Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Saving the world...

A University of Vermont course in the spring of 2008 came up with a magnum opus now published in the Proceedings of the National Academy titled "Overcoming systemic roadblocks to sustainability: The evolutionary redesign of worldviews, institutions, and technologies." I totally have a mind-numbing headache from reading this ponderous but worthwhile effort, and give you a few clips from their summary of "an integrated set of worldviews, institutions, and technologies to stimulate and seed evolutionary redesign of the current socio-ecological regime to achieve global sustainability":
Redefine Well-Being Metrics.
In any new context, we first have to remember that the goal of an economy is to sustainably improve human well-being and quality of life. Material consumption and GDP are merely means to that end, not ends in themselves. We have to recognize, as both ancient wisdom and new psychological research tell us, that material consumption beyond real need can actually reduce overall well-being.
Ensure the Well-Being of Populations During the Transition.
We must ensure that reductions in economic output and consumption fall on those with the lowest marginal utility of consumption, the wealthy. Presently, the U.S. tax code taxes the third wealthiest man in the world, Warren Buffett, at 17.7%, while his receptionist is taxed at the average rate of 30%....although qualitative development may continue indefinitely... existing levels of physical economic output and consumption are already unsustainable and should be reduced.
Reduce Complexity and Increase Resilience.
Efforts to create new cultural/institutional variants can benefit from the lessons offered by history, particularly cases of successful adaptation...Although environmental factors contribute to decline, equally important are the decisions made during the crises. A society's responses depend on the ability of its political, economic, and social institutions to respond, as well as on its cultural values.
Expand the “Commons Sector.”
Recognizing that we are in a biophysical crisis because of our over-consumption and lack of protection of ecosystem services, we must invest in institutions and the technologies required to reduce the impact of the market economy and to preserve and protect public goods. It is now time to create another major category of institution, the commons sector, which would be responsible for managing existing common assets and for creating new ones. Some assets should be held in common because it is more just; these include resources created by nature or by society as a whole.
Remove Barriers to Improving Knowledge and Technology.
With the invention of television, political advertisements became a critical outlet for candidates to broadcast their message and to sway voters. However, the decentralized nature of the Internet allows citizens to gain knowledge about what is done in their name, just as politicians can find out more about those they claim to represent. As a means of two-way communication, the Internet provides voters the ability to speak out within their government without leaving their homes. For the Internet to transform the idea of electronic democracy, universal access is critical. Currently technological, financial, and social barriers exist to such universal accessibility. Removal of these barriers thus becomes a major goal for replacement of the current plutocracy with real democracy.


  1. See Deric, thats all I was asking, when I suggested that scientific thinkers develop another vein of evolutionary theory to address the 'spiritual' domains as well as the physical....

  2. Really though Deric, I am impressed by all the research, including your own, that you make known to us. Thanks. Mike.