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Rabbit Holes 🕳️ #53
From the missing pillar of sustainability to the illusion of tech & convenience, open-source urban design, a new era in climate communications, and the corpropocene
Hello to the 200+ people who joined Creative Destruction since last week’s issue. If you missed that one and you are a new subscriber, I urge you to check it out, as it’s basically a summary of all the issues I sent out so far.
And again, If you want to get access to my Miro board with an overview of the best ideas and threads from all previous Rabbit Holes issues, just e-mail me! This is what one of my subscribers had to say after I sent them the Miro:
But now, let’s get into this week’s Rabbit Holes!
THIS WEEK → 🕊️ Is Spirituality The Missing Pillar of Sustainability? 📱 The Illusion of Tech & Convenience 🌆 Open-Source Urban Design ➕ A New Era in Climate Communications 🚿 The Corpropocene
Rabbit Holes 🕳️
As always, here are three perspective-shifting ideas to create a better world, plus some fun extras below. Enjoy!
#1 🕊️ Is Spirituality The Missing Pillar of Sustainability?
This is a topic I am increasingly interested in. And not spirituality in a religious sense but in the sense of self-realization and philosophy. This links to what I called “re-humanizing” in last week’s piece and to the idea that we need to add a new element to the story of sustainability: an element that isn’t about facts but rather about emotion. So, if you work in the sustainability field, you should definitely explore how your work (your products, strategy, communication) integrates elements of inner development.
“[…] Despite the best efforts of many people, we haven't yet cracked the nut of sustainable business or sustainability more broadly. Yes, there are some truly inspiring pockets of progress, but I think most honest people will admit that we don't yet know how to create a truly sustainable economy in which all of humanity has the opportunity to live a fulfilling life on a healthy planet.
This has led me to wonder if we're missing something from our apparently holistic model of people, planet and profit. In particular, I've been wondering if we are too focused on systems and actions that we can do, rather than on ourselves as human beings and what we can be. I’ve been wondering if we need to do more inner work in order to truly succeed in our outer work. […]
There are many definitions of spirituality but at it’s core, spirituality is simply the process of exploring the mysteries of the self and the universe, and believing that there is more to life than material survival, even if we don’t know what. […] We all wonder about it, but we don’t like to talk about it because it sounds a bit religious and unscientific, but in truth it’s just mysterious. […]
Spirituality then, is really the exploration of the other half of life that our society isn’t comfortable exploring. And that’s where it gets interesting. […]
Everything that humans have ever done throughout our entire history has begun as thoughts and feelings, which then manifested as actions in the physical world. Our society is therefore shaped by the interaction between our inner worlds and the laws of nature. We cannot change the laws of nature and so if we want to change the world, we must focus our attention inwards.
Albert Einstein famously said that “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” and so if we want to solve problems like poverty, ill health, climate change and the loss of biodiversity, we must elevate ourselves to a higher level of consciousness. […]
The problem is that inner work is intangible. In a culture of materialism, especially at a time when it feels like we need to take urgent action, it’s hard to persuade ourselves to dedicate significant time and effort to inner exploration when we could be running around doing “real” things like developing new technologies, switching to a renewable energy provider, certifying as a B Corp or protesting outside the Houses of Parliament. With limited hours in the day and life being short, it can feel like time spent on inner work is time not spent doing something useful.
But we must shift our perspective. Time spent on inner work is an investment that will naturally deliver benefits in the outer world. It will lead us to act with greater clarity, generosity, love, empathy and peace. It will lead us to act more in harmony with ourselves and with nature, and to experience more creative inspiration.”
#2 📱 The Illusion of Tech & Convenience
If the above was a bit too abstract for you, the following words illustrate perfectly how technology and specific system designs (e.g. the ideology of infinite growth) are causing people to feel disconnected from themselves, to feel not in control of their lives, to feel adrift. My favorite phrases: “our system only has one gear”, “just in time life”, and “information obesity”.
“If you ask ‘are we working less than before’, research is ambiguous. In rich countries people work less than labourers who toiled during the 19th century industrial revolution, but more than our ancient ancestors. If you ask ‘are our lives more leisurely than ever’, the answer is less ambiguous. Many people feel their lives are frenetic. We’re not only expected to work a lot. We’re expected to consume a lot. Ask ‘are we more chilled out than ever?’ and the answer is no. People are strung out, stressed out, and burned out. […]
We don’t just live in any economy. We live in a mega-scale corporate capitalist economy, and in such a setting technology is never used to save time. It’s used to speed up production and consumption in order to expand the system. The basic rule is this: technology doesn't make our lives easier. It makes them faster and more crammed with stuff. […]
Each technology not only unlocks a new state of expanded acceleration (that will be hardcoded into our lives as the new basis for our survival), but will also be used as the basis for new technologies to continue that process. The vast majority of people do not experience this technology as ‘liberating’ them. Rather, they experience it as something that propagates itself around them, and something they must race to keep up with in order to not be ‘left behind’. […]
Because we’re social animals we tend to go along with the trend, and because we live under capitalist acceleration the trend is always one way, because our system only has one gear. […] We increasingly live a ‘just in time’ life because, at a systemic level, there’s pressure to pack in as much stuff as possible at both a consumption and production level. […]
In the mythology of Silicon Valley, and in corporate capitalism more generally, it’s believed that we expand alongside our system, and that new products are turning us into fuller expressions of ourselves. In reality, we’re biological beings with finite capacities ensnared within an economy with an acceleration drive, and its constant attempt to expand just crowds out other stuff in our lives. […] The requirement to pack more into the same time just fragments our attention and erodes our patience, which again will be weaponised: feeling impatient? Why not speed things up?
The problem goes deeper than this. Increasingly our tech also opens us up to new vectors of anxiety. Regardless of whether you’re working more or less, your nervous system is now plugged into a neurotic and hypersensitive globe-spanning information system that’s constantly pushing unnecessary things into your consciousness. Perversely, this information obesity actually makes us feel more sluggish. We might be moving faster, but everything starts to blend into one. The whole point of digital detoxes isn’t only to slow down, but also to make you feel more in control of your life, rather than just drifting with the inertia.”
#3 🌆 Open-Source Urban Design
Many Rabbit Holes issues back, I shared a piece with you that was called “What if Design isn’t for Humans?”, meaning that we should stop trying to come up with our own human-centric designs and instead learn from nature and its billions of years of experience in design. Just like regeneration or circularity, open-source design is a super interesting approach that aligns with that philosophy. A great line from the text below: “Nature never finishes designs.”
“Open-source urbanism demands a change in mindset: from aiming toward optimal designs to letting projects be open-ended. The modernists aspired to perfection: complete, heroic plans that would never have to change. The first wave of participatory architects tried to involve the public in the design process, but their methods still resulted in relatively unchangeable final products. Rather than aiming at any final destination, open-source urbanism privileges inexpensive, open-ended interventions that can develop in many possible directions. […]
[…] “Voting with your feet,” [is] another key aspect of open-source urbanism. People’s movements and migrations — within a city, a nation or even across continents — are political choices that can be construed as a form of participation. It is an especially powerful tool for minorities, women and other marginalized groups who lack access to the traditional levers of change. “Voting with your feet” never stops; it creates constant feedback and opens future possibilities. […]
Open-source urbanism can be agile, inexpensive and demonstrative in urban settings where the pace of urban adaptation to environmental, social and political change often ignores the will of the people and gets bogged down in corruption or red tape. […]
Many of the principles underlying open-source urbanism have been emerging in other industries. Industrial corporations, software developers and clothing manufacturers alike present their audiences with different variants on their products to test which performs better.
These processes emulate the adaptive power of natural evolution and bring it to the core of the design process. Thinkers from many disciplines — including Herbert Simon, Buckminster Fuller, Anthony Dunne, Fiona Ruby and Stefano Mancuso — have explored the many boundaries between our ideas of natural and artificial, and how this can affect the built environment. Nature never finishes designs: It constantly moves from input to response in a feedback loop that is constantly in flux. Designers cannot mimic this dynamic perfectly, but we can aspire to capture some of its power.
Each of the key characteristics of open-source urbanism is fine-tuned to emulate natural evolution. An open-source urbanist doesn’t singlehandedly drive change. They are more like mutations in a genome. It is the public that carries out the process of natural selection and decides which mutations succeed to become fixtures of the city going forward.
When architects relinquish their dreams of total authorial control, they unlock the power of truly organic development. When the process has no preconceived end, it can proceed in small steps and allow for revaluation, becoming more sensitive to the changing conditions of the environment and the needs of people.”
📕 All Art Is Ecological by Timothy Morton
”Provocative and playful, All Art is Ecological explores the strangeness of living in an age of mass extinction, and shows us that emotions and experience are the basis for a deep philosophical engagement with ecology.”
📒 The Lazy Report by It’s Nice That
”In the first of our new Insight reports, we investigate whether the hunt for productivity might be hindering our creativity.”
📒 A New Era in Climate Communications: A system change approach to communications
”A lot of communication about climate change gets it right about the risk and possible negative scenarios, but wrong about how we move people to action. It appeals to reason, but everything we know about communication tells us reason is not what drives human behavior.”
📕 Solastalgia - An Anthology of Emotion in a Disappearing World by Paul Bogard
”The concept of solastalgia comes from the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht, who describes it as "the homesickness we feel while still at home." It’s the pain and longing we feel as we realize the world immediately around us is changing, with our love for that world serving as a catalyst for action on its behalf.”
💡 How AI reduced the world to stereotypes by Victoria Turk and Rest of World
🚿 Shower Thoughts
That’s it for this week!
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