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What's Next: Edward Wolf
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The key to worldchanging in 2007 will not be what we think, but how we think.

During the past year the worldchanging community has celebrated a multitude of new ideas, each intriguing and many truly transformative. But the world’s gravest challenges – war, genocide, spreading anarchy, the climate emergency – remain unresolved not for want of ideas. Instead, those with the power to make big decisions seem unable to think.

It’s easy to direct this criticism at Washington, where for a time “reality-based community? was a term of derision (until reality caught up). But in London, Harare, Khartoum, Moscow, Beijing, and many corporate boardrooms, the same pattern prevails: unwillingness to admit error, to engage with honest critics, to test alternatives, to follow logic and scientific evidence where they lead has poisoned the atmosphere for constructive decision-making and reduced the chances that promising ideas will get to strut their stuff.

Politics resembles a battle of “brands? more than an exchange of ideas. The blogosphere has blown the doors of civic conversation wide open but hardly elevated the dialogue, as almost any comment string confirms. But that may be changing as social networking and open-source tools reshape the “spaces? in which people interact. Can new leaders emerge in such spaces?

In 2007, watch for worldchanging leaders who embody humility, not those who merely espouse it. Emulate them. Admit errors freely – too many things are now changing too fast to avoid mistakes. Embrace the anomalies and reject the certainties. As scholar Mark C. Taylor advised recently in The New York Times, “cultivate a faith in doubt that calls into question every certainty.? (“The Devoted Student,? 12/21/06)

Thoreau declared “the elevation of ends and the simplification of means is the goal.? Worldchanging showcases the means our times require. It’s up to each of us to elevate the ends – by keeping rigor in our thinking, courtesy in our conversations, and humility in our hearts. By restoring our faith in doubt.

A paradox: as we make space for doubt, we may invigorate public life. Watch the world change then! Arrogant certitude is SO twentieth century.

Edward C. Wolf is a writer and editor with a special interest in the natural history of global change. A former senior researcher at Worldwatch Institute and director of communications at Ecotrust, his books include Salmon Nation and Klamath Heartlands.

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Comments

"Thoreau declared “the elevation of ends and the simplification of means is the goal.? Worldchanging showcases the means our times require. It’s up to each of us to elevate the ends – by keeping rigor in our thinking, courtesy in our conversations, and humility in our hearts. By restoring our faith in doubt.

A paradox: as we make space for doubt, we may invigorate public life. Watch the world change then! Arrogant certitude is SO twentieth century. "

Wow! thats all I can say. Its sums it up for me.


Posted by: Subbarao Seethamsetty on 28 Dec 06

I believe this is where we, as Worldchangers, have the ability to encourage thoughts beyond the comprehension of our current society (ourselves included). Through the collective contemplation of so many earnest thinkers, surely there are solutions to our present ills that cannot materialise behind the closed and doors of political offices and competitive industry.

Though we each have individual and "local" responsibilities, we have, as never before, the opportunity to collaborate on the scale necessary to bring about a massive social change in a short time (in the perilously short time we may have).

However, how will we shift the balance of actual decision making from this huge machinery of politics and industry over to these thinkers who wish to take up individual responsibility for society and the future? Though we may have the thoughts of change, what are some sensible ways to bring it about? How do we make the world new when the old world hangs about our feet so tenaciously?


Posted by: Jason Nicholas on 28 Dec 06

Note regarding a typo in my prior post; the last line of the first paragraph should correctly read:

"Through the collective contemplation of so many earnest thinkers, surely there are solutions to our present ills that cannot materialise behind the closed doors of political offices and competitive industry."

Let us all copyedit and consult Chicago before such hasty posting of our musings.


Posted by: Jason Nicholas on 28 Dec 06



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