David Wann has written 10 books and produced a handful of TV programs about sustainable communities, agriculture, transportation, restoration of nature, consumerism, energy… all things sustainable. Now, in his senior years, he’s trying to identify and report synergies among these systems. His goal is to create a future scenario in which Americans can experience twice the satisfaction for half the resources. That’s what the The New Normal is about. In that book he wrote, “Until we change the direction of our plug-and-play, no-effort-required lifestyle, we’ll continue to be an endangered as well as dangerous civilization. We’ll continue to generate game-ending carbon dioxide as we convert ecosystems to must-have, easily broken gadgets and nutrition-free, processed food.”
It’s clear that Americans in particular are tethered to a lifestyle support system of highways, pipes, wires, airwaves, lines of credit, and most importantly, an obsolete way of thinking. How can we become a mature civilization when our practices destroy the source of our wealth: the living systems and climatic stability that lie beneath the bottom line of our obsessive-compulsive, often fraudulent economy? In our times, we seem trapped between two very powerful forces: institution and intuition. A harnessed, institutional mindset says, “Full speed ahead – look what we’ve created!” But our intuition — with the full force of evolution behind it — cautions, “Slow down – look what we are destroying!” Intuition counsels us to rewrite the instructions — reprogram our cultural software — so our world can be more secure, stable, and sustainable.
We need to more carefully observe the way nature works: In their most mature, climax stages, biological systems have learned how to optimize diversity, resourcefulness, and resilience, weaving partnerships among species to make use of each scrap of resource and each niche. In the new era, we’ll be far more sensitive to the needs of nature and society at large, realizing at last, “that which is not good for the beehive cannot be good for the bee.” (Marcus Aurelius, 200). Once again, we’ll design and craft products the way bees produce honey – without harming the flower. The big picture is that production and consumption will no longer be defining characteristics of the next civilization – cultural richness, efficiency, cooperation, expression, ecological design, and biological restoration will be.
If you like, have a look at his blog posts, and at excerpts from his books, articles, and videos and TV programs programs that are the stepping-stones of his work. See if you agree that our most urgent work is to change our cultural direction (quickly!) and reframe our collective priorities. With better instructions, we can begin to reshape the buildings, technologies, policies, and landscapes of human activity. We’re far more than consumers whose demand tweaks the supply side, aren’t we? We’re voters, teachers, artists, employees, churchgoers, discussion group members, menu planners, city planners, product designers, investors, union members, members of food coops, farmers market attendees, recyclers, politicians, and writers. Most importantly, we are people who talk, email, twitter, text, and “socially network” with other people, constantly building opinion and culture the way humans have always done. Each one of these many roles can be guided by the new-paradigm ethic that runs through his work, an ethic with which America has been pregnant for at least half a century.