Future-building Never Stops

Hypoxia means “low oxygen”. Hypoxic zones in the ocean are known as “dead zones”, because entire ecosystems break down under hypoxic conditions. The New Scientist reported earlier this month:

OUR actions today will change the world’s oceans for thousands of years. That is the conclusion of a study simulating a little-discussed consequence of climate change: it could choke entire ecosystems by cutting oxygen levels in the ocean. In the most extreme scenarios, with the planet warming by almost 10°C, the oceans could be starved of oxygen for 8000 years.

Our energy, transport, manufacturing, building, farming, and waste-management economies are all causing this ecological devastation. Your choice not to get involved in political discussions about how best to manage our relationship to natural systems is not a choice to withdraw from shaping the future; it is a choice to facilitate the ongoing degradation of Earth’s life-support systems.

The most common political mistake is thinking that we have a choice between struggling to make a better world or leaving it to others. Even the cynic who withdraws from politics, to “make a statement” or to seek comfort in detachment, is playing a material role—inviting, facilitating, choosing among future potentials, by hiding away and feigning uninvolvement.

Jacques Derrida described the postmodern deconstructionist ethic this way: As soon as we stop asking questions, we begin to do violence.

Disengagement is not an option, which is to say: the option does not exist. To be alive is to be entangled in Earth’s life-support systems. We are always future-building; we might as well do it well, and consciously work to reduce avoidable harm to zero.

Brute material forces do not rule human destiny. Without considering human thought, learning, intention, ethics, and the cross-pollination effect of collaborative interactions at all levels, it is impossible to say anything really accurate about “how we got here”.

The cross-pollination effect—whereby new additional insights emerge from interaction, collaboration, nonlinear generative reframing of distinct areas of knowledge, accidental discovery and invention—evidently exerts real influence over how we, as human beings, work together to solve problems, and ultimately, come to be where we are and do as we do.

If we are to be dignified, secure beings, protected in our right to be free from fear, violence, tyranny and degradation, and sovereign in the shaping of our own destiny, then denying, blocking, or seeking to overthrow genuine knowledge offered by others, is self-sabotage. Whether we are talking about science, ethics, politics, or money, this question of access to new and evolving knowledge remains.

Money tells time: present value must account for original and past value, and also interactive and future value, if it is to be fair and tell truth. If the measures of value we use do not do this, then they are dangerously incomplete, and will inevitably point us away from true and knowing free choice, toward choices that create avoidable harm and degradation.

Such an absence of information robs us of the knowledge required to make consciously virtuous decisions.

Despite the reckless politics of the current president of the United States, the US Defense Authorization Bill was approved by Congress citing climate change as a major threat to national and geopolitical security. Every Republican, Democrat or Independent in Congress who was part of that particular achievement—along with every examiner of truth who was part of the four National Climate Assessments to date—deserves the gratitude of the world, for recognizing that we cannot afford to leave such information out of our calculus about how to approach the work of responsible future-building.

We do not learn by pretending information does not exist. We do not design better by ignoring the landscape in which will we apply the design. We do not protect any part of what we love in life by valuing living systems at zero.

It is said that “knowledge is power”, but it is more accurate to say that reliable, ethical, open sharing of information allows for reciprocal ongoing empowerment of people to imagine and to achieve good.

Getting prices right (not allowing hard-to-quantify harm or benefit to go unacknowledged), understanding the nature of generative investment value, and lived resilience at the human scale, making informed decisions oriented toward cooperative reciprocal value enhancement… all of these are necessary for humanity to live free from fear and violence and degradation.

Ensuring reliable open access to new and evolving information is critical to our own future thriving and to the survival of critical natural life-support systems. Even small dollar values in vast spreadsheets add up to devastating damage or heroic stewardship, because everything is future-building, and it never stops.

[ The Note for November 2017 ]

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