Facing the Brutal Facts

Pretext: I have been enjoying Good to Great which talks about great companies and how they face the brutal facts (and other qualities of great companies). And it really feels to me like we must be absolutely sure that while thrivability is about thinking positivitly, it is NOT about avoiding the brutal facts of what is. Only by facing those facts can we co-create a future that can really be different from what we have now in ways that work for us.

Today I read a dialogue Published on Tuesday, August 18, 2009 by The Guardian/UK Is There Any Point in Fighting to Stave off Industrial Apocalypse. The collapse of civilisation will bring us a saner world, says Paul Kingsnorth. No, counters George Monbiot – we can’t let billions perish by George Monbiot and Paul Kingsnorth.

I must disagree with both gentleman. For some reason, it all calls to mind some lessons I learned from the Black Swan about extremistan. Yes, many of our charts are going vertical. And yes, that seems to suggest that overlapping crisis will compound into catastrophe. But while it holds our current activities and technologies fairly stable, it assume complete vertiginous rise of problems. However, if you look at charts for our technology, you also see the strong vertical assent of the line on the chart. And let’s also hold all this a little lightly, as we all know statistics can be tricky business, all determined by perspective and rarely able to capture system dynamics (at least not these silly bar and line charts). But I leave it to my friends in visualization to explain the pitfalls better.

So why, when I admit the compounding crisis that we are already in the midst of (not just near the brink of), do I passionately pursue thrivability? Is it a little too optimistic and sunny-dispositioned for the brutal facts we face?

I am not sure if millions or billions will die. But this is not some future to be avoided, it is already the present. Millions already die–from measles, malaria, water borne disease, AIDS, lack of access to healthcare in general. Three years of working on savekids.org taught me that. What is more terrifiying than millions or even billions dying is that is won’t come as a shock to the system…it may ramp up from current rates, but I am skeptical that we, as a whole, will pay much attention. That is horrifically sad. Yet, we can see it happening all the time – millions of Americans hardly noticing, if they notice at all, the death of thousands of farmers in India (by suicide because they honor was crushed by financial crisis). So, millions or billions may die. As humans have died throughout our whole history. Some tragically and by preventable methods. I accept this at a deep spiritual level, even as it makes my heart shudder.

The brutal facts of our current state, I acknowledge – whether it is death from overpopulation (in the form of disease, starvation, and poverty) or the crisis in our oceans and air, our plants and farms, our ecosystems as a whole. A massive downward spiral as many downward spirals converge and amplify each other.

And, there are breakthroughs in this breakdown. Consciousness evolving, collective intelligence emerging, upward spirals seeding, evolving and growing.

I am less concerned with paper vs plastic and whether that has an impact on the environment or how much impact changing your lightbulbs will have. And I am much more interested in how the awareness that we are connected -that your use of everyday items impacts the world and our collective being – how that awareness, the new myth for us to operate within, emerges. The Story of Stuff being told, passed on, and repeated until it permeates our whole culture. And it has been emerging, from what I gather, for my whole life. I was born in the early 70s, and it feels to me like this was seeded then, if not earlier.

Will we come together, as we did during the world wars? Will there be victory gardens again? Will we, as we have before, make willing sacrifice so that humanity may face a brighter day? I believe thrivability is about inspiring that possibility of a brighter day – naming it, taking action toward it, and collectively shifting from downward cycles to breakthroughs and upward cycles. I think those trend charts don’t take into account that our world is more a world of extremistan than ever before. And while we may face extreme crisis, we may also see extreme innovation, connection, cooperation, and transformation.

That does not mean I think we will be saved by technology, be able to remain as we are, or won’t face huge losses (on many fronts). It does mean, I think there can be a positive outcome that makes it a worthwhile transformation to undergo. That this is part of a greater evolutionary flow raising our consciousness and our myths and the actions that come from them. A thrivable world will not fall into our laps with ease, it is something we will commit to with all our heart and being, making something much more amazing than what we have now – possible, plausible, indeed, powerfully and magnificently real.



  1. Bronwyn said

    Hear hear for big-picture thinking — and for commitment to the inspiration side of the coin!

  2. this rocks, jean. wow. serious hard core stuff. glad you are on the vibe modulation, creation and maintenance team at socap09.

  3. Skip Zilla said

    I’ve written a couple of places online about an American “Reconstruction” in our day that is similar in some ways to the one after a disastrous Civil War. I spoke a few days ago with my “Greatest Generation” parents and told them that we present day Americans are finally in the grips of the real “human condition” that they themselves faced in the dark days of the 1930s–inhumanities and war, lost economic security and productivity, etc. I told them I took heart in the grace in which they pursued to save and rebuild a broken world.

    Your message resonates with me. There is a turning for the better ahead in our lives and fortunes–our turn at the fruits of recovery and sanity in our social relationship and common aims.

    • Disney said

      And to think I was going to talk to sonmoee in person about this.

  4. Marnie said

    That’s a sensible answer to a chennalgilg question

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