Communications Strategy for Transition to a Regenerative Society
Communicating a Shared Vision
A Strategy for Bringing about Rapid Transformation to a Post-Carbon Civilization: Initial Notes
These are some initial notes for our first research paper. The subject is Communication Strategy: How can a movement of civil society recognize its shared interests? How can it organize around a new vision of the future? We welcome your thoughts, comments, and ideas.
Our wiki will be released later in the next week as a platform to inspire collaboration and civic participation in our work. If you are interested in writing a more detailed portion for our position paper, please email email@example.com.
We currently stand at the precipice of an ecological mega catastrophe, with the likelihood of a 2 – 6 degree Celsius temperature rise over the next decades. At the same time, we are experiencing accelerated technological innovation, and an awakening of global social awareness. Through a coordinated movement of civil society, we have the potential to transcend or supersede the current world system, based on Capitalist economics and nation-state governance. Such a transition appears to be necessary for our near-term survival.
The current global political and corporate order has shown itself incapable of making the deep, structural changes necessary to forestall or prevent global meltdown. Rapid climate change will lead to increasing famines, droughts, refugees, wars, and, eventually, a drastic reduction of world population. We have a moral responsibility to prevent the worst outcomes, to the extent that we can.
Confronted with this scenario, it is necessary to define an alternative. Many social theorists have proposed that the only legitimate alternative is the constitution of a truly free society, where political power is decentralized, with local communities functioning as autonomous elements, producing their own food and energy. These local municipalities and regional orchestrations would be meshed together in bioregional alliances, within a planetary confederation.
Such a transformation in our social paradigm would have a number of requirements. We would require universal pacification, the liberation of knowledge and the commons from private control, and an equitable sharing of wealth and resources. This transition would require a comprehensive retraining for the mass populace, who have been conditioned into a consumerist worldview, as well as various identifications, based on nationality or religion or cultural background. We would have to demilitarize global society, deindustrialize to a certain degree, and transition to a worldwide manufacturing and transport system based on renewable sources of energy.
Any movement toward a post-carbon society must convey the truth: that the future continuity of humanity on the Earth requires shared sacrifices, in many areas, from the present generation, for an unknown timeframe. However, this truth can be expressed as a part of a communications strategy that is inspiring, positive, and non-divisive. Memetic analysis has revealed that global warming, species extinction, and climate change are insufficient motivators or drivers for coordinated social action, on a large scale. Similarly, calls to “deindustrialize” or “degrow” our civilization do not motivate the multitudes into action.
The movement must convey a sense of incandescent hope and possibility. We require a vision that is inspiring, accessible, and sensible, for the multitudes. We must define not only what we are fighting against, but what we are fighting for.
The transition to a post-carbon world is inevitably destined to unite our human community as one. An effective communication strategy will begin with this sense of unity – it will convey the tremendous opportunity presented by the crisis. Through our response to it, we can transform our civilization in accord with humanity’s greatest hopes and highest ideals.
The movement could promote, as a positive goal, that humanity intends to establish a social infrastructure which provides universal abundance, liberating humanity, as a whole, from insecurity and insufficiency, as well as meaningless and tedious labor. This can only take place within an ecological framework that restores and replenishes the Earth’s natural systems. We would integrate indigenous design principles with postmodern technics and advanced automation.
As a model, we propose a future civilization – a new planetary culture – without debt or nation-state boundaries, where everyone on Earth receives a basic subsidy, where free access to knowledge and information is a basic human right. We also propose that humanity’s quest for scientific knowledge and technical mastery can be integrated with religious faith and mystical modes of self-realization, through a creative synthesis. Since past human conflicts were based on resource insufficiency, we can envision that, in a future state of sustained abundance, most forms of conflict will be outmoded.
Humanity must commit to elevating its beliefs and practices, through an evolution of global society, where we apply our technical powers, rationally and systemically, for the benefit of the whole. This requires a planetary concordance. The mass media acts as a tool of indoctrination. Most people believe they have little power and no responsibility for the state of the world. Media entrains people into a consumerist, passive state. This trance can be broken through new media campaigns and social movements that combine an alternative vision with an immediate plan of action.
The movement can use social media, mass media, and direct action techniques to garner universal support and global consensus for the transition to a regenerative culture, a truly liberated society. Iceland’s recent success in rewriting its constitution through an open-source process provides one model or template for what can be accomplished on a planetary scale, where all of the Earth’s peoples are recognized as equal stakeholders in our shared future.
If we agree on this goal and this messaging, then the question remains: How do we accomplish such a transition? What are the means to establish a truly planetary civilization, in a short time-frame? What follows are some notes on these questions. Over the next year, we intend to develop a strategic plan of action, and then execute on this plan.
- Cultural Creatives: The first stage of the process – although various stages may happen in parallel – requires the consolidation of the global community of progressives – “cultural creatives” – behind a unified vision. The tens or hundreds of millions of cultural creatives, worldwide, who share similar values can be trained, through the Internet, to realize themselves as leaders and educators of an emergent new society. As a self-identified vanguard, they can hold local teach-ins and work with various communities to define a path to resilience. Social technologies and social networks are probably the best way to organize and orchestrate the cultural creatives into a cohesive force.
- Mass Volunteerism: We need to launch popular initiatives for ecological restoration that mobilize the multitudes to accomplish practical tasks. These include programs of reforestation, urban gardening, restoring local watersheds, conservation, and painting the rooftops of cities white to reflect the Sun. A global transition away from fossil fuels toward renewable energies must be carried out rapidly, within the next decade. While this seems a “mission impossible,” it can be re-framed as a great adventure for the human species, for global society. Such a transition will lead to a new flourishing of human potential.
- Global Retraining: Volunteer cadres can be trained in techniques of bioremediation developed by Paul Stamets, John Todd, and others. To attract young people, the ecological crisis can be “game-ified” by creating contests, campaigns, and reward systems that build ecological resilience and restore natural systems. Voluntary initiatives, on a mass scale, can be organized through social technologies, where individuals receive “rewards points” for socially and ecologically beneficial actions. These reward points or credits can function as an alternative currency, augmenting or supplanting the current money system.
- Community Forums: Study and imitate organizations that succeed in bringing people together for a common cause. Some examples include 12 Step, MoveOn, The Forum, traditional religious organizations, and trade unions. Particularly relevant initiatives include Occupy, 350.org, The Zeitgeist Movement, The Evolver Network, Bioneers, Greenpeace, Transition Town, and MoveOn.
- Social and Political Organizing: The rapid transition to a regenerative society will require a melding of bottom-up and top-down approaches to social organization. Sophisticated techniques of marketing and branding can be systemically applied to outreach to different sectors of human society, applying techniques of social psychology and insights from anthropology. The movement will develop simple, direct language and streamlined goals to help communities evolve ecological practices, in stages.
- Messaging the Transition: The movement for ecological restoration requires shared sacrifice, during this transitional period. Media campaigns can promote new concepts, such as giving up private vehicles, exotic travel, and excess possessions for the future of humanity and the Earth. We will need to apply new measures and standards of success, such as the “Happiness Index” developed in Bhutan. Wealth holders and public influencers can demonstrate their commitment by making particular pledges, which then become social initiatives that anyone can voluntarily join.
- Social Networks: Paul Hawken’s Wiser Earth made an initial attempt to bring together a global “movement of movements” for progressive ecological and social goals. This effort was hampered by a poor technological platform. It is now feasible to develop advanced social networks that facilitate community building, as well as the efficient sharing of skills, knowledge, and resources. We require a planetary network of local as well as virtual communities moving rapidly in the direction of resilience and autonomy, who engage with the mainstream system and create forums for open dialogue.
- Identity: Corporate tools like Facebook and Twitter provided a readymade infrastructure for the mass awakening of the Arab Spring and the global Occupy movement. But these networks are not designed to facilitate cooperation, participation, or democratic decision-making. A movement of planetary transformation requires new social technologies. The next tier of social technology will help communities self-organize, share resources as well as social and intellectual capital, link together progressive initiatives globally, and support democratic participation based on rapid education, as well as training in cooperation and transparent communication. Rather than data-mining users and selling their information to corporations, new social networks will protect user data. Reciprocity, authenticity, and respect will become core values of the next generation of social networking platforms.
- A Culture of Debate: We must foster a culture that popularizes an understanding of complex, often ambiguous social, political, and technical issues. This requires an infrastructure for civic debate. Alternative media networks can develop rapidly, melding user-generated content and professional productions. CurrentTV is one prototype. Mainstream media obscures vital ecological and social issues while focusing on meaningless distractions. Social technologies could support the rapid dissemination of vital information about the state of the world.
- Economic Models: A transition to a regenerative society requires a new economic paradigm. The evolution of crypto-currencies like Bitcoin reveal the potential for a rapid switch from the current monoculture of money, mediated by Central Banks, which are controlled by private wealth holders, who seek to protect their short-term interests. New social networks can disseminate alternatives to the current monetary system, designed to support ecological and social progress. The current monoculture of money can be superseded or displaced by an eco-system of instruments. This may include mutual credit clearing houses, time-dollars, and a global trading currency with a negative interest rate, designed to make excessive hoarding of wealth obsolete.
- Art and Culture: The movement can outreach to cultural influencers, technology innovators, wealth holders, and public artists. Public artists can now reach their audience of millions directly through social media. A consortium of cultural influencers can band together in an alliance to promote rapid social evolution and culture change. If enough artists and influencers band together, they could impact the mass media.
- Religion: A global movement of civil society will develop new alliances with religions, indigenous cultures, outcast populations, and fundamentalist movements. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism provide a readymade global infrastructure of local communities. They continue to exert a tremendous influence over the lives of billions of people. Each religion contains within it a code that can be accessed for building a just and sustainable world. Skillful outreach can integrate the spiritual yearnings expressed by the various religions, overcoming parochialism. As a byproduct of the movement toward a post-carbon world, humanity will be forced to overcome factionalism and divisiveness – to unite in solidarity.
In the past times of strife and war, humanity has demonstrated its ability to come together for a common cause, forming initiatives where the collective accepts shared sacrifice for the greater good. These periods are often remembered happily, even joyfully, by those who experienced them. Human beings possess an intrinsic altruism, as well as an innate capacity for political organization. Our current social system denies and suppresses these positive traits, to support a system of hierarchical control, ruled by specialized experts.
The transition to a post-carbon world is the most difficult challenge that humanity has ever faced. We still confront collective denial, as well as the system’s tremendous inertia. If we can change our social practices quickly, we can avoid the most destructive possible outcomes. These include our possible extinction as a species. We have the potential to embrace this challenge and undergo a rapid evolution of consciousness as a species, making a transition to a regenerative society, a new way of being, where humanity realizes itself as one planetary tribe, and all take care of all. That is the silver lining in the dark cloud.
Photo credit: Tianjin, project designed by Surbana Urban Planning Group, a firm of architecture from Singapore. Tianjin, which will support 350,000 residents on a total area of 30 square kilometer, is also the result of a collaboration between China and Singapore. This project is based on three points: people-people, people-environment and people-economy. Source: Inhabitat