Story of Bubbles and Stuff

Posted by  admin —July 15, 2008
Filed in Creative Stuff, Sustainability

Have you seen Annie Leonard’s Story of Stuff video? You should watch it. I use parts of it when facilitating sustainability workshops to great effect. I have embedded it below.

Thanks to Dave Pollard’s weekly wrap, I discovered this article by Peter Senge and others. It is a prescription for Business Sustainability: Senge says business has to do much more than just mitigate and adapt to climate change.

I really liked the anology Senge drew between the short term bubbles we have seen (eg. dot com and sub prime) and the Industrial “bubble” that has been expanding for the past 2 centuries. I hadn’t thought about our unsustainable consumption in terms of a bubble which, like all bubbles, will eventually pop. In the case of .dot-com … the companies failed to make profits and it exploded. In the case of sub-prime … borrowers had to default loans and hedge funds lost billions and it exploded.

In this picture, I have sketched the industrial bubble. The pins around it’s perimeter are the forces acting back on it by nature. Nature is pushing back ‘sharply’ at the bubble because of the stuff we extract and then put back as toxic waste and pollution. Communities and ‘coalitions of the willing’ who are devising solutions are pushing back too. Another sharp end that may pop the bubble is the “finite-ness” of the resources upon which the Industrial age depends … oil, clean water etc …

I wonder if the world community is capable of deflating the Industrial-Age Bubble (adaptation)? Or will forces from nature cause it to collapse quickly (survival and chaos)?

Within the bubble I have depicted The Story of Stuff process that Annie Leonard so beautifully describes. 

Senge also points out that a ‘real world’ belief system exists within the Industrial Bubble, just as it did with dot-com and sub-prime. Here’s a quote:

“When financial bubbles pop, the same question is always asked: How is it that over expansion and collapse occurred yet again, drawing in otherwise bright and knowledgeable people?

The answer is that during a period of overexpansion, two parallel views develop, one from inside the bubble and one from outside. Each perspective feels real to those who hold it. The more the bubble grows, the more people are drawn into the powerful reinforcing beliefs and perceptions it inspires. Eventually, those inside the bubble become so absorbed by its new reality that they can no longer understand the point of view of those outside the bubble.”

Taster from the Story of Stuff – Annie Leonard



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