The trees

The trees

 

It is easy to understand why we all tend to keep global crises split apart: If we try to look at more than one major threat or opportunity at a time we lose focus. After all, the branching interlinkages of cause and effect within just one of these vast metaphorical trees – say, Middle-Eastern conflict – are already pretty much incomprehensible and impenetrable. As a result, it is perfectly natural that most of us view things like uprisings in distant autocratic regimes as being largely irrelevant to our everyday lives and certainly to our work lives. It is easy to classify these sorts of disruptions as little more than remote experiments in democracy that might temporarily impact fuel prices. Totally divorced even from local politics. And in a different universe to breakthroughs in stem-cell research. Yet they are all linked.

Despite being a truly-global society we nevertheless tend to segregate each of our major global threats one from the other. Worrying book titles are marketed to readers concerned about Ecology or Business or Politics or Religion but never all together. We do the same with major opportunities. Journalists specialize in reporting innovations in Science or Architecture but rarely both. In just the same way, senior politicians – other than Presidents and Prime Ministers – head departments that focus on specific Negatives such as bioterrorism or energy scarcity or food security that are themselves largely isolated from those departments focusing on what are seen as Positives like healthcare or business-development or education.

It is within this context of neatly-separated individual global threats and individual sources of opportunity that we all just get on with our work, conveniently removed from any but the worst turmoil. Often it is only outside of work – when we are catching up on The News – that most of us even get to hear all the pre-packaged snippets of what is going on in the world. In one item after another we gain hermetically-sealed insights into the continued world economic downturn, continued religious conflicts, another flu pandemic, another tsunami, threats to the Euro, threats to the polar bear, minimal progress on tackling global warming, minimal progress on tackling overfishing, increases in oil-price, increases in civil unrest, heightened alerts for terrorism and – quite separately – heightened alerts for cyberterrorism. Each is presented as a legitimate quantum of information. Yet they are all linked.

Completely independently, often from totally different sources, we also learn about the latest breakthroughs in science, technology and medicine. Once again, each item is efficiently pre-tagged with its appropriate ID. Each is ready to be conveniently placed into its respective pigeon-hole in our brains. Yet they are all linked.

Not realizing that, we tend to treat the majority of global crises as being – at most – potentially relevant to our wider lives but not necessarily to our everyday work. That is a mistake. We also consider the developments that drive the overall progress of society as being almost the complete opposite to the slew of global crises that too-easily can feel like harbingers of growing chaos – almost as if the two were opposed forces battling each other. That is a serious mistake. On top of everything, we treat any superficially-similar clusters of threats (such as Economic Instability, Global Warming, Food Security or Religious Conflict) as being such major themes in their own right that we do not tend even to have the energy to want to understand if an overriding theme encompasses them all. That is a potentially fatal mistake.