Not knowing specifically what Plan A is, I needed to do some assuming. My assumption is that a carbon consuming economy is not sustainable for the planet and that to sustain the mother ship we need to reduce our consumption of these types of products and find alternative ways to feed our current carbon hungry economies.
If this assumption is somewhat accurate, then logically we need to determine how we got to this point in the first place, and what is the motivating factor(s) supporting our current condition. Not knowing this, would not allow us to achieve nor sustain an alternative approach. As a Business Consultant I know all too well that setting goals without understanding the current motivations that inspire status quo behaviour will result in existing norms undermining the achievement of new expectations.
A good example of this was demonstrated when North America encouraged immigrants to migrate to the Northern Great Plains. They came with vision and hope for a new future, claimed land parcels throughout the western US and Canada and began a new life. Within two decades the Northern Great Plains became unlivable. Water was scarce, the land was parched, the wind blew hard and the air became filled with dirt. Hard working and very well intending farm families abandoned their homesteads as landscapes became unsustainable. Their visions and hope gave way to an overwhelming crisis and the reality that an ecosystem that had sustained flora and fauna for thousands of years prior to the twentieth century was now in peril. Simply put, the agricultural practices and competencies that immigrants brought with them from various European countries were not conducive to the Northern Great Plains. Agricultural practices that included deep tilling on a landscape that is prone to more extreme variations in climate were not sustainable. Farm families, governments and business needed to work together and rethink Plan A and what sustainability could be given the Northern Great Plains conditions. Their cooperative efforts introduced new methods of planting such as low till technology, better water management systems that could support seasonal flows over an annual basis, the introduction of shelterbelts and the research and development of new and hardier varieties of grains and oilseeds. A better Plan A emerged as they discovered a change in their collective perspective with a cooperative openness to adopt alternative methods resulted in the Northern Great Plains becoming the bread basket for the world.
Now, back to our current Plan A. It is about feeding a society that is preoccupied with the growing use of carbon based products. So if we are not eating the stuff, we must be using it to feed the things we want. So what would those things be? More cheap and accessible consumer goods – check; more plastic products – check; more freedom to travel anywhere at any time – check; more productive agricultural products and greener lawns, golf courses and green spaces– check; and many more on the list that justify existing behavior (I would list them, but this is a blog not a book. : )
So Plan A exists because we want it too. It isn’t because big chemical companies, oil and gas producers and/or refineries or shippers and pipelines want to be cast as the villain in a story plot that places them in some Hollywood conspiracy film. They are developing products and services that are inspired by us and provide specific investment returns to their shareholders. This is what we and the laws governing their existence require of them, no more and no less. They are no more villains or enemies of the state than the people that purchase their products and/or use their services. So Plan A is a deliberate result of us wanting what we want when we want it… (Shoot, I hate when I include myself in the concern. : )
So if there are no enemies, and we alone are the custodians of the existing Plan A, then what do we need to consider changing, given there is no Plan B. Like the Northern Great Plains example, their Plan A was to populate a vast ecosystem with agricultural producers to take advantage of its potential prosperity. There was no Plan B as they could not move the ecosystem and mass migration to another location on this planet or any other for that matter would have been extremely problematic. So they needed to rethink their Plan A. This required a realization by the many that the current practices were not sustainable and a cooperative and collaborative call to transitional action.
Many economists say that we are all dead in the long term, and if this is true, then continuing with the vigilant pursuit of Plan A becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We might say that we need to act now as if our lives depend on it. (Threw that in just cause it really adds to the drama. : )
If Plan A is really just us, then we need to challenge our existing behaviors and expectations. There is a need to introduce the longer term impacts of what we want now, with what we will need in the future. Alternative products and services, ones that are less carbon reliant, more sustainable and considerate to the air, water and soil we depend on need time and consideration to prove their effectiveness. Trials need to also consider organizational norms and competencies and allow for transition. There is no silver bullet solution; this is complexity at its best.
If we were the Board of Directors for an organization or business called Mother Earth our shareholders would expect that we developed methods and means to protect our current cash flow and maintain overall operations, while also prudently investing in those things that advanced our organizational interests and created future cash flows. Our business existence depends on living now, but also in creating a prosperous business position for tomorrow. If Plan A is all we have, and Plan A is always our best plan (Plan B is the fall back or second choice) then we need to develop and sustain it in a manner that sees transformation and transition as a positive element, not something that is villainized. We need to remember, there are No Enemies and there is no Plan B.
To be continued and please share your thoughts as great things always start with a conversation…