The UK has decided to leave the European Union.
I hope that, in the ways this decision is carried out, those who do it draw on British values and identities that are admired by many around the world - tolerance, compassion, innovation, open-mindedness, free expression, love of diversity and opportunity, humility, respect for others, a spirit of both adventure and co-operation in seeking to solve world problems.
This ushers in a period of renegotiation of the relationship between the UK and the rest of Europe. I hope that relationship, even if rocky in the short-term, emerges better - to the mutual benefit of all countries and peoples, in the context of our shared responsibilities for the Global Commons and each other.
We can learn a lot from ecology. For example, species evolve through random variation and natural selection. They don’t consciously decide to mutate, but mutations (variations) occur randomly. Some happen to have a greater chance of helping the species to survive, through their new characteristics and how well they match the environment. This increases the chances of passing on those characteristics to future generations etc.
Can this be done, perhaps, with behaviours and with societal ‘hard-coding’ that becomes our individual and collective legacy we pass on when we die? Sustainable behaviours such as reduce, repair, re-use, recycle. Hard-code them into personal lifestyle, then into societal norms. Use randomness to break out of existing unsustainable norms. Experiment. Challenge the status-quo. This is the equivalent of the random variation in evolution.
Another lesson from nature is that small, simple ‘rules’ applied many times by a population can lead to surprisingly effective optimisation and efficiency. One example is colonies of insects such as bees or ants. Another is slime mould. Each ‘actor’ only has to follow a small set of simple rules, for example concerning patterns of foraging, but the colony as a whole reaps huge benefits and efficiently utilises resources such as food sources. This is the opposite of the ‘cheater’ behaviour, where the cheater gets a large personal advantage at the cost of the rest of the population.
So, how can we encourage collaborative behaviours for the common good, to protect and enhance the global commons such as the oceans and the atmosphere?
Drawing from the above learnings, one way would be to do random acts of sustainability, visibly, so that others might follow the example and do similar acts. Take confidence from the fact you don’t need to achieve the whole societal or global transition yourself. The mere fact you have undertaken one of these acts increases the chances of that transition being completed. Think of it like a single seed falling on the ground. A single seed doesn’t make a forest, but without the seeds falling randomly, the forest would never exist.
There’s a lot of potential for happiness and fulfilment being a single seed in this way.
The Planetary CFO - working towards a sustainable World Balance Sheet.