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Monday
Dec162013

Leadership and equality are at the centre of Limits to Growth 

September 2013 -- The Limits to Growth presents arguably the most influential environmental message of the past 100 years. Critiqued for being apolitical, disregarding issues of distribution and equity, ignoring technological development, or infringing on freedom; politicians, industry and individuals around the world have found plenty of reasons not to listen to its messages. One of the main thing the younger members of the group appreciated was the patient optimism that scientists have maintained since the publication of Limits to growth over 40 years ago. Dennis reminded us about the sign that Donella used to keep on her office door: “Even if the world were to end tomorrow, I would still plant a tree today.”

In this year’s Balaton meeting, the thread was constantly weaving between technological optimism, pessimism and the need for a fundamental paradigm shift in the way we envision our common future. We spent some time exploring the past: Dennis presented how technology was incorporated into the World 3 model and an old Balaton brief from Donella addresses how technological development could be conceptualized to scale-up to meet global challenges in a locally-based, context sensitive manner. We reflected on how incumbent power interests ingrained in the core of our neoliberal global economy lock-in unsustainable trajectories and the opportunities and risks of new and emerging technologies such as synthetic biology, geoengineering and agricultural intensification among others. At the core of finding solutions to these difficult questions is: how do we create the future we want? Maja Göpel, in her presentation, emphasized the need to clarify human needs vs human wants.

Looking into the future to secure these human and planetary needs, Derk Loorback used transition theory to provide structure in mobilizing small-scale initiatives to shift higher-level structures. Our group questioned when chaos and confusion is necessary to open up a larger solution space vs. actually nailing down a vision to work towards.  Deborah Rogers provided a compelling argument that more equal societies have historically been more sustainable, and working on improving global equality should be our priority. How does equality contribute to either this confusion, or this vision for the future?

Deborah made a clear distinction between equality and equity: equality being equal access to rights, and equity being a fair or right distribution of those rights.  A question we asked was, can we achieve equity through equitable leadership, and how do we foster and create a space for equitable leadership to emerge? If one introduces technology in an unjust society, how does it play out? Technology for whom? Technology by whom? Various speakers highlighted the danger of allowing incumbent interests to create dominant pathways difficult to break-free from. No technology is free from power. Moreover, no technology is a silver bullet. Beth Sawin and Tom Fiddaman demonstrated with their new En-Roads model, http://climateinteractive.org/simulations/en-roads, that even if a cheap, implementable low carbon technology was introduced, we could not achieve a 2-degree world. Thinking about distributional costs and benefits in a not an option, it’s a must.

So implementation of technology is about flattening the leadership. But is sustainable leadership possible? Is it always flattening? What kinds of social technology can help us achieve a sustainability transition? Trista Patterson provided many compelling examples from social media on how bottom up technologies are being diffused and helping us monitor biodiversity loss, energy emissions, and share stories of hope. Leap-frogging can’t happen from the top-down only, but also needs to be from the bottom up. Knowledge is at the base of social technology. Ashok Gadgil shared with us the moving success story of how appropriate energy efficient stoves have saved lives and millions of dollars for Internally Displaces Peoples in Darfur, through linking young people at Berkeley with local initiatives. Alan Atkisson is busy launching the 2030 Pyramid initiative: http://pyramid2030.net/, with the potential for replication around the globe.

So how does equality and leadership factor into Limits to Growth? We were lucky to see a screening of “Last Call” a new film about the story of the Limits to Growth. It left most of us with a mixed feeling of sadness and hope. Dennis told us that in 1972 he really thought that when these limits were defined and presented to the world, and we knew what we had to achieve, people would act. The film does a great job at working through various critiques and shifting political interests over time. Reagan condemned Limits as a fundamental threat to individual rights and freedoms; arguable creating a political environment of even greater inequality. You can watch the trailer of the film here: http://www.lastcallthefilm.org/

40 years of science, campaigning, outreach, dialogue and art, we must realize that we’re up against something really strong here, some very strong political and market forces. But we mustn’t give up: as Ashok humourously reminded us, heretics have been burned at the stake for much less radical claims than limits to growth, and we should at be happy that we’re all alive. 

 

R: Jamila Haider

Group: Alan, Isak, Niclas, John H, Elek 

Report to Balaton Group meeting Sept 2013 

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Reader Comments (2)

Yes quality is the main and a positive step for the growth.

February 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHexder

Leadership quality matters in every aspect or in practical life. It Updates and Mentally strong the person.

February 28, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLethal Weapon Leather Jacket

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