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Sustainable Thoughts Part II: Globally Fragmented Solutions

April 23, 2013

“Apathy can be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal, which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.”

~ Arnold J. Toynbee, Author of 12-volume analysis of rise and fall of civilizations

In Part I, Reconstructing The 3 Pillars, we examined the energy, climate and food crises through their origins, modern affects on society and potential solutions. In Part II, Globally Fragmented Solutions, we’ll explore a pragmatic vision of worldwide sustainable futures.

As was Part I, this article is also derived from a lost piece I wrote in 2010 that remains potent today, if not more so, as academics, policy makers and the general public find themselves increasingly struggling with environmental issues of sustainability.

There is no question the current economy is unstable during its post-crash recovery and that finite resources will only continue to be depleted and exacerbate hardship. The solution to turning a potential hardship into potential resiliency and wellness comes with preventive action. For example, we cannot wait for oil to run out or become outrageously expensive to adapt – the sooner we adjust, the smoother the transition.

Collecting the Fragments

Collective action is necessary and best, but in order for a successful transition to sustainability, fragmented, diverse collective action is key, where locally organized global initiatives share morals and values, but adapt systems to their specific locale.

Two outstanding international examples are Transition Network and Slow Food, which are thriving global organizations increasing resilience, sustainability, livelihoods, connection to each other and the environment, and so much more. As standalone entities, they share morals and values adhered to by locales worldwide creating a collection of fragments strengthening global resiliency.

Through this fragmented, local-global fashion, people become empowered within their communities, sustain locally while supported internationally and tighten bonds, generate resiliency and learn new ways of shared life. This is essential to a fragmented transition.

Fragmented Grassroots Local Initiatives to Globally Influential Movements

The natural course of unraveling will follow a movement trajectory similar to Derek Sivers’ TED Talk (short, powerful land hilarious – worth a watch), where community leaders will need to “have the guts to stand out” and take initiative, followed by the first follower, who is the second leader. As Sivers points out, “the first follower is an underestimated form of leadership in itself,” then a third follower creates a crowd and a crowd is news – and a movement must be public. Soon enough, a tipping point is reached, momentum is gained and a movement is made.

These local movements can be completely focused on their locale, but will invariably be part of the global movement. When the government is not addressing critical issues such as the energy, climate and food crises with effective action, policy or governance, these grassroots movements hold the potential to gain enough momentum to garner significant influence.

When there are enough locally organized initiatives, the fragmented global web begins to interconnect as regional locales share resources, etc., and the shared values and morals create diverse, yet similar societies, institutions, markets, economic opportunities and urban functionality that dictate policy and planning.

Organizing local systems on a fragmented international scale will create a global system consisting of conglomerates of these local initiatives that will unite a new world order focused on sustainability and sharing knowledge, goods and core values with each other to reformat the layout of the world, while each local community has a chance to prosper uniquely as part of the global portrait.

Through this approach, today’s conventional wisdom will slowly vanish – one thing that should be discarded and not reused – and a new, traditionally infused conventional knowledge will arise. Harmony among humans and the environment, food and each other will be met. It is this global change of consciousness that will change the world, and starting to adapt, one fragment at a time, may be our best bet.

The vision is grand, indeed, but only by aiming for something extraordinary and devoting oneself to the unreasonable do great historic feats rise to existence.

How Do We Evoke Such Change?

There are multiple scales one can view this enormous endeavor. The bigger picture outlined above may appear more overwhelming than feasible. It may appear out of reach and drive one into paralysis at the infinite possibility for analysis, but in order for its roots to extend, we have to do just the opposite – to avoid procrastination via over analyzing and begin going to work.

The Internet provides a means for people to connect and reach out – to find support in other’s and raise awareness. Gone are the days of feeling one is alone in their actions.

One must open their mind beyond feelings of apprehension to see the achievable greater good through a new perspective, one that understands the complexity. It is a wicked problem, yes, which crosses all sectors of society and is directly related to hard-to-measure behaviors, but through this fragmented collective of local conglomerates creating a united global network, we can all evoke change by addressing what issues interest us and approaching it however we see fit.

Creativity and proactive transitions from thoughts to organized action are bolstered through this loose-knit, yet impenetrable powerhouse of change. Each must act and cannot be concerned with who is putting in the hours and who are the free riders – it doesn’t matter. Those free riders will soon enough join the movement. It’s about co-creating collaborative solutions within our means and simultaneously stretching the boundaries.

We all must be risk takers! We must jump at opportunities without looking down to realize the greatness below, but looking forward with hope, optimism and enthusiasm to influence our seemingly small actions have to the greater cause.

Take the risk of diverging from consumerism society and conventional wisdom, learn new things, create meaning in your life and other’s and you just might save the planet for posterity.

What do you think? Is a global collective of fragmented local initiatives a feasible approach to begin adapting toward sustainable resiliency?

**Be sure to check back for a follow-up article arguing fragmentation is good, but in some respects has many pitfalls. I’ll explore these pitfalls and you’ll get a case study of three primary organizations advancing society: Ecocity Builders, Transition Network and On the Commons.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. April 23, 2013 6:23 pm

    Derek Sivers TED talk was great, I think global movements will follow that sort of pattern.

    • April 24, 2013 1:10 am

      Indeed, it is a repeated pattern underlying movements and many a social situations, such as trends. Harnessing the power of this process is the secret trick.

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