Beware a rant.
I was in a conversation today with a friend of mine who is a true visionary. He is an artist who works with metal, rocks and even entire landscapes. He is a project manager and has overseen some of the biggest developments on our island, and some of the biggest ones in the Lower Mainland. He cares deeply about our shared home and sees all kinds of potential for Bowen Island to become a true innovative leader in the world. he knows the municipal tools inside an out, and looks at our official community plan and sees a joke. As an artist he sees our island in three dimensions, he sees our social landscape in terms of centuries, he sees possibility oozing out of every patch pf land, and every land use decision and every corner of the landscape, possibility that includes food production and long term restoration of old growth habitat and community cultural creativity and the chance to make a good, but modest living here.
Yet he isn’t bitter – on the contrary he is full of possibility AND he has a pretty good idea of how to get there. He understands chaos and complexity and living systems and how to create change without succumbing to control. As I listened to him speak about the small but very very deep shifts it would take to make our island truly self-sufficient, it occurred to me that without my friends visionary thinking and novel way of seeing, we are doomed as a culture. And the problem is that the kinds of tools that are available to us to plan and govern our futures are not about vision, they are about seeing.
Think about it. Most municipal governments are reluctant to say “let’s set aside that 200 acres of land for 300 years so that there will be old growth forest there in the future.” It seems pollyanna-ish. It seems like the kind of thing that is a good intention, but how could you ever do it, and what about the pressing needs of our people now? Never mind that it is actually easy and possible and wise, it is simply easier to look at what is around you now and manage what you have.
What does it take for organizations, communities and societies to recognize that a worldview based on vision is the way to secure a future, whereas one based on seeing is simply the one that got us to this mess in the first place. I note that the Liberal leader, positioning himself for an election victory, has chosen to make his campaign about restoring economic growth. With everything happening in the world right now, with the demand for leadership that takes us beyond the worldview that has mired us on the brink of economic and environmental catastrophe, Michael Ignatieff’s postion is that he will restore something that is bound to come around sooner or later in a cyclical capitalist society.
The reason he does this is because the mind set of measurable, observable short term results is king in this society. No one is going to get elected talking about stopping rampant economic growth and stopping the more is better mindset. Even if we are engaged in long term projects, someone always wants an indicator to know that we are on the right path. The management mindset has trapped us in the ever present short term. We are like a cigarette smoker dying of lung cancer who keeps having one last butt.
What does it take to do something with no expectation for gain, recognition or results? Just to do it because it restores more life to the future than we have now. A basic principle: leave more for the future than you took for the present. Could we be that mature? How much longer with this childish obsession with consumption and instant gratification go on?