More of the Truth

More of the truth refers to the central strategy of Classic Activism, which is what 100% of environmentalists and environmental activist organizations practice today. The four main steps of Classic Activism are:

1. Identify the problem to be solved.

2. Find the proper practices that, if adopted, would solve the problem.

3. Tell people the truth about the problem and the proper practices.

4. If that fails, exhort, inspire, and bargain with people to support the proper practices.

Steps 2, 3, and 4 can be summarized as find the truth, spread the truth, and magnify the truth. Classic Activism is thus a "more of the truth" process. It's an attractive process because it seems so logical and should work, because people are logical. It should work. This line of reasoning is so perpetually alluring that activism around the world has, ever since the first activist was born, relied on more of the truth as its central strategy.

The drawback is more of the truth only works on easy problems, where logical or emotional appeal will work because change resistance is low. If it doesn't work, Classic Activism is stuck. It has no idea of what else to do, because the process has only the four steps listed. So when the process fails on difficult problems, classic activists rachet up the process by somehow finding better truths (better solutions), by finding better ways to spread the truth (more articles, better articles, more social media communication, etc), and by finding better ways to inspire, exhort, and bargain.

But that has not worked on the sustainability problem. Why? Because it does nothing to resolve the root causes. A strategy of more of the truth has no concept of root causes. That line of thinking simply doesn't exist.

The fond hope of the people at Thwink.org is that you are an exception. If so:

Please join us in striking at the root

An example of how "more of the truth" doesn't work

On the sustainability problem, the single largest example of how more of the truth doesn't work was The Limits to Growth books of 1972, 1994, and 2004. The three editions of the book all promoted the truth about how collapse was inevitable unless the world proactively reduced its environmental impact to a sustainable level soon. That message has been ignored.

In this 2012 article on Is It Too Late for Sustainable Development? Dennis Meadows summarizes the goal of The Limits to Growth project. Dennis was the manager of the project and one of the book's authors. Here's the project goal:

We wanted to understand the causes and consequences of physical growth on the planet over a 200-year time period, from 1900 up to 2100.

The interviewer asked: "According to the “standard run” or “business-as-usual” scenario, you predicted that we would overshoot the planet’s carrying capacity and collapse by mid-21st century. What do you mean by collapse?" Dennis replied:

In the world model, if you don’t make big changes soon—back in the ’70s or ’80s—then in the period from 2020 to 2050, population, industry, food and the other variables reach their peaks and then start to fall. That’s what we call collapse.

On the second page of the article the interviewer asked: "How optimistic were you about society charting a sustainable course?" Here is Dennis Meadows' reply, with bolding added. The quotes are his:

In 1972, and for some time after that, I was very optimistic. I was naively optimistic. I honestly believed in what I called the “doorstep model of implementation.” That is to say, you do a piece of work. You learn the “truth.” You lay it on the decision maker’s doorstep, and when he comes out in the morning, he finds it and changes his behavior. My whole team worked very hard. We wrote other books. We developed teaching materials. Many of us went into teaching in an effort to help produce the changes that we thought were going to come.

That's how Classic Activism works. It promotes more of the truth. Logically it should work. As Dennis explains "you do a piece of work." You publish it. You get the message out. People "learn the truth." You promote the truth at the highest levels of government. "You lay it on the decision maker’s doorstep, and when he comes out in the morning, he finds it and changes his behavior." At least that's what should happen.

But that's not what's happened. "The changes that we thought were going to come" never came. All that work was for nought.

Decision makers have listened. But they have not acted. As the article mentions, we are now at 50% ecological footprint overshoot. Collapse is so inevitable unless the world changes course.

Why isn't the world changing course?

Because more of the truth is a low leverage point. It does nothing to resolve root causes.

Proof that 100% of environmental activists and organizations are classic activists

This extract is from Common Property Rights: A Process Driven Approach to Solving the Complete Sustainability Problem in the chapter on The Crippling Limitations of Classic Activism:

Steps 2, 3, and 4 can be summarized as find the truth, promote the truth, and magnify the truth. Classic Activism’s central strategy is “more of the truth.”

To my knowledge, all what-to-do environmental literature falls into this process. Silent Spring was a superb mixture of steps 3 and 4, with a little bit of 2. Natural Capitalism, a book about how corporations can take the lead and create the “next industrial revolution” by switching to more environmentally sustainable technology, uses mostly 2 and 3. Al Gore’s Earth in the Balance is mostly 3. Environmental and nature magazines, such as Sierra, The Ecologist, Green Futures, and Audubon Magazine, are 3 and 4. Step 3 is also known as education on the facts or “appeal to logic,” while step 4 is the “appeal to emotion,” which attempts to magnify the truth with rhetoric and bargaining. The 2006 Stern Review on the Economics of Climate Change performed step 1 from an economic point of view and presented evidence that “the benefits of strong, early action considerably outweigh the costs,” which is step 3. The actions reviewed were all proper practices. As discussed earlier, the common-pool resource literature sees its mission as finding the right proper coupling practices, which is step 2.

Environmental organizations also rely on steps 2, 3, or 4 to achieve their goals. Lawsuits to comply with existing environmental regulations would seem to fall outside of 2, 3, or 4. However, this is enforcement of the legal truth by telling judges about the truth of the facts involved. It is thus a form of 3. Lobbying is a mixture of 3 and 4. Scientific research into alternative energy, sustainable agriculture, recycling, ways to reduce population, and so forth is 2. Extremist actions such as sit-ins and blocking nuclear test sites are forms of 4. So are demonstrations, marches, and publicity stunts. Polls, such as how strongly people support a clean environment, are a form of 3. They are “the truth” why decision makers should enforce proper practices. Corporate social responsibility campaigns, since they play on psychological elements, are step 4.

Even the innovative sustainability solutions pioneered in developing countries, such as ecotourism, microfinance, acceleration of the demographic transition, direct marketing cooperatives for green products, and community based common-pool resource management, are a collection of better proper practices. Perfecting them is step 2. Education and assistance is step 3. Pleading and bargaining with developed nations, NGOs, and international agencies to support them and with developing countries to adopt them is step 4.

The Limits to Growth employed the general pattern of Classic Activism. The World3 model focused mostly on step 1: identify the problem. The 1972 first edition said little about the solution. But due to lack of solution progress, the second and third editions did. The 1992 second edition presented “a simple set of general guidelines for restructuring the world system toward sustainability,” such as “improve the signals… speed up response times… minimize the use of nonrenewable resources.” (p213-214) These are proper coupling practices, so the book was advocating step 2 and performing step 3. The authors acknowledged the presence of systemic change resistance: “Systems strongly resist changes in their information flows, especially in their rules and goals.” (p223) But when addressing how to deal with resistance, the authors turned to the old paradigm of Classic Activism: “In our search for ways to encourage the peaceful restructuring of a system that naturally resists its own transformation, we have tried many tools.” (p223) The tools were “visioning, networking, truth-telling, learning, and loving.” (p224) These are techniques used to implement Classic Activism steps 3 and 4. The 2004 third edition repeated these suggestions.

More recent modeling efforts continue to follow the four steps of Classic Activism. The Millennium Institute’s Threshold 21 sustainability model focuses on how a nation can better manage proper coupling. The IPCC assessment reports seek “the understanding of human induced climate change, potential impacts of climate change and options for mitigation and adaptation.” But this understanding, which is heavily model based, starts with the symptoms and stops at the same intermediate causes of the World3 model: the IPAT factors. Like the three editions of Limits to Growth, the four IPCC assessment reports have progressively tip toed into Classic Activism steps 3 and 4. The fourth report took a leap in section 4: Adaptation and Mitigation Options. This contained an extensive listing of existing proper practices and projections by sector on their effectiveness, which is step 3. Section 5, The Long-term Perspective, used “five reasons for concern” to emphasize that “Adaptation is necessary in the short and longer term to address impacts resulting from the warming that would occur even for the lowest stabilization scenarios assessed.” While expressed in the dry language of scientists, this is nevertheless the exhortation of step 4.

That's a mountain of proof that environmentalism relies exclusively on Classic Activism. It is the reason the movement is failing to solve the sustainability problem.

However, this message has proven to be extraordinarily difficult to get across due to paradigm change resistance. It seems that classic activists are like scientists. Once they use and believe in a particular paradigm for a long time, they can't conceive of any other way to look at their universe.

Sigh....

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