What kind of world do we want to live in? – Blog 0006

“Courage doesn’t happen when you have all the answers. It happens when you are ready to face the questions you have been avoiding your whole life.” 
― Shannon L. Alder

Simple, but ‘great’, questions have the power to change the world.   They can radically alter our view of the entire cosmos, of our self, and our role and place in the sun.

Einstein, for example, asked a lot of them.  Jacob Bronowski observed of Einstein that he was “a man who could ask immensely simple questions”.  And from the simple answers he could “hear God thinking.”

Today we remind us all of seven such questions.  Seven simple questions – with the inherent power coiled inside them to change us, our world, and even the world.  

And we quote a long, scene-setting, valedictory address given in 2009 by Paul Hawken – a leading, environmentalist, entrepreneur, businessman, media commentator and author.   

Well worth reading to the end!  Well worth considering!

A lot that’s great

There is a lot that’s great in this big, wide wonderful world of ours.   And there’s a lot that’s either far from great – or eroding before our very ears and eyes.

So three questions are now vital for all of us…

  • What sort of cosmos do I want to live in – and leave to my kids and future generations?
  • How committed am I to bringing that better future about?
  • In changing the world, do I want to get rich, be rich, or both?

These three questions, plus four others, lie at the very heart of Innovating Cosmos, as a global community of innovators.

Can us answering these 7 questions change the world?  Most definitely!  We’re seeing this already in the five BIG projects under way in the Innovating Cosmos community.

And this week, after putting some of the seven questions to two different small audiences, we now have 11 new members – all who are committing to make the world far better for all.

And just last night I skyped with a member of Innovating Cosmos in Singapore, who is leading an extraordinary project in India to not only recycle the mountains of India’s rubbish, but at the same time to make a mountain of difference to the lives of the ‘untouchables’ who eke out the barest of living from the putrid piles. More of that another time.​

“There’s nothing more dangerous than someone who wants to make the world a better place,” says Banksy, the pseudonym for a UK-based political activist, film director, painter and graffiti artist.

So, here are the next four question sets

  1. What one aspect of today’s world, are you convinced needs a drastic overhaul to make it far, far better – for the benefit of all?
  2. How well does this issue align with your talents and passions – so you are prepared to commit to changing you, and the world, in a BIG way?
  3.  Taking this need for a big change as a big opportunity … how would you go about designing and creating, with others … a social impact business, joint venture, co-operative, network, or community… that adds real tangible value to one million people?     Which people?  What’s the value you’ll add?  Doing what?  How?   How would you ensure this added value reaches your first one million people?  What then?
  4. And/or taking this same need for a big change as a big opportunity… how would you go about designing and creating… a profit-making joint venture, co-operative, network, or community… that adds $ 100+ million value to the world?

Five reminders

  1. We do not say $100+ million revenue, or $100+ million profit. But $100+million added   And value is not always measured in dollars.
  2. Neither do we add any time dimension. This could become your job for the whole of your life!
  3. We use the notion of one million people, and $100+ million value as a specific surrogate for: “Think Big.  Test Big.  Learn Big.   Act Big.   Make a Big Change.”
  4. You can use any numbers – bigger or smaller – that you are right for you.
  5. At the beginning of our innovating journey, many of us see money as the problem. But money becomes an opportunity, not a problem, when we attend to the other 927 more important first things first.

Over to Paul Hawken… and a new operating system

[Talking in 2009, in the USA, to a group of graduating students]   You are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement.

Basically, civilization needs a new operating system.   You are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules have been broken like: Don’t poison the water, soil or air.  Don’t let the earth get overcrowded.   And don’t touch the thermostat.

[Writing in 1968] Buckminster Fuller said that spaceship earth was so ingeniously designed that no one has a clue that we are on one, flying through the universe at a million miles per hour, with no need for seatbelts, lots of room in coach, and really good food—but all that is changing.

Forget the impossible

There is invisible writing on the back of the diploma you will receive.  In case you didn’t bring lemon juice to decode it, I can tell you what it says:

“You are Brilliant, and the Earth is Hiring. The earth couldn’t afford to send recruiters or limos to your school.  It sent you rain, sunsets, ripe cherries, night blooming jasmine, and that unbelievably cute person you are dating.”

Take the hint. And here’s the deal: Forget that this task of planet-saving is not possible in the time required. Don’t be put off by people who know what is not possible. Do what needs to be done… And check to see if it was impossible only after you are done.

Optimist or pessimist

When asked if I am pessimistic or optimistic about the future, my answer is always the same: If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data.

But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.

What I see everywhere in the world are ordinary people willing to confront despair, power, and incalculable odds in order to restore some semblance of grace, justice, and beauty to this world…

Distributed connection

You join a multitude of caring people. No one knows how many groups and organizations are working on the most salient issues of our day: climate change, poverty, deforestation, peace, water, hunger, conservation, human rights, and more.

This is the largest movement the world has ever seen. Rather than control, it seeks connection. Rather than dominance, it strives to disperse concentrations of power…

There is a rabbinical teaching that says if the world is ending and the Messiah arrives, first plant a tree, and then see if the story is true.

Inspiration is not garnered from the litanies of what may befall us; it resides in humanity’s willingness to restore, redress, reform, rebuild, recover, reimagine, and reconsider.

Life creates the conditions conducive to life

One day you finally knew what you had to do, and began, though the voices around you kept shouting their bad advice,” is Mary Oliver’s description of moving away from the profane toward a deep sense of connectedness to the living world…

The living world is not “out there” somewhere, but in your heart.  What do we know about life?  In the words of biologist Janine Benyus, “Life creates the conditions that are conducive to life.” 

I can think of no better motto for a future economy. [In the USA in 2009] we have tens of thousands of abandoned homes without people, and tens of thousands of abandoned people without homes. We have failed bankers advising failed regulators on how to save failed assets. We are the only species on the planet without full employment. Brilliant.

We have an economy that tells us that it is cheaper to destroy earth in real time rather than renew, restore, and sustain it. You can print money to bail out a bank but you can’t print life to bail out a planet.

Stealing the future

At present we are stealing the future, selling it in the present, and calling it gross domestic product. We can just as easily have an economy that is based on healing the future instead of stealing it.

We can either create assets for the future or take the assets of the future. One is called restoration and the other exploitation. And whenever we exploit the earth we exploit people and cause untold suffering. Working for the earth is not a way to get rich, it is a way to be rich.


The first living cell came into being nearly 40 million centuries ago, and its direct descendants are in all of our bloodstreams. Literally you are breathing molecules this very second that were inhaled by Moses, Mother Teresa, and Bono. We are vastly interconnected. Our fates are inseparable…

So I have two questions for you all: First, can you feel your body? Stop for a moment. Feel your body. One septillion activities going on simultaneously, and your body does this so well you are free to ignore it, and wonder instead when this speech will end. You can feel it. It is called life. This is who you are.

Second question: who is in charge of your body? Who is managing those molecules? Hopefully, not a political party!

Life is creating the conditions that are conducive to life inside you, just as in all of nature. Our innate nature is to create the conditions that are conducive to life.

Collective deep, innate wisdom

What I want you to imagine is that collectively humanity is evincing a deep innate wisdom in coming together to heal the wounds and insults of the past…

This extraordinary time when we are globally aware of each other and the multiple dangers that threaten civilization has never happened [before] – not in a thousand years, not in ten thousand years…

The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer. Hope only makes sense when it doesn’t make sense to be hopeful. This is your century. Take it and run as if your life depends on it.  [For, surely, it does!]

Thank you

Thank you Mr Paul Hawken.  I reckon you’d warm to most of these 7 world-changing questions:

  1. What sort of cosmos do I want to live in – and bequeath to my kids, and future generations?
  2. How committed am I to bringing that better cosmos about?
  3. In changing the world, do I want to get rich, be rich, or both?
  4. What one aspect of today’s world, do I believe needs a drastic overhaul to make it far better for the benefit of all?
  5. How well does this align with my talents and passions, so I am prepared to commit to changing the world in a BIG way?
  6. Taking this need for a big change as a big opportunity … how would I go about designing and creating, with others … a social impact business, joint venture, co-operative, network, or community… that adds real tangible value to one million people?
  7. Or… how would I go about designing and creating… a profit-making joint venture, co-operative, network, or community… that adds $ 100+ million value to the world?

In search of treasure

Let me sneak in just one more quote:  “You can either be a victim of the world or an adventurer in search of treasure. It all depends on how you view your life.”   ― Paulo CoelhoEleven Minutes

Till next week…

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