Being Possitopian means both facing the worst and imagining the best, in ways that are both much more rational and critical, and much more creative and open-minded. And also, it means anticipating the future much more frequently, in many more situations and permutations, involving a greater diversity of people. Managing the risks of the planetary emergency is not about working out the best response to the most likely outcome, it is about determining the best response to the full distribution of possible outcomes.
Being Possitopian isn’t a halfway position between glass half-empty and half-full. It is a greatly expanded perspective, a mind that is much more open to ecological realities beyond the human, to diverse perspectives and future possibilities.
Can you apply Possitopian thinking when in a planning meeting?
First, set the tone by taking an ‘expanded perspective’. You might be thinking ahead one year, so push it out to 5 or 10 years. You might be assuming that certain conditions are going to continue but challenge those assumptions. You might be ignoring the rapid onset of the planetary emergency, so factor in some of the possible impacts into your planning. You might be missing out on possible options because you’re not drawing on diverse perspectives to open up your imagination of the future – so can you bring some imagination into your meeting?
Second, for each subject of discussion (e.g. funding bids, maintaining the building etc) ask three questions: What could be the very best scenario? What could be the very worst scenario? What could be an unexpected scenario?
Give at least 30 minutes to this new approach. Perhaps take 5 minutes to draw rather than writing down your ideas.
After this, reflect on how it went. Try to use the same thinking regularly and get more practiced at it.
The idea of Possitopian thinking is quite complex and needs explaining, so some quotes and examples will be added below.
“The problem is that the image we have right now is so much influenced by modelling studies, at least in the scientific community. But with these climate and other simulation models it is just like the way it is with artificial intelligence. These are mere algorithms that lack any real understanding. The understanding is the work that needs to be done by the scientist. So what I worry about is that too much reliance on established scientific methods has led to a lack of imagination, and that there will be things that we have not considered. Last year, almost the entire Greek olive harvest was unfit for human consumption. The reason: it was unusually wet, just the opposite of the trend we expect from modelling, and that led to the spread of certain diseases that could thrive in the increased humidity.” Dr Wolfgang Knorr, talking to Jem Bendell