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December 27, 2006

Impedance Mismatch Corporations, Globalization  Environment  Musings

The really big problems facing humanity are, for the most part, problems resulting from the dominant culture's abuse of the natural world. Global warming, deforestation, the collapse of the world's fisheries — these are problems requiring determined action over the long haul. But nothing much gets done. Why?

There are many factors, but one, in particular, strikes me as cause for real pessimism. A sustainable relationship with the natural world requires us to think and act in time frames of many decades, centuries, millenia and more. But our decision-making institutions operate at drastically shorter time scales. That mismatch in time scales is a killer. In the political sphere, decision-makers seldom look past the next election cycle or two. In the corporate realm, where most of the important decisions now get made, perspectives are even shorter, with emphasis on the next quarter or fiscal year. A five-year plan is considered really long-range, blue sky stuff.

Everybody optimizes for the short run. People who don't find themselves out of office or out of a job. And so, by a series of "rational" decisions — rational from a perspective that ignores the long term — we march steadily towards the abyss.

The trend toward increasing corporate power and decreasing political power (with the political process increasingly a wholly-owned subsidiary of the corporate sphere) may, in the end, seal our fate. Just when we desperately need a decision-making institution that can forego short-run profit and convenience for long-term sustainability, we are vesting societal decision-making in the institution least capable of taking that perspective.

Posted by Jonathan at December 27, 2006 12:44 PM  del.icio.us digg NewsVine Reddit YahooMyWeb


In short, money.

Posted by: Jeff at December 27, 2006 08:46 PM