There seem to be new rules emerging every day surrounding how the world works due to impacts from COVID-19, climate change, and other factors. These disruptive dynamics are causing a cascading impact not only on nature but on our daily lives.  

Cascading disruptions

Both disruptions from COVID-19 and climate change have long tails. Climate and significant weather disruptions will be with us while continuing to increase frequency and intensity for the foreseeable future. Similarly, COVID has a long tail considering that the pandemic will continue to disrupt our lives (and the multiple systems of health, economy, education, and family) over time until we raise the vaccination level globally or achieve herd immunity. The term cascading disruptions is an acknowledgment of the interdependence that exists in our world. No disruption stands alone. The disruption lands like a rock in a pond with ripple effects extending outward in all directions. That is one aspect of cascading, the other is imaging multiple rocks thrown into a pond with each causing ripples that then meet other ripples. When the ripples meet each other, they trigger more waves throughout the system. This is our future.

We have two fonts of wisdom to help us deal with these disruptions. First, there is the knowledge that comes from living with nature as it increases the regenerative capacity of nature and the human race. Second, thousands of years of learnings from indigenous people have been ignored within our classrooms and other systems of higher education. Since neither of these resources is represented at the level needed for today in our academic journals, where do we find the wise practices and knowledge from nature and within indigenous communities?  

Antidote: accelerate our individual and collective learning

The best antidote for these kinds of disruptions is to accelerate our individual and collective learning. When we actively focus on learning, we open ourselves up to seeing what works, what is changing, what we need to do differently, and how we need to think differently. When we stand in the place of inquiry, we are seeking to create patterns and meaning of what exists. We’re also letting go of ideas and behaviors that don’t fit the current context we are living in.

Conversely, when we stand in the place of resentment or loss of “predictability”, we double down on trying to control the disruptions around us. This tends to make us deny the reality around us and/or feel like victims of an uncontrollable event. It also decreases our inner resilience until we choose to pivot to active learning.

The thing we can control in a time of cascading disruptions is our approach to our own learning. Nature is taking us to “school” on the limits of human control. We are learning what we can still control (not much), what we can still influence, and what we can learn and adapt to. Are we listening?