The Great Systems Overhaul: Remaking the Future
It is growingly apparent that environmental devastation and the societal inequities that many people experience are systemically rooted, and our approach to addressing them must be on par with their scale. Innovative leaders are approaching societal and environmental challenges by honoring the interconnectedness of some of today’s most pressing challenges, allowing for solutions that get to the root of those challenges. Systems change, a term we delve into in this week’s newsletter, asks us to confront the structural patterns that underly the issues we’re working to solve.
This week, we highlight thought-provoking ideas on systems change from leaders — including systems theorist Joanna Macy, scifi writer Kim Stanley Robinson, scientist Fritjof Capra, and representatives of the forward-thinking Garfield Foundation — hoping to take on these issues at the systemic level.
What We Mean When We Say “Systems Change”
The dire inequities of the systems that govern us have only been made more apparent in recent upheavals and a global pandemic. What does “systems change” mean to us? Very rarely do the words come with an explanation of their underlying assumptions, and when they do, we’ve found that people use them with different meanings in different contexts, leading to confusion. Here’s what we mean when we say “systems change.”
Joanna Macy: Entering the Bardo
In Tibetan Buddhism, the bardo refers to a state in which one finds oneself entombed between the states of death and rebirth. In the bardo, gaps of grief and despair appear and interrupt the perceived continuity we expect of our lives. Within the bardo is where the most remarkable change is possible but requires radical attention and acceptance. In this article, Buddhist teacher and systems theorist Joanna Macy describes the bardo we are experiencing, characterized by societal upheavals, racialized violence, and lives taken by COVID-19. Joanna takes this moment to reflect on the possibility of rebuilding through a radical reckoning with the bardo.
The Great American Sci-Fi: Utopia or Dystopia?
Kim Stanley Robinson’s talent as a science fiction writer allows him to imagine new ways that the world could work. These possibilities are becoming increasingly important as we have reached a crossroads in our path toward dystopia. In this essay from a Bioneers Conference appearance, Robinson takes a systems perspective on economics, calling on us to rethink the multi-generational ploy for power and profit, which borrows from future generations at an unforgivable cost.
Ecological Literacy: Teaching the Next Generation About Sustainable Development
Ecological literacy nurtures and expands the development of youth’s understanding of the world and its interdependent relationships. As we move toward harnessing a more sustainable relationship with the natural world, ecological literacy lays a solid foundation for remaking our future. Fritjof Capra is a scientist, activist, educator and author of numerous books including “Ecological Literacy: Educating Our Children for a Sustainable World”. In this excerpt from his book, Capra advocates for a shift in how we think about the environment to recognize the collective interactions that sustain the environment.
Remembering Jolie Elan
Jolie Elan was the founding director of the Go Wild Institute and passed away in November of 2020. Jolie’s passing reminds us of the people she’s affected as a life-long activist, spiritual counselor, and environmentalist. We join the Matthew Wood Institute of Herbalism in remembering her legacy that lives on in her work. In this episode of the Bioneers podcast, Jolie Elan speaks on the healing force of nature in collaboration with other climate leaders.