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An inquiry from Ruben Nelson

  • 1.  An inquiry from Ruben Nelson

    Posted 12-11-2018 10:22
    I have been reading and contributing to what I have come to call the conversation/literature of cultural/civilizational crisis and transformation since the mid-1960s.  I assume that you know as well as I do that there are a host of folks working in some way or other who are actually thinking about the path we are on, our need to get off it and the prospects for a somewhat more promising future.

    My question is this:  do you know of any person or centre or website that is devoted to tracking, assessing, critiquing, and curating the ideas of the growing number of folks who are engaged in this work?  I am seeking to identify persons or groups whose contribution is to take a reflexive and integrated meta-perspective on the work in order to see the patterns of thought, the logic of the arguments, the blind spots, the dead ends, the promising, but now neglected avenues, etc.?  I do not.

    It seems to me that we need such an integrated meta-perspective.


    If you wish to respond off-line:

    Thank you.

    Ruben Nelson
    Foresight Canada

  • 2.  RE: An inquiry from Ruben Nelson

    Posted 12-12-2018 01:26
    Dear Ruben,

    There are indeed a host of such communities. Some suggestions:

    -  Club of Rome ; see e.g. their 'Climate emergency plan'. Note that CoR also has a branch in Canada: CACOR.
    The Next System Project
    -  Great Transition Initiative
    -  SDG Transformations Forum: Home
    -  The Next Evolution of Economics - Evonomics

    An absolutely important work for the meta-perspective you talk about is

    Chapman, Kelly (2015). Complexity and Creative Capacity. Rethinking knowledge transfer, adaptive management and wicked environmental problems. New York – London: Routledge.
    She definitely offers 'a reflexive and integrated meta-perspective in order to see the patterns of thought, the logic of the arguments, the blind spots, the dead ends, the promising, but now neglected avenues'. A must read, if you ask me. 

    I hope this is what you were looking for !

    Anne Snick
    SAPIRR - Systems Approach to Public Innovation and Responsible Research

  • 3.  RE: An inquiry from Ruben Nelson

    Posted 12-12-2018 12:05



    Thank you for the reference to the book.  I may well be helpful. 


    As for the groups you list, I know them all and participate in some of their discussions.  None is what I am looking for.


    It is one thing to know that "we need something else (than that which we now have)" – a common human experience.  It is quite another to be clear about just what it is that one wants and needs next – also a common human condition. 


    In order to grasp the "next thing we truly need" we have to have worked though these questions and the line of logic they reveal:


    ·         Just how tainted are we?  How tainted is the Modern world we now have?  How much of what we now are and have must we let go of, transform, redeem?  Thank of doctors doing surgery on a person with cancer, unless they get it all, over time the patient is not all that much better off.   So, yes, today's discussions of "a new system", a "great turning", a "great transition', an "ecological civilization", an "eco-Marxist society", etc., is that they all have a laundry list of bad habits we must stop, and a list of the desirable features of the tomorrow they hope for.  But none has a model of Modern civilization as such.  Therefore, none are able to say with any confidence that the alternatives they propose are not simply warmed over versions of Modernity.  They know we need to get "out" of Modernity, but as of today they have no way of telling for sure when they are "out" and beyond the influences they would have us escape.  As a result almost all of the transformational work that is "moving us to a wholly new future" is far more tainted with Modernity than its advocates realize. 


    Most do not even understand that the prime objective of the now world-wide sustainability industry, form the beginning, has been to ensure the long-term future of Modernity.  Making Modernity sustainable and globally accessible has been the core shared passion that unites and drives most of the money and energy since the end of WWII.  This has not changed in the UN's SDGs, although the tone is now softer and more respectful of others.  However, the meta-reflexive question of whether Modernity can be made to be sustainable is not asked with any degree of seriousness.  It is simply assumed away.


    If the groups you mention, and those offered by others had already a developed capacity for corporate self-critical meta-reflexive insight, thought and action, they would already know this.  Sadly, at best, this newly emergent capacity is still dim and scattered among them, rather than up-front and robust.


    And, yes, it is asking a lot for a global sub-culture to emerge with a developed capacity for corporate self-critical meta-reflexive insight, thought and action, especially in situations, such as our own, when this capacity is not a feature of Modernity, when tempers are short, voices are loud, and fear spreads as fast as a gasoline-fed fire.  But, for good and ill, I have come to the conclusion that this is the challenge we face, if we even want to make reliable sense of the situation we are in, much less develop the capacities to respond to it adequately. 


    Just so you know, I am working on a written piece and a You Tube video that are intended to surface the deep questions on which our future may well hang, but that cannot be seen with Modern eyes.  Give me a couple of weeks.


    And, of course, I recognize that my take on our situation may well be a mis-take. 




    Ruben Nelson

    Executive Director

    Foresight Canada


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  • 4.  RE: An inquiry from Ruben Nelson

    Posted 12-17-2018 02:45
    I'm not exactly sure what you  are after but have a look here:

    Sustainia [they published a cool little book "Repaint the Future"]
    Knowledge Synthesis



    Nele Schmitz
    GTTN senior scientist
    Thünen Institute of Forest Genetics
    Sieker Landstraße 2
    22927 Großhansdorf,Germany
    Tel. ++49 4102 696 108

    Knowledge is the only resource that grows with use