(Originally published November 2012)
Since the industrial revolution we have been practicing an un-sustainable narrative of human social development, using fossil fuels to establish behavior and infrastructure separate from the annual solar energy budget of the Earth. Early pioneers of the environmental movement devoted their lives to articulating the distinction and the following discord between humans and the rest of the natural world on which our society has always depended. Now, as western society is starkly un-sustainable, we are involved in the courageous act of re-telling a narrative of human behavior and more importantly creating a new structure which supports the need for human sustainability.
During the last few decades the pioneers articulated loss and possibility. Now we are involved in prototyping scalable solutions that provide a more engaging, fulfilling, and joyful alternative to the previous narrative of an industrial - money as motivation - mechanistic world view. This cultural shift is creating sustainable and efficient practices making use of our annual solar budget by leveraging technology. Solar panels and LED lights are hallmarks of this technology, as society moves forward into a future of energy frugality they work to balance social need with an annual solar budget.
Energy generation and use is more visible in this cultural shift towards a more sustainable future than ever before. During the last 60 years of industrial agriculture, food, so essential to daily life has been profoundly manipulated. A sustainable future requires that much of our social restructuring focus on recreating our food systems. The organic and local food movements have articulated a new way of moving forward and now technology is allowing new possibilities for food production. Greenhouses like the Growing Dome® can make the growing season 12 months instead of 4-5. Leveraging advanced plastic insulating panels and solar powered controls these Growing Domes do something that GMO’s never could: a 12 month growing season, organic and solar powered.
The most essential shift from an industrial society to a solar society will be the social organization of our communities. Industrial society is defined by centralized production, large businesses creating homogenous products of food, energy, and social relationships (entertainment). Each sector of society is now learning how to decentralize and reconnect communities, providing for their needs regionally and leveraging technology to make energy and food sustainable. Personal responsibility and social relationships are critical in this narrative of transition as we should no longer passively accept homogenous choice and fractured communities as normal. We must reconnect stakeholders, creating complete feedback loops between farmers and consumers, establishing mutual support for the viability of farms, and protecting the health of consumers and the community.
This progression of society is dependent on new ways of organizing business and communities along with the technology that makes it function. Not only does this require creativity and courage but lots of work and personal responsibility. As we take responsibility new businesses, relationships, and infrastructure will be developed. Socially responsible development may not be lucrative in an economic sense and industrial scale money shouldn’t be expected. As we move forward into a new social paradigm, motivation will be about meeting real human need and intrinsic motivation will be the currency of wealth for a new sustainable economy. As more of society becomes involved the momentum will become self-sustaining, financially viable, and emotionally fulfilling.