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…One of the most successful treatments in the addictions field is based on this simple principle of supporting people to hear themselves voicing their own concerns. Called Motivational Interviewing, it backed by an impressive evidence base. How can this approach be applied with issues like climate change?

About five years ago, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Movement, and I spent a day with Professor Stephen Rollnick, co-developer of the Motivational Interviewing (MI) approach, to explore this question. Professor Rollnick’s advice was ‘move from information giving to information exchange’. In medical consultations, MI involves a shift away from lecturing people about the risks of health-damaging habits, to instead being more interested in hearing how they see the risks and what concerns they might have about these. The stance is of being a ‘motivational listener’ who makes space for people to make their own argument for change.

from this blog post.

Here is the transcript of the original conversation.

Debt forgiveness here really involves a whole-scale transformation about how we relate to ourselves, each other, and the world around us. Honoring our debt to nature means that we recognize our pursuit of happiness depends upon our physical sustenance. This will require comprehensive education, re-grounding in natural experience, and recommitment to simple living to pay down the massive debt of ignorant living to which we have grown accustomed.

It will call for an evolution of ideas of the good life that move from physical manufacturing, use, and exploitation of the material world, to one where the material world provides only the bare support needed to explore, expand, and develop our increasingly non-material opportunities and aspirations. I personally find this a heartening and exciting direction, but many are likely to view it as a step down. This will be one of the most important global conversations in the next century.


One of the greatest barriers to enacting alternatives is getting over the false idea that debt is some kind of either natural phenomenon or moral law. Debt is not natural; it is created by humans and can be erased by humans. There is nothing moral about a nation running up its children’s national credit card to the tune of 15 trillion dollars (with another 100 trillion+ in federal entitlements) and expecting the next generation to pay it. Nor is it morally reasonable to expect individual people, who have worked hard and followed the economic rules, to suffer with life-long debt servitude for mid-game changes in the rules and shifts in the global context.

In point of fact, our current “sea” of international debt is merely a very large man-made lake, damned up by ignorance, greed, and exploitation. The only healthy way to manage current debt is to drain this lake completely through debt forgiveness. It is time to take down the dam and let democratic prosperity flow. True, people will not get their individual material dreams and hopes of unlimited riches fulfilled, but they will take important steps toward preventing a war of humanity against itself, and they will be able to engage new opportunities and definitions of the good life involving working together creatively to build a better, more just world.

Instead of the old dream where we impose static past fantasies on a dynamic future, we can embrace a new dream where we create, explore, express, unfold, and reinvent who we are and what we can be through shared, interactive achievement and improvement. The old economic system based on scarcity and false security is thus converted toward new ends—freedom, health, quality of life, creativity, autonomy, and mutuality.

In pursuing this progress in jubilee, we go a long way to clearing out our past entrapments, inequities, and animosities. We also wisely devote our shrinking material resources toward developing a widely shared and exchanged, mostly non-material, experiential and social currency that multiplies in abundance and increases in value the more it is shared.

from this financial commentary.

Also one quote for thought:

Global youth are much interconnected and cooperative.

One of the reason people are not motivated to cooperate is lack of global vision. Avoidance of something worse is not enough. People would rather grip what they have right now even though they know it becomes worse tomorrow. To motivate, there have to be something more attractive than present if they act. And actually it is exactly what will happen if we change – we would be better off, happier, our civilization will be far more advanced, and we will be able to go out of the Earth.

Yes, out of the Earth, you hear it correctly. We (The Earth’s Biosphere) need not be constrained by the limits of Earth forever. We will be better diversifying ourselves to multiple planets/outer space’s living spaces if anything happens to the Earth, Sun, or even Galaxy. We will be better prepared to meet extraterrestrial beings. This is the dream of humanity, popular in 1960s but fading afterwards. We waste precious time by dealing with symptoms of our own problems so that they keep dragging us from progress.

Thus to realise this vision we have to really resolve our problems, unite, to release our full potentials so that we can get full ingenuity apply to this challenge. It is so much waste for so many population but under-develop; genetic or cultural diversity becomes source of conflicts instead of source of ingenuity; precious slow-renewable resources and time wasted on conflicts rather than for going out of the Earth. If we collapse now, then the Biosphere have to wait for a long time for slow-renewable resources to recover and then the next emergent (and hopefully wiser) life can utilize them to make the breakthrough.

One important point: even if we have succeeded to go out of the Earth, never damage the Earth. The Earth is still the best place for us. It is where we come into being and evolve, therefore the environment is the most suitable living condition to us. It is our base for diversify, so we should sustain it as long as possible. Not to mention we are not ready to go out of the Earth yet. I don’t see any reason why we should not act to sustain our base, exploit our full potentials to maximize our (life’s) chance of existence. It is how the world works (dynamics, evolution).

P.S. When writing this post I discover the debates of terraforming and its ethical concerns. It led me to think that what should we act if we encounter extraterrestrial beings. Life is reconcilable if we can find something in common, for example, we are actually from the same origin because both of us are the product of terraforming by other extraterrestrial beings in different planets a long time ago. Then it immediately appears to me that by enlarging our scope, shared prosperity is always possible.

Unfortunately, an understanding of the causes of violent conflict does not, in itself, provide a sufficient basis for implementing good policies and avoiding bad ones, though scholars sometimes believe this. Theory can help us understand the process by which violent conflict escalates. Promoting understanding is the role of the scholar. But effective political leadership requires a combination of understanding, toughness, vision, empathy, courage and the ability to communicate. Political leaders need the results of our theorizing. They need our understanding and our prayers as well.

from this inspiring paper. Its ten lessons are very valuable too.

Also, by courtesy of this paper, excerpt from The Electronic Oracle: Computer Models and Social Decisions‘s “Epilogue”:

We have said that computer modeling can add five important qualities to human understanding beyond what can be achieved by the mind alone.

1. Precision
2. Comprehensiveness
3. Logic
4. Explicitness
5. Flexibility

The great problems that threaten modern social systems – poverty and hunger, armaments and terrorism, environmental destruction and resource depletion – certainly would be helped if these five qualities became regular elements in human decision-making. But we have also said that these qualities cannot be realized unless modelers become compassionate, humble, open-minded, self-insightful, and committed. If those qualities would become regular elements in human decision-making the problems of the globe would certainly be solved.

This is the focus question I am researching. Unless we can find out the root cause and so solution, we can only rely on luck.

I opened the first workshop by asking, “What is your vision of a world without hunger?” Coached by Peter, I made the request strongly visionary. I asked people to describe not the world they thought they could achieve, or the world they were willing to settle for, but the world they truly wanted.

What I got was an angry reaction. The participants refused. They said that was astupid and dangerous question. Here are some of their comments:

  • Visions are fantasies, they don’t change anything. Talking about them is a waste of time. We don’t need to talk about what the end of hunger will be like, we need
    to talk about how to get there.
  • We all know what it’s like not to be hungry. What’s important to talk about is how terrible it is to be hungry,
  • I never really thought about it. I’m not sure what the world would be like without hunger, and I don’t see why I need to know.
  • Stop being unrealistic. There will always be hunger. We can decrease it, but we can never eliminate it.
  • You have to be careful with visions. They can be dangerous. Hitler had a vision. I don’t trust visionaries and I don’t want to be one.

After we got those objections out of our systems, some deeper ones came up. One person said, with emotion, that he couldn’t stand the pain of thinking about the world he really wanted, when he was so aware of the world’s present state. The gap between what he longed for and what he knew or expected was too great for him to bear. And finally another person said what may have come closer to the truth than any of our other rationalizations: “I have a vision, but it would make me feel childish and vulnerable to say it out loud. I don’t know you all well enough to do this.”

I go to a quiet place, shut down my rational mind, and develop a vision. I present the vision to others, who correct and refine it and help it to evolve. I write out vision statements. When I lose my way, I go back to those statements.

I keep practicing vision, because my life works better when I do.

I have to work actively to focus on what I want, not what I expect.

One essential tool for making vision responsible is sharing it with others and incorporating their visions. Only shared vision can be responsible. Hitler was indeed a visionary, but his vision was not shared by the Jews or the Gypsies or most of the peoples of Europe. It was an immoral, insane vision.

Vision has an astonishing power to open the mind to possibilities I would never see in a mood of cynicism. Vision widens my choices, shows me creative new directions. It helps me see good-news stories, pockets of reality that could be seeds of a wider vision.

I am constantly amazed, but increasingly convinced, that envisioning is a tool for producing results.

Above all, we could strengthen ourselves to endure the pain of the enormous gap between the world we know and the world we profoundly long for. I believe that it’s only by admitting, permitting, and carrying that pain that we can gradually move our world away from its present suffering and unsustainability and toward our deepest values and dearest visions.

from Donella (Dana) Meadows’s envisioning paper. See also this column.

I recommend especially the last part of the paper about how to envision.

For the video see this post.

Groups not bound by faith or an equivalent shared value system tend to devolve quickly, as the friction of working with others grinds down the will to continue.

from this post.

Is this correct? Similar to a previous post, a man who values community like him actually blogged mainly financial commentaries.

… being persuaded to spend money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, to create impressions that won’t last on people we don’t care about.

One interesting idea is the quadrants formed by self-regarding to other-regarding behaviours axis and novelty-seeking to tradition/conservation axis. He argued that our systems systematically encourage one narrow quadrant of self-regarding and novelty-seeking behaviour. Therefore the solution is not about changing human nature, but opening up the breadth of human possibilities.

In the 1930s the American art collector Albert Barnes commissioned Henri Matisse to produce a major painting for his private gallery in Merion, outside Philadelphia. Matisse was ecstatic: He rented an old cinema in Nice, where he lived at that time, and spent the entire next year completing the work, a dance triptych. He was pleased with the result. But when the piece arrived in Merion, Barnes wrote to Matisse explaining an unfortunate oversight: His collaborators had taken the wrong measurements, so the painting did not fit on the gallery wall. The difference in size was marginal, and Matisse could easily have tweaked the triptych to fit the wall, a technical fix. But instead he rented the cinema for another 12 months to complete a new painting with the right dimensions. Moreover, since he felt that mindless duplication was not real art, Matisse considerably changed the concept, effectively creating a whole new design. And in this process of reworking the piece, as he experimented with forms that would capture the dancers’ rhythmic motion, he invented the famous “cut outs” technique (gouaches découpés), what he later labeled “painting with scissors.” Whether consciously or unconsciously, Matisse turned a mistake into an opportunity for innovation. The new triptych not only pleased Barnes, but also served as the stylistic starting point for what would later become Matisse’s most admired works.

The French master’s ad hoc ingenuity captures the essence of an emerging concept known as resilience. Loosely defined, resilience is the capacity of a system—be it an individual, a forest, a city, or an economy—to deal with change and continue to develop. It is both about withstanding shocks and disturbances (like climate change or financial crisis) and using such events to catalyze renewal, novelty, and innovation. In human systems, resilience thinking emphasizes learning and social diversity. And at the level of the biosphere, it focuses on the interdependence of people and nature, the dynamic interplay of slow and gradual change. Resilience, above all, is about turning crisis into opportunity.

Don’t be too alarmed by unexpected events, be prepared for them, and make use of them to improve negative circumstances. These actions will require trust and collective effort, a theme brought into focus with the awarding of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics to Elinor Ostrom, a key player in resilience thinking.

from this article.

Obviously, leaders in this new decade must be well-versed and decisive, innovative and industrious, visionary and hard-working. They cannot expect to get by peddling their citizens shallow aphorisms, false utopias or ad hoc governance.

For our own sake, we hope we have the leaders we need to guide us through a more challenging new decade. We must demand from them the quality of leadership our nation needs to thrive in an age of more evident scarcity.

and its comment:

Not only those in the government and the church but also those whose work is to shape how we think, the opinion makers should we demand from. Inspire the people into pulling together out of the rut we’re in. Inspire and not conspire with thieves who have lined our pockets.

Update: Forget to reflect on last year post.

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