With the coming generation, education will become more closely aligned with cultivating intuitive decision- making. By incorporating a wide range of sources of knowledge and perspectives, a more holistic approach to education will synthesize old traditions with new capabilities to instill a greater sense of integrity and possibility into public and private institutions.
Over the past thirty years, consumer lifestyle has gradually become oversized and unsustainable. In the next thirty years, popular lifestyle will be less about ego and more aligned with nature’s cycles to establish balanced ecosystems.
“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” — Arundhati Roy
Common everyday items, that quickly come in and out of our lives, can be realigned with more lasting principles. In many ways, some of the simplest changes are also the most widely effective. The question of “paper” or “plastic” for grocery bags is better replaced by the question of do you need to bring another bag into circulation at all, or can you simply reuse one? Same goes for straws. Paper has replaced plastic, but that still accounts for a lot of straws going to waste. Why are straws so important anyway? Many of the novelties of modern life have become unnecessary conveniences. In order to create more integrative systems of engagement, we can begin to make more conscious efforts to better use the abundance of resources we already have at hand.
The idea of a closed loop of goods has been around for some time. One example of mainstream sustainability that doesn’t require a huge shift in perspective is Patagonia’s Worn Wear. With this program for keeping perfectly-wearable used clothing in rotation, the clothing manufacturer is helping out the environment by stretching out the lifecycle of products that would normally be turned to trash sooner. As the company reasons on their website, “the best thing we can do for the planet is get more use out of stuff we already own, cutting down on consumption.”
“The more you know, the less you need.” — Yvon Chouinard
The world doesn’t really need any more sneakers. There’s actually enough of everything, if only the balance of distribution can reach greater alignment between supply and demand. As public discussion focuses more and more around the topic of sustainability, humans will increasingly find ways to redistribute and conserve resources to better integrate themselves within the natural world.
In another effort to diminish our collective trash, a recent joint venture between Italian healthcare group Angelini, and Procter & Gamble, the world’s largest diaper supplier, set out to investigate what to do with the end product of a $4 billion-a-year diaper market. These conglomerates have begun a potentially pivotal, new program that looks to recycle absorbent hygiene products like diapers, incontinence pads, and feminine hygiene products, with a plan to roll out in ten cities by 2030. For 2035–2050+, the company’s vision of products and packaging consists of 100% renewable or recycled materials. The products being developed from these recycled materials range from school desks to playgrounds to bottle tops. In addition, recycled cellulose can be turned into fabric or paper, while super-absorbent polymer has potential applications in gardening, or creating flood barriers.20
The more that companies and individuals prioritize reusing, recycling, and repurposing objects, the more that potential applications will evolve. The most significant change we have in mind is recycling and reinventing materials that are already in existence and transforming them into imaginative new forms. We believe that pursuing this approach will lead to a larger, sustainable tradition of more conscious, connected, and integrative systems.
Let go of our determined fixation on mechanical time and other rigidly self-referential systems detached from nature’s cycles. Let go of IQ. Let go of bias and prejudiced expectations.
Our most common units of measurement—time, money, and intelligence —are all in need of revision. The way that time is arranged and manipulated is mostly in the interests of economic factors. Money is made up by humans and disconnected from any principle of nature. Global markets are based on feelings, predictions, and an ever-changing flux of information. Is confidence in a debt-based market really our best option for determining wealth? Many important parts of life cannot be calculated and scheduled. The most significant moments in life often happen serendipitously. And, as has been said many times, the best things in life are free. So why are we still measuring value in monetary terms?
Researchers at MIT have proposed a redesign of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) called GDP‑B (the B is for benefit) to include consideration of value made by free digital goods and services. As professor Erik Brynjolfsson explains, upgrading GDP provides a “realistic idea of what creates value in society and what doesn’t. A lot of digital goods we’ll find are creating a ton of value…” The professor goes on to say, “It’s not that production and spending aren’t important, but they aren’t everything. To measure the economy you need a dashboard with different metrics. What we’re measuring are the benefits you get even when you spend nothing on the good.”21
It’s said that time is money. This adage certainly holds true within our current economic system. But where do we look for a more secure sense of measurement in the absence of centralized economic authorities? How long will big banks continue to control the flow of money? Blockchain showed the possibility for crypto-currencies to transform monetary exchange. The promise of blockchain’s incorruptibility unfortunately cracked.22 In setting up society for a fairer future, it feels wise to prepare for the inevitability of an economic system aligned with principles of sharing, nurturing, and impermanence.
The way we measure our intelligence is another part of society worthy of revision. Over the last decades, IQ has been used to validate racist, sexist, and otherwise biased classifications. A recent study by scientists disproved IQ as a measure of intelligence.23 They showed that intellectual ability occurs along three distinctive nerve circuits in the brain guiding interactions between short-term memory, reasoning, and verbal agility. In other words, there’s no singular indicator like IQ that can really account for a person’s intellectual ability across various categories. Our self-identities do not need to be confined into singular assessments. Intelligence is really a matter of one’s ability to interact with others in the world with grace, care, and effectiveness.
In his book, The Mismeasure of Man, paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould showed how intelligence is not based on genetic inheritance. In taking stock of fairer measurements by which to assess how environmental conditions impact individuals, Gould gave focus to the idea of relative frequency. This concept describes how meaning in people’s lives increases the more that a particular action or exchange takes place. For example, think about how the more that people smile at one another in passing, the more palpably uplifting the net effect of those fleeting interactions between strangers becomes. You can feel the different energy that exists in a room when people are being kind to one another and how, conversely, different that energy is when people are angry at each other. Gould wrote about the high relative frequency of human decency he noticed between people in NYC in the weeks after 9/11.24 With great humility, Gould remarked in his book, Wonderful Life, an inspiring thought about humanity:
“Homo sapiens, I fear, is a ‘thing so small’ in a vast universe, a wildly improbable evolutionary event well within the realm of contingency. Make of such a conclusion what you will. Some find it depressing; I have always regarded it as exhilarating, and a source of both freedom and consequent moral responsibility.” — Stephen Jay Gould
As Gould mentions, the chance at life that we all receive can be incredibly motivating. We are here for the purpose of living. While the interpretations of what it means to live are virtually endless, relationships that show respect for life will always contribute to an overall sense of meaningful participation.
- The Power of Humility
- Healthy Habits
- Environmental Actors
- Economic Priorities
- Lessons Ahead