Robert Poynton
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We don’t know

June 12, 2015 – 2 min read


If the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, what should we do about it? What can I do? What can you do? What should we do?

It’s a question that, like many people, I often ask myself.

On the one hand I hear people say that we know exactly what we ought to do. Years ago, at Schumacher College I heard Paul Hawken describe it as a design problem. More recently, whilst spending time at Findhorn, there was a similar feeling – that we do know what to do but what keeps us in the hell bound handbasket is corporations, or governments, or ignorance, or wicked, selfish people (fill in the blank as you like).

Understandably, this makes people feel angry. And I don’t like feeling angry.

Moreover I don’t think we know what to do at all. I am not sure there is anyone, however enlightened, who is able to imagine what a truly sustainable global system, with all the complexity that implies, would look like. And even if they could, that isn’t the main challenge. The difficulty is getting there from here, without creating yet more violence and antagonism.

Which reminds me of Sartres and football. Obviously.

Satres said “In football everything is complicated by the presence of the opposite team”.

At the narcisstic club-cum-circus I support, Real Madrid, that is completely forgotten and it seems to me that the same often happens in more important arenas, like planetary health. In this case the ‘other team’ not only includes a vast array of interconnected factors we can only dimly sense (let alone predict or control); it includes billions of humans beings each with their own interests, attachments and fears.

I think the hardest struggle is to find ways to engage as many people as possible, from as many perspectives as possible to explore, invent and create all sorts of initiatives, ideas, products and businesses that might lead us somewhere new. And to do so without demonising anyone. Which means letting go of the idea that some people know the answer and others are simply being selfish and obstructive.

Because it seems to me, that when it comes to what matters most, we just don’t know.

What we have to do is accept that and yet find a way to keep taking action anyway.

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