|Why do we innovate?
To address that question allow me to reach out a little further – in fact, into space.
I was surprised to see an article, by a Harvard scientist no less, suggesting that Oumuamua, an ’oddly shaped, puzzling celestial object’, as it is described in the article, may indeed be an alien spaceship sent to spy on us.
My first reaction was, of course, it is here to spy on us, everyone is highly competitive and out to get us because we are so special (yeah, right… interestingly, also quite recently airline pilots have reported suspected Ufo sightings, as reported in The Guardian and Global News).
After I got over that I was wondering, if they are out there to observe what else is going on in the universe, what would they make of planet earth? This amazingly beautiful and special blue sphere floating through the universe on its endlessly looping trajectory? They would probably watch in awe of its beauty, its uniqueness, marvelling how anyone could be so lucky to call this planet home.
If they had been observing us for a while, they might have been wondering what is going on though. They would have seen our planet change in fundamental ways. They might have noted in their logbook that these changes seem to have started with the planet’s inhabitants digging up the earth in a big way, starting just over 36,500 rotations of the planet ago. From afar it would have looked as if this digging was inflicting incredible wounds to the planet. They might also noted, more recently, that the white bits on opposite sides of the globe seem to disappear fast, and that instead funny patches were appearing in the middle of the ocean. (Indeed, one of the plastic garbage patches in the ocean has reached the size of France so are easily visible from space.)
They might wonder what large outbreaks of fires might be about,
what was causing huge floods,
and that raging storms were appearing with increasing frequency. All of this was of such a scale that it was visible from space. They might wonder what mighty forces were at play. Surely there could be no creatures of power to havoc changes of such a scale? And most certainly, it could not possibly be those who called this planet their home. Surely, no species could be stupid enough to treat their home with such disregard?
Yet here we are, with all our power of imagination, creativity and inventions, we have manage to poison air, sea and soil, creating these effects that destroy the most beautiful planet in the universe, our home. What is worse, there are still so many of us who still deny any responsibility, arguing that change – climate and otherwise, has always been part of our planet’s history. This can of course not be denied, but arguably, the rate of change has not been experienced before and is alarming, especially as it continues to accelerate. Even if we are not the cause of it, so, equally undeniable, our actions contribution to the acceleration.
The saddest thing is, what ever we do now, it will not be enough to deal with the damage that has been done. Such is the nature of systems and systemic effects that even if we stop all damaging activities and counteract them as best as we can, the momentum of the past will continue for a while yet before it can be reversed – if it can be reversed at all.
Yet it seems that even the collective will to take such action is lacking. Debates take place, promises are made – to be delivered against at some point in the future, when those who have made these decisions are no longer in positions of power and influence. At times even the promises that have been made are revoked. Solutions proposed allow the destruction and abuse to continue – just elsewhere, as happens with emissions trading and sending rubbish to faraway places, placing an increasing burden on developing countries. As the BBC comments on emission trading, “the effectiveness of these schemes has been questioned, with research indicating that some have created more emissions than they have actually curtailed.” Of course, there are also those who take their responsibility to environment and planet very seriously, and not only aim to limit their negative impact but even create a net positive one, such as Kingfisher and Interface. Unfortunately these organisations seem to remain a minority
Ignorance and fear are what subtly (not not so subtle) influences decision making of so many today. To talk and declare best intention is easy. Courage is only required when truly looking at our word as it is (and then despair is easily found just behind that mirror). Listen to, and believing, those who promise that they can fix it, is certainly easier. How else can things such as Trump and Brexit be explained? And Brazil, and Austria? How else can it be possible for a foreigner, married to an Austrian for almost a decade and having lived in the country much longer, to be asked to pay €700 for unlimited indemnity insurance per month as part of the never ending demands she encounters on her attempts to earn the right to stay in the country she has been living in and contributing to for years? The solutions offered by those ‘strong’ leaders involve focusing on self at the peril of others. Can isolation from the rest really work in a world that is so deeply interconnected at so many levels? See box below why isolation does not work well …
So, why do we innovate? And how do we innovate? How do we use our amazing abilities to create and shape, to shape our future? Is what we are currently creating the future we want for our children’s children?
PS Those who know me a little know it is not my way to point out what I perceive to be a challenge without taking a look at how to address this. In the next mailout I will share some thoughts on the why and how to innovate ;-).