An ecological civilization would be based on the core principles that sustain living systems coexisting stably in natural ecologies. Insights into how ecologies self-organize offer a model for how we could organize human society in ways that could permit sustainable abundance. Organisms prosper when they develop multiple symbiotic relationships, wherein each party to a relationship both takes and gives reciprocally. In an ecology, energy flows are balanced and one species’ waste matter becomes nourishment for another. Entities within an ecology scale fractally, with microsystems existing as integral parts of larger systems to form a coherent whole. In a well-functioning ecosystem, each organism thrives by optimizing for its own existence within a network of relationships that enhances the common good. The inherent resilience caused by these dynamics means that—without human disruption—ecosystems can maintain their integrity for many thousands, and sometimes millions, of years.
In practice, transitioning to an ecological civilization would mean restructuring some of the fundamental institutions driving our current civilization to destruction. In place of an economy based on perpetual growth in GDP, it would institute one that emphasized quality of life, using alternative measures such as a Genuine Progress Indicator to gauge success. Economic systems would be based on respect for individual dignity and fairly rewarding each person’s contribution to the greater good, while ensuring that nutritional, housing, healthcare, and educational needs were fully met for everyone. Transnational corporations would be fundamentally reorganized and made accountable to the communities they purportedly serve, to optimize human and environmental wellbeing rather than shareholder profits. Locally owned cooperatives would become the default organizational structure. Food systems would be designed to emphasize local production using state-of-the-art agroecology practices in place of fossil fuel-based fertilizer and pesticides, while manufacturing would prioritize circular flows where efficient re-use of waste products is built into the process from the outset.
In an ecological civilization, the local community would be the basic building block of society. Face-to-face interaction would regain ascendance as a crucial part of human flourishing, and each community’s relationship with others would be based on principles of mutual respect, learning, and reciprocity. Technological innovation would still be encouraged, but would be prized for its effectiveness in enhancing the vitality of living systems rather than minting billionaires. The driving principle of enterprise would be that we are all interconnected in the web of life—and long-term human prosperity is therefore founded on a healthy Earth.
Watch as Silicon Valley replaces everything with robots. New fundamentalist deathcults make ISIS look like child’s play. The authorities release a geolocation app to real-time snitch on immigrants and political dissent while metafascists crowdfund the next concentration camps. Government services fail. Politicians turn to more draconian measures and the left continues to bark without teeth. Meanwhile glaciers melt, wildfires rage, Hurricane Whatever drowns another city. Ancient plagues reemerge from thawing permafrost. Endless work as the rich benefit from ruin. Finally, knowing we did nothing, we perish, sharing our tomb with all life on the planet.
“It is our knowledge — the things we are sure of — that makes the world go wrong and keeps us from seeing and learning,” Lincoln Steffens wrote
Bringing together people who disagree isn’t always easy but it leads to a deeper understanding of seemingly conflicting conclusions. As a team, the researchers weaved their different theories into a cohesive story that makes more sense and accounts for complexity. “It’s rarely the case that one person is wrong and the other is right,” says Scerri. “Insights from different models can help to shed light on the answers we look for…Perhaps we can say that nothing is really entirely new in science, it’s all about incremental steps and changing perspectives.”
A critical mass is coming to light in Design Thinking’s influence on global change.