Organizing Dialogue, Experience and Knowledge for Complex Problem-Solving

“It’s the top layer of the watershed from here on out!”

November 12th, 2012

At a multicultural community gathering this past weekend, Jen’s explanation about the absence of clean natural water reserves led to highlighting the one bright spot: the top layer of natural watersheds can still be saved. Since humans need water to survive, this is kinda a big deal!

Ann, meanwhile, is getting ready to move to her next position in DC. The great bat die-off may not be absolute: some colonies in the northeastern US have managed (so far) not to contract the fatal white-nose disease. From what I understand, this is a big deal because we need bats to eat mosquitoes. Without a sufficiently massive natural predator, mosquitoes breed all out of proportion – leading humans (who reject discomfort) to increase the use of pesticides – which (by the way), poisons the top layer of the watershed.


Self-paced distance learning about Emergency Management.

Incontrovertible evidence of the increasingly rapid rate of climate change has visited the continental United States in the past few weeks:  Hurricane Sandy, a follow-up nor’easter which dumped nearly a foot of snow across some areas still engaged in recovery, earthquakes on both coasts, and then another one in the south just the other day.

FEMA has ramped up considerably since Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans. As shocked as New Yorkers and other Sandy victims are with the proof of vulnerability, the number of domestic fatalities from Sandy stands at 109 (138 total to date), while Katrina claimed 1,833. Many of Katrina’s victims were poor, disabled, or elderly.  Joan Sutton, writing for the Huffington Post, describes Sandy’s impact on the elderly: “Now, we see pictures of what is called a mountain of debris. Surely it is a mountain of heartache.”

Creative Design

If there was ever a time for creative strategizing at the global scale; this is it. We have to begin piecing together the scattered ecological bright spots, establishing institutional connections among them, and crafting scenarios that can guide the assessment of essential priorities and timelines. All of the things that need to happen (if we want to avert an ugly science fiction future) are not going to happen unless and until a comprehensive plan can be sufficiently sketched out – and we need  such a vision of possibility soon.

It is always time for public accountability to progress, and – to date – there have not been enough of us in America thoughtfully considering how to solve this ultimate technological challenge. Roosevelt inspired Americans to prevail in World War II; Kennedy inspired us to the moon. Obama has not yet inspired America writ large, though the potential now exists. To succeed, we will have to learn how, as a society, to move together, better.

The technological solutions required by climate change will probably not be adequately addressed unless

1) such multicultural gatherings as this past weekend’s celebration of Diwali become more common, and

2) participants carry conversations about our knowledge from these safe multicultural spaces forward into productive, public dialogues.

There are people out there from all kinds of backgrounds with special and particular areas of expertise, like Ann and Jen, who are skilled in establishing relationships across social identity differences and equally capable of contributing thought leadership to the invention and implementation of creative scientific and political solutions for today’s complex problems. ‘Cuz here’s the real deal: human societies might somehow manage to do okay without bats, but if the top layer of the watershed goes? The game is going to get a whole lot rougher than it needs to be.

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Categories: Call this ACTION LEARNING!, climate change, group dynamics, Learning Resiliency, Reflexivity, Resiliency, Series

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