Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Nature is Disrupting Our Lives! Can We Change or Will Nature Have to Change?

I love the fuzzy logic of climate change deniers that the “science is not conclusive.” What they can’t get their head aroudn is that is why we call it science. New ideas, innovations, realizations, discoveries and understandings are replacing old ideas all the time, thanks to science. Inconclusiveness and change is the essence of science.

That said, my real motivation behind this blog post is to consider the way we, as a species, cope and adapt to the impluses of Nature that disrupt our lives. The Iceland volcano impacted the world, most obviously parts of Europe but the ripple effect of grounded airlines is a global story of enormous economic proportion. It has shown us, in no uncertain terms, just how much humanitiy is embedded in the planet and how much we humans are embedded in each other - and how uncertainty is the default state of nature and man.

As I have said before the future of planet Earth is fine. Nature will adapt and evolve. The real over arching question for humanity is what is our future, as a species, going to be on the planet? Are we going to be adaptable and nimble enough to survive? Or are we, self-consious, self-satisfied and self-distructing in the face of what we are doing to the planet’s ecology. One thing for sure, the planet won’t miss us and does not need us. The converse is not so true.

In the short term we are being inconvenienced by Nature’s Icelandic antics that disrupt has many lives but nobody had died from this event. We have other serious disruptions of Nature going on right now that are causing death and dispair like earthquakes, floods, tsunamis. The point about the effect of disruptions is well made by Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter. In her blog, “Surprise! Four Strategies for Coping with Disruptions” she aptly notes that “Surprises are the new normal, and they are not fun.”

She outlines manmade disruptions like “…financial crises, currency fluctuations, disruptive technologies, job restructurings, shortages of vital drugs, populists’ rebellons, possible pandemics, and terrorist threats….” Those are some of the joys of us humans being embedded in each other. She then notes we get to add on the “…devastating earthquakes and extraordinary weather events.” Man embedded in Nature!

The consequences of the unexpected, according to Kanter, are a “leadership imperative” and that is about the ability to make fast effective decisions in the face of surprises. She outlines four leadership based strategies for quick response and to minimize disruptions. They are Backup, in the form of a Plan B. Communications that must be quick and spread virally. Collaboration based on human relationships grounded in commitment to one another and resiliency that empowers people to act. Finally she points out the importance of values and principles. Clear standards and values are needed to guide people in deciding on what is the right thing to do and doing it without waiting for permission.

Good food for thought. At Reboot Alberta we have taken extra effort to look at communications, collaboration and values and prinicples in our political and governing culture in Alberta. Reboot people feel there is a leadership shortfall and a shallow aenimic public policy agenda in Alberta these days. What Albertans have not come up with yet is a viable alternaitve to the status quo. We have not yet engaged in making a Plan B and turning it into the Plan A.

In the future Reboot Alberta progressive citizen’s movement has to move beyond bitching and complaining about the democratic deficit and leadership shortcomings. We have to quit merely admiring the problems and get into an activist solution space for citizens to re-imagine the purpose of politics in a more modern democracy. We need to get serious about designing some alternatives that will replace the conventional political institutions. In short we need more than a reboot of the existing political and governance culture of Alberta. We need a system upgrade.