Papers 2011 – 2015

Responding to the global mega-crisis (2011)

In a pluralistic world there’s no single way to understand or describe the global mega crisis (GMC). That said, there are more and less productive ways of attempting to do so. Shopping lists of symptoms may be useful to the extent that they identify areas of concern and forewarn that various actions and responses may be necessary. But Einstein’s insight that problems cannot be resolved on the level where they’re first understood or described is often overlooked. In other words, while accurate problem description is a useful first step, it is only that. A second step involves a meta-level overview and a third seeks to develop relevant responses with salience at a number of levels and in a variety of contexts. Read more…

Responding to a planetary emergency (2012)

For those who are alert to global ‘signals of change’ what I call the ‘global emergency’ (and what others refer to as the ‘mega-crisis’) has not sprung upon the world unannounced. It has been building steadily since at least the 1980s. In fact, one of the first attempts to pull together a systematic overview of global change was the limits to Growth, published in 1972. But it was widely ignored. Despite that, a great deal of collective intelligence since then has been devoted to understanding global change, where it is tending and what it means for humanity. Read more…

Welcome to the Anthropocene (2012)

Despite the confident claims of various elites, evidence has emerged over several decades that we are living in the final years of what might be called the ‘late cornucopian period.’ That is, a time when the assumptions of limitless growth, the view of the Earth as merely a collection of resources (and sinks for waste), belief in the ability of natural systems to absorb human impacts and, overall, a view of humanity as ‘lords and masters of nature’ are failing. One thing is certain – the consequences will be unprecedented and profound. Read more…

Sense-making, futures work and the global emergency (2012)

‘The future’ is in some respects the ‘ultimate problem’ and part of the conundrum of time itself. Such challenging topics provide few single or satisfactory answers, even though the desire for them lies deep within the human psyche. Rather, there are many different contexts, questions and questioners. The latter draw on diverse sources and devote their efforts to exploring answers that emerge from their own needs, perceptions and practices. This helps to explain the enormous diversity within future-oriented enquiry and practice as well as the occasional conflicts that arise when different assumptions, values and worldviews collide. Read more…

Making headway during impossible times (2012)

In a pluralistic world there’s no single way to understand or describe the global emergency. That said, there are more and less productive ways of attempting to do so. Shopping lists of symptoms abound, and they may be useful to the extent that they identify areas of concern and forewarn that various actions and responses may be necessary. But Einstein’s insight that problems cannot be resolved at the level on which they’re first understood or described is widely overlooked. In other words, while accurate problem description is a valid and useful first step, it’s only that. A second step requires a meta-level overview, and a third seeks to develop relevant responses that can be developed and applied at a number of levels and in a variety of contexts. Read more…

Defending the future (2013)

This introductory overview was written for a special issue of On the Horizon that contained several considered responses to my book The Biggest Wake-Up Call in History (2010).

A primary objective of the book was to bring as much clarity as possible to some of the complex, multi-layered and profoundly challenging issues that face our world today. A second objective was to establish if there were, in fact, viable ways forward beyond what I saw as an increasingly compromised present, pathways tending towards more humanly compelling futures. These twin purposes largely dictated how the book was framed and how it evolved. Part one focused on the nature of ‘the problem.’ Part two considered a range of possible solutions, some of which were at the conceptual stage while others were already being trialled. My intention was to leave the reader with a sense that, while the outlook might initially appear very bleak, there were real and substantive grounds for informed hope and effective action. Read more…

The denial of limits and the interior aspects of descent (2014)

The primary purposes of this paper are as follows. Part one seeks to re-examine the role of denialism in the context of proposals advanced through the much-abused Limits to Growth (LtG) project. The wide-ranging consequences look increasingly like a ‘global trap’ for which humanity is manifestly unprepared. The paper suggests, however, that moving from ‘collapse’ narratives toward those focused on ‘descent’ opens out new conceptual and practical spaces. Part two uses three sets of criteria (domains of reality, worldviews and values) to characterise some of the interior human and social aspects of the ‘denial machine.’ It uses these criteria to address some vital, but currently under-appreciated ‘interior’ aspects of descent. Finally it considers examples of promising work and concludes by advancing suggestions about ways forward in the light of the ‘global emergency.’. Read more…

Beyond the global emergency: Integral futures and the search for clarity (2015)

How people respond to Integral Futures – or more correctly integrally informed approaches to futures – depends very much upon where they’re coming from. That is, what they value, what they perceive and how they construct their own unique interior world…This paper attempts to illustrate two broad themes. The first considers how integral approaches help us to gain a deeper understanding of some challenging aspects of the present. The second looks at how this approach helps us to ‘see with fresh eyes’ and, in so doing, opens up new and renewed strategies or ‘proto-solutions’ (solutions in embryo) for a world in greater peril than it yet allows itself to acknowledge. Read more…