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From one’s own place how to leverage powerful actions to address the climate crisis

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By Rob Moir

On July, 25, 2018, in Boston Harbor many striped bass chased thousands of menhaden fish.  They raced headlong under the Mystic River bridge and up the river.  Before the Amelia Earhart Dam that stretches from Somerville’s Assembly Square to Everett, all the fish rolled up dead having swum into an ocean dead zone.  The incoming tide carried a few hundred through the locks to litter the freshwater shore.  Thousands of fish were pushed up by a Southwesterly summer breeze onto the Everett Shore, covering the water surface with bloated fish bodies.  The next day, stepping out of my car parked at Cosco’s Tire Center, the stench was palpable.

“Nothing fishy: Thousands of pogies washed up in Everett, but it’s due to natural causes,” ballyhooed the Boston Globe (July 26, 2018).  On the surface of it, literally fish carnage carpeting the water, there were no signs of human toxins and meddling.  So let’s call it death by natural causes.  Besides, the fishery council had forced fishermen to reduce their catch of menhaden (called for by striped bass fishermen because their fish were starving.) Now with an abundance of menhaden, we were told to ignore this really smelly event.

The most powerful actions we may take to address climate change are not obvious.  It is difficult to even imagine how the amount of greenhouse gasses we release could contribute to a hurricane gathering energy when passing over ocean water in 24 hours.  In a day, hurricanes go from category 4 to 5, where a category 5 hurricane is four times as powerful as 4.  Of all that energy retained from escaping the planet by greenhouse gasses, the whale share goes into the ocean.

For the dead fish in the Mystic, the newspaper went with the simplest answer and blamed the ocean dead zone, assuming such tragic phenomena are natural.  They happen all the time.  This reminds me of the roadrunner cartoon where the bird serenely steps aside while a big boulder crashes down missing him by inches.  Some blame the boulder for falling.  Others blame Wile E. Coyote up on the ledge holding an oversized crow bar used to leverage a rock that is no longer there.

In Falmouth, Massachusetts, people did not stop at simply blaming an ocean dead zone for the death of sixteen striped bass and one horseshoe crab found in Little Pond on a hot July day in 2012.  They looked to the lawns stretching down to the water and blamed the spread of excess fertilizers.  The summer folk of Falmouth may love their ocean views created by sweeping lawns, but they love the idea of catching and eating striped bass even more.

A good sized striped bass, as were the ones found that fateful day, are the supreme sport fish. Casting from a rolling boat or from the rocks of a jetty jutting out from a sandy shore the tug and play of a striped bass is an indelible experience that never fades.  The year of the dead fish, 2012, was the same year when the Maryland Department of Natural Resources reported the fewest young striped bass in the Chesapeake Bay.  Record lows were due primarily to a lack of forage fish, menhaden and herring. When menhaden populations later increased, so too did the stripers.

For the lobstermen out of Falmouth, adding algal insult to injury, was the need to carry large vats of boiling water in the back of their small craft.  Lobster traps were dunked into the vat to clear them of thirty to forty pounds of weed.  If not cleared of weed, the soggy weight would break trap lines and gear would be lost.  The algae were growing thick because of an abundance of nutrients, mostly nitrogen in the water.  With big lawns looking from the water like protruding tongues, lobstermen cursed the wealthy estates.  You bet a ban on lawn fertilizing in Falmouth.

The bylaw Falmouth passed prohibited the spread of more than one-pound of fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn in a year.  This was a vast improvement over the recommended application of one pound per thousand square feet of lawn five times a year, or five pounds per thousand square feet a year.  Any more than one pound per application will burn the grass. Any more than five applications between Easter and Columbus Day will burn the grass. (The directions on bags of fertilizer are to spread thickly on Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day and in the fall, they could not wait until Columbus Day to make that sale.) Further cleaning the waters, Falmouth prohibited the use of the standard quick-release fertilizers and permitted only slow-release applied no more than one half pound in spring and one half in the fall.

Actually the Falmouth bylaw was consistent with how many golf courses treat their fairways.  That is, only spread fertilizer when grass needs it; the amount grass will take up; and make sure all fertilizer goes to the grass. No fertilizer should be washed into waterways or percolated down into groundwater because that would be a waste expensive product.

Slow-release fertilizer is best practice because bits of nitrogen are surrounded by a smooth coating that dissolves in water overtime.  When there is sufficient moisture for grass grow, not too cold, not too dry, the nitrogen is released slowly over weeks.  The most available slow-release fertilizers, for example Osmocote, puts nutrients for soil microbes into the coatings to help restore the microbial ecology of the dirt beneath lawns.

Fertilizer companies increase sales and profits by mixing slow-release with quick-release fertilizer.  Releasing the fertilizer slowly means more of the mixture may be applied before harming the grass plants. Thus, Watertown recommends three pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet applied three times a year, or nine pounds of nitrogen per year instead of five, or in Falmouth, one.  In Watertown, they say be happy its organic.  For blooming cyanobacteria, a.k.a. blue-green algae, nitrogen is all the same.

Use of a modest amount of slow-release in the fall encourages roots that had been swimming in fertilizer to grow deeper.  When grass plants grow deeper roots they become more resilient and put on more foliage.  Denser grass plants resist weeds and pests better than lawns where much quick-release is spread.  Odd how the spread of more quick-release fertilizer results in increased sales of pest and weed control products, including one mixture called Weed and Feed.

Since the Falmouth Bylaw of 2012, a dramatic reduction in the application of fertilizer to established lawns, no striped bass have not been killed by a Falmouth ocean dead zone.  Private lawns in Falmouth are just as green as lawns in neighboring municipalities still applying three to five times as much fertilizer.

Towns and cities off of Cape Cod and Islands have been prohibited from passing similar lawn care ordinances.  The fertilizer industries successfully demonstrated to the state that they have the science backing their claims for grass swimming in fertilizer, and surely the state knows better than any town.  The Falmouth bylaw was struck down and residents were told if they did not spread at least 3.5, better 5, pounds per thousand square feet of lawn their grass would suffer.  Fortunately for Falmouth, their state senator was Teresa Murray who was president of the Senate.  She put the Falmouth Bylaw into the State budget bill and it was approved by Beacon Hill.

Ocean River institute table at a Medford Farmers’ Market. One Lego house has a spongy unfertilized lawn before it, the other a rock patio.  Which house will best survive an extreme weather event from a turkey baster full of water?

The Ocean River Institute is going town by town asking conservation commissions to modify their wetland regulations.  Properties next to wetlands may only use a half pound of 100% slow-release fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn in the spring or fall.  Properties next to wetlands may not use chemical herbicides or pesticides on lawns.  With the support of conservation commissions and news reports heralding acts of climate leadership, the Ocean River Institute works with local groups including lake associations with educational outreach to practice on all lawns what is regulated for just those boarding wetlands.  With a few towns, after all, runoff from properties and groundwater flow to waterways fresh then salty where harmful algal blooms are becoming more common.

This summer there were harmful algal blooms and closed waters in many waterways including Billington Sea in Plymouth, Chauncy Lake in Westborough, West Reservoir in Harwich, Santuit Pond in Mashpee, Devol Pond in Westport, Scargo Lake in Dennis, Stillwater Pond in Chatham.  In Brewster harmful algal blooms closed beaches on Sheep, Upper Mill, Lower Mill, and Cliff Ponds, in Barnstable closed shores on Bearse’s, Lovell’s and Shubael Pond, and on the Charles River there was a harmful algal bloom between Boston University and the Museum of Science.

Nitrogen is the worst pollutant of oceans because it feeds algae that create ocean dead zones, areas sickening for people and deadly for fish and dogs that like to swim.  Stopping the spread of fertilizers stops nitrogen pollution from lawns.   It is possible to have both green lawns, when there is sufficient water (not during droughts), and clear, clean waters without the slime.

The powerful actions fighting the climate crisis of global warming are not obvious when one stops spreading fertilizer on lawns.  The practice of spreading bags of fertilizer, instead of using mulch, began after World War II when ammunition facilities with much ammonia and synthetic nitrates for explosives converted to the product of nitrogen-based fertilizer.  The manufacturing requires the removal of oxygen by burning natural gas with the use of electricity.  Much carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere to make fertilizer.

Once spread on lawns, fertilizer will release nitrous oxide.  Nitrous oxide ranks third of the greenhouse gases gathering around the planet preventing the escape of heat that results in global warming.  Nitrous oxide is also now the dominant ozone depleting substance.  The stuff from overusing fertilizers is 298 times more effective than CO2 at blocking the escape of energy.  That’s 12 effective as methane.  Further increasing its potency, while methane will last about twelve years as a greenhouse gas, nitrous oxide lasts for an average of 114 years.  When you do not buy fertilizer you are doing much more than protecting the grass and saving money, you are lending a hand in salvation of the planet.

Do not fertilize established lawns, except perhaps for a modest amount of 100% slow-release in the fall.  The grass will then put down deeper roots.  It will become more resilient to changing conditions wet or dry.  With deeper roots and more minerals, grass puts on more foliage.  A non-fertilized lawn captures more carbon.  With more foliage will retain more water during extreme weather events to better protect homes from water damage, certainly better than the patio with impervious surfaces.  (Like the patio, unlike wildlife flower beds, grass may be walked, sat and played on.)

When fighting global warming, lawns and grasslands have an advantage over forests.  During a fire, they do not release as much carbon exacerbating climate change. This is because with grass a higher percentage of carbon is cycled up the food chain into animals.

It should come as no surprise that established lawns do not need fertilizing.  Simply leaving the grass clippings on top after a mow is equivalent to one-pound of nitrogen fertilizer per thousand square feet of lawn in a year.  Erik the Red was able to establish a Viking settlement in Greenland by finding sufficient flat land to build up soil to support grass.  This was a tenuous existence.  If a man’s goat or sheep was found grazing on the lush grass, the plenty was death.  Without that bit of grass the family owning the patch might not make it through the winter.  Four hundred years after the Vikings abandoned Greenland, taking with them the livestock, the distinct grass plots were found to be still green.  The grass, lacking both chemical and livestock fertilizer, remained healthy by being part of the soil’s microbial ecosystem.

America’s population is on the rise.  With rising populations come more homes and lawns.  By stopping the unnecessary spread of fertilizers on lawns, stopping nutrient pollution of our waterways, people are freed of the expense of lawn care.  By letting grass grow deep roots it becomes healthier, more robust and lush. Working with nature, not expending resources to short-cut natural processes, has its rewards.

Responsible lawn care will result in less carbon emissions, less nitrous oxide emissions, more carbon capture and better cycling of carbon in local, place-based ecosystems. You benefit by a healthier lawn often complete with worms, robins and rabbits. You benefit by cleaner waters with less harmful algal blooms and more aquatic life.  The planet cools and everyone benefits from less greenhouse gas emissions and more carbon capture.  Even striped bass and lobstermen benefit when you leverage many powerful actions for addressing climate change with responsible lawn care. Acting most local, beginning around your home, you make a global difference.

Rob Moir, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Ocean River Institute had the good fortune of sailing on the Dutch ketch Tecla from Iceland across the Denmark Strait, down the coast of East Greenland, where the large glacial erratic was found, around Cape Farewell to Nuuk, West Greenland, twenty-two days at sea, June-July 2019.  Rob lives in Somerville where a small patch of grass separates the buildings, the width of a car, that gets walked on and bicycle-ridden on most every day.

 

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An Empowered World

The World Unites for World Ecologic Forum on December 10

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“Our duty, as men and women, is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist. We are collaborators in creation.”
― Pierre Teilhard de Chardin


Over the course of the past 200 years, man-made policies, systems and services have destroyed what it has taken mother nature billions of years to create.  It is time to

GET THE EGO OUT OF THE ECO

December 10th is the Anniversary of a little known but highly important document, The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Created initially as a response to the atrocities of World War II by Eleanor Roosevelt and signed–but not honored–by many nations of the world, this document, combined with the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals, outlines what’s possible when the world systems work harmoniously together.

But it takes more than just ideas or talk. It takes Action:

Introducing Mobilized, an ideas-into-action Social Action Communication Network.

Through a series of action-oriented Mobilized events, we focus on evidence-based wisdom, the obstacles we are faced with, and ways of overcoming these obstacles.

We invite communities of social organizations and initiatives, social entrepreneurs and media makers and producers into conversations of uniting possibility and evidence-based wisdom. By embracing the evidence-based wisdom of root causes of existing problems, we empower possibility thinking and imagination to discover how working together, communities and initiatives and public action can enable better outcomes and deeper impact

Inspired by nature and powered by passionate people.
Imagine collaborating on shared wisdom across borders, learning from the experts who have been there and done that and continue to do the amazing, empowering and enabling the inner Einstein that’s found in all of us.

During the next two months, Mobilized will be inviting organizations such as yours into a virtual ecosystem of possibility as we learn from one another, overcome misunderstandings and create better ways of working better together. Discover the Mobilized Smarter Conversation Schedule here

We’re not waiting for the future. We’re building it together. Please join us on our collective journey for a brighter tomorrow, today.

Mobilized for the Public

Dedicated to creating a more engaged and interactive experience. more engaging and interactive. Without ever leaving their desks, participants can learn from video presentations, interact with sponsors and communicate with peers using professional networking tools.

What can I anticipate?

Live and fully participatory from the comfort of your couch or office, you’re going to dive right into powerfully productive conversations that provide a detailed idea of how we, the people can collaboratively create communities without compromising the health of our ecosystem.

It’s what you want, the way you want it, when you want it, live and on Demand.

Whether it’s the story of a new development in sustainable sourcing or a better way to practice distribution,  we make sure that the experience is enjoyable, hospitable and fully dedicated to advancing the cause of your needs no matter where in the world you live and work.

No travel. No headaches. No aggravation. No Kidding.

Utilizing the very best virtual tools, we make sure that your experience is dedicated to the very best outcome possible.  Afterall, your future is in Your hands. You know you want it.

What about the panels, seminars, keynotes and experience?

It’s the ongoing experience, the show that never ends, the live conference transformed for productivity, efficiency and service.  It’s the on-going conversations that take part long-after the live event is over. Finally, an experience dedicated to your needs.   Because  It’s the show that never ends, the conversation that lasts long after the doors close; the interactive experience that keeps on going long after you arrive.

Access for all, fully translatable into a multitude of languages.

 

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Editorials

Mea Culpa

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Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on mobilized.news now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.


Further Reading: 

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/welcoming-remarks-made-at-a-literary-reading-9-25-01?

 

Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews/

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews-ii-electric-boogaloo/

 

Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/9-11-attacks-20th-anniversary-reassessing-20-years-of-war-506924

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/politico-mag-afghan-vets-roundtable-506989

 

Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

https://www.seedscrc.org/

www.cnvc.org

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Editorials

Rethinking Climate Change Solutions

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The climate emergency requires climate solutions. And fast! There are lots of different proposals floating around – some of which don’t even exist yet, and probably never will. So, it’s easy to get confused about which direction is best. Now though, a new analysis suggests that 90% of the job could be achieved by just a handful of disruptive technologies that are very real indeed, and are already either disrupting their markets or are poised to do so. We just need to choose to embrace them!

One of the most fascinating and exhilirating writings comes from the team at Rethink X which states:

We are on the cusp of the fastest, deepest, most consequential transformation of human civilization in history, a transformation every bit as significant as the move from foraging to cities and agriculture 10,000 years ago.

During the 2020s, key technologies will converge to completely disrupt the five foundational sectors that underpin the global economy, and with them every major industry in the world today. The knock-on effects for society will be as profound as the extraordinary possibilities that emerge.

In information, energy, food, transportation, and materials, costs will fall by 10x or more, while production processes an order of magnitude (10x) more efficient will use 90% fewer natural resources with 10x-100x less waste. The prevailing production system will shift away from a model of centralized extraction and the breakdown of scarce resources that requires vast physical scale and reach, to a model of localized creation from limitless, ubiquitous building blocks – a world built not on coal, oil, steel, livestock, and concrete but on photons, electrons, DNA, molecules and (q)bits. Product design and development will be performed collaboratively over information networks while physical production and distribution will be fulfilled locally. As a result, geographic advantage will be eliminated as every city or region becomes self-sufficient. This new creation-based production system, which will be built on technologies we are already using today, will be far more equitable, robust, and resilient than any we have ever seen. We have the opportunity to move from a world of extraction to one of creation, a world of scarcity to one of plenitude, a world of inequity and predatory competition to one of shared prosperity and collaboration.

This is not, then, another Industrial Revolution, but a far more fundamental shift. This is the beginning of the third age of humankind – the Age of Freedom.

The possibilities that open up in this new age are truly extraordinary. Within 10-15 years, everyone on the planet could have access to the ‘American Dream’ for a few hundred dollars a month. For the first time in history, poverty could be overcome easily. Access to all our basic needs – food, energy, transportation, information, and shelter – could become a fundamental human right. Armed conflict, often driven by the need to access and control scarce resources, could become largely unnecessary. Climate change and environmental degradation, caused by production processes that take no account of the destruction they wreak on the natural world, could be overcome by a new production system delivering zero-carbon energy, transportation, and food with marginal waste. This could allow us to restore the integrity of the planet’s natural systems and help mitigate the impact of our unsustainable actions on human health. We may, ultimately, be able to escape toil and drudgery entirely and, for the first time in history, achieve real freedom – the freedom to spend our time creatively, unburdened by financial precariousness and the need to provide for ourselves and our families. Never before has humanity seen such an astonishing array of possibilities opened up in such a short period of time.

But this future is by no means predetermined. Indeed it cannot be achieved by technological progress alone. History indicates that leading civilizations have evolved ever-greater organizational capabilities in tandem with increased technological capabilities. While the technological capabilities dictate the potential of any civilization, the Organizing System determines how close to this potential a society can get. The Organizing System encompasses both the fundamental beliefs, institutions, and reward systems that enable optimal decisions to be taken across a society, and the structures that manage, control, govern, and influence its population. The best combination of technology and Organizing System that is available dictates the winners – for example a city of 10,000 people, such as Sumer, requires very different Organizing System from one of a million people, such as Rome.

Throughout history, 10x advancements in the five foundational sectors have driven the emergence of a new and vastly more capable civilization than any which has come before. But this has only been possible when combined with vastly improved organizational capabilities. This has always represented a formidable challenge for incumbents, and the lessons of history are sobering – every leading civilization, from Catalhoyuk and Sumer to Babylonia and Rome, has fallen as it reached the limits of its ability to organize society and solve the problems created by its production system. When these civilizations were threatened with collapse, they looked backwards and attempted to recapture the glory days by patching up their production system and doubling down on their Organizing System rather than adapting. The result was descent into a dark age.

Today, our incumbent leadership in government and industry are making the same mistake. The patterns of history are clear. The five foundational sectors, which gave rise to Western dominance starting with Europe in the 1500s and America in the 1900s, will all collapse during the 2020s. These sector disruptions are bookends to a civilization that birthed the Industrial Order, which both built the modern world and destroyed the rest. Furthermore, we are experiencing rising inequality, extremism, and populism, the deterioration of decision-making processes and the undermining of representative democracy, the accumulation of financial instability as we mortgage the future to pay for the present, ecological degradation, and climate change – all signs that our civilization has reached and breached its limits. The response from today’s incumbents to these challenges – more centralization, more extraction, more exploitation, more compromise of public health and environmental integrity in the name of competitive advantage and growth – is no less desperate than the response from those of prior civilizations who called for more walls, more priests, and more blood sacrifices as they faced collapse.

And this is just the beginning – as new technologies develop apace, their disruptive power will only grow stronger. Ironically, the same technologies that hold the promise of solving our most pressing problems are also accelerating collapse, challenging the ability of our outdated and increasingly incompatible Organizing System to function.

Indeed we are already seeing the impact of the new, creation-based production system butting up against our increasingly antiquated Organizing System. The information sector, for example, has already been disrupted. Centralized content production with high costs, high barriers to entry, and narrow distribution channels has given way to billions of producer-consumers generating content at near-zero cost with minimal barriers to entry across a globally-connected network. Alongside the extraordinary benefits it has brought, this emerging production system has also created novel problems which our Organizing System is incapable of understanding or managing. A few computer hackers in an apartment in one country can hijack another’s governance processes, spread false narratives, polarize public opinion, paralyze decision-making processes, and help enable regime change home and abroad. Individual nations are no longer able to manage the narrative or control the flow of information. The upcoming disruptions that will unfold simultaneously in the energy, food, transportation, and materials sectors during the 2020s will present further unprecedented new challenges at the same time as solving old problems.

The choice, therefore, is stark – collapse into a new dark age or move to a new Organizing System that allows us to flourish in a new Age of Freedom. Such a move will not be easy – we will need to rethink not just the structures and institutions that manage society, but the very concepts they are built on. Representative democracy, capitalism, and nation states may seem like fundamental truths but they are, in fact, merely human constructs that emerged and evolved in an industrial Organizing System. In the new age, they may well become redundant.

For the first time in history, we have not just the technological tools to make an incredible leap in societal capabilities, but the understanding and foresight to see what is coming. We have the choice, therefore, to avert disaster or not. We can choose to elevate humanity to new heights and use the upcoming convergence of technology disruptions to end poverty, inequality, resource conflict, and environmental destruction, all for a fraction of the cost we incur dealing with them today. Or we can choose to preserve the failing status quo and descend into another dark age like every leading civilization before us.

Dark ages do not occur for lack of sunshine, but for lack of leadership. The established centers of power, the U.S., Europe, or China, handicapped by incumbent mindsets, beliefs, interests, and institutions, are unlikely to lead. In a globally competitive world, smaller, hungrier, more adaptable communities, cities, or states such as Israel, Mumbai, Dubai, Singapore, Lagos, Shanghai, California, or Seattle are more likely to develop a winning Organizing System. They will appear, just like their predecessors, as if from nowhere, with capabilities far beyond those of incumbent leaders. Everyone else could get trampled before they have time to understand what is happening.

The intervening decade will be turbulent, destabilized both by technology disruptions that upend the foundations of the global economy and by system shocks from pandemics, geopolitical conflict, natural disasters, financial crises, and social unrest that could lead to dramatic tipping points for humanity including mass migrations and even war. In the face of each new crisis we will be tempted to look backward rather than forward, to mistake ideology and dogma for reason and wisdom, to turn on each other instead of trusting one another.

If we hold strong, we can emerge together to create the wealthiest, healthiest, most extraordinary civilization in history. If we do not, we will join the ranks of every other failed civilization for future historians to puzzle over. Our children will either thank us for bringing them an Age of Freedom, or curse us for condemning them to another dark age. The choice is ours.

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