I received a press release in November about a new project launched by Huffington Post, in partnership with MIT’s Presencing Institute. The project announced that HuffPo would provide a radical journalism hub exploring ways to redesign the economy, looking into concepts like “circular economy” and other issues while doing “online to offline” movement building to facilitate real action in relation to these solutions.
I felt a sinking feeling as I read. It sounded really exciting.
Despite some positives, Dr. Scharmer’s grasp of the issues is confused. The HuffPo-MIT project is headed up by Dr Otto Scharmer, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and co- founder of MIT’s Presencing Institute. Dr. Scharmer is a management guru who has written extensively on theories and practice relating to leadership and change.
There is a lack of joined up thinking in the approach to the multiple crises facing the planet. He sets out his diagnosis of the problem in the destruction caused by early phases of capitalism, and calls for a more integrated response. Deregulatory insanity is being stigmatized.
Despite the millions of words devoted to the economic crisis by experts on talk shows and publications, what do we know about its root causes? He acknowledges the limits of conventional economic thinking, with its dependence on a very small number of economic theorists and frameworks.
Dr. Scharmer doesn’t offer a definition of capitalism that has anything to do with economics, finance, relations of production or anything. He calls it Capitalism 3.0, which he says is a shift of awareness that extends the natural self-interest of the players to the entire ecosystem.
He believes consciousness evolution is driving capitalism’s evolution. He says that capitalism has already evolved from being solely ego-centered and growth oriented to a more stakeholder-oriented system.
The defining nature of the current age of capitalism is said to be this. Capitalism 2.0 is more regulated than before, he writes, seemingly with a straight face. New social security systems, labour unions, environmental standards are supported by hundreds of thousands of NGOs. He states that the main focus of capitalism 2.0 is redistribution to sustain society as a whole.
In one swoop, he obscures what is really happening. Is it really?
The dismantlement of state-led regulatory apparatuses was the result of the rampaging expansion of unregulated globalization. An army of mostly impotent NGOs campaigning desperately to restrain this increasingly predatory financial system has been generated by that. The defining feature of today’s extreme form of capitalism is grand-scale financial market deregulation, designed to shift power over economic policy from the public to the private sector, from the government to an unaccountable financial elite. The debt and financial volatility we see in the global economy is the result of this ideology.
This wasn’t a teleological process of consciousness evolution. Civil society movements emerged from conflict with the prevailing system of capitalism to represent an expansion of its overall consciousness.
The number of people living under $5 a day has increased dramatically, and global inequalities have widened, because of this. Almost two-thirds of the world’s population live on less than $5 a day. The friendlier capitalism 2.0 doesn’t appear to be working to mitigate the current global externalities. The reasons for this appear to beincomprehensible.
The corporate world will follow if you work on your ego. The convergence of economic and ecological crises, which are intensifying within a broken economic model, are driving state-failures, extremist nationalism, and other phenomena.
His starting point is organizational change theory. It is standard practice for leadership teams in global companies to doinner change work to help shift an individual’s awareness from an ego-system to an extended stakeholder situation or, in some cases, to the larger ecosystems. It becomes painfully clear that Scharmer is ill-equipped to engage with the complexity of the crisis.
What is the solution? Don’t worry about the economics: let’s have Scharmer and his crack team lead the employees of all the giant corporates at break-neck pace, and have them go through mind-expanding “journeys of transformational change” He says that neoclassical economists don’t acknowledge how changes in human awareness and consciousness can influence human behavior. The biggest blind spot in economic theory today is consciousness, which is the structure of human awareness and attention that a community of actors develops when they go on a journey of transformational change.
Please, can we get real here? The stark truth is that Scharmer is casting a net of beauty on a mundane process of corporate cultural institutional conditioning, which improves the productivity of workers. This is what is happening at the MIT Presencing Institute.
Inside the transformation of the internet giant, GOOGLE. It doesn’t really matter what employees think. The transformational change is designed to make the individualbrace the larger forces of change that constitute the narrow profit-maximizing imperatives of the company. The cultural conditioning of employees to believe that they are part of the company’s vision and values is part of a transformation process.
One of Otto Scharmer’s transformational change clients is Google. A quick glance at some of the corporations that Scharmer has run leadership and innovation programs for shows the problem: firms like Alibaba, Daimler, and PriceWaterhouse. These companies don’t exhibit meaningful processes of transformational change.
We could refer to the declaration of reducing its carbon footprint to zero while transitioning to 100% renewable energy by the year of 2018, made by the company. What has the innovation and leadership program done to transform the relationship between the US military-industrial complex and the internet? What has it done to make anything better at the company?
Buying carbon offsets is the primary technique for reducing its footprint to zero, as it allows it to claim the equivalent in emissions reductions on its own books. Their real-world emissions have not reduced at all. According to Lux Research, an obsolete tool is used to calculate the data center emissions from purchasing electricity from the power grid. In four out of seven data centers, Google underestimates its dependence on coal.
Over the last half decade, the gross carbon emissions of the company have doubled. Gross carbon emissions have increased despite the fact that the company has trumpeted its zero carbon trajectory.
The company’s gross emissions dropped 9% in 2012 to 1.5 metric tons. The drop in emissions was achieved by taking into account the deductions from the power purchase agreements. The real gross emissions figure for that year was 2,024,444 metric tons. The gross CO2 emissions for the year were 1,677,423 metric tons.
What is the net result? According to the company’s report, gross carbon emissions had grown to nearly 3 million metric tons by the year 2016
Our net operational carbon emissions were zero because of our renewable energy and carbon offset programs. Our carbon intensity has decreased even as our company has grown and our energy use has increased. The carbon footprint of the company is growing. Environmental certifications are being used to legitimize the growth.
Climate deniers are funded by both Google and NASA. A member of the US Chamber of Commerce lobbies to block action on climate change, as well as donating $50,000 to a group that tries to sue climate scientists for fraud. This is true, but it is a clever carbon accounting trick that allows the real world carbon emissions to continue increasing. Our current global emissions trajectory is so bad that it could end up heading to an 8C planet by the end of the century.
For the planet, such metrics are meaningless. It is okay, because it is a certification from the environmental group.
Liberal journalism. Their application is not slowing the pace of fossil fuel extraction, but they are speeding it up.
You won’t find any analysis of the claims from the mainstream liberal press. Huffington Post reported on the clean carbon footprint trajectory without any investigation of the facts. With the help of misleading number crunching, an increasing carbon footprint is mis reported as a decreasing carbon footprint.
Liberal philanthropy is being ridiculed. The real causes of the Crisis of Civilization are obfuscated by HuffPo and a host of other liberal media outlets.
The spectrum of liberal philanthropy is important to both foundations. They are part of a network of foundations. The Kendeda Fund is an Atlanta-based foundation that is one of the main funders for the HuffPo-MIT project.
The Rockefeller Brothers Fund, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and many others are part of the premier forum of philanthropic foundations focused on environmental issues. The director of Partners for a New Economy invited me to Boston to give a keynote speech on the future of philanthropy for the Biodiversity Funders Group.
There are layers of self-soothing delusion. What is clear is that the philanthropic foundations don’t know what to do with the existing system because they don’t have a clue. They end up funding self-serving ideological nonsense that distracts from real solutions.
The destruction of the planet is being perpetuated by the interlocking network of liberal progressive do-gooding. We come full circle.
The real enemy, the forces preventing us from actually responding to this system meaningfully, was something completely different. The real enemy to transformation is the people who are making the changes. I have been exposing and investigating the system of extraction for years.
A lot of activity in this liberal progressive world of philanthropists, foundations, trusts, charities, NGOs, platforms, outlets and beyond is not authentic. The language disguises the fact that actors are still playing the game. They appropriate the discourse of systemic transformation, and use it to legitimize the very system of extraction that they are trying to transform. They believe that their way is the only way. There is a real enemy among ourselves.
It doesn’t matter. The current configuration of liberalism is the most dangerous obstacle to saving people and the planet. It’s standing in the way of real alternatives. It is co-opting the emergence of genuine possibilities, ideas, movements, and ventures with the intent of absorbing them within the framework of accelerated extraction. The layers of self-soothing delusion serve to mask and intensify what are actually behaviors. They appear benign, and there are many explanations for their behavior: ideological indoctrination, structural constraints, social conditioning, psychological ailments, or simple incompetence.
The central insight here is that the ideology of liberal progressive discourse is what is causing the system of extraction to accelerate and consolidate. The liberal progressive mirage is legitimizing and extending the system through the language of change.