By Joern Fischer
We’ve recently commenced work on the project “Leverage Points for Sustainability Transformation“. This is based on Meadows’ idea that to bring about major changes, we have to look at the intent created for or assigned to a given system. On this basis, one of the deep leverage points we plan to look at is the connection between people and nature.
It struck me today that, arguably, we could have gone one level deeper. One question I have recently pondered is whether we can really transform the world at all, if we don’t even manage to transform ourselves. In other words, can there be transformation in our outer world without transformation in our inner worlds?
My interim analysis is that the answer is “only partly”. I suspect it’s a bit like with financial incentives for conservation … they can buy us time. But ultimately, they are based on the same premises underpinning unsustainable behaviour in the first place (lack of human-environment connection and primarily a financial outlook on the world) — so I doubt that they should be our conservation tool of choice in the long term.
I think at a deeper level the same is true for transformation of our inner and outer worlds. Aggressive campaigning may take us a few steps towards sustainability — but ultimately, it can’t be the solution. The anger and frustration in such campaigning somehow embody substantial overlap in their emotional constitution with the violent greed inherent to many fundamental drivers underpinning un-sustainability. The nature of the intent of such “systems” of action is somehow similar, in that it is competitive and exclusive, rather than tolerant and caring. Assuming that is true, then, transformation of the outer world might well benefit from a greater share of humanity attempting to transform their inner worlds.
While this could be extremely interesting, I have seen very little research on this topic, in a sustainability context. Is such “ultimate” sustainability science not part of sustainability science’s agenda? Or has it just not been explored yet? (Or has it been explored, and I just don’t know about it? Also possible!)
[ PS: Thanks to the guy who nearly ran me over on a bike today for prompting me to write this blog post. He made me so angry that I in fact got angry with myself for getting angry. Which suggested to me that there’s a lot of un-fulfilled potential for inner transformation on my behalf … which made me think about sustainability and this blog post! I’m guessing he won’t read my thank you note … ]