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A Systems Approach Towards a (More) Sustainable Future: An Invitation to Academia

June 11, 2024

I’m often asked to give presentations and usually do 30-40 per year, mostly online. But almost always the hosting organization asks for a time limit – typically 45 minutes. As those of you deeply versed in the human predicament know, it is VERY hard to describe what is happening in our world AND offer some direction for response and personal agency, all in 45 minutes or even an hour. As followers of The Great Simplification are aware, I increasingly want to discuss and work on ‘responses’ but there are still vast sections of society – academia being one – that don’t yet integrate the magnitude and urgency of our systemic predicament.

So when Kira Cooper, of the Environmental Studies Association of Canada, invited me to do a talk ‘with no time constraint’, for 10,000 professors across Canada, I put something together that was reasonably comprehensive – and it ended up being about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The talk is in four parts:
1) an explanation of the core drivers of the human ecosystem
2) a synthesis of how the emergent property of these is a (mindless) energy/material hungry economic superorganism
3) scenarios and implications for the future
4) suggested interventions and responses at various scales (global, community, academia and personal).

There are over 200 million college students in the world. What are we teaching them and what curriculum will be more appropriate for the world we’re heading into? It is my hope that many professors, post-docs and university affiliates around the world experience this synthesis. And even if they may not fully agree (or if they fully agree!), that it may act as an Overton Window of expanding the conversations, research, curriculums and actions of the good people at universities around Canada, and the world.

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens

Nate Hagens is the Director of The Institute for the Study of Energy & Our Future (ISEOF) an organization focused on educating and preparing society for the coming cultural transition. Allied with leading ecologists, energy experts, politicians and systems thinkers ISEOF assembles road-maps and off-ramps for how human societies can adapt to lower throughput lifestyles. Nate holds a Masters Degree in Finance with Honors from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources from the University of Vermont. He teaches an Honors course, Reality 101, at the University of Minnesota.