Travel to Tomorrow II: Asking for advice on how to travel to tomorrow
Tourism can draw on humanity’s collective wisdom to inform wise action in the face of uncertainty
[See Part I]
The title ‘Travel to Tomorrow’ invites us to ask the question “What kind of Tomorrow are we travelling towards and how do we best travel there?” The event and this series of articles I am writing in preparation will offer some reflections on that question. Asking this questions reminds us that how we travel will crucially affect what kind of future we will co-create in the process and hence it will shape the tomorrow we will arrive at.
Let us take a look at what advice we might be able to gather for the transformation journey lying before us. It might serve to be informed by multiple perspective and draw on the wisdom of many heart-minds as we prepare to travel into an uncertain future.
Rather than jumping towards the what we might have to do immediately — we will return to this in part III and IV — let us stay with the how and our state-of-being as we prepare to travel to tomorrow. If we want transformation rather than minor adjustments we would to well to ask for advice from out with the silos of the tourism industry itself.
Asking the ancestors: Indigenous place-based and nomadic cultures intimately adapted to and were expressions of the ecosystems and landscapes they inhabited. As the ancestors of all of us, indigenous cultures guided the large part of the 100.000 year old story of our modern species.
It is fascinating to think that we became arrogant enough to call that species Homo sapiens round about the time when scientific and technological progress — along with an ideology of separation from nature — caused us to mistake knowledge with wisdom. We have ignored our species herritage and ancestral wisdom as (supposedly) “primitive” knowledge at our peril. For most of our evolutionary history we knew how to live regeneratively in place. This is how the Navajo advise us to walk into the future:
Hózhóogo Naasháa Doo — If you walk into the future walk in beauty.
— Navajo ‘The Beauty Way’
The indigenous people of the Navajo tribe describe their traditional way of living as the ‘beauty way’. To them living in right relationship with the Earth is to ‘walk in beauty’ (Hózhóogo Naasháa Doo). The way to walk in beauty is to ‘witness the One-in-All and the All-in-One’.
It is a path of appropriate relationship to self, to community and to the Earth. We have a lot to learn from such traditional place-based wisdom. It may guide us on our uncertain path towards a future where humanity has learned to be a regenerative rather than a destructive presence on Earth. It may also help us deepen into an ecological aesthetic of relationship, health and complexity.
How to we travel to tomorrow in right relationship?
How do we bring beauty into the way we travel so we arrive at a beautiful place?
How do we add beauty, health, resilience and wholeness to the places we visit or we host in?
These are all good questions to help us travel in beauty. Traveling in beauty is not just about how we travel. It is also about our very being, about who we are as we travel, about the guiding narrative of our culture and daring to ask ‘why are we worth sustaining’ before we rush into answers on how we might be more sustainable and what we might have to do to achieve that goal.
In sitting with that question for long enough we will see that humans also have the paradoxical nature of being part of the problem and part of the solution. As life, we can create conditions conducive to life. We can become healers rather than destroyers. We can go beyond mere sustainability and create diverse regenerative cultures and a thriving future not just for all of humanity but for the whole community of life! Let us walk in beauty! Regenerative regional development is also a process of re-indiginisation!
Asking a poet: Apart from indigenous wisdom, what else can we draw on? We could ask a poet how to travel to tomorrow. Marcel Proust offers some pertinent advice here:
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.”
— Marcel Proust, French Novellist (1871–1927)
In deed, we will not be able to creatively navigate the wicked problem cluster surrounding tourism — the world largest industry with its gigantic energy, climate, water, eco-social and economic footprint — if we try to solve problems in the mindset that created them in the first place. We need to question the very nature of how we have conceived tourism so far. Even beyond that we actually have to question our basic assumptions, and possible outdates worldviews and value systems. We have to learn to see tourism, its potential and ourselves with new eyes!
Asking an artist: We are now called to do the impossible, because the probable has become unthinkable and unconsciounable. To respond to the imminent danger of irreversible cataclysmic climate change in time to avoid widespread systemic collapse requires us to act as if we can make a difference even if we will not know whether our actions will be successful. We will have to live into the question of how to catalyse unprecedented global and local collaboration and solidarity even if we do not know yet how to do it.
“I am always doing what I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.”
— Pablo Picasso
We can no longer let people who say ‘it cannot be done’ let us hold back, as history shows that transformations happen when people come together to achieve the seemingly impossible. Antonio Gramski said “The old world is dying, and the new world struggles to be born: now is the time of monsters”. Watching the news, this still seems to hold true. We are now called together to also make it the time of miracles!
Asking a sage: One important inspiration and mentor for me is the Indian sage, activist, publisher, author and educator Satish Kumar, who co-founded Schumacher College and edited Resurgence Magazine. Satish, a former Jain monk and student of Vinoba Bhave, settled in the UK to start a school after a pilgrimage for peace that took him and a friend on foot and without money from India to Moscow, Paris and London, where Bertrand Russell paid for his passage to New York so he could join Martin Luther King and walk from New York to Washington. One would say Satish has an appropriate biography to be asked advice on how to travel.
“The difference between a tourist and a pilgrim is that the tourist is only interested in himself or herself. When we go to a place we want to get the best out of that place for ourselves. Whereas when you are a pilgrim, you are interested in the place and the people. […] You are there [also] for the benefit of that place. You have a respect for that place, and you see that place as a sacred place.”
— Satish Kumar
Clearly that speaks to the core shift we all individually and collectively have to make in our relationship to the places we live in and visit in our change of being in relationship with the living Earth that we depend upon and are expressions of.
Asking a visionary designer: The notion of regeneration is deeply woven into the fabric of life and the evolution of “eternally regenerative Universe” as Buckminster Fuller liked to call it. He reminded us decades ago that we are far less beings (nouns) here to hoard individual wealth and recognition, and far more doings (verbs) here to manifest life’s potential to be regenerative.
“Wealth is our organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives.”
— Buckminster Fuller, in ‘Operation Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1969
At this time of planetary crisis we are all called to step into regenerative leadership. We are all crew not passive passengers on living spaceship Earth. Regenerative leadership starts by leading our own lives regeneratively in service to our communities and to the wider community of life.
“We are great programmes of integrity with the capability to support the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe, and we are here for that purpose: to be in support of the integrity of eternally regenerative Universe.”
— Buckminster Fuller
Once we understand ourselves as processes that are actively re-patterning relationships and reweaving the fabric of meaning through which we collectively contribute to bringing forth the world, we will understand wealth as something very different from the money or assets we own (more on Regenerative Leadership).
Asking a conservationist: In Western culture, it was the conservation ecologist Aldo Leopold who provided the first modern formulation of an ecological and environmental ethic. With his ‘Land Ethic’ he proposed a highly effective evaluation tool by which to assess which actions in the tourism sector are right and wrong. It invites us to pay attention to qualitative rather than quantitative indicators that require a systemic understanding of impacts and interconnections:
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community; it is wrong when it does otherwise.”
— Aldo Leopold, 1949: 224
Leopold emphasized that ethics is not only a philosophical and social but also an ecological ‘process’. Ethics ultimately concerns the relationship between the individual and the collective, aiming to define and guide appropriate participation in our immediate community, the human family and the community of life as a whole. Leopold’s ‘land ethic’ offers excellent advice on how to travel to tomorrow and arrive in a vibrant and thriving place.
Asking a farmer: The visionary farmer and plant scientist Wes Jackson has dedicated his life to the work of the Land Institute of developing a regenerative perennial agriculture system that protects the biodiversity of ecosystems while offering food sovereignty to local communities and culture.
“As we search for a less extractive and polluting economic order, so that we may fit agriculture into the economy of a sustainable culture, community becomes the locus and metaphor for both agriculture and culture.”
― Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place
Wes Jackson, the farmer and steward of the soil and the Earth offers advice that we better keep in mind as we travel to tomorrow. It is only about us in as much that we start the work of planetary healing which future generations will complete. The regeneration of the Earth and her people is inter-generational work inviting us to think like Cathedral Builders or the Iroquoise Confederacy about how our actions today will impact the 7th yet unborn generation. As Wes puts it:
“If your life’s work can be accomplished in your lifetime, you’re not thinking big enough.”
― Wes Jackson
Asking the scientists: The evolutionary biologist and futurist Elisabet Sahtouris describes how in the evolution of complex communities of diverse organisms a ‘maturation point’ is reached when the system realizes that “it is cheaper to feed your ‘enemies’ than to kill them” (personal comment). This insight resonates with what I learned from Prof. Brian Goodwin about the lessons that working with complex systems:
“The complex systems on which our lives depend — ecological systems, communities, economic systems, our bodies — all have emergent properties, a primary one being health and well-being […]. Truly, we are now in a new world where the old certainties are melting away and we have to learn to think and act differently. We have to interact with these uncertain processes, which affect our health, our food, our weather, our standard of living.”
— Brian Goodwin, 2001
We have successfully populated six continents and diversified into the mosaic of value systems, worldviews, identities (national, cultural, ethnic, professional, political, etc.) and ways of living that make up humanity. Today, we are challenged to integrate this precious diversity into a globally and locally collaborative civilisation acting wisely to regenerate past damage and move towards a thriving future.
“We have now reached a new tipping point where enmities are more expensive in all respects than friendly collaboration; where planetary limits of exploiting nature have been reached. It is high time for us to cross this new tipping point into our global communal maturity — an integration of the economy and ecology we have put into conflict with each other, …”
— Elisabet Sahtouris (2014)
Forget thinking in terms of this-tourism-company-versus-that-tourism-company. The time of them-against-us is over. We need to create regionally focussed regenerative enterprise ecologies as cross-industry and cross-sector collaboration. The Aim of working together would be to strengthen the regional economy and rapidly increase climate resilience through collectively and collaboratively investing in food, water, energy sovereignty but also in quality housing, education and public transportation. This will require a shift from competitive advantage to collaborative advantage.
On an over-crowded planet in ecological and climate melt-down the whole notion of zero-sum games of winners and loosers becomes deeply anachronistic. The complex converging problems we now face require us to shift towards a non-zero-sum game that creates win-win-win solutions for visitors, residents and entrepreneurs (as the Lime Tree suggest) but more generally for people, place and planet.
Asking an Economist: Kate Raworth has shacken up economic orthodoxies with her advice on ‘seven ways to think like a 21st Century Economist’ and her book Doughnut Economics. Currently Kate is actively working with the Biomimicry Institute in the creation of a new methodology of grounding the conversation and implementation of a regenerative economy.
Such an economy is both based on socially enabling condition and social justice while also not transgressing is the 9 planetary boundaries proposed by the scientist of the Stockholm Resilience Centre. This inner and outer ring of foundations and boundaries make up what Kate calls the Doughnut.
The still fledgling methodology aimed at creating ‘Thriving Places’ draws on nature’s wisdom through applying the Citrus thinking tool developed by the Biomimicry Institute together with the doughnut thinking tool developed by the Doughnut Economy Action Lab. This methodology invites people in place to collectively work towards answering four guiding questions:
“What does thriving mean to people here?
What does it mean for this place to thrive?
How do we respect the rights of all people?
How do we respect the health of the whole planet?”
— Kate Raworth, 2019
These are clearly questions to guide us as we travel to tomorrow and aim to co-create thriving places in the way.
Asking a musican: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart famously said:
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
— Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
As we travel to tomorrow we would do well to not only pay attention to what we do and what we say. We need to stop and reflects and have the humility of deep listening to others, to the place, and to what wants to be born through us — not only our actions but our entire way of being. It will take silence, deep listening and humility for us to arrive at tomorrow and find ourselves in a thriving place. It does take silence to listen and hear the potential of the symphony we are all destined to play together.
Asking a philosopher: More than 2600 years ago the Chinese philospher Lao Tzu offered pertinent advice on grounding the ambitious traveler into the only place and time we can ever make a difference — here and now.
“The journey of a thousand miles begins beneath one’s feet.”
— Lao Tzu, Chinese philosopher, born 601 B.C.
This ancient advice for travlers of inner and outer landscapes can lead us to reflects on the fact that change starts both within, with each and every one of us, and it start by connecting to the story of place by coming home to the sacred ground we stand on.
The notion of working with the bio-cultural uniqueness of place and listening to place and people to be informed by ‘the story of place’ lies at the heart of regenerative practice.
Lao Tzu’s famous statement is more often but less accurately translated as “The journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step”. So what is the first step?
I believe in every region of the planet we will have to come together in cross-sector dialogue focussed on a long-term vision for the transformation of the way we inhabit and meet our needs in place. This process will not only help us to build climate resilience for our communities and strengthen regional economies, it will help us to see our regions and tourism’s potential in contributing to their healing with completely new eyes.
Questions to guide us in the way we ‘travel to tomorrow’
As a way of harvesting and working with some of the advice collected from the wisdom of many heart-minds above, we might keep these questions in mind as we ‘travel to tomorrow’.
Questions rather than answers are a more appropriate compass and guidance system in a rapidly changing world of unpredictable and uncontrollable complexity.
Questions are invitations to reflect, take stock, thing-sense-feel-intuit together and make course corrections if our collective wisdom seems to suggest we must.
How do we walk in beauty?
Are we paying attention to how our worldview and value system are shaping what we see, what we do and how we defined success?
How can we travel with the humility and care of a pilgrim not the self-importance of a tourist?
Are we acting ethically with integrity in service to a greater whole — the biotic community?
Are we building and caring for the soil and is our work informed by a vision large enough to require intra-generational commitment?
Are we embracing uncertainty, valuing qualities and nurturing systemic health?
How can we create thriving communities and regional economies by shifting from a focus on competitive advantage to co-creating collaborative advantage for all stake-holders (not just share-holders)?
Are we listening deeply enough to each other, to place, and to the potential of people and place we can only manifest together?
Are we paying attention to the bio-cultural uniqueness of place and starting from the story of place?
… [see Part III (forthcoming)]
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Daniel Christian Wahl — Catalyzing transformative innovation in the face of converging crises, advising on regenerative whole systems design, regenerative leadership, and education for regenerative development and bioregional regeneration.
Author of the internationally acclaimed book Designing Regenerative Cultures