Friday, January 2, 2015

More Ideas for Design Principles for Flourishing Organizations

Over the holidays  I was fortunate to have received a copy of Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson (published 1998) - set in the near future and based on the author's experiences visiting the antarctic in the mid 1990s.

Other than the shockingly (to me at least) high level of understanding of climate change that was known 15+ years ago, one of the most interesting elements of the book was the 8 elements of a proposed "Antarctic Protocol".

These protocols, developed by the characters in the book in response to varies crises, have the goal of proposing a set of behaviors that could lead an Antarctic continent where human and other life could flourish.  The first seven elements comprehensively cover the economic, social and environmental choices needed for flourishing to be a possibility.  The 8th of these elements posits "What is true an Antarctica is true everywhere else (on earth)" (a compelling key hypothesis of one of the main characters).

As I read them it struck me that the comprehensive nature of these proposals for the Antarctic continent were highly related, complementary and overlapping with my own proposals for design principles for flourishing organizations - introduced in this blog post "Towards Design Principles for Strongly Sustainable Organizations"  (for the full text of my thinking see my thesis  Chapter 4, sections 4.7.2, pp.398-403 "Towards a Theory for the Conditions Required for Strongly Sustainable Organizations" and Chapter 7, section 7.7, pp.845-856 "Proto-Strongly Sustainable Business Design Principles").

Of course both my proposals and Kim Stanley Robinson's align well with the Goals and KPIs of the Draft version of the Future Fit Business Benchmark.

To allow for comparison, I reproduce below the 8 Points of Kim Stanley Robinson's Antarctic Protocols.

I look forward to everyone's reactions;  not least who else is doing similar thinking about the design principles for organizations who choose as a goal to create the possibility for a flourishing environment, society and economy for humans and all other life on our shared finite planet?

“The Antarctic Protocols”
Pages 626-628 Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson 1998, Bantam Books

1. The Antarctic Treaty should be renewed as soon as possible, after whatever renegotiation is necessary to get all parties to agree to terms and sign. Some law needs to be in place. Paraphrasing the original proposal for an Antarctic Treaty, written by people in the American State Department in 1958: "It would appear desirable to reach agreement on a program to assure the continuation of fruitful scientific cooperation in that continent, preventing unnecessary and undesirable political rivalries, the uneconomic expenditure of funds to defend individual interests, and the recurrent possibility of misunderstanding. If harmonious agreement can be reached in regard to friendly cooperation in Antarctica, there would be advantages to all other countries as well."

2. In this renewed Treaty, and by a more general proclamation of the United Nations, Antarctica should be declared to be a world site of special scientific interest. Some may wish to interpret this to mean also that Antarctica is a sacred ritual space, in which human acts take on spiritual significance.

3. Oil, natural gas, methane hydrates, minerals, and fresh water all exist in Antarctica, sometimes in concentrations that make their extraction and use a technical possibility. (Oil in particular, to be specific about the most controversial resource, is located in no supergiant fields but in three or four giant fields and many smaller ones, totalling approximately fifty billion barrels). Given that this is so, and that world supplies of some of these non-renewable resources are being consumed at a rapid rate, the possibility of extraction needs to be explicitly considered by not only the Antarctic Treaty nations, but the United Nations as well.

Non-Treaty nations, in the Southern Hemisphere in particular, think of the possibility of oil extraction from Antarctica as one way of solving energy needs and dealing with ongoing debt crises. At the same time current oil extraction technology presents a small but not negligible risk of environmental contamination as the result of an accident. Technologies are likely to become safer in the future, and world oil supplies are decreasing so sharply that any remaining untapped supplies, left in reserve for future generations who may need oil for purposes, other than fuel, are likely to be extremely valuable. These trends point to the idea of caching or sequestering certain oil fields for future use. Southern Hemisphere nations in need of short-term help could perhaps make arrangements modeled on the debt-fornature exchanges that have already been made; in this case, the World Bank or individual northern countries might buy future rights to Antarctic oil from southern nations, with the payments to start now, but the oil to be sequestered, with extraction to be delayed until the extraction technology's safety and the need for oil warrant it.

At the same time, demonstrably safe methane-hydrate drilling could proceed, providing a less concentrated but still valuable source of fuel and income 'to the drillers, while serving also as a training ground for drilling technologies that could be considered for later use in oil extraction.

4. The Antarctic Treaty suspends all claims of sovereignty on the continent, at the same time that it specifies free access to all, and a ban on military presences for anything but unarmed logistical support. The continent is land without ownership, terra communis; it is not property but commons, in the stewardship of all humanity. It is also the largest remaining wilderness on this planet. As such it exists in an experimental legal state which cannot ban visitors. Therefore if people desire to live in Antarctica, and take that responsibility and that cost on themselves, this is their right, even if all governmental and other official organizations disapprove and withhold all support.

However, because Antarctica is such a delicate environment, individuals like countries should be required to adhere to the principles of the Antarctic Treaty in its current form, and to respect the continent's status as wilderness. This adherence and respect puts severe limits on the number of indigenous animals that can be legally killed under international convention and law; thus the natural carrying capacity of the continent for human beings is very low. People interested enough in Antarctica to consider living there should keep this in mind, and a scientifically established "human carrying capacity" should be ascertained for Antarctica and for its local bioregions, and the human population of the continent and the bioregions should not exceed carrying capacity. Current preliminary calculations of the human carrying capacity of the continent suggest it is on the order of three to six thousand people, but human carrying capacity in general is a notoriously vexed topic, and estimates of capacities both local and global range over many orders of magnitude, depending on the methods used; for instance, for Antarctica figures have been cited ranging from zero to ten million. Possibly work on this issue in Antarctica could refine the concept of human carrying capacity itself.

 5. If people do decide to try to become indigenous to Antarctica, special care will have to be taken to avoid polluting the environment, because the Antarctic serves as a benchmark of cleanliness for studies of the rest of the world, and in the cold arid environment many forms of pollution are very slow to break down. Some would wish to add that as sacred space, cleanliness of treatment is our obligation to this place.

Again the entire continent must be considered a site of special scientific interest, in this case becoming an ongoing experiment in clean technologies and practices, including sufficiency minima, recycling, waste reduction and processing, etc. The goal should be a zero-impact lifestyle, and the reality cannot stray very far from that goal.

The Treaty's ban on the importation of exotic plants, animals, and soils means that any local agriculture attempted by inhabitants will have to be conducted hydroponically or aquaculturally, in hermetically sealed greenhouses and terraria or in well-controlled aquaculture pens containing only indigenous sealife. This constraint will be one aspect of the carrying capacity calculations, and suggests also that self sufficiency for any indigenous Antarctic society or societies would be impractical and risky for the environment, and should not be considered a goal of such societies. The reliance on outside help should be acknowledged as a given.

Anthropogenic reintroduction of species that used to exist in Antarctica is an issue that we leave to further discussions elsewhere.

 6. The achievement of clean appropriate zero-impact lifestyles in Antarctica is not merely a matter of the technologies employed, but of the social structures which both use these technologies and call successor technologies into being, as a function of the society's desires for itself. This being the case, all inhabitants of Antarctica should abide by the various human rights documents generated by the United Nations, and special attention should be given to cooperative, non exploitative economic models, which emphasize sustainable permaculture in a healthy biophysical context, abandoning growth models and inequitable hierarchies which in Antarctica not only degrade human existence but also very quickly impact the fragile environment.

 7. In such a harsh environment all attacks against person or equipment constitute a threat to life and cannot be allowed. All those interested enough in Antarctica to come here must forswear violence against humanity or its works, and interact in peaceable ways.

 8. What is true in Antarctica is true everywhere else.

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