Breaking the Investment Barriers for “Plan B”
May 12th, 2010 on board the SS Rotterdam
by Emil Möller
“Plan B is a ‘plan of hope’ because the necessary technology, economic instruments and financial resources are all available -for competing global warming, demography, poverty and restoring ecosystems. The encouraging is that if you manage to do something on one of the four domains, you simultaneously have a positive impact on a different domain. By helping women out of poverty to help them through education, you also brake down the population growth. By restoring the biodiversity, you fight also extreme poverty. By installing a low carbon economy, you improve the climate. The problems are related, but also the solutions.”
Plan B 4.0: Mobilizing to Save Civilization
Lester R. Brown
Firstly, kudos to Marcel de Berg for organizing an event with the scope of effectuating an acupuncture-style intervention in society, in this case by bringing representatives of the investment community into close contact with leading thinkers in sustainability circles. Hosted by the Center of Human Emergence (CHE), the event proved to be state of the art in engaging the audience and harvesting the fruits of their collective intelligence.
CHE introduced their meshworks approach under the banner of “Which piece of the puzzle do you hold?” Resources are available on the Internet, enabling faster, deeper holistic global change. (More information here.)
A key speaker was Lester Brown, author of “Plan B 4.0.” (Free download here.) Brown started by sketching a “decline and collapse” scenario, which discussed the dangers of “Plan A”: business as usual. He focused on food production in relation to aquifer depletion, potentially rising sea levels, increasing food prices and a global population that grows 216,000 people per day. (Speech download here.)
After touching upon the impact of failed states, he referred to the rapid turnaround of US mass-production capacity. For example, within months following Pearl Harbor America was able to mass-produce military equipment in numbers larger than initially requested.
Brown has hope that awareness regarding our predicament is rapidly rising. As an example he mentioned a meeting with James Cameron–director of blockbuster movies like Avatar and The Terminator–with whom he found a strong resonance. If Hollywood can sensitize the larger audience, politicians and board rooms might muster courage to realize Plan B-type actions.
My take is that this is indeed a step forward. What’s also required is an exploration of the perspectives of Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, John Perkins and a host of other critical thinkers.
They point to the darker and mostly hidden side of Plan A, which will continue unchecked into Plan B if not exposed and transcended. Ideally we should keep in mind that as we proceed towards decline or Plan B–everything already is as it should be–or, as Ken Wilber says (in a different context) “you fundamentally have to realize that things are just fine, radically, the way they are, and yet things are truly, truly a nightmare.” (Video available here.)
It is interesting to note Michael Tarnas’ perspective that the Western mind is in a rite of passage. Here the darker side of modernization deepens our civilizational predicament to the level of being able to catapult ourselves to the next level of consciousness, much like when someone falls into a water well: only after having touched the bottom can one reverse the downfall and rise to the surface to get a breath of air. (Essay available here.)
As Don Beck would say, “These are yeasty times–no prizes for forecasting the rain, only prizes for building the ark.” Fortunately, another conference speaker, Dutch sustainability icon Herman Wijffels, gave more hope for the future by pointing to the idea that we’re in the process of developing the next civilization, and that one of the things we can do is to raise awareness within ourselves and others of where we’re at on this path.
Lester Brown ended things by observing, “saving our civilization is not a spectator sport.” No referral was made towards interior states or stages correlating to the state of affairs, nor desirable alternate scenarios. I was taken aback, since it basically condemned us to be spectators.
It dawned upon me that everyone except the investors were primarily spectators and supporters. In this event the real agenda of the meeting was to address and encourage the investors where they were at. Use of other perspectives, ones more fitting with those held by the rest of the audience, would be counter-productive for the investors.
I also realized that we, the attendees, were part of a larger community of an emerging civilization, one which is undergoing training in order to act as forming crystals for the emergent aftermath of when society touches bottom. This shed light on challenges and pain that I (and many people in my groups) experience in living according to what’s about to emerge (Plan B) rather than what currently is (Plan A.) This shift in perspective was interesting and agreeable.
As Herman Wijffels subsequently observed, investments (investment portfolios as they are now) are Plan A and run grave risks of underperformance in the near future. Instead, investing massively in Plan B would be the sensible thing to do, in terms of both the investment portfolio’s performance as well as civilization’s survival. Under Plan A, these two were often at odds with one another. Now they imply one another, implying as well as inducing a next step in consciousness. (Speech download here).
The collective intelligence of the conference was assembled on a “world café” of tablecloths and large post-it notes, and was grouped afterwards, as can be seen here. The intention was to fill a meshworks to make manifest what we intended. (Join here.)
When exploring Herman Wijffels’ “resistance from vested interests” in work groups, we often recognized a “Zeitgeist”perspective. This reconfirmed my experience in many other conversations that current societal arrangements, such as the self-evident belief in their own trustworthiness, is sliding downwards. This can be demonstrated by a recent Belgian poll where politicians and marketers ranked at the low end of the trustworthiness scale.
A potential next step in what I hope will turn out to be a discussion thread is the use of theory U. (See here for details) This was done with Triodos, which (according to the Financial Times) is the leading bank in terms of sustainability. (See video here)
On a more profane level, it was nice that the event’s organizer had treated us to an organic, vegetarian lunch. I also found the venue inspiring: a beautifully and proudly restored cruise ship on which immigrants from the old continent travelled to a new future.
Embarking on the SS Rotterdam also revived memories of some 10 years ago, when I served on board the MS Anastasis, moored in Conakry, Guinea. Both instances had the common focus of serving our fellow men. I fondly recall the singing of some 800 staff, patients and officials from all over the world on the Anastasis’s aft deck one evening. This is a prime example of what human beings united under a common purpose can be, and gives me goosebumps every time I think of it.
Finally, being in a cohort who probes and endeavors to live based on what’s about to emerge gives me feelings of privilege, hope, compassion, joy, empowerment, insignificance, anger, and despair. These enrich my life as nothing else could, effectively making me a better servant in the trying times ahead.
About the Author
Emil Möller is a consultant on sustainability and working with large systems change. Based in the Netherlands, he is a frequent poster on various social network sites, runs his start up Transition Travels.