(Roughly) Daily

“A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play”*…

We all know that our behavior has to change if we’re going to continue healthily and happily to inhabit the earth. And we all have a few ideas of changes we can make to make a difference. But they are mostly incremental and remedial. What might a society designed to have a healthy relationship to its environment look like? Spencer R. Scott has some guidelines…

Many see the Industrial Revolution as its own kind of Renaissance. Over the past 300 years it enabled an accumulation of wealth that the world has never before seen. Yet, industrialization and the fossil-fuels that aided its growth did not come without a price. As a recent report warns, six of nine planetary boundaries have been exceeded.  This unprecedented material abundance is only enjoyed by some, yet has polluted and put at risk the whole world’s air, rivers, oceans, forests, and food, and has caused two of humanity’s largest crises: climate change and the biodiversity crisis. The era of the industrial civilization is foreclosing on itself, and many are now pointing to the need for an ecological civilization to take its place. This would be a true Renaissance, where human and ecological flourishing alike are at the center of everything we do. 

Before industrialization, humanity existed in an agricultural civilization during which productivity was low and people were organized around meeting basic needs. The industrial civilization ushered in a new high-productivity era that inevitably affected peoples’ values, lifestyles, beliefs, and the institutions that governed them. An ecological civilization will similarly necessitate a major paradigm shift. As Jeremy Lent asserts in “What Does An Ecological Civilization Look Like?”, we need “a transformation in the way we make sense of the world, and a concomitant revolution in our values, goals, and collective behavior.” 

From Latin, ecology means “knowledge of home” and ecological means the “applied knowledge of home.” While the old industrial system is characterized by an indifference to how life on this planet works, an ecological civilization operates with ecological principles at its core – with behaviors, values, goals, and institutions organized around the applied knowledge of life on Earth. 

In her book, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, Janine Benyus outlines some of Life’s Principles here on Earth:

Life runs on sunlight. Life rewards cooperation. Life builds from the bottom up. Life banks on diversity. Life recycles everything. Life builds resilience through diversity, decentralization, and redundancy. Life optimizes rather than maximizes. Life selects for the good of the whole system. In short, life creates the conditions conducive to life.

Inspired by Benyus’ Life’s Principles and the work of sustainable development scholar, Jiahua Pan, I created 6 ingredients for an ecological civilization…

Six ingredients for a more resilient future: “An Ecological Civilization is the Renaissance We’ve Been Waiting For,” from @SpencerRScott.

* James Carse, Finite and Infinite Games


As we think systemically, we might spare a thought for Guillaume Amontons; he died on this date in 1705.  A physicist who made formative contributions to the understanding of friction, he was also an accomplished designer of scientific instruments– perhaps most notably, the air thermometer, which relies on increase in volume of a gas (rather than a liquid) to measure temperature.  His approach led to the emergence of the concept of “absolute zero” (long before the advent of cryogenics). These days, there’s more attention at the other end of the scale…

amonton thermometer




%d bloggers like this: