I had a bit of a brain vomit on the plane ride here, too bad the flight from Stockholm to New York is so short (compared to Tokyo-New York). Even so, it was long enough for me to sit down and think about a couple different things without being interrupted by my inbox. I wrote down most of what I was thinking about in the hopes of coming back to it and developing some of the overflow of thoughts.
One thing I was thinking about was how people seem to be trapped in various states of not-knowing. Not knowing what is happening to the world, not knowing how we can help, or not even knowing what we value.
It is the last one, not knowing what we value, that interests me the most right now. Most of us tend to go through our every day activity as though what we do is pre-determined and we have little or no choice. We all have some social conscience, and we want to do good, but somehow, we get stuck into a lifestyle that does not allow for it, or worse, is actively doing harm. We justify this by saying "I need to make a living for myself before I can think about other people", which I don't disagree with, but I also think that we are using that as an excuse to be lazy. We give our time, health, well-being, mind, and soul over to our employer, job, or whatever seems to be the most important, without spending the time to take a close look at just how important that is compared to other aspects of our life.
This led me to think about indicators and measures of progress. We all know (or should know) that the GNP isn't worth a pile of crap as far as meaningful indicators go, yet, how many of us use our salary as the main indicator of our own personal development and progress. Isn't it the same thing? So what are some indicators that are more useful? Or, more to the point of what I was thinking, what indicators (existing or not) would I want to use to measure my own success as an individual?
While we were in Stockholm a few weeks ago, we had the opportunity to participate in a workshop with Allan Atkisson. Part of the workshop involved a little role playing. We imagined that we were policy makers for a small village someplace in India. We were to use the Atkisson compass to identify some indicators.
The AtKisson Compass brings together four critical aspects of sustainability:
- N -- Nature Ecosystem Health, Environmental Quality and Resource Issues
- E -- Economy Business, Infrastructure, Production, Consumption, Value Creation
- S -- Society Social Cohesion, Social Development, Social and Cultural Institutions
- W -- Well-Being Individual Health, Development, Satisfaction and Fulfillment
Stakeholders are brought together representing every Compass Point. They are introduced to sustainability concepts and principles, develop a set of Assets and Concerns, and then develop the Indicators that will reflect critical long-term trends in every important area of common life. They also explore the Linkages between indicators, and prepare the ground for creating cooperative action programs.
How does this apply to my own life, or the life of other individuals? What would you want to measure in order to access your success in each of the compass points? I don't think they even need to be possible to measure, at least not now, simply figuring out what I would want to measure if I could gives me a good idea of what is most important to me. I have some quickly brainstormed ideas for myself below. At some point, I would want to go through this list and decide on a few of the most important, and how they fit together. Depending on how far I wanted to take the exercise, and how much time I have to dedicate, I could even develop some methodologies to measure each of them, and most importantly, personal policies that would help me to improve my situation.
Having just finished this, I realize that perhaps most of these are less of an "indicator" (what I measure) of an overall condition, and more of a method of evaluating (how I measure), such as "amount of toxins inhaled" or "Number of neighbors whose names I actually know". Perhaps I would have to ask myself what it tells me, what it 'indicates' if I know all my neighbors names, or if I know non of their names? Gross Personal Relateability? Today though, my goal was just to get started thinking about this. The refining and further development of this idea will come later.
So, anything I forget?
Excellent list. Might consider adding more about Community -- whether you've found it/them, the degree of belonging and cohesion with it, what you are giving and getting from it; and maybe also something about whether you've found your 'home'. Freedom from addiction to consumption and debt. What you're actually doing to make the world better, not just no worse. There's a certain amount of 'aparthood' in this compass, as if you're evaluating yourself as something separate from nature.