I used to think that our public policy was an accurate reflection of our populations’ progression. For example, if we didn’t get voting rights bills passed, it was because not enough of the population thought it was important.

But seriously, that’s just how politicians want us to think. Politicians position themselves as the arbiter of what matters in our society. If educational reform, healthcare, infrastructure, equal rights, voting rights, or other laws don’t get passed — it’s because it isn’t important enough to the people. As I’ve studied nature, however, I now see these dynamics much differently. 

Nature runs on cycles

Nature helps us see cycles,  and cycles help us make sense of the world. The four seasons are a  process that cycles as we move from spring to summer, to fall and winter. The sun has a cycle of rising and setting every day. Tides that rise and fall twice daily – that is a cycle process. Photosynthesis is another cycle that transforms the energy of the sun into nutrients that support all life on this planet. Cycles in nature are biogeochemical. According to Green Facts,

A cycle in nature is a natural process in which elements are continuously cycled in various forms between different compartments of the environment (e.g., air, water, soil, organisms).

 As humans, we have also created our own cycles of sleep, work, eating, relationships, and fun. We structure our days on these cycles. We cycle through a week based on what day it is and how close we are to the weekend and we measure the passage of time based on this simple cycle. The idea of cycles helps us understand why politics and policy don’t always reflect progress. 

Organizations and Institutions Cycle at Different Speeds

Nature’s cycles can be rapid like the tides rising and falling twice daily, or longer like the seasons cycling over the course of a year, the wearing away of rock, formations of glaciers, and the evolution of ecosystems that can take thousands and millions of years. Understanding the speed of nature’s cycles made me look at different sectors of society to see how quickly they are cycling. What sector is cycling more rapidly and what cycles are the slowest to change? This has led me to evaluate different sectors of our society for how fast they incorporate feedback from the larger environment and use it to adapt their way of working, thinking, and acting.

For example, I think business is cycling faster than healthcare and I now see political sectors as cycling much more slowly. Human desires to hold power or cater to specific groups in society have created structures that slow the cycling down. When a political party gerrymanders a voting district to keep their party in power, it causes the representatives to only listen to a select part of the population. This diminishes feedback and reinforces fixed thinking. 

So, now I see political dynamics as a lagging indicator of where the larger world and population are moving. Therefore, we should be looking to businesses to accelerate our green economy instead of our politicians. The politicians will change their voting and policies as more and more sectors adapt to climate change.