Different views. Whatever views imaginable – they probably exist!

I’m today thinking about some extremes. Here are two pieces of media that talk to climate change, social issues, biodiversity and how we should solve all our problems as a global society faced with existential issues.

The first is an Oxford debating society talk (7 minutes) given by Konstantin Kisin. It is brilliantly delivered, articulate, compelling, simple, evidenced based, entertaining and amusing. Yet in my opinion, utterly, completely, hopelessly flawed. And just plain wrong.

The second article by Michel Bauwens of the P2P foundation (introduction to Commons Economics) is technical, opaque, complicated, difficult to understand, full of jargon, long winded and at times inaccessible. To me at least. However, in my opinion, the article is brilliant, thoughtful, inspiring, hopeful, intelligent and innovative. It articulates key ideas fundamental to uncovering solutions to our big problems. 

So let me explain…. Both are worth watching/reading after this blog if you have not yet done so. But to save you time for now I will try to summarise. Konstantin’s argument centres around the fact that the UK only emits 2% of global pollution and the major polluters are Asia and South America. These economies house vast numbers of starving people who will never be convinced to not strive for economic prosperity and the rich west will never be convinced to give up their toilets in favour of a hole-in-the-ground hunter gatherer subsistence lifestyle. The solution he proffers therefore is that the ONLY way to solve these existential issues is for young people to stop complaining (and in particular stop throwing paint at paintings) and to focus their energies on inventing new technology to get us out of this mess we have created. Sounds good? 

Wrong. To claim that more tech innovation and even more of what we have done so far will get us out of the mess we are in is sheer madness. Doing the same thing and expecting different results is Einstein’s definition of madness. Doing much more of the same thing and expecting different results has to be insanity-on-acid!

Michel offers a more considered debate. Starting with a well rehearsed summary of the issues created by economics/capitalism on natural and finite resources. Economics says:

  • If it has no price it has no value
  • We price scarcity through markets
  • We pay no attention to natural resources whether abundant/regenerative or finite. We just extract and enclose.
  • Informational resources on the other hand, scale at a near zero marginal cost (the cost of one ebook versus two).

That’s a fairly simple precis, but I think it covers some of the key points.

Commons Economics asks communities to regenerate their natural resources wherever possible and never extract more than 1% to ensure future generations have natural / social resources to work with. Commons economics provides communities the ability to work within the grain of the biosphere to make the income necessary to satisfy peoples “needs” (ending malnutrition becomes a real possibility) but puts a limit on “wants” (how much is enough?) and further suggests that some things have natural limits: citing an example of eating as something that has a natural “limit” – although I have seen videos of people pushing their natural limits!

The call to action from Michel is that we should all work to care for the Commons which is a collection of social / natural and community resources that are shared for the benefit of all, not enclosed for the purpose of promoting more extraction and inequality.

We need to talk more. We need to do more. That was the conclusion from our last interview from The Value Exchange podcast. Annabelle Lambert and I have just interviewed former Police Chief Constable Bill Skelly. What might a better Social Value Exchange look like? How about our Environmental Value Exchange? And not forgetting The Biodiversity Value Exchange. And how does this link to our Economic Value Exchange?

What does it even mean to talk to others with differing views and cultures about these things. What would it be like talking to Konstantin Kisin? Really understanding each other. What could we actually do together (collaborate) that we would agree to? How could we trust one another given our polarized views? Is there any point in which we could moderate our interests without giving up on the debate altogether?

In my optimistic moments, I believe there is.

We can no longer placate our consciences by writing a cheque for planting trees to “offset” carbon emissions and think “that’s enough”. We can no longer look at “cheque book philanthropy” as something that can deliver sustainable value by itself. We have to challenge ourselves deeply to look at the real costs and consequences of our capital accumulation.

An offsetting mindset won’t work by itself. Nor can organisations function by their past behaviours without recognising that those behaviours have collectively caused the present and future that is challenging us existentially. Writing a nice glossy report on social or environmental value will not work without more collective consciousness and participation from employees in the “dialogue and doing” of “people and planet” issues. We all need to become social value practitioners. Unless ALL organisations become mission and purpose driven the dichotomy of capital versus planet will continue “as is”. No one, no organisation can “outsource” this conversation, these and the consequences of inaction. 

Ethos’ own contribution to the Commons is the Value Exchange / Value Recognition process and some fairly heavy experimentation on the systems theory that underpins it. We have developed a set of tools which we have now made open source. Of course, they are no use if nobody is using them. Their target needs to be those who are rich in the mainly developed nations. Underprivileged, excluded or disadvantaged people too can certainly benefit as well but the enormous resistance that will come from those who seek to perpetuate current behaviours rather than change must be our main target. This is the culture change at its most difficult.

Value Exchange and the above arguments present significant issues for me personally – not just for those I talk and work with. I need to figure this change for myself. I must change the last line of my current mission and deal with the fact that some aspects of personal change scares the wits out of me!  I don’t yet know what some of that painful change looks like. It’s not just my household carbon footprint which is large but the social / biological impact of my work environment even though it has been mostly virtual now for over 20 years.  And I have been on two international holidays per annum with most of my family each year up to the pandemic.

What are YOU going to do? Recycling is a worthy step, yes! Talking and doing with others – brilliant. Yes! Doing more social / environmental stuff. Yes! Building and executing you social value exchange?  That’s awesome!