementation.  Moreover, humans are not alone at the pinnacle of the pyramid.  There is another significant player in this narrative that hardly gets a mention in the paper – corporations.

I propose that, from economic, ecological, and sociological perspectives, corporations must be considered as a separate species and treated as such for the kind of work that we do.  They have full status as legal persons and increasingly claim rights created for humans, and they operate indepen­dently of their creators in almost all respects.  Furthermore, this is a species that is not subject to any natural laws of sufficiency, that can grow to any size, and has a theoretically unlimited lifespan.  Most importantly, this species is entirely based on a quantitative value system that is not subject to the laws of thermodynamics, so they can create ‘tangible’ value from nothing.  And even though this value system is man-made, it is unhindered by human morals or ethics.  We programmed them this way!  This, I believe, is an accurate description of the public-traded commercial corporation.

It is impossible to state with certainty that the technologies that we have today would have eventually appeared, regardless of the participation of corporations in an MTI society.  Still, I argue that the pace of technology, the uses of technology, and the impact of technology on our ecological overshoot is inextricably tied to the singular quantitative value systems of commercial corporations.  To push civilization to the brink that we currently teeter on, it is necessary to have blinders to a great deal of evidence of self-destructive behaviours – evidence and warnings that go back hundreds of years.  The ability of monetary wealth to trump all other human and ethical values is the just the thing to provide those blinders.  After all, “it’s nothing personal – it’s just business”.

This is why, 20 years ago, when I asked the same “Why?” questions as did the researchers for this human behaviour crisis paper, I concluded that human behaviours were based on values, and what civilization was experiencing is a value crisis.

Human Behaviour Crisis or Value Crisis?

This is not just a rewording of exactly the same concept.  Good and bad behaviours can be difficult to empirically identify, but the difference between measuring success by quality or measuring it by quantity (where more is always worth more) is crystal clear.  It is not that one value system is good and the other is bad.  The point is that if society gives number-based values practically unlimited power to trump every qualitative human value, we are headed for a guaranteed disaster – and ecological overshoot.

For example, when you can translate limited resources into a limitless value, impervious to decay, and do so in such a way that the resulting scarcity drives the value of additional consumption even higher, that is a positive feedback recipe for resource annihilation.  If we’re looking for clues as to how humans circumvented natural negative feedback mechanisms, it seems to me that basing much of society on value systems that freely create and leverage exponential curves without any hindrance from natural laws and limitations would be a great place to start.

In addition, it is imperative that the role of corporations be included as an integral part of any search for solutions to the human behavioural crisis.  This is not just because of their phenomenal impact, but because, in the words of Yuval Noah Harari, public corporations are myths – they exist only on paper, and operate under arbitrary values and laws that we established in their entirety.  That proves that theoretically we could change any of those factors, and thus change those entities overnight. Such changes might not seem practical or likely right now, but those probabilities will change if/when we accept that civilization, as we know it, might be on the line.

Yes, I agree that human behaviour has been meticulously, psychologically (and mathematically) exploited.  This has been so effective and well-established that we are not only dealing with entrenched flawed perspectives – we also have gross examples of hedonic adaptation on a cultural scale.  Despite unprecedented population numbers, a large portion of the planet also consumes more energy, more materials, and more residential square footage per capita than ever before.  How can generations of people living this lifestyle ever be expected to voluntarily scale back?

I used to believe that the only mechanism possible to provide a paradigm shift of sufficient significance would be some kind of catastrophic system collapse.  I now believe that there is great potential in (re-)emerging policies like a Universal Basic Income, which severs the umbilical that our MTI society instituted between survival and the job-imperative, allowing people to view money, time, and lives in an altered light.

Tuesday, December 6, 2022

A Discussion of Our Best Strategy Right Now

(This is the ninth of a nine-part installment, offering a fresh new perspective on Climate Change.  For the big picture summary, see Turning Climate Change on its Head.)


The development of action plans for social change is miles out of my background and comfort level.  You won't find a practical action plan here.  However, I do have some (naive) ideas.  My goal is not to start implementing a To-Do list - it's to inspire some discussion.

If we're talking about Climate Change being a catalyst in bringing about the end of civilization as we know it (something the United Nations is beginning to seriously theorize on, I might add), then we're really talking about the human species possibly surviving in a civilization that's not as we know it now.

How might civilization be different?

There are a number of well-accepted models for healthier economies and civilizations.  Some examples have been around for tens of thousands of years:

First Nations Medicine Wheel

Others are relatively new proposals:

8 Principles of Regenerative Vitality
from The Capital Insitute

There is no single answer; nor should there be.  Cultures must be as diverse as the communities they're found in.  The one truth that we must hold on to, moving forward, is that quantitative value systems (where More Is Always Better), cannot be allowed to predominate and trump innate human values.  There is nothing in nature that exists without any concept of sufficiency, and our next civilization has to remember that we are all part of the nature around us.

A sustainable civilization is not one that has enough resources to last a long time; it is one that does not destroy its resources faster than they can be replaced.

It's paramount that we never lose sight of our actual objective.  An example I often use is to ask:  Which do you think will move us closer to our goal - insulating your house, using recycled paper in your printer, and driving a hybrid vehicle; OR replacing paper tissues with a cotton handkerchief?  In terms of a direct assault on climate change, the first set of actions would likely have more impact, but that's not my recommended objective.  Instead, I believe we have to change mindsets in a more fundamental way.  Insulation, recycled paper, and a hybrid vehicle are commonplace, and will soon be forgotten.

I switched to cotton handkerchiefs after inheriting an unused set from my parents, and immediately noticed the following impacts - note the VALUES at play:

  • Having made that decision, I am reminded of it whenever I reached for my handkerchief.  That makes me feel good, every time.
  • Cotton is stronger than paper tissue and can do a much better job.
  • A cotton handkerchief is always at hand and does not mess up my pocket in any way.
  • I prefer the feel of warm cotton on my nose.  It takes me back to the days of my grandfather.
  • I'm constantly reminded of how corporations lured us into the single-use, bleached-white world of paper tissues by amplifying and then exploiting a distorted 'ick' factor.
  • It's not something everyone is doing.  When people notice the handkerchief, it often inspires a conversation.  Those conversations are powerful and necessary.

Those are the objectives I push for: doing the right thing, feeling better about it, being consistently reminded of how good your value-choice feels, and sharing that with others.  Allowing human values to override the numeric values that everyone else now consider unimpeachable is precisely the point.

Nature has given us all of the appropriate values to exist under a paradigm of sufficiency and sustainability.  We simply(!) have to stop allowing our impossible, contrived values to trump those qualitative ones imbued by nature.

How do we make that happen?

The only way this species is going to be sustainable on this planet is if it drops the idea that More Is Always Better.

In that respect, I believe it's too late to change our current society.  That's not going to happen before the tipping point of climate change is well past.  If you want to start preparing for life after climate change, the best audiences will be found in two groups: (1) our youth and children, and (2) communities that already get it.  I have twice mentioned my Value Change Conundrum in this post series - the challenge of getting people to question the precedence of their core value systems.  There's no time to go changing most people's perspective on humanity before it all hits the fan.  So, change agents should start with the people who either have no indoctrination in civilization's flawed More-Is-Always-Better value system (children), or those who have already rejected it.  The rest of the world will come on board when that flawed value system has totally failed them (i.e. when they are dealing with the full impacts of climate change).

(Interestingly, I have also found senior citizens to also be very receptive to the messaging around restoring living values to prominence.  This might be attributable to their memory of different times, but I think it more likely that all of us, as we enter our sunset years, start to realize the stupidity of our over-consumption and obsession with monetary wealth.  Our elders may not be around for the next generation, but they may still be able to influence it.)

We should be making better use of the time and energy that we have.  So, let's look at some things that (I believe) waste that time and energy:

  • Talking to Politicians - Yes, there are champions and heroic leaders out there, but Modern Techno-Industrial governments will not get this started.

  • Turning to Technology - Yes, we will eventually need technological help and solutions, but they will not lead the way.  At this point, the vast majority of technology will make matters worse.

  • Changing Existing Business Models - Yes, there are 'B' corporations, 'green initiatives', and other good intentions, but the whole status quo concept of the publicly-traded commercial corporations has to go.  The public sector will not be doing that by choice.

Here are some basic ideas for where to start:

  • Leverage existing networks - Who are the people who will be most receptive to accepting that climate change might actually be an important part of the solution to our species dilemma?  One possibility is the people who have been actively supporting the Transition Town Movement since 2006.  Originally started to transition local communities away from a dependence on fossil fuels, there are now over 1000 groups in communities all over the world, independently making a positive difference, using the values we need championed.

  • Rethink education - Our education system is predicated on preparing our children for their future.  However, the status quo is not our future, so the curriculum needs some serious re-examination.  Unfortunately, going through school boards is not the best approach for preparing our children for value system changes - the education system is far too politicized for that.  Better to focus on smaller cohorts like individual teachers who are interested, home-schooling, summer camps, etc.

What should we be doing right now?

My sequel to The Value Crisis (titled Our Second Chance) ends every chapter with a "What You Can Do Right Now" section, addressed to a wide audience of readers.  For this particular blog series, I'll try to be more targeted.

(1)  Gather thought leaders
My thoughts are not unique.  There must be others who have reached the same conclusion: That Climate Change is the negative feedback we so desperately need - it is part of the solution.  We have to gather such people together, in person, for a symposium to gel ideas, get on the same page, and combine forces.  The in-person component is important.  This is essentially human work, and humans were not designed to interact by text or video.  Yes, others may be included remotely, but the core has to meet face-to-face.

(2)  Gather content
The people gathered will be thought leaders and will include experts who have been thinking about these issues for a long time.  They have much to offer, not just in perspective and visionary thinking, but also in very practical terms: how to deal with local impacts of climate events, how to cut through the disinformation and pitches for dead-end climate solutions, how to communicate hope and possibilities to the next generation.  That content has to be put together in accessible and practical formats.

(3)  Gather receptive audience
We then have to reach out to the audiences identified - Transition Town groups, Green Party members, PROBUS groups - any of those who will be most receptive to the message.  Amongst those people, we hope to find connections into youth groups and tomorrow's leaders.  The human values which have been so long trampled must be demonstrated, exemplified, championed, and relearned by the next generation.

(4)  Provide resources
Resources must be created which will help parents, educators, and those who work with youth to learn ways to restore values like joy, integrity, justice, beauty, and respect for nature to the prominence needed for a civilization that is sustainable.  Climate Change may now be a sure thing, but we can change the values that brought this on and discover ways that our species can once again fit into the biosphere in ways that do not destroy it.

My essential message is really quite simple:

The concept that More Is Always Better has led our species into catastrophe and scarcity.  It is not part of our natural value set - we invented it.  It has perhaps served us for a time, but it is completely unsustainable.  So long as such a concept is allowed to trump living human values, our species is doomed.  The alternative is innately programmed in all of us - we simply have to give it a chance to bring joy and abundance back to our civilization.