Living System: Making Sense of Sustainability (Paperback)Bruce Nixon (author)
Paperback 160 Pages / Published: 16/06/2006
- We can order this
Who changes the world? The answer is we all do! "Living System" is a radical book about sustainability in the broadest sense - climate change, the inability of the Earth to meet human needs if we carry on as now, and equally important, global social and economic justice and an end to violence. These aspects are inseparably linked. As we see in Africa and elsewhere, the poor are the first to suffer. There are forewords by Dame Anita Roddick, UK, and Margaret Wheatley, USA, "It's Just Our Turn To Help The World" and many endorsements - see below. The book takes a broad, whole system look at the situation at the beginning of 21st Century. The underlying system gets in the way of our changing things for the better. This is why progress in tackling the urgent issues of climate change and poverty is so slow. Inequalities in wealth and power have grown enormously, rather than lessened, since the seventies. Efforts to help poor countries have largely failed. We need to understand and address the system, a living system, rather than create a wild succession of short-term fixes that don't work. Our situation requires bold, radical ideas. This is what the book provides. It speaks plainly. Many "ordinary people" instinctively reject a consumption driven society in which progress is measured by increasing GDP. The book articulates and substantiates their doubts, challenges conventional wisdom, turns it upside down, (e.g. the vast debt-money and perverse taxation systems) and proposes a new agenda for the 21st Century. It offers a fresh vision of how things could be given the resources and know-how we have today. It gets to the root of things - seeing the world as a living system. This is the uniquely useful perspective of the book. A living system, if not respected, hits back harshly. That is what is happening. Climate change, degradation of the soil, water and oil shortage and the loss of species are warnings. People react unpredictably too! That is one of the lessons of Iraq. War, domination and technological solutions alone are not workable strategies - though technology can play a part. It is a radical, big picture book. It challenges conventional thinking about economics, progress and how to bring how to bring about change. It takes a radical, look at politics and big business. It challenges the current economic system, including commonly accepted free market doctrines - mono thinking and monoculture - and the values underlying it. Respect for diversity and cultures we do not understand is needed. The book exposes unconscious forces that drive leaders - the "beast within" us all - denial, ego and groupthink. It examines the failures of current attempts to bring about change. Old, top down ways that ignore people on the ground are not working. It proposes better ways. It uncovers the part unconscious racism plays in foreign policy and globalisation. Wars on terror and Iraq are wasteful, terrible distractions from the real crises we face. This is why we have lost confidence in political and corporate leaders. A better balance of male/female energies may save us from ourselves. It's a people's book - easy to read, hopeful and inspiring. There is a chapter on crazy idealists and heroes who have changed and are changing the world - ordinary, extraordinary pioneers. Whilst sometimes shocking, it is not a gloomy book. It is constructive, optimistic, full of good news. It aims to wake up people to the urgency of the challenge and mobilise everyone's passion and energy to take their power to change things. There is a lot of positive news about successful models from all over the world. It is full of pictures - pictures often speak louder than words. It is both strategic and down to earth with practical strategic proposals ranging from global to local and what you and I and anyone can do. There is a lot in the book about so-called "third world" countries and a whole chapter on Jamaica, a country I know well. Aid does not work in the long term - yes, it is necessary in the emergency of now - but we need to stop being greedy, imperialistic, imposing our solutions. We need more to remove obstacles and support countries in finding their own unique solutions. The Foreword is by Dame Anita Roddick. There is a companion USA foreword from Margaret Wheatley. This book is about sustainability in the broadest sense - the environment, the ecological system on which all life depends, global social and economic justice and the need for respect for all difference amongst human beings and in nature. It calls for a change in values and consciousness that will not only save the planet, but put an end to violence. It calls for an end to mono thinking, monoculture and the habits of domination, imperialism and attempting to colonise thought as well as cultures and nations. What is unique about the book is that it advocates understanding and addressing the underlying system and the values beneath it as the best way forward if we are to realise our hopes for a fair and sustainable World. The system Bruce describes is a living system embracing all human beings and the Earth they live in. Living systems always react if not respected. We are part of a living system - each of us here for but an instant in time. So we owe if to our children and descendants to be good stewards and act wisely. This is what leaders must learn or they are a danger. Once you understand it you see it everywhere, every day. This is what we have been confronted with particularly from the beginning of the 21st Century. The tragedies and catastrophes are warnings - 9/11 and its successors, global terrorism, violence, climate change and destruction of the ecosystem. We need to learn from them or there will be much worse to come. Poverty, lack of respect, injustice, poverty, greed and domination are at the root of it. Current beliefs in "Western" leadership have only made things worse - more poverty and violence - not less. We have to face the truth. We delude ourselves with slogans, blatantly misleading words. Bruce describes the key elements of the system. These are an uncritical belief in global sourcing and "science", domination of nature, domination by global and regional institutions by business, which also undermines "democracy", racist foreign policies, untruthfulness and denial, destabilising financial markets, the money debt system, perverse taxation, massive tax evasion and distortion of the purpose of business and responsibilities of directors. Underlying the system is the dominant value of putting money and power before meeting human needs, unconscious racism and an imbalance of male and female energies. Bruce puts forward a new agenda for the 21st Century to address these issues including a renewable Charter for big companies and citizen's basic income. Whilst radical, it is also realistic and respectful of other views. It ranges from strategic issues and proposals to down to earth practical steps anyone can take. It takes a historical and spiritual perspective attempting to learn from History. It is very balanced in tone and content recognising the positive contributions, the up side and the down or dark side; challenging and positive, hopeful, encouraging and appreciating. Bruce believes in seeing the good in people, putting attention on good models, what works and finding common ground - rather than verbal or physical violence which has been increasingly used by the "West" on a massive scale. There are amazing revelations in the research he draws on eg war and foreign policy and his study of politics in our parliament - the "Mother of Parliamentary Democracy". Of particular interest are the ideas about sustainable buildings and cities and the notion that they belong to people, who need to be involved in the co-creation of important buildings and town and cityscapes. Our environment is essential to mental and emotional health and communities that work for people of all ages and incomes. There are some valuable positive examples. Bruce believes we are all mirrors of each other and if we are to change things for the better we need to look first inside ourselves - including acknowledging the beast within us all. We need to be truthful, show respect and build partnership based on trust and good relationships. He believes we have much to learn from wise women, who may save us from ourselves. Margaret Wheatley writes, teaches, and speaks about radically new practices and ideas for organizing in chaotic times. Several years ago, I read of a Buddhist teacher who offered his encouragement to a group that was filled with despair over the state of the world. His advice was simple, profound and placed things in historical context: "It's just our turn to help the world." What I love about this statement is that it reminds us of other times and other people who stepped forward to help create the changes that were necessary. We do live in an extraordinary era when, for the first time, humans have altered the planet's ecology and created consequences, which are just beginning to materialize in frightening ways. But throughout human existence, there have always been people willing to step forward to struggle valiantly in the hope that they might reverse the downward course of events. Some succeeded, some did not. But as we face our own time, we need to remember that we stand on very firm and solid shoulders. In my own work with local communities around the planet, I've learned to define leadership quite differently than the norm. A leader is anyone willing to help, anyone who sees something that needs to change and takes the first steps to influence that situation. It might be a parent who intervenes in her child's school; or a group in a rural village in Africa who decides to put in a well for fresh water; or a worker who refuses to allow mistreatment of others in his workplace; or an individual who rallies his or her neighbors to stop local polluters. Everywhere in the world, no matter the economic or social circumstances, I see people stepping forward to make a small difference. They are impelled to act in spite of themselves; they often describe their actions as "I couldn't not do it." Others see what they do and label them as courageous, but those who step forward never feel courageous. They just did what felt like the right thing to do. Because a leader is anyone willing to help, we can celebrate the fact that the world has an abundance of leaders. Some people ask, "where have all the good leaders gone?" But when we worry that there's a deficit of leaders, we're just looking in the wrong place. We need to look locally. And we need to look at ourselves. Where have we been willing to step forward for the issues that we care about? Every great change initiative in the world begins with the actions of just a few people. Even those that win the Nobel Peace Prize. I've looked at the history of several of these prize-winning efforts, and one phrase always pops up as the founders describe how they began. Their laudable efforts began not with plans and official permissioin, but when "some friends and I started talking." I recently listened to Wangari Matai, winner of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for her work in planting over 30 million trees in Kenya and east Africa. Her first efforts were with a few local women, and they planted seven trees, five of which died. But they learned from that experience, spread the learning to their villages, then to other networks, and ten years later, 30 million trees flourish. Villages now have clean water and local firewood, creating improved health and community vitality. And it all began "when some friends and I started talking." Bruce has compiled many similar wonderful stories in this provocative and stirring book. Individuals have an idea, or experience a tragedy, or want to resolve an injustice, and they step forward to help. Instead of being overwhelmed and withdrawing, as many of us do these days, here are people who decided to act locally. They didn't know at the beginning where it would end up. They didn't spend a great deal of time planning and getting official support. They began, they learned from their mistakes, they kept going. They followed the energy of yes rather than accepting defeat. This is how the world always changes. And this is how we must act now to respond to the frightening issues of these times, to reverse our direction, to restore hope to the future. I carry with me a vision of what would be possible if more and more of us were willing to help, if we simply said "no" to what disturbs us, if we took a stand, if we refused to be cowed or silenced. My heroes are the Ukrainians. They set a standard in their 'Orange Revolution" in late 2004 that has now inspired citizens in many different countries as far flung as Ecuador and Nepal. They refused to give in or to stop protesting until they got what they needed. Why couldn't we do the same? What will be our response to the destructive behaviors, the injustices and the suicidal decisions and beliefs that Bruce so well, details in this book? Are we willing to help? I Want to Be a Ukrainian When I come of age, When I get over being a teen-ager When I take my life seriously When I grow up I want to be a Ukrainian. When I come of age I want to stand happily in the cold for days beyond number, no longer numb to what I need. I want to hear my voice rise loud and clear above the icy fog, claiming myself. It was day fifteen of the protest, and a woman standing next to her car was being interviewed. Her car had a rooster sitting on top of it. She said "We've woken up and we're not leaving till this rotten government is out." It is not recorded if the rooster crowed. When I get over being a teen-ager when I no longer complain or accuse when I stop blaming everybody else when I take responsibility I will have become a Ukrainian The Yushchenko supporters carried bright orange banners which they waved vigorously on slim poles. Soon after the protests began, the government sent in thugs hoping to create violence. They also carried banners, but theirs were hung on heavy clubs that could double as weapons. When I take my life seriously when I look directly at what's going on when I know that the future doesn't change itself that I must act I will be a Ukrainian. "Protest that endures," Wendell Berry said, "is moved by a hope far more modest than that of public success: namely, the hope of preserving qualities in one's own heart and spirit that would be destroyed by acquiescence. When I grow up and am known as a Ukrainian I will move easily onto the streets confident, insistent, happy to preserve the qualities of my own heart and spirit. In my maturity, I will be glad to teach you the cost of acquiescence the price of silence the peril of retreat. "Hope," said Vaclev Havel, "is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out." I will teach you all that I have learned the strength of fearlessness the peace of conviction the strange source of hope and I will die well, having been a Ukrainian.
Publisher: Management Books 2000 Ltd
Number of pages: 160
You may also be interested in...
Please sign in to write a review
Simply reserve online and pay at the counter when you collect. Available in shop from just two hours, subject to availability.
Thank you for your reservation
Your order is now being processed and we have sent a confirmation email to you at
When will my order be ready to collect?
Following the initial email, you will be contacted by the shop to confirm that your item is available for collection.
Call us on or send us an email at
Unfortunately there has been a problem with your order
Please try again or alternatively you can contact your chosen shop on or send us an email at