Generating Systemic Wealth — Part 13: Generating Wealth for Earth
Earth invests in aliveness. It harnesses life’s tendency to differentiate. As life encounters the variations in landform, climate, soil, and available water that each landscape presents, it responds by evolving increasingly unique expressions. As a result, each place has a unique identity, and unique work to do in sustaining and evolving life on the planet.
But (and it is a big “but”) Mother Earth needs a return to keep making this investment. There’s no place she can go for an unemployment or disability check — she needs to be continuously engaged in productive work or the whole enterprise spirals down. She needs humans as partners, not adversaries, in this work of evolving Gaia.
Human activities generate a return when they understand and enhance the work and evolution of specific living systems in specific places. A good partnership is not made from promises to do as little harm it as possible. “I promise to beat my wife less severely and less often. I’ll even restore her to a non-bloody state!” are not statements that are likely to inspire a lot of confidence. Don’t laugh — “How about we stop beating you so hard?” is the deal humans are currently seeking to make with Mother Nature in exchange for her continued investment.
The wealth generating capacity of Earth, arising directly from its work on differentiation and evolution, depends on realizing and actualizing the potential of a living whole. To play a part in this most fundamental and necessary of wealth-generating processes, humans must learn to think in terms of potential. This requires looking beyond existence — the world of “what is” — to see the essence of things (people, places, living organisms, organizations). This points to the role they could play in lifting systems to a higher order — of expression, complexity, intelligence, and wealth.
If potential is the focus, then understanding the wholeness of something — its essence, role, and the systems it is part of — needs to come before examining its current existence. Current existence is understood from examining and assessing issues, trends, challenges, problems etc. Most ideas for planning, strategizing, training, educating, and even parenting start with “what is”, not with potential. Understanding essence, by contrast, comes from exploring the unique way a particular whole works.
Having begun with potential, it is much easier to discern which aspects of current existence are actually important or relevant. One can see what needs further study, what needs transforming. This prevents a shotgun approach to data gathering, which is always about “parts”. It identifies possibilities based on what wants to come into existence, rather than on what is already fixed in place and difficult to move. By maintaining consciousness of the uniqueness and distinctiveness that makes something whole and coherent, it offers a clear lens through which to assess and develop strategies. By contrast, starting from current existence leads to trade-offs, competing priorities, and ventures and initiatives that divert energy from the pursuit of the best place to generate wealth — potential.
This story is part of a series on regenerative economics and generating systemic wealth. To read the rest of the series, see the links below.
- Regenerative Economics and the Pentad Framework
- What is Real Wealth?
- Misconceptions About Wealth Generation
- A System of Wealth-Generating Sources
- The First Wealth-Generating Source: Biotic Life
- The Second Wealth-Generating Source: Minerals
- The Third Wealth-Generating Source: Assets
- The Fourth Wealth-Generating Source: Ideas
- The Fifth Wealth-Generating Source: Thinking Processes
- The Sixth Wealth-Generating Source: Paradigm Shifts
- Evaluating Wealth Generation for Each Stakeholder
- Generating Wealth for the Co-Creators
About Carol Sanford
Carol Sanford is a regenerative business educator, the award winning author of The Regenerative Business: Redesign Work, Cultivate Human Potential, Achieve Extraordinary Outcomes, and executive in residence and senior fellow in social innovation at Babson College. She has worked with fortune 500 executives and rock star entrepreneurs for 40 years, helping them to innovate and grow their businesses by growing their people. Learn more about Carol and her work at her website.