I’ve been telling people for 15+ years that facts don’t move people. It finally dawned on me that this is one of those facts.
— Nate Hagens (May 7, 2018 – Facebook)
A recurring theme this year has been about the fact that facts no longer matter. Much has been said about the echo chamber of our social media bubbles. We only hear and get exposed to ideas and opinions that reinforce our existing biases.
We’ve been struggling with how to break free from our own bubbles. Not just about the version of news spin that we read, but about our ability to deny much deeper truths about the state of the planet and our complicity with intractable predicaments that humanity faces.
What happens when people read a book like Crash Course, or watch a documentary about climate change, ecosystem collapse, or crony capitalism? Why can we learn a certain set of facts, but continue acting as if these facts aren’t true?
You don’t need to be a scientist, or have an advanced degree to know the following facts:
- We live on a finite planet with finite resources
- Unlimited growth on a finite planet WILL NOT continue forever
- Our entire civilization operates on an economic system that requires unlimited growth
- Human caused climate change is happening now.
- Is it not reversible, and it’s going to get much worse regardless of what we do now.
- All major ecosystems are in decline
- We are in the middle of a human-caused 6th great extinction
Sure, we can argue the finer points of these all day, and there will always be flat-out deniers. I’m not concerned about climate change deniers. They’re wrong. But at least they’re taking a stand that allows them to continue business-as-usual without conflict and denial. I understand the logic of it. The rest of us continue business-as-usual but we have to do so in denial and under moral conflict.
What happens when confronted with the prospect of taking action to address these issues? Unfortunately, by a staggering majority, our choice is to do nothing. In fact, doing nothing, according to Rob Mielcarski is the one thing we all overwhelmingly agree on. Group hug for humanity – Yay for us!
One portion of the population doesn’t believe humans are in overshoot and therefore sees no need to change their lifestyles.
Another portion is vaguely aware of a problem but prefers not to think about it nor possible changes to their lifestyles.
Another portion believes overshoot is real but thinks others need to change their lifestyles first.
Another portion thinks we have a problem but it is not caused by humans so there is no need to change.
Another portion thinks everything is in the hands of God so there is no need to change.
Another portion thinks they’ve already done enough by buying a new electric car, recycling, and reusing grocery bags.
Another portion believes renewable energy, carbon capture, and other technologies will solve the problem.
Another portion understands the problem but chooses not to change because they do not believe their sacrifices will make a difference.
The balance of the population thinks it’s too late to do anything and therefore see no need to change.
The only thing everyone agrees on is that there is no need to change.
After attending the Peak Prosperity workshop in May 2018, we had many conversations about how to talk to people about taking action. It seems to us that once you learn a basic set of facts about the state of the world, action should be immediate and dramatic. However, it’s almost the opposite.
There was a lot of references to the red pill / blue pill decision from The Matrix. Take the red pill and know the truth, or take the blue pill and forget everything allowing you to go back to a comfortable life of denial. Those of us who’ve taken the red pill are in a small minority, and I’m only recently coming to grips with just how small a group this is. I feel frighteningly isolated sometimes, especially considering the changes we’ve made in direct response to some facts that we’ve chosen not to ignore.
Depressing as this may sound, it’s actually pointing us toward a deeper understanding of ourselves, of how the collective conscience works. And, that understanding may just lead us in the direction of positive action and change.
When it comes to addressing the global issues of our time, we don’t need more scientists collecting data. The data is in. The facts are in. We don’t need more technology to innovate our way to sustainability.
The late Donella Meadows wrote a beautiful and profound essay on leverage points, or places to intervene in a system in order to change outcomes. Numbers, facts, documentation, regulation are are very low on the list of importance. The number one leverage point, the best way to change a system, is to change the paradigm in which it the system operates.
That brings us to cultural narratives — the paradigm in which our system operates. These are the unwritten, unspoken rules and codes of conduct that drive how we act, think, and what facts we’re allowed to acknowledge and what we deny.
In other words, changing the stories we tell ourselves about who we are.
This realization is directly changing our approach to 180forward and how we intend to make our living. People aren’t moved by facts. Not by data. People are moved by emotions. Emotions are generated by the stories we tell ourselves about who we are, what we value, how we act.
Luckily, there’s a growing movement to go beyond just discussing facts and move toward acceptance and action. This is NOT an intellectual exercise. It is an emotional/psychological/spiritual exercise.
This is not a left-brained, rational, problem solving exercise. It’s not a problem for the scientists of the world. It requires embracing the unknown, opening up to uncertainty. This is the domain of the philosopher and artist. Science is important, but to move the needle on the intractable problems of modernity, more science and technology won’t do it.
At 180forward, we’re striving to embrace creativity and remember that for every technical solution to the challenges of building a business and achieving a sustainable income, the greater impact will be communicating it, telling the story, inspiring others.
Here’s a call to the artists, creators, philosophers, builders, storytellers, and content creators who are challenging denial and changing beliefs. It’s the only to way to transcend paradigms!