Talk:Creating a Learning Society: What have Organisational Psychologists to Offer?

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"Wackernagel and Rees (1996), among others, have shown that it would require five back up planets engaged in nothing but agriculture for everyone alive today to live as we do in the West. It cannot be done. There can, therefore, be little doubt that, to live in a sustainable way, we would need a society which would be as different from ours as agricultural society was from hunter gatherer society (see Raven, 1995 for more detail). But, just as no one in a hunter-gatherer society could envisage what an agricultural society would look like, so no one in our society can realistically envisage what a sustainable society will look like. There can be no blueprint."

I have not read Wackernagel and Rees but I presume that the 5 backup planet figure is derived from all cultures copying our current behaviours. In other words using Carbon based fuel and energy, throwing waste into landfill, inefficient buildings and industries, etc. I have seen large, complex, silo based organisations change beyond recognition in under 3 years and after the 3 years to be powering ahead with a mechanism and capacity to determine and make further changes at a far faster rate going forward.

One of the sources of fatalism in this issue is the myth that we would need to give up our current lifestyles in order to progress to sustainability. This myth has been manufactured and maintained by those that profit from it. For example permanent magnetic power can create enough energy to power our homes, vehicles and industries, with no other energy sources required. There are many examples on the internet of home-made permanent magnetic generators costing under 15 dollars in materials being used to power perpetual motion machines.

The fact is we can become sustainable while increasing freedoms such as mobility, career choice, communication, access to entertainment and information.

Change can and does happen very quickly. There are not too many people on this planet, (although we are above the optimum) as it is perfectly possible for the Earth to support up to 9 billion people if we tread lightly. Besides, research has shown that birth rates fall radically when women are given economic and hereditory power and opportunity. And we definitely do not require 5 backup planets.


I think you would find the Ecological Footprint caculations more sophisticated than you think. But, yes, you are right. They do not say anything about the effects of change ... which is exactly what I am trying to induce. They say only that it would require 5 back up planets engaged in nothing but agriculture (which includes things like reprocessing our pollutants) for everyone alive today to live as we live.

As to technological rfixes, my personal view is that there are so many inter-related problems (which I have reviewed in Part I of my New Wealth of Nations) that I find it hard to believe that fixing any small number of them individually will come near to fixing the problem. The probelms include those associated with the international banking community, the so-called defence systems, and the production of endless senseless products which in reality perform a primarily sociological function. Yes. You are right. We could radically change the way we live ... starting here, not in China or India ... But the most fundamental problem is, not to bring about the necessary change in anything approaching the available time scale (though that is serious enough). It is to change the way we run our society, so that we run it in something like the long term public interest ... so that we can offer most people on this planet the opportunity to live long, high quality, lives. (And quality of life does not depend on material possessions.) This is the issue I would like to focus on here ... ie precisly not disputing one or other of the indices of the state we are in. As I see it, the fact that we, as a species, are in a very perilous positon seems to me beyond dispute.

Quester67 08:55, 10 March 2008 (PDT)

there can be no blue print?

I have no doubt that the ecological footprint calculations are correct, just that they are based on current behaviours not future ones. If we change our energy source away from hydro-carbon, and invest heavily in product design to be recycle-friendly, and match that with waste processing technology, change our diets to be more local, organic, less energy intensive (eg. less beef), it matters not what the international banking industry does. They only become a problem if they inhibit us from making those changes (as they have been doing to date).

Having seen (and been a part of) complex change processes, I am less pessimistic that they can happen. The banking industry knows a change is coming and some will even welcome it. When true change happens it will not be a solution to the problems caused by our current models of democracy and capitalism, it will render these problems irrelevant having moved us into a new paradigm.

While the notion of a learning society is paramount, I also think that we are able to determine parts of the blueprint now, or at least to do so at a high level. Like our current society the learning society will also be based on assumptions and myths, just better ones. Hopefully we will be more aware of those myths and able to adapt or dispense with them should they become burdensome, however that is not to say they won't be there and they won't serve a very useful purpose.

We can, and in my view should, start to build that blueprint as best we are able to.

A starting point would be to "map" the relationships between problem areas (such as banking myths and norms, and human conflict and environmental abuses). As a prelude to a project which will attempt to do precicely that, I am gathering some of the problems and thoughts together on a wiki / blog / discussion website ( Please feel free to contribute.


Unfortunately, energy is not "the" problem. "It" is the uses to which energy is put. The main use of energy is to carry out endless senseless work. If we did not carry out this senseless work, which does not deliver high quality of life, there would not be an energy problem in the first place. Thus reducing the "cost" of energy would simply exacerbate the problem. Unfortunately, the endless useless work has, like the educational system and the financial system, somehow been created to legitimise extreme social division which compels most people against their will to participate in the destructive and unethical activities of which modern "civilisations" are so largely composed. "The" problem with the banking system is not the explosion of the money supply and the way it undermines the last vestiges of a "market" economy, "it" is the way in which a network of "debt" traps billions of people, against their will, into this destructive way of life. The collapse of the financial system will, as James Robertson showed long ago in his book Future Work, on its own, wreak utter havoc ... but James, like our commenator here, optimistically thinks that something new will, like a Phoenix, arise from the ashes.

What lessons are to be drawn out of all this? One is thst fixing single problems only creates more problems. More basically, it is that what appear to be "environmental" or "economic" problems are, in "reality", social problems. Worse, they are not social problems that can be studied and tackled independently. What appear to be individual problems are epiphenomena, or symptoms, of the operation of a vast network, or system, of so far invisible sociocybernetic feedback loops. If we are to move forward, it is essential to map and understand this network of invisible social forces and work out how to intervene in it. And, third, if we are to ameliorate the horrors that could arise with the collapse of our socio-economic system, we need to clarify the public management arrangements that are required to facilitate the transition to some new system. (Current public management arrangements are too locked into perpetuating the status quo and, in particular, social division.) How are we to give meaning to people's lives, and assure them of access to the irreducible minimum required to live, when work as we know it has disappeared?

What have organisational psychologists, qua organisational psychologists, got to say about these issues: What research based insights have they got to share?

Quester67 00:07, 11 March 2008 (PDT)

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