Home > Environment > Climate, Culture, and Consciousness: Growing Green

Climate, Culture, and Consciousness: Growing Green

Hurricanes, tsunamis, drought, global warming, melting icecaps, eradication of biodiversity—to many of us, these harbingers of our planet’s seemingly imminent environmental meltdown are becoming more and more apparent each year, while the need for effective and enforceable sustainability policies on a global scale are becoming more and more urgent. And as is usually the case with human development, we find ourselves locked into the dialectic of good news/bad news, with our own fate as a species quite possibly hanging in the balance.  First, the depressingly bad: the very notion of ecological sustainability requires at least a worldcentric set of values—yet according to research over 70% of the world exists at egocentric or ethnocentric waves of development, rendering “one-person-one-vote” types of democracy miserably incapable when it comes to saving the human race from itself.  How, then, can we possibly develop and implement the policies that we so desperately need?

Despite considerable tension and even aversion in green communities to the subject, we cannot talk about “going green” without making it a discussion about growth through various hierarchies of human development.  Really, the subject of growth should come as second nature to “green” thinkers and communities—after all, a blade of grass must grow to two inches before it can grow to six; a tree must grow from acorn to sapling before it can someday become a mighty oak.  In much the same way, our consciousness, our values, and our cultures must also move through several distinct stages of growth before we can even begin to even see the problem, let alone care enough to do anything about it.

In other words, “going green” really means “growing green,” and represents the crux of almost all the global issues we presently face: it’s not a problem of human imagination, technological innovation, or even political will—it’s a problem of human growth.

A simple way to explain human growth through stages of developmental unfolding is to say that, with each successive stage, we see an increased capacity for complexity, compassion, consciousness, and the number of perspectives one can take. For example, in consciousness development, one goes from the ability to take only a 1st-person perspective, to also being able to take a 2nd-person perspective, to also being able to take a 3rd-person perspective, and so on. Thus, in this example, you can see that the capacity for love increases (from being able to love only me, to being able to love us, to being able to love all of us, to being able to love all sentient beings….). For convenience, the stages of development follow the natural colors of the rainbow, so you’ll often hear us refer to degree of development or degree of consciousness or degree of capacity to love, etc. by a particular color of the rainbow.

“Green” consciousness actually represents one of the most highly evolved stages of consciousness currently available to humanity, and can only be achieved after moving through a succession of previous stages.  While these stages must be held lightly in our minds, understanding that human beings are far too complex to be easily pigeonholed into these sorts of categories, they nonetheless represent very real measurements of personal and cultural growth.

As it turns out, we must first grow through at least four other major levels of development (described in more detail at the bottom of this page.)

Magic (“Magenta”)

Power (“Red”)

Mythic (“Amber”)

Rational (“Orange”)

…before we can make it to:

Pluralistic (“Green”)

…and then onward to:

Integral (“Teal/Turquoise”)

Which is why, when it comes to things like climate change and the “magic number” of 350 PPM of CO2, we say that “truth is not enough.”  Measurements such as these are products of at least “orange” rational consciousness, and can thus only be apprehended by those segments of the human population who have grown to this developmental stage.  Which may not be as many as you think—by recent estimates, nearly 70% of the world is at an “amber” mythic stage or lower (as reflected in a now-infamous statement made by Republican John Shimkus, Representative of Illinois: “The earth will end only when God declares its time to be over. Man will not destroy this earth, this earth will not be destroyed by a flood.”)

In the U.S., this can be seen in such polls as Gallup’s recent study into beliefs around evolution vs. creationism: a staggering two thirds of the American population believe that the Earth was created by God within the past 10,000 years.  Obviously, polls like this cannot be used as direct correlates of personal or cultural development, especially as we consider the divergence that often occurs between our cognitive understanding and our innermost beliefs about the world.  However, this data does directly apply to our current discussions around climate change and sustainability—after all, how are you going to convince someone to care about the future of the planet if they believe that we are currently living in the biblical End Days, and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur in our lifetime?  How do you expect a Wall Street executive to have long-term concerns about eliminating carbon emissions if all he cares about are short-term profits?  How do you convince a hardened gang member of the virtues of recycling when all he is trying to do is live to see tomorrow?

It’s not about imposing facts upon people and expecting them to respond in an eco-conscious way, just by virtue of facts alone.  Again, truth is not enough—without the capacity to think critically about our problems, the world-centric values to inform our behavior, and a rational world-view to make sense of it all, we are incapable of responding to the urgency of our times.  Without these fruits of human growth and development, facts are little more than an affront to faith, an insult to tradition, or an obstacle to self-gratification.

One thing we absolutely cannot do is try to change people’s minds, or to convince them how important this all really is.  Human beings don’t work like that—it can take many years for an adult to move from one stage of consciousness to the next, and we have very little understanding of what makes people grow in the first place.  And really, the logistics of human development are entirely beside the point—even if we did understand the mechanics of transformation, it would be a violation of basic human dignity to try to coerce someone’s growth, or to “make them more” than what they already are.  People have a right to believe whatever they believe, to station themselves wherever they like in the spectrum of growth and development.

It is important to understand the nature of human development so that we can meet people at their own level, without a hint of contempt or condescension, framing the problems in a way people can actually hear and respond to.  As Ken Wilber says in a recent interview with Ode Magazine, climate change is “the first issue that affects everybody everywhere on the planet. [Former U.S. Vice-President] Al Gore is saying that the entire world needs to change its behavior. But he says so in a language that is perhaps understood by 20 percent of the world population. Gore assumes that people will respond from rational self-interest based on sound science, but that’s the least of the motivations of the majority of the population of the planet.”

“Al Gore has to ‘language’ his message in at least four different value structures to get, say, 80 percent of the world behind him,” Wilber says. “Anything less than that will simply not work.”

In order to take a truly comprehensive approach to climate change, it is important to see how all the major systems of human interaction impact each other—energy policies, economic policies, technological infrastructures, food production, transportation systems, political realities, etc. Our world has become far too interwoven for these matters to be dealt with individually, and devising piecemeal solutions without a sophisticated understanding of how these systems interface with each other (and how our actions ripple through the rest of our human systems) can only exacerbate our problems.

It can not be emphasized enough how crucial it is to take this sort of holistic approach to human systems—and yet, even if the full complexity of these systems are taken into account, even if we were to clearly understand how every single variable of human interaction affects the total equation of sustainable living, it is still not enough. This is why, alongside a developmental view of human consciousness, Ken Wilber’s Four Quadrant model is so essential to the climate change discussion. Our techno-economic systems represent only one of four irreducible dimensions of human experience, all of which must be taken into consideration if we are to fulfill our potential as stewards of this little blue-green marble.

The totality of our various systems represents the “Lower-Right” quadrant, or the “exterior of the collective.” The other dimensions are:

– the “Lower-Left” quadrant, or the “interior of the collective”: cultural realities, language, beliefs, world-views, sacred cows and taboos, etc.

– the “Upper-Left” quadrant, or the “interior of the individual”: psychological realities, consciousness, cognition, values, personal beliefs, etc.

– the “Upper-Right” quadrant, or the “exterior of the individual”: observable realities, behaviors, empirical knowledge, etc.

Again, the Four Quadrants help us orient ourselves to a truly comprehensive approach to climate change, contextualizing much of the current debate as an exploration of just one of four crucial dimensions of our interconnected world. By using the Four Quadrants as a guide, we take the full complexity of our 21st century problems into account while developing a roadmap to the next phase of human civilization.

What Are the Four Quadrants?

According to Integral Theory, there are at least 4 primary dimensions or perspectives through which we can experience the world: subjective, intersubjective, objective, and interobjective.

These 4 perspectives, represented graphically, are the upper-left, lower-left, upper-right, and lower-right quadrants.

In the subjective—or upper-left—quadrant, we find the world of our individual, interior experiences: our thoughts, emotions, memories, states of mind, perceptions, and immediate sensations—in other words, our “I” space.

In the intersubjective—or lower-left—quadrant, we find the world of our colletive, interior experiences: our shared values, meanings, language, relationships, and cultural background—in other words, our “we” space.

In the objective—or upper-right—quadrant, we find the world of individual, exterior things: our material body (including brain) and anything that you can see or touch (or observe scientifically) in time and space—in other words, our “it” space.

In the interobjective—or lower-right—quadrant, we find the world of collective, exterior things: systems, networks, technology, government, and the natural environment—in other words, our “its” space.

What’s the point of looking at the world through a 4-quadrant lens?

Simple answer: Anything less is narrow, partial and fragmented! Integral Theory maintains that all 4 quadrants are real—and all are important. So, for example, to the question of what is more real, the brain (with its neural pathways and structures) or the mind (with its thoughts and perceptions), Integral Theory answers: BOTH.

Moreover, we add that the mind and brain are situated in cultural and systemic contexts, which influence both inner experience and brain activity in irreducible ways.

What’s more important in human behavior? The psychology of the mind (upper left), or the cultural conditioning of the individual (lower left)? Integral Theory answers, again: BOTH. What is more critical in social development? The habits, customs, and norms of a culture (lower left), or the products it produces (like gun and steel – lower right). Integral Theory answers: BOTH.

All four quadrants are real, all are important, and all are essential for understanding your world.

While some might like to reduce reality to the mind (upper-left quadrant), and others to the brain (upper-right quadrant), and still others to the influence of cultural context (lower-left quadrant), and yet others to the effect of systems (“it’s the economy, stupid!” i.e., lower-right quadrant), Integral Theory holds that ALL 4 QUADRANTS are indispensable. The more we can consciously include the 4 quadrants in our perspective, the more whole, balanced, healthy, comprehensive, and effective our actions will be.

And it all boils down to just four dimensions. It’s as easy as I, we, it, and its!

An Overview of Stages of Consciousness

Infrared (archaic): Infrared Altitude signifies a degree of development that is in many ways imbedded in nature, body, and the gross realm in general. Infrared Altitude exhibits an archaic worldview, physiological needs (food, water, shelter, etc.), a self-sense that is minimally differentiated from its environment, and is in nearly all ways oriented towards physical survival. Although present in infants, infrared is rarely seen in adults except in cases of famine, natural disasters, or other catastrophic events. Infrared is also used as a kind of catch-all term for all earlier evolutionary stages and drives.

Magenta (egocentric, magic): Magenta Altitude began about 50,000 years ago, and tends to be the home of egocentric drives, a magical worldview, and impulsiveness. It is expressed through magic/animism, kin-spirits, and such. Young children primarily operate with a magenta worldview. Magenta in any line of development is fundamental, or “square one” for any and all new tasks. Magenta emotions and cognition can be seen driving such cultural phenomena as superhero-themed comic books or movies.

Red (ego- to ethnocentric, power): The Red Altitude began about 10,000 years ago, and is the marker of egocentric drives based on power, where “might makes right,” where aggression rules, and where there is a limited capacity to take the role of an “other.” Red impulses are classically seen in grade school and early high school, where bullying, teasing, and the like are the norm. Red motivations can be seen culturally in Ultimate Fighting contests, which have no fixed rules (fixed rules come into being at the next Altitude, Amber), teenage rebellion and the movies that cater to it (The Fast and the Furious), gang dynamics (where the stronger rule the weaker), and the like.

Amber (ethnocentric, mythic): The Amber Altitude began about 5,000 years ago, and indicates a worldview that is traditionalist and mythic in nature—and mythic worldviews are almost always held as absolute (this stage of development is often called absolutistic). Instead of “might makes right,” amber ethics are more oriented to the group, but one that extends only to “my” group. Grade school and high school kids usually exhibit amber motivations to “fit in.” Amber ethics help to control the impulsiveness and narcissism of red. Culturally, amber worldviews can be seen in fundamentalism (my God is right no matter what); extreme patriotism (my country is right no matter what); and ethnocentrism (my people are right no matter what).

Orange (worldcentric, rational): The Orange Altitude began about 500 years ago, during the period known as the European Enlightenment. In an orange worldview, the individual begins to move away from the amber conformity that reifies the views of one’s religion, nation, or tribe. The orange worldview often begins to emerge in late high school, college, or adulthood. Culturally, the orange worldview realizes that “truth is not delivered; it is discovered,” spurring the great advances of science and formal rationality. Orange ethics begin to embrace all people, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal….” Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, the US Bill of Rights, and many of the laws written to protect individual freedom all flow from an orange worldview.

Green (worldcentric, pluralistic): The Green Altitude began roughly 150 years ago, though it came into its fullest expression during the 1960’s. Green worldviews are marked by pluralism, or the ability to see that there are multiple ways of seeing reality. If orange sees universal truths (“All men are created equal”), green sees multiple universal truths—different universals for different cultures. Green ethics continue, and radically broaden, the movement to embrace all people. A green statement might read, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, regardless of race, gender, class….” Green ethics have given birth to the civil rights, feminist, and gay rights movements, as well as environmentalism.

The green worldview’s multiple perspectives give it room for greater compassion, idealism, and involvement, in its healthy form. Such qualities are seen by organizations such as the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, Union of Concerned Scientists, and Doctors Without Borders. In its unhealthy form green worldviews can lead to extreme relativism, where all beliefs are seen as relative and equally true, which can in turn lead to the nihilism, narcissism, irony, and meaninglessness exhibited by many of today’s intellectuals, academics, and trend-setters… not to mention another “lost” generation of students.

Teal (worldcentric to “kosmocentric,” integral): The Teal Altitude marks the beginning of an integral worldview, where pluralism and relativism are transcended and included into a more systematic whole. The transition from green to teal is also known as the transition from “1st-tier” values to “2nd-tier” values, the most immediate difference being the fact that each “1st-tier” value thinks it is the only truly correct value, while “2nd-tier” values recognize the importance of all preceding stages of development. Thus, the teal worldview honors the insights of the green worldview, but places it into a larger context that allows for healthy hierarchies, and healthy value distinctions.

Perhaps most important, a teal worldview begins to see the process of development itself, acknowledging that each one of the previous stages (magenta through green) has an important role to play in the human experience. Teal consciousness sees that each of the previous stages reveals an important truth, and pulls them all together and integrates them without trying to change them to “be more like me,” and without resorting to extreme cultural relativism (“all are equal”). Teal worldviews do more than just see all points of view (that’s a green worldview)—it can see and honor them, but also critically evaluate them.

Turquoise (“kosmocentric,” integral): Turquoise is a mature integral view, one that sees not only healthy hierarchy but also the various quadrants of human knowledge, expression, and inquiry (at the minimum: I, we, and it). While teal worldviews tend to be secular, turquoise is the first to begin to integrate Spirit as a living force in the world (manifested through any or all of the 3 Faces of God: “I”—e.g. the “No self” or “witness” of Buddhism; “we/thou”—e.g. the “great other” of Christianity, Judaism, Hindusm, Islam, etc.; or “it”—e.g. the “Web of Life” seen in Taoism, Pantheism, etc.).

More Resources:

The State of the World Forum

Hours of free interviews with Climate Change experts like Richard Hames, Hunter Lovins, Lester Brown, Bill McKibben, and many others….

  1. norikostale
    August 17, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    Hi: I have mixed feelings as I read your post. First I am pleased to see such an article, finally an alternative to strictly green perspectives on the subject. But as I read I wondered if a post like this, which to a large extent is a restating/summarizing of Wilber’s work, is the optimum approach. After all, if people want to read Wilber, they can readily go online and do so.

    So what would be an alternative? How about if instead of restating integral philosophy, you make an effort to ILLUSTRATE it thru posts which tackle various social issues. All we get these days from society is “debates” between green and blue (or green and orange – using the Spiral Dynamics colors). Blue-orange says “we have to control our border!” and green replies “you must be a racist!” End of conversation. How about a post in which you tried to offer an integral perspective on that subject, going beyond the extremism, the black-and-white thinking inherent in the stuckness?

    The fact that integral is accepting of others where they are doesn’t mean that we can’t publish material that may just move them. It seems to me that the biggest opportunity that exists now is to challenge the greens who are ready to advance, if only they were given some guidance, a perspective alternative to the green perspective that is hammered at us every day.

    My sense is that extreme green tends to lock both orange and blue into their positions, rather than to invite them to consider alternatives. What will it take to invite ready greens to move? My guess is that though the above post may be a good start, you will need to write something more ENGAGING….

    Good luck! Jim


    • August 17, 2009 at 2:11 pm

      Hey Jim, thanks for the great feedback.

      And i agree–this post was just intended to be an “info-bomb” of integral theory, which will hopefully support future explorations into more particular issues, as you recommend i do. I took a similar approach when i posted the “Integral Trans-Partisan Politics” piece, which was another recapitulation of Ken’s work in the context of political science, and which i followed with a piece looking at current events in Iran.

      Believe me, i am far more interested in the real-life application of integral in the world (such as my recent pieces about race and gender) than i am in abstract meta-theory (which is saying a lot, considering how much i love the pure theory)–and you are right, if someone wants to know Ken’s theory they can find it themselves online. But i figured i would offer my own expressions of the Integral vision here on my blog, if only to offer the essential concepts without forcing someone to hop around the internet trying to fill in the gaps.

      Thanks again for the comment, Jim!

  2. @juxte
    August 17, 2009 at 4:05 pm

    Hey Corey, Just a thought:
    Based on my personal experience, oil companies are some of the most sophisticated organizations in the world, filled with vision logic, systems thinking and cognitively advanced individuals. Of course this is just a generalization, but the engineers, geophysicists, biologists, process designers, accountants, lawyers and business geniuses that come together to work on extremely complex projects with a multiplicity of moving pieces requires what is at least an “uncommon” level of cognition and creativity in my opinion.
    I’d be curious to hear your explanation of this. What do you make of this? Would you say that these organizations represent an unhealthy form of development? Do you think I am overestimating the level of complexity at which they are capable of functioning? Maybe they are less advanced than the Sierra Club? Are these people all suffering from asymmetrical development of the various lines, so like “mean greenies” they are still at mythic or lower levels on the moral stream? Or is there a more nuanced version of reality at play here?

    • August 17, 2009 at 8:26 pm

      Hey Justin, thanks for dropping by!

      You asked “Or is there a more nuanced version of reality at play here?”

      When talking about the integral map (especially altitudes of consciousness), i think it is always fair to assume that reality is far too nuanced to fit in our charts and graphs–even if we are using our very best, most comprehensive, and most meaningful charts and graphs. Which is one of the reasons why i love Ken’s description of altitudes of consciousness as “probability waves”–it really softens the boundaries and emphasizes the spontaneity and occasional absurdity of our moment-to-moment experiences. Even if we were to bring the full arsenal of integral philosophy to bear, including quadrants, quadrivia, lines, states, stages, types, etc., all of which would offer an important piece of the puzzle, the total puzzle itself would still only look like a skeletal approximation of reality, a momentary snapshot of infinity, a crude carving in the cave of being. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatiolon, than are dreamt of in integral philosophy.

      Without having personally met any oil company executives or employees, i can say that i am not at all surprised by what you say. I think that there are a great number of vision-logic thinkers at work in the world, especially those in careers that deal with issues of massive complexity. And i think you are correct when you point to the difference between cognitive development and moral development as they play out from individual to individual. For example, i know Sean Esbjorn-Hargens is fond of pointing out that both self-identity and values lines seem to lag a full stage or two behind our cognitive development.

      But of course, even the most highly developed individuals are not working in a vacuum–they are plugged into entire industries, and in the case of “Big Oil”, extremely powerful industries, themselves plugged into a massively complex matrix of political, industrial, military, and economic realities. I think it’s probably fair to say that the more powerful an individual or company becomes, the more seductive that power becomes–that is, the more “above the law” someone or something becomes (in the sense of being free from accountability to amber, orange, and green legal/ethical codes), the more our “red” is free to do whatever the fuck it wants. Money is not the root of all evil. Lack of accountability is.

      Which is not at all to say that the average engineer, biologist, lawyer, etc. is seduced by power simply by virtue of working in the oil industry–but industries like these tend to be such power-and-profit-driven zeitgeists unto themselves that even the most well-developed and well-intentioned individual would have a very hard time doing anything to cut through the status quo. Sadly, the power elite and the developmental elite don’t seem to have a lot of overlap =\

  3. Derek
    August 22, 2009 at 12:30 pm

    Nice!: “For example, i know Sean Esbjorn-Hargens is fond of pointing out that both self-identity and values lines seem to lag a full stage or two behind our cognitive development.” –C.D. from the comments section . . .

    And from what I’ve observed at least two stages behind on average. Such a differentiation of the nuances helps to differentiate and clarify the emerging world centrism of the rational industrial stage as a spear point of awareness, the sharp edge of cognition, and a mere linear logic level of intellect (e.g. linear perspective organization of thinking). But when it comes to identity, values, emotional development, and so on, it appears to be much more correct to refer to the rational industrial stage as market or nation/state centric–at least a huge level or two from a true world centric grounding.

  4. Susan Oliver
    August 25, 2009 at 10:40 pm

    Each time the integral map is placed upon an article, conversation or issue in general, I find more clarity. I’ve been reading Wilber since the 80’s and have all but 2 of his books. That being said, for many people trying to put the theory (map) to the issue discussed takes time. So your including the graphs etc. can help others to better understand how to use the theory (map). You are an amazing teacher, I’ve thanked you before because you have a gift of clarifying Wilber’s message in a way that more people will be able to become familiar with it’s use. If people already know it, skip the the graphs. You bring so much to any message or subject you write about. I’ve been looking at those charts for almost 30 years and I still learn something from the way you present your message and the way you integrate it with Wilber’s theory.

    The advantage you have is your compassion and dedication to others is as great or greater than the message and intellect that you are teaching us. Keep it up… I know it can’t be easy.

  5. September 5, 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Hey Corey! I could spend a lot of time talking about the oil remediation I have done in Boston but that would give the “it” too much of our attention. I have struggled with that one for a long time.

    I can say that Walmart is carrying organic yogurt and green building materials. Somehow they are worried about their image (can’t imagine why..) but I think if they do go out of their way to do the right thing let’s applaud that. Think about the exposure their customers are getting. Then maybe Target or Sears or random box store X might join in. Right now Green is like Gucci. It’s hot. I say we let this play out and not let it die. LEED is making sense to people. They say that greenwashing, no matter how lame, can be good because it puts the ideas out there. The ideas were what your article is about, right? Getting the thought in people’s heads so the physical world one day matches up.

    Our president is funding green building initiatives. That really freaks me out!! Honest! It’s like.. is this actually happening? Let’s stop questioning everything to death and just run with it, everyone will be behind us.

    • September 6, 2009 at 12:42 pm

      Hey Brian! Thanks for commenting. Completely agree about Walmart–it is actually really exciting that we can now begin cutting through the myth that “going green” is simply too expensive to pull off. There is a great talk on Integral Life between Hunter Lovins and Jim Garrison titled Making the Case for Sustainable Business that discusses exactly this, and mentions Walmart and DuPont specifically for their green initiatives. Here’s what i wrote about the talk–see if any of this catches your intrigue:

      Natural Capitalism: Making the Case for Sustainable Business
      Hunter Lovins and Jim Garrison

      Hunter Lovins, President and Founder of Natural Capital Solutions, talks with Jim Garrison about some of the real-world solutions to climate change that are already taking effect around the world. While many people condemn big business and big industry as anti-ethical to the environmental movement, Hunter helps makes the case that these sorts of large companies are actually in a better position than most to deal with the bulk of the ecological problems we are all aware of. Sound too idealistic? What if we told you that many of these companies have already begun cutting carbon emissions, reducing waste, and increasing efficiency, without any sort of major incentive from the governments of the world.

      Why are they doing it? Simple: to turn a profit! Surprised? Be sure to listen to this interview for more details. If you have ever wondered how we can begin to accelerate our response to climate change in the short term, you will find Hunter’s insights invaluable.

      Topics Include:

      • Belief vs. Reality: Jim asks Hunter what she thinks about the stubborn denial we often see in political and economic reactions to climate change, to which she responds by saying “the Earth doesn’t care about what you believe in.” There is a lot to be done, and not much time to do it in—no one likes the precarious situation we find ourselves in, but putting our collective heads in the sand isn’t going to make things any better….

      • Green Rewards for Green Solutions: Cutting against conventional wisdom, the degradation of the environment is not due to the inherently destructive nature of capitalism. Quite the contrary, we are damaging the planet because we are being bad capitalists. Hunter makes the extremely important (and seldom heard) point that we don’t need to drive our budget into the ground in order to adapt to the mounting pressures of climate change—in fact, businesses can begin eliminating waste and increasing efficiency right now, while turning a substantial profit doing so.

      • The Principles of Natural Capitalism: Hunter explains the three-step approach she takes when working with major companies to help steer them on the path toward sustainable operations: first, buying ourselves more time by eliminating unnecessary waste throughout society. Second, re-conceptualize how we manufacture and deliver goods and services. Third, help restore human and natural capital (i.e. “people” and “planet”) as explicit bottom lines for businesses everywhere. How successful has this approach been? You might be surprised….

      • Keeping Up with the Abelones: Consider one of the most fundamental laws of the physical universe: energy is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes from one form to another. Now that is efficiency. Hunter talks about some of the exciting new developments that are coming out of the field of biomimicry, which attempts to learn from the natural intelligence of evolution and allow that intelligence to inform and align our own technological innovations, helping us to develop more efficient and more creative solutions to the ecological crisis we all find ourselves in.

      • Exemplars of Sustainable Business: Believe it or not, we are already beginning to see a bit of a sea change in the way some companies conduct their business, taking the initiative to reduce their carbon footprints and phase into much more sustainable practices. And we aren’t just talking about local kite shops in Boulder, Colorado, but massive companies like DuPont and Walmart who are beginning to set a lead for other companies to follow.

      As you probably already know, making the required institutional changes that would help mitigate the effects of climate change is an exceptionally daunting task. It seems that we need to make so many changes in such a narrow amount of time, it’s like turning an aircraft carrier around on a dime—there is simply so much societal momentum at our backs, pushing us down the same soot-covered road we’ve been on for decades. A great many people are beginning to see a cliff at the end of this road, a nearly bottomless plunge that we may never be able to crawl out of again if we step too far over the edge.

      Recognizing our seemingly imminent peril has helped galvanize a great many people to begin trying to initiate the sort of change we need to see in the next few years. But it has not been easy. Human nature tends to struggle with long-term change, responding only to the problems that we are facing right now, and putting off our more abstract problems—no matter how urgent—until much later, when we begin to feel the effects. And by then, of course, it is often too late.

      But here is the twisted irony—we are in this situation not because capitalism is inherently destructive, but because we are being bad capitalists. That is, there are ways to become environmentally sustainable without adding a massive burden to the budget sheets—we can, in fact, begin to clean up the environment at a profit! Highlighting these aspects of sustainability has allowed people like Hunter Lovins to find much greater success in working with large companies, helping to minimize waste and maximize efficiency, thereby maximizing profits in a very short period of time. We may be resistant to change in the abstract, but if there is a profit to be made, we will jump right on it. Talk about “going green….”

      Of course, this flies in the face of the sort of bureaucratic resistance we have seen in governments and corporations when confronted with the great preponderance of scientists who say we need to respond to the pressures of climate change right now. In many cases, people are actually spreading lies (or at least half-truths) about the real-world implications of cutting carbon emissions, saying things like a 7% decrease would bankrupt even the largest and most profitable companies. No one seems to have told this to companies like DuPont, who self-initiated a plan to cut their carbon emissions by 65% by 2010—a goal they have already met, and which has saved them an average of 2.2 billon dollars per year. Walmart must have also missed class that day, since they have recently declared their bold ambitions to become 100% powered by renewable resources, to eliminate their carbon footprint, and to only sell environmentally sustainable products.

      What is going on with these companies? It’s not like we’ve seen a sudden flurry of eco-friendly mission statements, a new gamut of incentives from the governments, or packs of CEOs-gone-philanthropists roaming the streets and picking up litter. It’s all just good business—common sense, really. Maximize the efficiency, minimize the waste, and pass the savings on to the shareholders. Including the people and the planet in a company’s bottom line does not hinder its profitability; it actually enhances every aspect of its value—to shareholders, to employees, and to the world.

      We live in very precarious times, and it is hard not to feel inundated by fear and anxiety when we think of problems so massive and so complex as climate change. It is as though the more we open our minds and our hearts, the more pain, perplexity, and plight we begin to see. But as overwhelming as it can be, there is more than enough cause to be hopeful—as Hunter reminds us, we are faced with a very practical set of problems, with very practical solutions. It’s not like evolution has never steered itself to the brink before—the self-organizing system that it is, evolution triggers its own emergence by creating the right sets of problems at just the right time, forcing a species into an existential ultimatum: evolve or die.

      We are already beginning to see hints of evolution occurring all around us, all over the world, as the human race continues to find new ways to thrive and adapt in a rapidly changing world. We see it in the work of pioneers like Hunter Lovins, Jim Garrison, Ken Wilber, and thousands of others around the world. We see it in countries like Brazil who are stepping up to the real challenges of our times, forging a new path for other industrialized nations of the world. And we see it in people like you, who are seeking new ways to relate to the planet, to each other, and to yourselves; ensuring that we all have a future on this precious little rock.


  6. September 6, 2009 at 2:29 pm

    I’m trying to answer your questions!

    How are you going to convince someone to care about the future of the planet if they believe that we are currently living in the biblical End Days, and that the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will occur in our lifetime?
    Tell them that being a good steward of the land is in the bible too.
    Bible Verses Related to Stewardship
    Genesis 2:2-3 – God rested
    Psalm 118:24 – The Lord’s Day
    Ecclesiastes 3:1 – A time for everything
    Matthew 25:15-30 – Parable of Talents
    Luke 12:15 – Abundance
    Matthew 6:20 – Treasures in heaven
    Matthew 10:8 – Freely given, freely give
    I Kings 17:1-16 – Widow of Zarephath
    Genesis 1: 31 – Creation is Good
    Genesis 2:15-20 – Adam as steward
    Psalm 104 – Creation Psalm
    Matthew 6:25-34 – Lilies of the Field
    Matthew 19:16-22 – Love neighbor
    Luke 19:1-10 – Zaccheus
    Mark 12:41-44 – Widow’s Mite
    Luke 10:30-37 – Good Samaritan
    John 6:1-14 – Feeding 5000
    Luke 15:11-32 – Forgiving Father
    Leviticus 27:30-32 -Tithing
    Deuteronomy 16:17 – Give as blessed
    Matthew 6:31-34 – First things first
    Matthew 22:34-30 – 2 commandments
    Mark 10:17-25 – Riches
    Luke 16 – Faithful stewardship
    Luke 18:9-14 – Pharisee A tax collector
    Romans 12:1 – Offer yourself to God
    I Corinthians 16:1- 2 – Money to help
    II Corinthians 5:16- 6:2 – Work together
    II Corinthians 8:1-12 – Generosity
    II Corinthians 9:6-15 – Generosity
    Ephesians 2:1-10 – Created for good work
    I Peter 1:3-5 – Born anew
    I Peter 2:9-10 – God’s own people
    I John 4:13-21 – We love because of God’s love for us

    How do you expect a Wall Street executive to have long-term concerns about eliminating carbon emissions if all he cares about are short-term profits?
    Make going green profitable in the short term. Whole Foods Market seems to get lots of money out of people’s wallets. I should know I worked there.

    How do you convince a hardened gang member of the virtues of recycling when all he is trying to do is live to see tomorrow?
    Get him a job at the recycling plant so he can look forward to tomorrow’s paycheck. http://www.p2pays.org/ref/34/33912.pdf

  1. August 17, 2009 at 2:20 pm
  2. September 10, 2009 at 4:00 pm

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