Tony Hodgson’s new book – Ready for Anything – offers a clear and honest look at the state of the world today. It introduces The World System Model as a new and holistic way to gain an understanding of our particular predicament – and The IFF World Game as a quick and effective way of involving others in the exercise.
It goes on to examine the kind of resilient and adaptive solutions that can be most helpful to us – whether they are applied at the level of the school, the city or the Earth. Since so many of us (both human and other beings) have to live on this planet together, it sets out our best hope yet of finding sustainable ways of ‘one-planet living’. Best of all, it helps ensure that we keep our heads out of the sand.
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Contents of the Book
Chapter 1, The Global Predicament, explains clearly and unemotively the resources currently available to us vs the amounts we are using each year. It outlines resource boundaries and looks at the assumptions we base our planning on (including those that are no longer valid). The conclusion: we need about 1½ Earths to support the world population and its requirements at 2011 levels.
This highlights the need to find ways to live on the resources of just one planet – one-planet living. Two main changes are proposed:
1) realise the folly of short-term, single-issue, quick fixes;
2) shift our thinking away from fragmenting things so as to make them easy (analysis) towards integrating them so as to make them real (synthesis).
The need for an integrative approach becomes clearer in Chapter 2. We must increasingly expect major disruptions (whether financial, political, social, geological, medical or climatic) to occur simultaneously. Because the impact of synchronous crises is so huge, we must also look at how we respond as human beings. Three types of response are characterised, the most helpful being the ‘transformational response’.
Having considered the severity and complexity of the challenges we face, Chapter 3 looks at The Opportunity in the Challenge. Just possibly, the crises we face will weaken our old, dysfunctional habits and ways of living sufficiently to enable radically new and more effective ways to emerge. These approaches need to be generated through our collective intelligence, not through the heroic acts of outstanding individuals.
This leads us to The World System Model in Chapter 4. The Model is a clear and memorable way of looking at all this in a way that keeps it together in our minds, helps us talk to others about it, and helps focus us on what really matters in generating positive ideas for the future.
Chapter 5, The Twelve Nodes, explains the circular diagram (right), which is the main icon for The Model. It explores the twelve key issues and positions them as the nodes of sustainable living. Each node is described – and some of the main trends summarised – in terms of recent research.
Now the book’s attention switches from the Model to how we can apply it in practice. Chapter 6, From World System to World Game, introduces a way of getting groups of people to participate in using the Model. The game format challenges participants to co-operate to develop ideas about getting ‘ready for anything’ in their area. In particular, it invites awareness of how things are interconnected, whether the focus is on a community, a business, a public policy area, or a whole country/region.
To explain The IFF World Game, Tony Hodgson gives examples of where it has been tried. Chapter 7 has examples of The Game being used by an intentional community in Scotland, by another group of concerned city residents, and by a group in San Francisco considering how they would run the USA. The chapter ends with a project where pupils from a London school and their family groups played a version of the game called ‘21st Century Hopscotch’.
Chapter 8, Strategy and Policy Development, describes how the model was used to help generate an innovative public health strategy and a separate example is given of a design group exploring how their Mediterranean island community could regenerate itself and build in greater sustainability.
In Chapter 9 read how a group of professors and senior researchers at a leading Indian economics institute used The IFF World Game to critique and develop their research strategy to contribute to ‘rapid, inclusive, sustainable growth in India over the coming decade’.
Whether playing The World Game or using The World System Model as a strategy method, the approach needs care. Chapter 10, Creative Facilitation to Engage the World System, analyses three levels of facilitation capability, corresponding to the level of difficulty being addressed. Here, the process is related to action learning and several key thinking skills are also described.
Chapter 11, A Platform for Planetary Learning, takes us back to basics. We face a deluge of information in different areas of research into planetary sustainability and world governance. But the danger, in terms of survival, is that the noise makes the signals too hard to read. Experience also tells us that we are slow to learn. The World System Model can provide a framework for reading the ‘weak signals’ and compiling crucial information in a joined-up way.
This chapter also leads us into considering ‘futures’– How can we identify possible futures? How can we recognise when our responses to problems are locking us into the very patterns that got us into the mess in the first place? How can we envision a better future? The book presents IFF’s three horizon model as a way of getting to grips with these questions.
Finally, Tony Hodgson stresses that the huge scale and complexity of the challenges we face should not be an excuse to duck them. Chapter 12, Designing Resilience, affirms that we can create a sustainable form of one-planet living. This is, in fact, an exciting and energising task. But he ends with a warning that, if we simply improve our ability to ‘bounce back’ to normal after a crisis, we will keep facing more crises. We need to get smarter and wiser about learning to ‘bounce beyond’ to a truly sustainable world.