Overcoming "Functionally Insane" Short-Term Thinking

This blog begins a series of posts about permaculture, drawing on what I am learning in a Permaculture Design Course I am taking with Chop Wood Carry Water Permaculture in Nottingham, NH.

Green Biz reported on a recent speech by Al Gore where he shared a story of a survey of CEO’s several years ago. CEO’s were asked “whether they would make an investment that would meet their internal return-on-investment targets and make their business stronger, profitable and sustainable. One hitch: It would also make the company slightly miss its next quarterly earnings estimate.” Gore said “This is functionally insane. It’s not only insane where the values that we share are concerned, it’s functionally insane where the well-being of that business is concerned,” It’s the wrong decision for the investors, for the shareholders, and for all the stakeholders.”

Short-term thinking and fragmented thinking are at the roots of so many of the challenges we face. These ways of thinking are so pervasive and within each of us, we are like fish that do not recognize the water we are swimming in. How do we re-learn to think in ways that are not fragmented and make decisions that are good for the short and long term? How do we design our work, our businesses, and our change efforts in ways that are attuned to the complexity beeand interconnections of a living system?

Permaculture offers ethics and design principles to learn to think and design like nature, in an integrated way, which can be applied at any scale. The purpose is to enable people to work in ways that leave the land and their communities healthier than when they started. Mollison has described permaculture as “a philosophy of working with, rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless labor; and of looking at plants and animals in all their functions, rather than treating any area as a single project system.”

He also said: “The core of permaculture is design. Design is a connection between things…It’s the very opposite of what we are taught in school. Education takes everything and pulls it apart and makes no connections at all. Permaculture makes the connection.”

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