Thursday, December 9, 2010

tasting the future

i find myself part of some incredible work in the United Kingdom ~ an initiative called Tasting the Future is being called by some brave souls within the WWF-UK and is attracting all sorts of people to it. i say they are brave because in fact what they are calling in is a way of working on systemic and intractable issues that works with the real context in which humanity currently finds itself.  in human systems dynamics, this context is called "dynamical" ~ it is characterized by high levels of complexity, inter-connectivity, non-linearity, emergence.  this simply means that with the way things are working right now, we are on the edge of what we know and what we know how to do.  it means we need to brave enough to not-know, and yet to step in and say yes, i am here, join me.

Tasting the Future is less a "project" and more like a movement because it is about collectively finding a new way of living with the planet and with each other, through the portal of our food. currently, the UK alone consumes as if it had 3 planets to feed itself from.  factor in north america, europe, and the massive consumer cultures emerging in asia and it is almost too much to bear.  so we are asking, what would a food system actually look like if we produced and consumed in a way that sustained, rather than depleted, people and the planet?

the answer is actually that nobody knows what our new systems can and will look like because we are currently in a world in transition.  we have a sense of the new ways forward and we have a sense of the massiveness of our current systems' dysfunction.  our damage to the planet and to our humanity has lead to unprecedented depletion of both our biosphere and ethnosphere, while our economic and governance systems show signs of stress and distress, irrelevance, and an incapacity to respond to the real needs of this time.

there are various pathways forward. we can adapt to the current context as we imagine and innovate our way into completely new ways of being a human ecology on this planet.  we can consume better and create higher standards and regulations for our current industries.  we can consume differently by creating entirely industries, like electric cars and up-cycled product lines.  or we can consume less and in so doing, shift industries and behaviours radically: car-free cities and everything non-privatized open-source. this last way is a fundamental shift in our values, behaviours, artifacts, and assumptions about what ecology and economy and humanity are and can be...

what we are seeing in Tasting the Future is that these are happening all at once in the food sector.  there is already so much innovation happening in local and regional ways, in civil society and in the market, all around the UK.  they are, however, not connected, and they do not reach a critical mass of citizens.  so the invitation with Tasting the Future is to convene these projects and people, illuminate the work that is happening, connect them in meaningful ways and from this, scale up the work and begin to co-create the new together.  in other words, create an intentional learning ecology to support the catalysts, grow the impact, and together seed new innovations from what we learn collectively.  it is time to innovate and prototype, but the trick is to do it collectively, and learn with each step as we tread - or tumble - towards a fundamental change.

it is to begin to BE the new system that we want to cultivate more widely.

the edge in this work is around calling out a new culture, one that learns and grows together through actually being in profound relationship with each other and with the earth.  why is this edgy?  because the norm is to work with cause and effect and to see the system as outside of ourselves: to see problems and find solutions, to bring together experts or power brokers and get them to create strategies that will be implemented by us, or to create lists of recommendations that others should follow.  what we don't have as a sophisticated human capacity is to be learners together regardless of our status, to be the "us" that leads and the "them" that follows, learners who access a collective intelligence from the whole - from our diversity, differences and inter-connectivity, from what the Earth is asking of and teaching us, and from our wholeness as human beings, as opposed to from our "titles", positions, these fragmented aspects of our selves.

as margaret wheatley says, "whatever the problem, community is the answer" and "the leaders we need are already here."  those that are showing up are "paradigm pioneers" who hold a sense of purpose so strongly that others gather around, bring their beauty, and live their way courageously into the unknown, yet tangible, future.  we can already taste it...

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