Intermountain Mediation Center
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Todd D. Gardner, Esq, Director
- Intermountain Mediation Center
As a Accord3.0 Consultant, today I spent my afternoon at a successfully run after-school program called SpyHop Productions. SpyHop’s mission is to mentor young people in the digital arts to help them find their voice, tell their stories, and be empowered to affect positive change in their lives, their communities, and the World. They have diverse backgrounds and talents but many are budding composers, animators, filmmakers, sound producers, and computer graphic designers. It’s very hands on and a great space for teens to be in after school.
From the 40 or so students I saw and worked with today the SpyHop mission is clearly working. If you are interested in the great work they do they can be found here: www.spyhop.org
What we did today was basically a dialogue session that covered primarily 3 things:
1. We Modeled Creativity—we believe that these kids will develop creativity when they hear and see mentors actively engaged in the creative process. I brought in my jazz trio: with the ever talented Jd Moffat on guitar, Adam Overacker on bass and myself on drums and gave a hands on demonstration that showed the process of actually creating music through improvisation. We stopped a few times along the way to have a discussion of the creative process, cooperation, collaboration, being in the moment, seeing mistakes as opportunities, listening, improvising, and the balance between structure and space. The kids paid attention and could see the parallels of what we were doing and how it applied to problem solving.
2. Idea Generation–We then moved to a PowerPoint presentation that repeatedly encouraged idea generation and risk–these kids need to be reminded to generate their own ideas and solutions in an environment that is increasingly complex and somewhat critical. We talked about constructive criticism and the idea of “plussing”. In other words, if you are going to critique the collaborative effort do it in a way that is cordial and adds to the discussion of moving the project forward. Concepts of focusing on defining what the problem is, rephrasing issues into a positive, perspective, balance, listening, chunking up and down were all discussed in terms of the attendees film, sound, music and graphic design interests.
3. We also tried to Cross-fertilize ideas–one kid would say something regarding 3D animation or film that will in turn provide an idea for another kid that wants to create lyrics. The idea being that places like SpyHop are great places to collaborate and are what sociologists called “Third Spaces.” It’s where new ideas are likely to be generated and come from.
More and more of these young and incredibly talented image thinkers at places like SpyHop are being born into our world. We need to create our institutions to recognize this fact and help our youth–in fact anyone with the spirit of youth– to envision a world that has opportunities for all –if we can imagine it, we can create it.
For further interest check out: www.accord3.com
As humans on a small blue planet, we sometimes look out to mostly empty space for signs that there may be life in the boundless beyond. Perhaps there are planets like ours with abundant life and people constantly creating and moving towards their future reality and without all the struggles we face here on Earth. I don’t doubt there are others in dimensions perhaps unseen but I suspect they struggle as well.
As with most things, including physics, reality tends to be stranger than we can suppose. It doesn’t take a strong telescope or even planetary exploration to see that even in this world that we occupy is made up of many different realities. Lately, the degrees and variances that these realities operate within leaves me to wonder if we, as human members of this small speck, even care that we share the same sphere in the vast universe. If your reality doesn’t agree with my reality, am I not alien to you? Does our relative proximity make our foreignness any different or less remote? There are potentially over 7 billion other realities already out there. Is there any doubt we have already found alien life in vast multiverse?
Turn on your preferred source of information and you will come to the conclusion that the chaotic street is taking over. Policymakers are operating in chaos. You can see and feel their fear. If you haven’t figured it out yet, deterministic, machine and clockwork-models of governance are not enough to control a chaotic environment.
Nature and our environment is more complex than that. For much of recent human history, it was assumed that if we could only just get more information and just get down to the minutiae of detail that everything could be predicted and controlled. This is an incorrect assumption. Our system is so complex it changes just by our mere observation let alone by our constant tinkering. So what if anything can problem solvers do in this chaotic environment? Here are some current thoughts and ideas:
1. Lose Control and Embrace Chaos.
All living systems and social system are constantly re-creating themselves from the friction of chaos. This causes fear in many from the perceived loss of control. Backwards or nostalgic thinking that gets stuck, compartmentalized and fractionalized is likely to appear in such an environment of fear. The perceived loss of control comes from the notion that the holy models of governance we have created on any level, whether government, business or families, if not working correctly or faltering, is likely due to our failure to understand or to have allowed inappropriate change to occur. The problem with this view however, is that complete control was never a possibility in the first place.
2. Broaden and Lengthen Tolerance.
Fear due to chaos causes a rushing in to make sense of the darkness or even worse, paralysis. If your model is based upon a machine instead of a living system then tolerance becomes critical because machines have little variance. This lack of variant tolerance can have a perceived chance of catastrophic failure. If, on the other hand, your view is of a living system, tolerance is far more holistic and manageable. It has great variability and flexibility.
In the Western world we like our problems in 10 minute sound bites or perhaps a bit longer depending on the magnitude of the issue–but four years tops. However, developing longer time horizons is one of the key ways to get out of the chaos we perceive we are in. Broaden and lengthen your view.
3. Step Back and Observe Patterns
Looking for patterns in chaotic systems takes time…they are there it just takes time to see them. It requires a new type of systems patience. Step back. By constantly looking at the chaos you will predictably see only chaos and your ability to predict will be likewise be challenged. Vision requires spacial thinking (right brain creativity) that takes you out of the chaos box and helps create goals. Further, any attempt to control more will serve only to cause more breakdowns. Make your framework flexible. While it is true that my immediate environment may be local your local environment is connected outside of its present space in ways we don’t even understand fully yet. Yet, they exist on even the smallest of levels. Einstein would agree and call this “spooky.”
4. Solve from Within
You cannot just download your expertise or masterful thinking and expect it or them to fit nicely into different systems — solutions ultimately will be best created within the particular system even though the multi-systems will all have impact. Don’t assume because it worked here it will work over there. Ultimately, the expertise needs to come from within the particular system that is being impacted by chaos and in need of change.
Outside experts, when used at the beginning to facilitate change, can help by creating broad and flexible frameworks for the “inside the system experts” to create within so that new ideas creatively emerge and take root in the local environment. Time may be best spent by these problem solvers in identifying potential leaders and experts within the local system–the ones that have the ability to create new knowledge. Spend time helping them emerge. Look for those who have the ability to change and thrive. They are likely willing to be vulnerable and metaphorically have blood on their hands from trying to climb their mountain of chaos. If they don’t, look elsewhere as it will be a waste of time to try and mentor someone unengaged who will eventually not survive within the dynamic system any way.
5. Discomfort is Required.
Being authentic, mindful and in the moment requires letting go and becoming vulnerable. Only then is the change within a system possible. Not knowing is a place that you need to become comfortable with. No one person knows everything. A sense of humor helps. Sometimes the best thing to happen is to allow whatever you are working on to fall apart–it may allow for change and adaptability. A vine won’t produce fruit if given too much fertilizer. Stress is healthy in producing fruit. It sounds like a paradox but letting go may be the key to working within chaos and generating transforming solutions.
6. Chaos is Fuel To Resolve
Chaos is the fuel of creation. Study the black holes of the multiverse. Creating a bit of tension might be beneficial in the long run. However, follow it up with resolve like a good piece of music. As we have seen from the Arab Spring information in organizations that is over controlled has the opposite effect that is desired. Controlled information flows create bottlenecks and frustration. The complete opening up of information in a democratic method, while it will create temporary chaos, will eventually lead to innovation and vision seeking. This will be a very hard lesson for most to learn. It will have to be given in bits as it is like chocolate and if given too much too soon you will grow sick. But as a problem solver it is also our secret sauce. We are mentoring in letting go.
7. Relevant Information for the Core.
The key to Problem Solving is the use of relevant information for that particular system.
A good organization must have a clear vision. Who are they? What are they about? What is their purpose? Ask it constantly. Its core can then be viewed clearly by other systems in which it is connected. More core, less mission. Why bother to exist if they don’t know who or what they are? The answer needs to arrive as a whole. Involve everyone. Allow for other systems to see and organize around their/your core.
8. Additional Ideas
Old approaches won’t work just by doing them faster. New ways and transitions feel strange at first.
Create systems in which as many as possible can thrive. Don’t just try to motivate or incentify people. It doesn’t work long term. We are social beings so create social systems that work. If people are not socially satisfied then your system is in need of being re-invented. Don’t put them literally or figuratively in a box. It will be their coffin. Create an environment that gives them variety, including free flowing information that is relevant so they can live and flourish.
Engage everyone. Make it messy. Enjoy the ambiguity.
A vision is in your gut. And if your organization doesn’t understand what the hell it is, then it has no core. It’s about heart and feeling. Putting it on a poster or a wall is meaningless unless everyone walks by it and says those words come close to capturing my feeling. By the way, your gut is a system too. It needs chaotic bacteria to function.
Be as a little child and become as you play. Create an atmosphere/system that is conditioned to be compassionate and empathetic towards trial and error. Mistakes are allowed here. The more you make the more solutions you will find.
Many have said if you are laughing it is important. Be embarrassed. Embrace surprise.
Muddy water clears eventually if you have the time to wait it out and stop stirring them up.
Creating systems that learn to listen and grow more and more with other systems is the only real possibility for future growth. It’s all connected.
What you do as a problem solver has to be designed as a whole systems with EVERYONE’S involvement or it won’t work. It can’t be the few, the proud, or the just the old boys. Engage more and more people, not less.
Gravity, as we have come to know it, has been elusive for millennia. Newton was able to identify it and discuss it in terms of a static stage but is took several centuries later for Einstein to put gravity into the equations of math on a grand scale. As he thought gravity through over several years he came to something he called the “cosmological constant”. This eventually came to be something that he thought was one of his greatest blunders. It was a formula that kept spacetime static so that the universe was neither expanding or contracting–it stayed in this cosmic balance. There was a force applied to his equations that was equal to gravity that kept everything in the universe in place. Several years later, Hubble proved through observation that the space of the universe was actually expanding. Einstein’s theory of a cosmological constant was thrown out. What wasn’t realized, at that point in time, was that Einstein was actually onto something. Something was actually pulling against gravity, it was just pulling out more dramatically than expected and space-time was not constant. Astronomers observing exploding stars far off determined that not only was space expanding, it was expanding at an accelerating rate. What was causing this acceleration is theorized by physicists to be dark energy. We can’t see it, but apparently it exists.
All objects are effected by gravity just as they are apparently being effected by dark energy even though we cannot see either. The weight of objects, or its mass, causes everything to be attracted to it. The heavier the mass, the more energy it creates. Objects, even time, become pulled in by the mass. Things slow and stay in proximate location, becoming related in space and time. The moon, sun and earth are celestial bodies of this effect. But so are our bodies and thoughts as I will explain.
What I suspect, is that the energy of all objects becomes more or less fixed as it measures the object it is observing. This sounds strange at first. You might ask how does a particle of sand measure an object or how does to moon measure and observe the earth? Are we not made of the same elements of sand and moon? Our elements are just shuffled differently. Ask yourself, where do your thoughts come from? Where is that spot? Are you sure? This leads me to the conclusion that what the basis of our universe, including all forms of matter, or what we perceive as matter, is in reality some form of consciousness. As that consciousness measures other consciousness it takes a form and becomes reality.
As conscious beings we can make choices. In the simplest form we may choose to listen to a certain voice or idea. We observe a certain object and in essence take time to measure it. As we are measuring those thoughts or ideas we take on the mass of that thought and literally become heavier and more singular. In doing so, we are allowing gravity to pull us in a certain direction so that our consciousness actually takes some type of orbit around that person, idea or object. Indeed, we are not only literally giving awareness, weight and energy to that consciousness, we are creating awareness and mass to our own consciousness as well. We literally gain mass/weight and energy by observing and measuring the thought or idea that is before us. In creating mass, our focus is slowed and orbits in proximity to that mass due to the pull of gravity and dark energy.
So I don’t sound too metaphysical, listen or read from cutting edge quantum physicists such as Brian Greene or Michio Kaku and see if you don’t believe it is possible to arrive at a similar conclusion as I have. If this theory of consciousness is correct, it makes it even more possible that our thoughts and actions become critical in maintaining our free will lest we get pulled in by a thought of greater mass because we took time to observe that thought and gave it weight and energy. Our goal should be to only to observe and give weight to those things in life that truly “matter” to us and for the betterment of our fellow beings, planet and multiverse. Pun intended. Love, create, explore. If someone or something pulls you in a direction that is not what you are about, don’t stop to observe or measure it. Doing so only gives it and you more mass and weight and that mass will pull you off your intended course. Move beyond those cosmic energy roadblocks and become your fullest potential. To do so affirms who you are and that you are a free agent of creation.
PLEASE NOTE: This article will surely make some of you that read it wonder what to do about the nagging problems of the world? Obviously, certain things have to be observed and measured in order for them to be changed–not everything of negative import, now that we are at this stage of human development, can be ignored. I suspect, and will save this question for a later article, that there is a way for certain types of beings, that are skilled and trained in this line of problem solving, to elevate the problem to a new level of consciousness without being pulled down to the lower level of that negative gravitational attraction…string theory.
The last thing a fish notices is water, or so the saying goes. I’m of the opinion that we are in some kind of bubble not unlike the housing bubble we just popped or the burst of the tech sector bubble a few years ago. This one, however, is exponentially larger and possibly feels more like what it must have felt for those people at the start of the Industrial Revolution in the later part of the 18th century. There are obviously various reactions that people go through in these transitional moments. Fear, excitement, a step back, paralysis, innovation, or denial to name a few. What will happen moving forward? I am not one hundred percent sure as it is hard to step outside of the bubble. It takes creativity and imagination. Indeed, I believe that right-brained people of this world may in fact be the new leaders of our future. Time will tell if my instincts were correct.
It is no shock when I say industrialized, consumptionized thinking is coming to an end. Moreover, the related and resulting climate change is the leveling factor that may spur this change quickly forward. We can no longer expect to make, consume and throw away. This way of life is simply not sustainable. This is especially true while the population is adding billions of new middle class that are trying to catch up with the rest of the industrial world. Some in this bubble are fearful or myopic and will not accept that this bubble is expanding to the point of maximum pressure. They don’t even see it. Others, with thoughtful leaders in companies and organizations such as Dupont, GE, Coke, various NGO’s, civil society and some scientists realize that climate change, and new ways of seeing system interrelation is occurring and are taking steps beyond the bubble. They realize that to survive and thrive in the future they must plan and create that future. I state all of this as a back drop for what I am to say next: If we are to thrive in the next stage of human existence and development it will be because we have carefully observed the environment as an interrelated system of connections, with us humans being one of those connections as opposed to “the” connection, and that we taken positive action to create sustainability. Nature, to which we belong, whether you believe it is of intelligent design or of chance, is the ultimate example. As it thrives, we thrive. As we cause all or any part of its demise, we will also destroy ourselves and those organisms and life around us.
So where, you might ask, does all of this fit into problem solving? I learned today that there may be particles of matter that travel faster than light. I also went to a small gathering where Amos N. Guiora, an expert on the Middle East and the son of two holocaust survivors, spoke about terrorism. I also happened by chance to read an article in a magazine that examined cell design. You may ask again what does this have to do with problem solving? My answer is this: Possibly everything.
When I read today that there was something that could possibly travel faster than light I stopped to ask myself, what else do we likely don’t know? That is always the more difficult part of the equation. You see, what we know tends to be more easy, comfortable, and stress-less. But, as we step out of our comfort level, or outside of the bubble if you will, we start to ask those less easy and possibly more stressful questions that take us to the next step. But with stress will come growth. As I have been contemplating systems in trying to see the big picture, I came to the conclusion that the rules of systems, like physics, that was possibly turned on its head today, should be able to be applied in both directions if the theory was to be consistent and able to stand up to scrutiny. In other words, I should also be able to go small and see consistency. That is why I decided to look at a cell.
I stumbled across an article in the May 2008 issue of Scientific American entitled, “How Cells Cleans House” written by Vojo Deretic and Daniel Klionsky. I do not make any claims to the discipline of biology. My 17 year-old daughter knows more than I do here. What I do know, to some degree, is problem solving. And what I find interesting is taking something from one discipline that appears to be unrelated and applying it to my discipline. It is called synthesis. Whether it is music and mediation or cell structure and problem solving, it helps me to understand the bigger system in which we live and hopefully create something new. So here is what I learned today about cells, terrorism, the speed of light and problem solving.
Inside a cell, as some of you know from high school, is what is known as the nucleus. Outside of the nucleus is cytoplasm, a jelly like place where vast amounts of other molecules and organelles live and carry on their daily business. This outside area or complex eventually becomes gummed up and creates excess garbage because of ongoing cell life and operations that the insides of these cells do. So, in order to do the cleanup a cell does a process of autophagy (Greek for self-eating– primarily through the use of phagophores that surround the garbage) to rid itself of sludge or old bits of garbage. This process also in turn acts as a defense against harmful viruses or bacteria that enter the system. When the process of autophagy runs too fast, slow or malfunctions the consequences can be dire. Crohns disease is an example of when autophagy runs too slow. Also, Alzheimer’s is a breakdown of autophagy. Some cancers occur if the autophagy process is too fast.
The world we live in has been in a make, use and throw away cycle for give or take 200 plus years. We have become gummed up. Our landfills are at capacity, or oceans are acidified, our atmosphere is polluted and are oceans are rising due to too much CO2 and melting ice. There are wars, intractable conflicts in the Middle East, a burgeoning middle class, depletion of nonrenewable resources and a lack of overall leadership that is not forward-looking and not based in truth. Our leaders are afraid to tell us this: We have to roll up our sleeves and work hard and sacrifice if we want any future. Autophagy is the cellular equivalent of mediation or problem solving and the continuous recycling of components. In problem solving, as in autophagy, we provide a defense against situations that enter the human system that could cause us harm. The key to effective problem solving, as in autophagy, is timing control. Too fast or too slow in either problem solving or autophagy can be equally as damaging. Controlling the speed of autophagy and problem solving is imperative.
Back to the cell. The autophagosomes, or the carriers of the garbage, then take this cargo of unwanted sludge to a lysosomes or a disposal plant. The useful pieces are recycled and the rest is digested and used as energy. Apparently, all of this systems work within the cell evolved from the need to survive. Several kinds of stresses most likely caused this type of action. Absence of growth, starvation, etc. all signaled to the cell to speed up its assembly of autophagosomes. Hence when nutrients are scarce autophagy intensifies.
Are we not in a need to survive mode and needing to evolve? The fact that a cell has learned to recycle, and use the excess as fuel is also telling. A smart forward looking business or industry and the problem solvers it surrounds itself with, should do the same should it wish to survive. The leaders of Coke, Dupont, GE and others have awakened to this fact and are actually teaming up with NGOs–something not even thought of a few years ago and seen as taboo– in an effort to progress to the other side of the bubble and thrive in the next phase of human and planetary development. Like autophagy, problem solvers and the smart creators of business in the future should also systematically evolve from a need to survive to be number one at any cost to a more systemic production and housecleaning function that is absolutely vital to the world.
Autophagy helps rid the cell of unwanted problems. For instance, proteins can sometimes be combined wrongfully within a cell, malfunction and wear out over time. It is up to autophagy to cull them or sequester them before it becomes a problem. When a problem occurs autophagy production is intensified. Should this example not be mimicked in our world as well? Something that Amos Guiora said tonight stuck in my mind. Although I do not claim to know all of his writings and a couple of things he said tonight I would question as overly provocative and not necessary helpful in problem solving, I found him to be extremely articulate, well read, and thought stimulating. A portion of what he said indicated that counter-terrorism should take on two tracts. One was the soft approach and the other was the hard approach. I believe what he was trying to say is that the soft approach would be the building of schools, hospitals, roads, reconciliation, mediation, and problem solving of all types. The hard approach was war, and targeted assassination. Although I find myself in the first category as a problem solver, cells, after autophagy has failed also induce apoptosis (known as the angel of death) for the greater good of the organism. In this process, malignant cells or structures within a cell are removed to make room for newer more robust cells or structures. Again, I am a problem solver and am not suggesting apoptosis as a way to solve problems. In fact, autophagy can possibly be controlled to an extent that apoptosis is rarely needed.
Faulty mitochondrion can wreak havoc if it sets off apoptosis at the wrong time. A mini flaw in a small part of one cell can lead inadvertently to the death of the entire cell. Autophagy is the fail safe mechanism against this type of mistake. They can resolve the issues of the damaged mitochondria. Mitochondria can release what’s known as reactive oxygen species or ROS. If these levels are kept under control by antioxidants that scavenge ROS then all is well. If however, the antioxidants do not maintain control and ROS gets out of control, then it becomes a cancer threat. Once again, autophagy steps in by removing the dysfunctional mitochondria. The process can switch from cleanup with autophagy or to death with an apoptotic decision for the benefit of the cell and the organism in which is resides. Again, I am not suggesting death as an alternative, but I find it interesting that autophagy, and in our case of the metaphor, problem solving, is given such a heightened job to remove dysfunction.
In some diseases like HIV and legionnaires disease the disease or virus has learned how to use a autophagy to its own benefit and instead kill the cell and organism as a whole. The disease HIV does so for example by appearing to shed its shell and inducing the autophagy to come in. When it does enter apoptosis is kicked in and the process of clean up ceases. So here is the problem solvers dilemma: Beware that you do not become a pawn in the play of the imposter who wishes nothing more to use you. Think Hitler in his use of Chamberlain. Perhaps for the good of the organism and the system as a whole this is the disease that must be cut off and sequestered until it regains healthy status, if ever.
Scientists are just beginning to understand our cellular system and the learning of controlling it by promoting or inhibiting autophagy. Problem solvers everywhere are in the process of evolving and learning to help clean house. Becoming systemic, more prevalent, and controlling the rates of engagement within the field of problem solving in order to clean our house will likewise be key. Being engaged in systemic thinking holds great promise for our future.
Oh, I failed to mention my thoughts about the new theory that there are particles faster than the speed of light. Einstein, possibly still thinking in some other dimension, is probably beyond this new idea and has come to the relative conclusion that “thought” is faster than light. If I am right, you just proved it on the other end of my thought.
You must not consult the opinions and judgments of merely the present generation, but also those of future people. And yet posterity’s judgment, freed of distraction and malice, will be the more genuine–Cicero, Letters to his Brother Quintas
Negotiating is an art that needs careful conducting. When done correctly, it is not unlike a great and seasoned conductor of a symphony orchestra using all the tools and methods available to create. There are some matters that require cooperation and compromise. Classical music is created similarly with its emphasis on beauty, elegance and balance. The current debt ceiling debate might have taken a cue here, where a little more compromise and balance early on could have gone a long ways. Other matters, where one or more of the parties are entrenched, sometime call for more drastic measures and tougher stances. This is especially true if one of the parties is unreasonable or difficult. Divorce mediation comes to mind. I have witnessed difficult people who do not listen. They are convinced of their position as being the only correct one. Clearly, a feeling of tension and conflict develops which takes time to resolve, sometimes a bit forcefully I might add, but resolve it does, just like a recapitulation in a fine Sonata toward the end. There are some matters however, that are moral in nature and step into the arena of right versus wrong. These issues are difficult and questions as to whether negotiations should even occur in these situations come up. Or, if negotiation does occur, what is the proper role of the problem solver as it applies to drawing lines and should he or she attempt to educate the other party? If Neville Chamberlain could go back to 1938, would he had taken the line of appeasement with Hitler over Czechoslovakia? I suspect not. But hind-sight has a way of re-writing history. A more modern example would be: Should negotiations be undertaken with the Taliban? Does it matter which tribe of the Taliban? Or, whether it is 2011 versus 2001? How would you educate the Taliban about women’s rights for instance? These are difficult questions that do not have easy answers.
Negotiations can be messy, difficult and sometimes, in the end, lacking in complete relief. But questions arise in society that we continually strive to re-calculate. They are integral to our existence as a social species and always will be. Ideally, a wise and seasoned problem-solver will calmly, empathetically, and instinctively study and manage difficult issues in such a way that he or she will proactively adjust his negotiation style and approach with the tools and methods that are appropriate to the situation. Hard, soft, fast, slow, moderate, quiet, loud, fortissimo, pianissimo, and sforzando. In the end, what is created will hopefully be better than the past.
I am lately concerned that climate change is not being recognized as an ethical issue, one that requires a more thoughtful and perhaps forceful negotiation approach as problem-solvers. I am further worried about who is not represented at the table of this debate, the next generation. Who will speak for them? Unless we, in the consumer driven countries, change our direction and understanding concerning man-made causes of climate change, we will see dramatic and unparalleled ecological damage to our world. These effects will spill into all facets of our and our future generation’s existence. Migration of species into cooler and more desirable habitats, both human and other animals, is already underway. Conflict due to this migration is occurring and will be heightened. Some of the conflict on the African continent is a recent example of this.
The exponential growth factors contributing to man-made climate change, which is near or at a tipping point, needs to be slowed and reversed. The past 2010 seasonal melt that ended in Greenland lasted 50 days longer than average. It started early and ended late. At this rate, by 2050, the sea could be one foot higher. See M.Tedesco, X Fettweis (City College of New York 2011, January 21). New melt record for Greenland ice sheet: ‘Exceptional’ season stretched up to 50 days longer than average. ScienceDaily. Having your head in the sand and denying Climate Change existence is no longer available as a legitimate choice. Current examples of this include Presidential candidate and Governor of Texas, Rick Perry’s recent denial of the existence of climate change. This does not change the reality of climate change. As problem solvers we have to open people’s minds to the reality of the situation in ways that are respectful and hopefully find common ground. We do not have a choice on this issue. The next generation needs representation. We have to continue to listen, be respectful and allow for openness of dialogue, but be clear that there are certain lines that cannot or should not be crossed if it imperils our future.
I attended the Climate Change Conference in Denmark in December of 2009, as an observer. My first sensation upon arrival at the conference was that of dizziness due to the sheer drama and the volume of the event. The Belle Center, the facility where the conference was held, was a mammoth structure that easily held 15,000 people from every corner of the world. The large halls within held the leaders of our planet. It was as large a scale of planetary “leadership” as I have ever witnessed. I put leadership in quotes because I really am struggling as to what that is and what is needed for our planet. What I saw was more about process than substance–sometimes a rigged, overly formal petty process at that. I initially thought this may be due to the shear size and possibly the lack of clarity of the climate change subject matter. In plenary sessions arguments between countries would deteriorate into such things as what should be the logo of the next conference or whose delegates were stopped at security and weren’t allowed inside Belle due to improper credentialing. This would go on for several minutes of valuable time. This is not to say that there were no caring leaders present. Some, in fact, are the most humble, careful and thoughtful leaders with whom I’ve ever had the privilege of meeting and listening to. There just seemed to me to be a general lack of leadership and vision as a whole. The fire did not seem to be lit in most of the delegations. There were clear exceptions–the Small island nations, who are being currently impacted by sea level rise, but overall the conference felt like a cork bobbing in an angry sea. On my way home to my apartment the second Saturday of my work at the Belle Center, I walked home though a march of 100,000 protesters that demanded a climate treaty. I knew then that the hoped for treaty wouldn’t happen, and not due to the protesters lack of trying, but due to lack of clarity of vision inside the Belle Center.
I think a great deal about the American Revolution and in particular Thomas Paine and Paul Revere. As you recall, Paine wrote an anonymous pamphlet in the early part of 1776 that spread among the colonies such that within 3 months over a 100,000 copies were sold. What Paine was saying was far from original. Scots and other philosophers had been saying such similar ideas for centuries. What he did though was to speak in plain language with a vision of the future that was descriptive enough for the masses to understand and be energized about.
Here are some of his words:
“ These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated”
I have also read extensively about Paul Revere. Although the story we hear of in grade school is not too historically accurate (the real story is much better), I am always amazed at the fact that one man can have such an impact at spreading the word. It is equally apparent that invisible forces come into play as well. When Revere left his home on the North-end of Boston that windy and damp Spring night, a large British warship, the Somerset was anchored in the Charles River between his hidden row-boat and the riverbank by Cambridge to where he would row to his awaiting horse. To make matters worse, it was a full moon and the whole river was visible to the men watching as outlooks from the Somerset. They knew their comrades would soon march and they were told to stop all river traffic at any cost. Thank God Boston has hills. As the moon rose Beacon Hill caused a perfect moon shadow on the watery path that Revere rowed through as he heard the moorings creak and the men talking from the Somerset.
What I heard the Chairperson of Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change or the IPCC, Dr. Rayendra Pachauri, deliver in his opening speech at COP15 in Copenhagen on December 7 2009 was:1)Warming of the climate is unequivocal 2)Since the mid 20th century most of the new warming is anthropogenic or man-made 3) Possible disappearance of sea ice by the latter part of the 20th century 4)Increase frequency of hot extremes 5)Increase in cyclones 6)Decrease in water resources in certain ares including the Great Basin where I live 7)Possible elimination of the Greenland Ice sheet which will cause sea level rise of 7 meters 8 ) Increased risk for 20-30% species extinctions if we warm 1.5 to 2.5 degrees C. 9) Greater flood risk due to(although overall less precipitation)more violent and unpredictable storms. As I said, these are only highlights–it’s in some ways much worse. Many in the small islands of the world, including Tuvalu, are already feeling the effects of a rising sea.
A minority of the world would question the accuracy and efficacy of some of the science of the IPCC. It has over 2500 scientists looking at climate change. Sometimes they get it wrong. Recently, they indicated they made a 300 year calculation error regarding glacier melt in the Himalayas. Most of the critics rushed to the conclusion that this error and a few others point to the fact that it is all a bunch of quack science behind climate change. Two thoughts: When that part of the world adds another 1 billion people in the next few decades and the ice is only half melted should that make us feel any better? Should we not care about our great, great-grandchildren because they are not here yet?
Heraclitus, the famous Greek Philosopher said something to the effect, “You can not step twice into the same river, for it is not quite the same river nor is it quite the same man.” The IPCC will not get their predictions 100% right. Maybe not even 75%. But is that really the point? What if the sea rises only 3 feet? What if the air is only moderately polluted? What if only 10 percent of the species become extinct? On the other hand, what if they underestimated the climate change fall-out and the planet becomes uninhabitable in a few centuries? The point here is one of change but also chance. If it isn’t now right in front of us why would you worry and why should you change? There are lots of opinions but somehow truth will still find its way. When will you see it, if ever? We are in a society that confuses opinion with truth and how to deal with the differences.
I have opined previously that effective revolutions take time–a slow burn if you will. The real ones never end, they continue towards a calculus of the vision they sought to create. It gives time for people to awaken and be touched by the truth of reality. It gives time to lighten the darkness of the expanding boundaries. It has to be malleable to avoid breakage. Different people will interpret ideas differently. But what the hope is, is that the overall community of mankind has a place in mind where we all can reside. The problem is, on this issue of climate change, is that we are out of time. We need to recognize that the clock has ticked. Putting your faith in a politician’s pronouncement versus 2500 scientists is folly and not forward-looking. We act now or it will be on our heads to explain to the next generation why we did nothing. We are problem solvers. The future is our client. We, nor they, should be without voices, representation or limits.
People are born with the potential to make a difference if they have a desire to involve themselves in the flow of the climate revolution. As problem solvers, we need to progress in process and substance. Ultimately, the truth of what is occurring exists. Are we willing, as an “only present now population” to take a chance that the future is someone elses problem? Are your thoughts opinions or more truth? Do you know the difference? Are you sure? Are you willing to risk the planet on your opinion or truth? Or would it be better to yearn for a vision of the future that makes our journey together more fluid and less confrontational? Where is our Revere that rides into the night to call out and warn? Where is our Paine who makes it simple to understand and lights the vision?
Now is not the time to shrink. Step forward.
I originally wrote the basis of this article last February during the uprising in Egypt when I was in Boston visiting my son who is attending Berklee College of Music. With the further events coming out of the Middle East, and particularly Libya, I decided to revisit the subject now that we have some further perspective.
On a cold February afternoon, my son and I decided to go to the Boston Public Library to do some study and research. The Boston Public Library opened its doors in 1848 and was the first large library opened to the public in the United States, and the first to allow people to borrow books and other materials and take them home to read and use. With over 30 million different books and A/V materials, that is a great deal of trust put into the public. As I think about that trust, it reminds me what democracy truly is: inherent rights along with responsibility.
When you pass through the giant doors of the library off of Copley Square you first walk into a smaller corridor. To the left is a fairly large bronze statue of a Puritan looking man. I have visited this library a few times before but never had I stopped to read the name on the inscription of the bronze statue. This time as I walked in, I was stopped by a young middle-eastern man with a small digital camera who wanted his picture taken standing next to the impressive bronze statue. After a brief moment, the picture was taken and he was on his way. Curious, I walked over to the statue and read that it was Sir Henry Vane (Harry Vane) (born 1613– beheaded in 1662), an English statesman, who was also briefly present in North America, serving as a one term Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. I then went upstairs to the great hall where all of the oak desks and green lamps are found and began to research Henry Vane. I learned, among other things, that he helped create Roger Williams’ Rhode Island Colony and Harvard College. But, more importantly, he was a tremendous proponent of religious tolerance, and the inherent rights of man. After a prolific career as a statesman who spoke without hesitation regarding freedom, he was ultimately beheaded by Charles II for treason. The King didn’t like his politics as it undermined his power.
Here are some of the words of Henry Vane:
“The power which is directive, and states and ascertains the morality of the rule of obedience, is in the hand of God; but the original, from whence all just power arises, which is magistratical and co-ercitive, is from the will or free gift of the people, who may either keep the power in themselves or give up their subjection and will in the hand of another.” King and people were bound by “the fundamental constitution or compact”, which if the king violated, the people might return to their original right and freedom.
Sean Gabb, a British libertarian, notes that Vane was in the vanguard on issues of religious freedom. Although he was “among a small and easily defeated minority”, his successors 150 years later “were responsible for the clearest and most solid safeguards of civil and religious freedom ever adopted into a constitution.”
James Kendall Hosmer, editing Winthrop’s Journal in 1908, wrote of Vane that “…his heroic life and death, his services to Anglo-Saxon freedom, which make him a significant figure even to the present moment, may well be regarded as the most illustrious character who touches early New England history. While his personal contact with America was only for a brief space, his life became a strenuous upholding of American ideas: if government of, by, and for the people is the principle which English-speaking men feel especially bound to maintain, the life and death of Vane contributed powerfully to cause this idea to prevail.”
The last several years have brought much change to the world. Many of those changes have been dramatic, quick and volatile. Technology has provided tools that can connect me instantaneously to someone thousands of miles away. Information is powerful. A power that even a King or a dictator cannot always fully control, try as they may. This mass of information in the hands of the many creates not only a leveling effect but also establishes new connections, connections that take some time to be discerned, tested and trusted.
I received an email from Dorit Cypis while I was studying Henry Vane at the Boston Public Library. A great woman who at the time she sent the email was chairperson of the Middle East Initiative for Mediators Beyond Borders to which I belong. At the very moment I was immersing myself in Henry Vane at the library, she had sent me an email concerning Gene Sharp and a 90 page booklet he wrote entitled “From Dictatorship to Democracy–A Conceptual Framework for Liberation”. I had recently heard of a Gene Sharp from reading an article written in the New York Times. It described him as being a shy, thoughtful, elderly man who was one of the primary information providers to the recent populist uprisings, not only in Egypt, but in other countries as well. He has been writing his thoughts for several decades. Amazingly, he is not a big user of the internet nor social media, but when thoughts are as powerful as his, they have a way of finding and flowing into the river of change. His contribution, like that of Vane, has too been a strenuous upholding of democratic ideas: that government of, by, and for the people is the principle which men feel especially bound to maintain. His life has contributed powerfully to cause this idea to prevail all over the world. He lives and writes in Boston.
With recent events now known as “Arab Spring” transpiring in Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Libya, Jordan, Morocco, Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Bahrain, Oman, Yemen and other countries in the Middle East and North Africa, it is clear that we are not in a situation where we simply move onto the next world event as if a box has been checked. Revolutions are not clean. They are messy events. But within that mess are the seeds of all that will be good and life sustaining. You have to nurture those seeds and you have to nurture it immediately from birth. And from that nurturing you hope to come out on the other side with good government, a civil society and a model for economic growth.
Gene Sharp, in his pamphlet that Dorit emailed me, is quick to warn that, “Nor should this analysis be interpreted to mean that when a specific dictatorship is ended, all other problems will also disappear. The fall of one regime does not bring in a utopia. Rather, it opens the way for hard work and long efforts to build more just social, economic, and political relationships and the eradication of other forms of injustices and oppression. It is my hope that this brief examination of how a dictatorship can be disintegrated may be found useful wherever people live under domination and desire to be free.”
As expressed by Middle East analyst, Edward Djerejian today on CNN, if these new societies that emerge from these revolutions are not quickly engaged and nurtured into civil society, these revolutions can even more “easily be hijacked by new brands of autocrats, either secular or religious” that have the potential to be worse than the dictators that preceded. Hopefully, the Libyan people, and all those in the Middle East and Northern Africa that are going through this massive awakening, will be able to craft their political and economic future in a positive and long term fashion.
After I wrote the original article in February, 2011, I received a comment from Dorit Cypis who originally sent me the email regarding Gene Sharp. Her email comment stated:
“Your comments remind me of growing up in Tel Aviv, Israel, early 1950’s, and welcoming my father home once a year from his travels in Central and South America. It seemed to me, at my very young age, that he was always chased home either by a natural disaster such as an erupting volcano, or an earthquake…or a revolution. These “chaos” became conflated for me. The second time he returned with tales of revolution (in the same country), I exclaimed,”but they just had a revolution!” I came to recognize that, just as you share, revolution is just the beginning of change not the end. Consciousness is like a very slowly crawling insect…takes a long time to cross the road.”
So now comes the hard work and long efforts. Revolution is not an event but a process, a process that if done correctly continues on and on in the hearts and minds of those who see a better way. May Henry Vane and Gene Sharp welcome you to Boston and to the idea that all people are inherently free and that government exists of, by, and for the people.
Volatility. You cannot turn on a news report or search the internet and not hear or read something about it. We don’t like it. We spend our lives trying to figure ways around it or methods to control it. Whole sciences and theories are formed around it. If you don’t believe that, just spend a night looking up the word “volatility” on the internet and you quickly realize finances, physics, medicine, mathematics, economics, etc., all have theories and formulas to try to measure, deal with and minimize it.
What is volatility? Some of the definitions would include: easily aroused, tending toward eruption, unable to hold attention because of inherent fickleness, sudden or rapid or unexpected change, and difficulty in holding or capturing. Whether it is the stock market, riots in the streets of London, Lebanon, Tahrir Square, unpredictable groups formed in social networks, nuclear power plants, or global warming, volatility, and the inherent change it brings, seems to be quickening at a rate exponentially faster than just a generation ago. We live in a time that ushers in great shifts and waves of momentum. That momentum in turn triggers global awareness of events. The grandeur of events that we are witnessing today would most likely have never occurred in the past due to the lack of volatility. Further, even when the large event occasionally occurred in the not too distant past, they were not witnessed collectively by a majority of the planet at one time. Connections that didn’t exist even 10 years ago are becoming not only commonplace but also vital. It is as if a giant mind that has been asleep for millennia, has been awakened and the synapses of that mind are triggering connection after connection.
These new connections cause volatility at first. It is the same as with any new creature that is born and becomes aware. At first, the coordination between these newly created connections are unclear and unpredictable. It takes experimentation or trial and error before the new connections figure how to coordinate between all of the other connections to find rhythm and coordination. Old connections become less frequently used or replaced by these new connections. Sometimes the old connections become full of white noise and static, unclear in transmission or how to deal with the change. Those older connections may take time to find their new balance and frequencies in order to tune in with all of the other newer connections More startling is when an older connection is completely severed and abandoned in favor of the new connection. All these events revolving around changes in connectivity cause volatility.
Volatility is related to fear. It, however, is not fear itself. Fear is how we react and gauge volatility. The greater the volatility, the greater chance for extreme fear. Fear is an effect of volatility. It is common for volatile events, not seen or experienced on such a global scale before, to cause fear or panic initially. As humans, we are hard wired to react in fear to the unforeseen. Since we looked out of the walls of our first caves we feared the unknown. We witnessed our fellow clansmen leaving and returning. We also saw that others would just leave and return injured or worse yet, never return. These observations gave meaning to volatility. However, the other human trait, exploration, called us out of the cave. But it was most likely volatility, and the fear that it caused, that allowed our species to survive over thousands of years. With volatility we learned to measure risk and began to refine and manage our need to survive within the realm of the unknown.
So here we are in 2011. Some would say we are nearing an end. Others would say we are in the process of becoming new beings or a new world order. Still others would call those notions new-age crap. Regardless of who is right, there is clearly change occurring and volatility is at an heightened frequency. It may be the connectivity of the internet, a burgeoning middle class, or other unforeseen factors that are causing this to occur. I suspect it is a myriad of factors. But the point is you have a choice. When it comes to volatility, you can fight it, resist it, deny it, and pretend it doesn’t exist, or you can acknowledge it, observe it and react to it in a way that may be more harmonious in regard to volatility.
My initial thought on the subject is to accept it, appreciate it for what it is, realize that everything has a cycle, that everything changes, that we are a group of 10,000 ideas and cultures that are intermingling in ways that were unheard of even 20 years ago; that there will be an abundance of new clashes, new ideas, and new connections. As we step out of our shells and caves we are bound to be caught up in new flows and experiences that we cannot predict. You can either be terrorized or create new opportunity. You can either fight volatility or flow with it. Relax and swim with it or struggle and swim against it. Volatility is the rip tide of our generation. Eventually, it will release and you will be able to get back to shore. But realize that these rip tides of volatility will happen regardless of your approach due to our becoming interconnected. Some may be strong enough to attempt swimming against it but, for most, that risk is not wise nor the method that will allow the majority of us who wish to continue in our progress on earth to survive and excel. I am not suggesting doing nothing to enact positive change in such things and places as financial markets, democratic or social reform movements, nuclear power plants, or global warming legislation. But what I am suggesting is to have a bit of long-term perspective in these volatile times in which we all live. Smile, breath and ponder why you are here at this present moment of turbulence. What is it you will contribute? Will you go with the flow as opposed to against it? And if you swim with the tide who will you help along the way? Can you give much needed help and encouragement to those who are just treading water or those who are lost and drowning so they don’t perish from the panic found in this rip tide?
Eventually, as we journey to that new place and become adjusted to our new environment, we will again become accustomed to what appears to be the lack of volatility. I suspect that even that new environment will seem slower and easier to live within. But that is just the new cycle…again.