“Different outcomes require different means.” This truism is at the heart of the sustainability challenge. Can we solve the problems of tomorrow with the tools of today?
What new approaches, mechanisms, and technologies are required and will evolve in responses to the challenges of resource scarcity, consumption pressure, biodiversity loss, and the emerging cracks in our current economic and market systems?
At its heart, sustainability is about innovation–of our ways of understanding and responding to the world, of organizing ourselves, in the invention, development, and deployment of new technologies, and also, perhaps most crucially, in our systems of production and distribution. While the future may well see a flowering of wondrous sustainable technologies, it will also need to feature new ways of conceiving of the point and purpose of enterprise and economics. We call this “rejuvenative innovation.”
At the levels of manufacture and production, this innovation is called rejuvenative technology and rejuvenative enterprise: technologies and initiatives whose impacts innately add to the quality and quantity of life on this planet.
Many of the seeds of a sustainable future already exist. And while new ideas will undoubtedly be required, many of the techniques, concepts, and technologies we need are potentially available for use–if we can prioritize, develop, and value their contribution to a successful future on a physically constrained, populous planet.
Rejuvenation of our technology must be accompanied by a rejuvenation in our approach to economics and value. A key element of this is the idea of valuing abundance rather than focusing our conceptions of value upon scarcity.
Where price is based upon scarcity, it will always be more valuable to pursue ever scarcer supplies of a given resource, because the price of that resource will be driven higher and higher by the conventional laws of supply and demand.
Basing price on abundance (i.e., the likelihood of a resource being capable of providing utility to the greatest possible number of the world’s population) seems to be a more valuable and sustainable approach for capitalism than eternally pursuing ever decreasing traces of nonrenewable resources.
Such abundance can be either natural (e.g., biologically based) or managed (e.g., through closed loop stewardship).
Sustainability also poses a fundamental challenge to the genetic and social capabilities of our species, requiring a perspective shift from the interests of our family and friends, to those of our communities, nations, regions, and, ultimately, all members of our species. The development of truly global thinking will challenge the way we conceive of those we care about and how we do so, requiring the conceptualization of true global citizenship.
At the heart of this challenge concerning human capability and capacity is the question of the limits and capability of our species’ sapience. It is not intelligence per se, which is important, but “sapience”: having or showing great wisdom or sound judgment.
Our species certainly has much to prove to demonstrate that we have the wisdom or judgment required to achieve a sustainable world.
Moving from Homo sapiens to Terra sapiens must be rooted in a clear-eyed understanding of what we are as a species–our capacities, weaknesses, shortcomings, and strengths. Recognizing the biology and psychologies that drive us is a vital aspect of driving the sapience we need for a sustainable future on a populous planet.
We should explore the idea of social utility as a fundamental metric for social purpose and examine how the companies that give rise to social quality and capacity will be those most valuable and sustainable over the long term.
Abundance might be placed at the heart of price, technologies that will deliver a sustainable world might be categorized in terms that investors can recognize, and we might explore the limitations and opportunities our species faces in responding to the power and responsibility we have in creating planetary-level change.
The rejuvenative revolution is about hope. Hope for our future and hope for the evolution of our systems of production and value, while recognizing the limits of both our knowledge and our capacity to act with wisdom and judgment in the face of global challenges.
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