Starting to write this post triggered some seasonal thoughts. Winter has come to New England. The snow has been coming down for a couple of days with only a few hours of respite. A few towns only about 20 miles away have been without power for over a week, victims of the last big ice storm. More cardinals than ever are feeding outside the kitchen window. I am thankful that we have no place to go today other than outside to shovel. The beauty and travail, all mixed up in this storm, remind me that sustainability is not some thing, but only a possibility that always shows up amidst a changing world. Change is not something to avoid or oppose, but to understand. We must build and govern our social, technological, and economic system so that they do not collapse or move into regimes where that possibility recedes or even disappears. But then. . .

Robert Patterson, a Canadian strategy consultant, reports on his take-away the latest conference devoted to the theories of John Boyd. Here is just one of the generally dismal conclusions that Patterson offers. (Hat tip to James Fallows)

The search for efficiency and the urge to consume has set us all up like a row of dominoes – there is no buffer, no resiliency. As one problem rises it causes another. As one solution is tried it drives another problem. We all pull back and the consumer economy stalls. The auto industry and credit firms feeds the media (40% of conventional advertising). Papers and TV and Radio networks, many subject to LBO’s will have to fail as per the Tribune. Every sector will be laying people off. Sales of all things fall off a cliff – driving more business failures and layoffs. Cities and states that depend on sales tax and property tax and the credit markets can rely on none of these. So they too will have to lay off millions – thus making all the problems worse. National governments will be asked to save us all and of course cannot. As States and Cities get squeezed and cannot borrow, they will too lay off millions – teachers, firemen police. No one will be safe.

Paterson goes on without much relief. Failure to see the complexity inherent in modern constructed worlds is threatening to throw us into a new and different kind of world to govern, without much understanding of how to do it. To understate the challenge is very dangerous, but to fail to seize opportunities to dig deeply into the root causes and start from there would be even more fraught. My book presents such an approach.

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