Global Sensemaking

Tools for Dialogue and Deliberation on Wicked Problems

Dave Gardner, a filmmaker, has turned his talents to producing a documentary that, I think, is exactly in the global sensemaking space. It's called Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity. I've written about it here

One thing we lack as a group are people with Dave's abilities, that is, people who can make our case in the mainstream media through film and TV. I'd like to attract people like Dave to GSm and, as well, know that GSm as a community supports people like him.

Background: I've been wondering how to introduce Dave to GSm and GSm to Dave. GSm is still ill-defined IMO and that makes it harder to say to people, "Hey, check this out. There's something important going on here." Dave, on the other hand, has a fleshed out web site. You can go there and see what he, his support group, and his film are about.

In addition to discussing the nuances of sensemaking (which is important and useful) I'd like to see the GSm community get behind efforts like Dave's which attempt to get the word out about some obvious (to some of us) conclusions. That is, as our charter states:

Humanity faces an emerging mess of global challenges (often called wicked problems) — such as, climate change, poverty, peak oil, population pressure, water shortages, declining biodiversity, and failing food supply — that are the product of patterns of thinking and behavior that no longer make sense. We need new tools of thought if we are to adapt to the scale and complexity of these challenges; tools that augment individual intelligence with the structured insights of many minds.

Dave's film, which brings together political, scientific, and business perspectives regarding what we are doing to the planet and our shared environment, is one of those "new tools of thought." He points out some of the "patterns of thinking and behavior that no longer make sense" and the need for new ways of thinking about "the scale and complexity of these challenges."

Please visit his web site and offer what support you can (financial, PR through your blogs and email lists, or otherwise).

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Andy,
I happen to agree wholeheartedly with the ideas behind Dave's film. As a matter of fact, this line of thought has been a major challenge to established economic institutions since the publication of "Limits to Growth" by the Club of Rome in the '60's. My question would be whether we can develop "tools of thought" that will help us to make sense of the conflicts that are created by this perspective, and make sense of the conflicts that arise in attempts to implement some of its proposals. For example, while the film (which I haven't seen) might suggest a no-growth society/economy is sustainable (and perhaps the only sustainable model), some will argue that the drive for growth is an intrinsic part of capitalism, while others will argue its an inherent part of human nature. All of these perspectives will provide evidence, definitions of terms, reasoning and appeals to values. How do we sort through them in the process of deciding on specific short range, medium range and long range policy choices? What sort of tools would help this perspective (as well as the others) clarify the nature and implications of its claims?

Thanks for bringing the site to the group.
Bob
Bob,

I think you raise exactly the right question. Dave's (not yet complete) documentary addresses economic growth and population growth, two related and highly contentious wicked problems that I find most fruitful in driving out my own personal sense of what tools and our GSm group should contribute to the world. As you note, these issues are at the heart of the Limits of Growth series of books the last of which, subtitled The 30-year Update, came out in 2004. I just finished reading it and couldn't help be struck by how effective their approach -- data and software simulation -- is to a science-and-engineering-oriented person like me.

I'd like to see GSm tools enhance and amplify that technique. (Mark Klein's Climate Collabatorium is in this space.)

I'd also like to see what we can do to create tools for people with different sensemaking styles. Not everyone leans analytical.

Additionally, I find economic growth and population growth -- because they are highly contentious -- to be good GSm test cases. For me, climate change itself isn't so interesting; the IPCC report of last year is quite definitive in the general sense. Climate-related issues now are about how fast is it happening (not if) and how to mitigate -- and lead naturally to talking about the hard issues of economic and population growth.

A question for Dave might be, what sorts of GSm tools would have helped him shape his documentary.
Andy and all,

I'll put this here since the subject area, growth, is relevant.

Two really good books that I have recently finished are worthy of note.
1) An Introduction to Ecological Economics by Robert Costanza, John H Cumberland, Herman Daly, Robert Goodland , and Richard B Norgaard
This is an excellent introduction to the ecological economics views inspired by Howard Odum and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, among others.

2) The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, by James Gustave Speth.
Speth also wrote Red Sky at Morning which many of you may have read. Here he tackles the evils of capitalism that give rise to our current problems.

Both books worth the reads!
Thanks for this conversation about my film, Hooked on Growth. And for introducing me to GSm. I look forward to fully exploring GSm over the next hours and days, but thought I'd offer a quick addition to this discussion.

1. If you believe projects like my documentary are important, please help by at least subscribing to my email list. It's free and I must build an extensive online community both to potentially provide financial support (it's tax-deductible) and to have a built-in distribution system ready to make sure the film, when finished, is seen in every community. This is how Bob Greenwald distributed Iraq for Sale and Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price. I rather doubt Disney is going to want to release my film in theaters across the country.

2. While it's not clear yet on my website, my plan for the film is to end with the hopeful conclusion that we can satisfy our need for growth and development by putting the word "personal" in front of them. As one of my interviewees so aptly puts it, we can pursue learning, loving and laughter.

Thanks, again. I look forward to further conversations here. (P.S. I hope I entered the link for subscribing properly above; if not, simply visit www.growthbusters.com)

Dave Gardner
Producer/Director
Hooked on Growth: Our Misguided Quest for Prosperity

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