Our Mission Statement
We face accelerating economic and environmental risks. ISEOF is committed to helping society both steer away from fantasy and avoid catastrophe.
We’ve built a map across domains and timeframes highlighting likely futures and locations for possible interventions. We aren’t prescriptive with ‘one answer’ for upcoming socioeconomic and environmental hurdles but seek to influence a portfolio of ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ initiatives.
Rather than ‘own’ projects, ISEOF prefers to identify a need, plant the seed to germinate, and then allow development and implementation via partners and alliances. With insight, integrity, and kindness, we strive to inform and inspire the thinking and actions of early adopters relating to the ongoing transition to post-growth human societies, institutions, and values.
Our Work Encompasses These Four Categories
Educate and Inspire
People intuitively feel something is wrong, something that goes deeper than politics or climate change. Humans co-existing with nature into the deep future will require a different type of thinking and in turn a different type of economic system. This starts with education – and imagination. Society needs an authentic, science-tethered Big Picture synthesis, on how money, energy, renewables, climate change, human well-being and happiness, ecology, and systems interact to determine our future. And, most importantly, how these systems fit together with a timeline and prospective direction tailored for different audiences, from the young student to the seasoned social planner.
Since 2007, ISEOF has helped others make sense of the systemic human predicament to engage with the future more effectively in their own lives and work. Though clearly energy in human societies is a central theme, our core challenges will ultimately be ‘solved’ by individual, institutional, and cultural behavioral changes. A necessary (but not sufficient) step towards this outcome is wider and deeper sensemaking about how the big picture fits together for willing and interested demographics in society: young people, philanthropists, politicians and staff, community leaders, and Hollywood/media catalysts. Education about the foundational aspects of our situation will, at a minimum, avoid wastes of time and resources on biophysically implausible plans, while also allowing for a more emergent cultural response, as society gradually converges on what is possible and desirable and what is not.
Our work in this area continues to expand. In addition to curating over 8,000 articles, essays, and analyses via theoildrum.com, we also created a 5-hour course on Reality 101 (and a 1-hour short course) for freshmen at the University of Minnesota. In 2021, a comprehensive portal with videos, essays, interviews and other media will go live.
Preserve and Protect
Conservation of the natural world is a core objective of our organization. After 50+ years of environmentalism, almost all the trends have worsened. Our work here highlights the importance of environmental issues from the vantage of the Superorganism. After growth, we have to ‘bend’ not ‘break’ to arrive at more benign environmental outcomes. In the meantime, education and ethics depicting humans as stewards of the ecosystems, and 10 million other species, encourages possibilities for more benign futures.
LifeBrigade.net coming soon.
Extend and Prepare
Since the Great Recession in 2008, we continue to ‘kick the can’ with a variety of what were intended to be temporary stabilizing measures. Now with the pandemic, artificially low-interest rates, government guarantees, quantitative easing, and other central bank supports, are being supplemented by fiscal stimulus in large amounts by governments. This stability is essential to maintain the proper functioning of the economy as well as support those sections of society who risk ‘falling off’. But the scale and breadth of these financial supports are not sustainable, and it shortens the timeline for a financial ‘recalibration’, something we refer to as the “Great Simplification”, to likely before 2030.
Our work is targeted at helping design policies that add stability to society in systemically efficient ways and crafting macro plans to ensure our economies ‘bend but do not break’.
Reimagine and Redirect
Everyone reading this has been alive during a long period of economic growth, so naturally, we (and our institutions and governments) expect this to continue. But such consistent and prolonged growth in GDP is a very recent phenomenon in human history. A major implication of our work is that the next doubling in GDP (and energy and material use) is not likely to manifest. Given this physical constraint, it is imperative to move societal metrics of success (and ways of obtaining it) away from monetary aggregates and instead towards well-being and non-pecuniary metrics. We need to rethink what makes us happy (and healthy).
ISEOF’s work relates to pilots and projects moving society away from conspicuous consumption and waste. Put simply, how do we get similar ‘feelings’ of our successful ancestors, by using less energy and materials and producing less waste. In the USA, our current energy footprint is over 100x larger than our caloric consumption, leaving significant room for reductions in consumption that don’t necessarily reduce well-being.