Posts Tagged ‘learning’

The latest in coming to grips with the Anthropecene

This is a one-two punch I couldn’t resist: one of my top-5 journalists recommending a powerful new essay by my favorite “recent discovery” in earth-connected literature.  Even better, Andrew Revkin and Robert Macfarlane are both riffing on one of the juicier umbrella topics for thinking about our rapidly-changing world: the Anthropocene, or the idea that the human mark on the planet is likely to take its place as the latest geological epoch.

Both Revkin and Macfarlane set out to point our attention to the best of the recent writing on this key topic. Revkin, in large part, welcomes Macfarlane’s recent piece as a chance to take a break from his regular dips into the recent literature, but he adds a few of his own recent faves at the end of his column.  By contrast, Macfarlane’s extended essay in The Guardian presents a rich and complex introduction to the topic.  You couldn’t find a better starting point (just as you couldn’t find a better deep-dive for learning about the field than those regular dips collected on Revkin’s site).  Here’s a first taste, then click through for more excerpts:

There are good reasons to be sceptical of the epitaphic impulse to declare “the end of nature”. There are also good reasons to be sceptical of the Anthropocene’s absolutism, the political presumptions it encodes, and the specific histories of power and violence that it masks. But the Anthropocene is a massively forceful concept, and as such it bears detailed thinking through. Though it has its origin in the Earth sciences and advanced computational technologies, its consequences have rippled across global culture during the last 15 years. Conservationists, environmentalists, policymakers, artists, activists, writers, historians, political and cultural theorists, as well as scientists and social scientists in many specialisms, are all responding to its implications.

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Planetary futurecraft: the time is now

We’ve long highlighted the dearth of novels and films about how humanity might marshall our ingenuity and societal focus to get from here to a better/wiser/saner future.  Most of the stories about the future seem to be set in post-breakdown dystopias or seriously degraded, “muddle-down” worlds.  And the few “breakthrough” tales, like Star Trek, offer no sense of how the transition occurred.

One of our favorite next-gen futurists, Alex Steffen, is aiming to do something about that.  He’s not shifting gears and becoming a novelist—that could be great!—but he is gearing up to weave together a story that points the way forward.  At a time when every year of delay ups the ante on our game of chance with the climate, and during a season in which the US political world is being shaken from all sides, he reminds us:

When we can imagine no future we want, something far more dangerous takes its place in our minds: the future we fear. Without visions of progress worth coming together to fight for, crisis tears people apart. That’s no accident, either. Divide and rule. Where there is no vision, people are easy prey. … You’d think that this would be when the Very Serious People who’ve been running our countries, corporations and culture would step up and counter that fear-mongering with leadership and vision. You’d be wrong.

They can’t lead us because every good future is now a heroic one, and they’re not heroes. They’re managers and accountants and gatekeepers, (telling) us that all we can do is take small steps, support slow transitions, gradual improvements, incremental policy gains.

If you know Steffen at all, you know he won’t settle for that!  Alex cut his teeth running Worldchanging, the crowd-sourced, solutions-oriented compendium that was a new-millenium grandchild of the venerable Whole Earth Catalog.  He then moved on to write Carbon Zero, a look at what it will take to decarbonize our cities, along with a series of powerful clarion calls for change, including a profoundly thoughtful 50-year vision, Putting the Future Back in the Room, and a recent “here’s how we did it” talk framed as recollections from 2115.

Now he’s putting that same energy, and all he learned along the way, into a project he’s calling

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On micro-ambition: a bit of Zone 3 for a Tuesday morning

While much of what we share here features innovative community initiatives or leading-edge financial world developments, it’s important to remember the foundational role of the top row of the Resilient Investing Map, your Personal Assets.  And up there, most of our energy goes into Zone 1 (family, health, relationships) and Zone 2 (work and lifestyle).  So here’s a little nudge to keep some juice flowing in your Zone 3  as well (personal/spiritual growth, learning, inspiration).

This recent essay from James Shelley is the sort of thing that can be worth a few minutes of your time; we recommend that you find a few channels of inspiration and insight that you can turn to on a regular basis, ones that take you out of your normal areas of expertise and personal or career focus, and offer the chance to think anew about how you’re shaping your life.

Here, Shelley fleshes out a concept dubbed micro-ambition, a “passionate dedication to the pursuit of short-term goals:”

To be ‘micro-ambitious’ means embracing the present opportunity — whatever it is — and making of it everything you can. After all, just as the present is a coalescence of your past so far, rest assured that the next thing will be built on the foundations you lay today. So build well. Go ‘all-in’ on whatever opportunity you have now. ….

The next opportunity worthy of your attention will probably show up in your peripheral vision, some unpredictable consequence of having “put your head down” to invest your best effort in the present enterprise. Micro-ambition is all about focusing on projects… not crossing some imaginary, arbitrarily defined ‘finish line’ in the future.

Being dedicated evolutionaries, we like this nugget: “Micro-ambition assumes from the outset that continual learning and self-reinvention are par for the course.”  He goes on:

Regardless of where your paycheque comes from, do you think of life as a racetrack or a labyrinth? Are your current projects a means to an end, or a chapter in a twisting, unpredictable plot? In reality, of course, these are not absolute dichotomies. (There are plenty of careerists who leverage their position to create incredible opportunities and plenty of freelancers who fret over the legacy of their careers.) This is ultimately a question of attitude. How do you approach the present?

This sort of reflection may seem like a distraction, or useless philosophizing, especially if it’s coming in from an angle that isn’t quite in your usual wheelhouse.  But making immediate practical use of new perspectives isn’t always the point.  The more important payback from time invested in stepping off your usual trail and taking in something unexpected is that making a habit of doing so will, over time, introduce some other pathways that you do find a deep resonance with, ones that continue to shape your life over time.  This is the delight and reward of your Zone 3 investments; they don’t all pay off, but the ones that do are especially valuable.

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Is your life ready for VUCA?

We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous.  Are you poised to adjust nimbly to changing circumstances as they arise?  Because while we may not know quite how or when changes will crop up, it’s clear they’re coming—who foresaw oil prices dropping so precipitously, or US political polarization devolving so rapidly and dangerously?

A recent piece by Eric McNulty in Strategy+Business, Leading in an Increasingly VUCA World, offers the best concise overview of VUCA and how to respond that we’ve seen (well, other than in our book!).  McNulty stresses:

VUCA isn’t something to be solved; it simply is. Attempts to simplify complexity, or to break volatility, uncertainty, and ambiguity down into smaller and smaller parts in hopes that each can be decoded and countered will not make them go away — there are too many elements beyond the control of traditional centers of power and authority. It is a network phenomenon and can’t be mastered through industrial age structures and practices.

We absolutely agree.  That’s why we formulated the integrated planning tools laid out in The Resilient Investor, centered on a “map” of our lives that provides a foundation for making clear and responsive choices within this VUCA landscape.  Personal and social resilience is enhanced when we cultivate all our assets (personal, tangible, financial), each of these engaging with our communities, the global financial system, and evolutionary initiatives that are making things better.

McNulty offers three tips for personal VUCA preparedness.  The first two will be familiar to our readers.

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Best of 2015 from Stockholm Resilience Centre

Scandinavians have grappled with social challenges more diligently than most of the rest of the world, and it’s no different in the realm of resilience.  The Stockholm Resilience Centre has long been the global leader in researching and teaching about the nuts and bolts of what resilience is and what it can offer to communities, planners, and the world.  They’ve just compiled their most-requested new papers of 2015, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a better syllabus for getting up to speed with the most current municipal experiments and global thinking in resilience.  Topics range far and wide, with a special emphasis on recent practical attempts to implement resilience, along with the important question of how we can or should assess or measure resilience.  If you’re active in local or regional resilience planning or Transition Town programs, you really do need to jump on over to the SRC website and peruse this collection.

Here’s a taste of the topics covered; their site includes a full-page summary of each one, some with video and most with a sidebar of related papers and links:

  • Learning to apply resilience: First in-depth analysis of a resilience assessment put into practice
  • Don’t fence me in: Managing ecosystems for predictable outcomes may backfire, new study warns
  • Beyond measure?: Reducing resilience to a few measurements can block deeper understanding
  • Planetary Boundaries: Guiding human development on a changing planet
  • Five factors for successful management of natural capital: Strategies for successful governance, for both people and ecosystems

Kudos to the Centre both for funding this important work, and for offering such complete summaries of each paper to help guide visitors to the ones that are most relevant for them.  Great work!

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Coming to terms with the Anthropocene

Once again, Andy Revkin has put together a fantastic in-depth post that can be enjoyed either as a quick overview of a complex topic or as the portal to digging into a wealth of primary sources.  This time he’s back on the question of the anthropocene—the posited new epoch in earth’s evolution that’s marked by the primary influence of humanity.  He presents what is perhaps the best point-counterpoint summary I’ve yet seen on the fundamental question underlying anthropocene thinking: can there be a “good” human age, or is this era inherently one of ecological and social decline? This really comes down to whether one has faith in humanity’s ability to forge a new balance with the earth’s natural systems.  And of course, the answer you carry forward will be a fundamental shaper of your overall world view and your approach to life and to resilient investing.

Revkin shares extended excerpts from two talks at a recent Breakthrough Institute Dialogue,

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The plight and fight of the climate scientist

For all our encouragement that resilient investors should consider the full range of possible futures, and our respect for the array of thought leaders that inspire our archetypal Dreamers, Dealers, Doomers, Dualists, and Drivers, it really all comes down to one simple question: are we f**ked?  Pity the climate scientists, who most fully understand the forces we’ve unleashed, and who spend their days (and sleepless nights) grappling with the implications.  A recent feature in Esquire takes us into their world, and their homes, offering a sobering glimpse of what life is like for those among us who know the most.  Says one researcher who answered that aforementioned simple question by publicly affirming that, yes, we are: “I think most scientists must be burying overt recognition of the awful truths of climate change in a protective layer of denial.” A climate activist terms it “pre-traumatic stress.”  This article, When the End of Civilization is Your Day Job, is well worth the ten minute read; it’s really quite moving, and rather unsettling, since even the scientists who resist despair don’t seem to have much to offer in the way of specific encouragement.

So it was a welcome solace to see one of Andrew Revkin’s in-depth reports a few days later, on a climate science meeting attended by 2000 top researchers and policy-makers that he found “refreshing in several ways”:

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Riding the exponential finance wave

One of the challenging—and fun!—parts of being a resilient investor is staying abreast of the relentless river of innovation that courses through so many aspects of our lives these days.  None of us can really take it all in, but hopefully we each have areas we follow more closely, areas of expertise that inform and guide us.  It’s good to take the time to scan “headlines from the future” in other realms as well. One of our favorite sources for radically evolutionary news is Singularity University; their site (and feed or weekly email) is especially relevant to the Driver and Dreamer future forecast types among us.  This week, they featured a series of posts from a conference on “Exponential Finance” that they cosponsored with CNBC.  It’s all as mind-opening and exciting as we’ve come to expect from Singularity, and well worth a few minutes of your time as part of your continuing education, so you won’t be caught unaware by the this cresting wave that will be rolling on in not too far in the future.  

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Ready for Anything: an in-depth Resilient Investor interview

The C-Realm podcast recently featured a 45-minute interview with our very own Hal Brill; the host really “gets” what we’re trying to do with The Resilient Investor, and the interview offers one of the most in-depth explorations of its themes, and of Hal’s unusual life path toward this work.  As the teaser suggests:

In a future marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, investors need to overhaul their risk management toolkit. . . Being ready for anything means a lot more than just having your money in the right investments.

You can stream the show or download it here.

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Integral Life Practice

Integral Life Practice is an evolutionary tool that provides a foundational framework and set of practices to gain more perspective and transform all aspects of your life: mental, emotional, physical and spiritual. Created by well-known author and teacher Ken Wilber, the website provides access to a Practice kit as well as audio and video tools, books, forums, etc, all in pursuit of developing a comprehensive approach to life. Visit website.

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