Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. Albert Einstein By Don Diduck – April 04, 2016 If we are honest with ourselves, Alberta’s socio-economic future is not clearly defined much less articulated to any satisfactory level. If we are forced to come up with something, we often default to something akin to ‘motherhood and apple pie’ as aspirational goals.
Currently, we don’t really have a ‘vision’ for our province. Instead, what we have going for us is more like the view of a really heavy fog or a blinding snow storm. If any of these conditions let up for any length of time, like when oil prices are high, we behave much like magpies and go after the shiny objects. But, to be truthful, a quick Google search will bring up a research study which dismisses the whole thing about magpies going after shiny objects. As Albertans, however, it is well documented that we will go for high-priced oil every time.
It is very unlikely that we can design much of anything that supports our preferred future in Alberta if we don’t have a vision. We are currently living the consequences of someone else’s world-level vision of a “carbon-free society”. Major scientific organizations and governments around the world stand behind this vision or something similar (e.g. “low carbon society”). Yet we continue to balk at it. Why? What would happen if we chose to adopt a vision that was able to trump the current world-level vision on carbon with something more compelling?
Now, wouldn’t that be cool?
So, let’s digress for a moment and think about what Nature tells us about creating efficient and complex systems. Let’s assume that Nature is an amazing system of systems which shares its mysteries with us but only when we are prepared to receive this information. Let’s also agree that the vastness of Nature is incredible – it is literally billions of years old and reflects the ultimate in diversity. In comparison, Mankind is but a tiny subset of Nature’s vast system of living creatures, and yet is still creates and functions in unimaginably complex systems. In our effort to carve out and express our ideas and creativity, we still pale in comparison.
Yet, you can find embedded in Nature the most powerful source of creativity and innovation: the need to survive changing conditions. A new vision of Alberta – one that is based on long-term sustainability for all of the people involved – cannot rely on any one condition staying the same. It must function under changing conditions.
So, why not create an environment of innovation and creativity right here in Alberta that transcends what is, comparatively, a remarkably narrow vision of a ‘carbon-free society’. If we agree that Nature as a system provides everything we need to function, now and long into the future, let’s act on this notion and leverage it into not just possibilities, but realistic and valuable outcomes.
How might we accomplish this and what kind of vision would drive us forward?
How about the following ‘vision’: “Alberta is the world’s centre of excellence for research, innovation, and commercialization of sustainable socio-economic systems.”
And, what is a sustainable socio-economic system you might ask?
It is a way to organize resources, talent, and logistics using technology and innovative practices to solve socio-economic problems on the basis of sustainability. This is way beyond ‘green’ economics and instead, calls to action those ideas which can create new systems which operate without traditional supports (e.g. taxes and heavy regulations), and can be sustained by their own weighted relevancy and value. Again, Nature has many examples of how it balances and integrates interdependent systems which have operated for millions of years. We need to apply the same principles to our systems.
For example, we could begin by creating a fully tax-free development zone where companies are first prequalified as “sustainability development corporations” which can then be eligible for a tax-free operating status over a ten year period. If milestones are achieved with regard to related research, development and commercialization, their ten-year tax-free status could be extended for a further ten-year period. By also adding in a substantive fund of perhaps one to two billion dollars to back stop the research component, this combined approach could help, in a positive way, to ‘suck the oxygen out of the room’ when it comes to attracting and retaining the world’s best talent and innovative organizations.
We could also work to align our existing systems to support our vision. This would include health care, education, infrastructure, transportation, resources management, manufacturing, agriculture, and forestry, just to name a few. The point is that with a common vision, we can challenge ourselves to revisit and re-task our energies towards what matters: our long-term future.
We would then have designed a fully integrated system of systems which can demonstrate advantages we cannot even imagine yet! In addition, we would be tied to natural markets around the world because of our relevancy and solutions-based systems development model. This would create serious capital inflows into Alberta in exchange for solving problems in the rest of the world. A world-wide, multi-generational market is waiting for this type of approach to show up – why couldn’t it be us that takes this on?
Let’s act now and develop and embrace a new vision for our province!
Don Diduck is a small business owner and is a Board Member on the Alberta Council of Technologies. He is currently working with a small group of Albertans to launch a new organization, Alberta by Design, in order to help shape a more sustainable future for our province. Please visit: www.albertabydesign.org/ or contact Don at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.