I’ve been thinking about the current worldview of the earth and the concept of “progress.” For eons, humans have built cities to organize together for survival as a species. We see this mostly from glimpses of archaic cultures buried beneath modern cities and underneath the deepest parts of the ocean. Humans have brought their creativity and genius and successfully thrived.
Our population is now increasing by the billions. By 2050, it’s projected to reach 9.5 billion bodies, a 32% increase in less than 4 decades. If the human beings that live and work in the year 2050 were to behave as their (even most recent) ancestors, the earth will quickly become uninhabitable. The belief that there’s enough viable land, clean water, safe food, and healthy air to support this number is a fantasy. There will simply not be enough to go around and the resulting health crises will be too expensive to measure in dollars alone. How will we measure progress once we’ve used up all of our natural resources?
What if the people of the earth valued healthy soil, water, air, and food more highly than money? Why do smart people allow such concepts to become footnotes or completely overlooked? We’ve all heard the debates that environmentalism cripples commercial progress. This shortsighted view will be the death of us all. We can no longer see the world as infinitely able to provide our needs. In our lifetime, we are likely to see wars waged fighting for basic resources such as air and water.
The Industrial Revolution brought an end to the Agrarian society, but that wasn’t the beginning of the lack of concern for our impact on the earth. Our human societies have allowed the trashing of our natural resources for quite some time. We’ve dammed up rivers, cut down or burned complete forests, making our mark in the world, replacing vast open spaces with manmade buildings (once made of raw earth and now of concrete and steel) since the beginning of written history. To our collective horror, man has cavalierly dared to cross into the dangerous realm of genetic modification.
We are all appalled at the news of a floating island of plastic in the Pacific Ocean that is larger than the state of Texas. We are shocked that there is more than one. A brave few step up and try to make changes while the rest of us watch and wait. But, yet, we still buy our water in little plastic bottles and carry our groceries in little plastic bags. It’s estimated that a trillion plastic bags are used each year across the globe. 10% of these will end up in the ocean.
As humans, we are born with the amazing ability to dream and innovate, our brains filled with ideas brimming with the glistening genius. Isn’t there another way? How do we change our behavior? Where is our tipping point?
Our way of life is dying along with our earth. The only way to make a real difference is to collaborate in a different way. Our companies were built from the roots of Frederick Taylor and his motion studies, which reduced the average manufacturing worker to one step above a robot. Increased efficiency didn’t translate to job satisfaction. It may have contributed to the success of the corporate profit margin, but did little to create an environment that valued human creativity and built sustainable systems.
There are plenty of opportunities wrapped up as problems. The idea of building a new workforce based on contribution, engagement, collaboration, and constant learning is long overdue. With the right leadership, these sustaining principles could bring a different type of profitability and create meaningful work, and not simply providing a paycheck while polluting our way of life. Would this not be true progress?
Maintaining the status quo cannot be considered “progress.” Building a different kind of company, organized around what makes sense instead of what has always been done the same way, is an evolution worth working toward. This kind of out-of-the box thinking is often reduced to a type of insanity or, worse, completely ignored. It would mean the changes would have to come from deep within the hearts and minds of each human being who joins such a company and lends their time to its benefit. It would mean that the people in this type of organization truly believe that life within a company can be different, exciting, successful, and worthwhile. The values of the individual rooted in an alignment of values within the company could truly create a place where each person’s contribution is valued and a profound trust could be built among groups of people working for a common purpose. Guiding such a profound shift in perception and locating the resources to sustain such a shift would be a joyful and worthwhile endeavor.
The notion that business can be done differently, with the focus on a collection of individuals working together to effect changes in the world, as we know it, is a fresh view of modern companies. Can corporations evolve into human driven machines focused on creating worthwhile products and services instead of acting as profit-driven beasts that suck the soul out of all of us? I'd like to think so.
As for me, I've decided to take a look at my behavior and make the necessary adjustments. One person may not turn the tide, but if each of us were to look at how we contribute to the situation, and make a sincere effort to change our behavior, we could make a difference.
I'd like to try.
Related Article: Rethinking Our Food System