Green Sense: The aesthetics of plants, place, and language (Bridging Disciplines Series)

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Some distinguish fascist blacks and technocratic yellows. And there are even efforts to distinguish shadings: pink to dark red, light to dark green, etc. Such use of colours goes back to early military needs to be able to identify soldiers on a battlefield and rally them around a distinctive banner to be loyally defended 'to the last'.

In that time to come, the objective of policy had shifted from explicitattempts to ensure that any particular colour triumphed to the suppression and exclusion of all others. The significant contributions and dramatic weaknesses of each such approach had become only too apparent.

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A day later Sir Owen Croft invited us to view arguably one of the first examples of a ha-ha in Australia at Salisbury Court dating from Prospect is an unimpeded view over a distance for surveillance and planning. Musacchio What happens when Crips embrace biomedical technologies that seek to erase disabled subjects and instead use them to create an imagined Crip future? Results of two experiments showed that our models predict fully and partially constrained movements with high accuracy. Educational Leadership EDD. The strategy would be to improve views and bring plants into the space; the interventions may include installing a green wall, orienting desks to maximize views to outdoors, and initiating an employee stipend for desk plants.

Treating each policy as a sort of action vector, they were able to represent the range of possible action vectors through a complex classification of the complete range of several thousand colours distinguishable to the human eye. One policy-making tool they then used was the art of combining colours from this 'palette' into a meaningful painting, whether in two or three dimensions or more, by cycling through pattern sequences.

Some representations also took the form of 'light sculptures'. Others bore more resemblance to tapestries. Discussion about policy thus shifted from the implicit objective of maximizing blue or green, to the challenge of how to combine many such colours on a complex surface. In this light our efforts at global policy-making were primitive in the extreme, without any sense of form, diversity or balance.

It makes clear how little respect technocratic policy-makers now have for the complex issues of balance and appeal to which aesthetics devotes so much attention. They were able to use colours to encode the policy dimensions which needed to be held in balance in a complex social ecology. A credible policy was therefore designed and represented by some form of painting with a strong aesthetic appeal -- with the colours and shapes indicative of details necessary to the pattern of the whole.

Indeed, their technology permitted such paintings on computer-enhanced screens to be used as 'control panels' through which the health of a society could be assessed by all. The elements of the painting became indicators so by-passing the statistical difficulties of the innumerate. Such pictures were truly worth a million words.

We can speculate on how they would represent to us on some such painting the appropriate policy mix to respond to the challenges of 'sustainable development' in the s. Obviously there would be some green, but how much of each shade. How would it be related to the conservative blue? And what of the shades of red? And how would the colours be disposed and interwoven?

What would justify the exclusion of any particular range of colours? To respond to concerns at both global and local level, the painting would have to be very large indeed -- and beyond our current imaginings. But this would allow many policy variants at the detailed level, where different constituencies experimented with different policy combinations.

The merit would lie in the ability to discuss the aesthetics of the painting as a whole -- would the detail form a meaningful global pattern? There is a true story of the visit of the President of one country to another not so long ago. Each had his principal public speech carefully crafted by a speechwriter to appropriately stress the policy issues in question from his position. They delivered their speeches to each other before a large audience and all were content. Unknowingly they had used the services of the same speechwriter.

Aesthetics of Governance in the Year 2490

There are many tales of conference conclusions having been prepared, before the gathering, in 'draft' form for approval on the occasion. Together with the above tale, this suggests that all policy gatherings are to some extent scripted, possibly during the course of preliminary meetings. A 'dry run' is common for critical business meetings. Academic meetings may be almost totally scripted, given that papers may have to be submitted months in advance to determine whether they can be accepted in the programme and'read' at the meeting.

Whatever the degree of pre-scripting, some time is usually given for 'free discussion' or 'questions from the floor' -- this may also be scripted by the use of appropriate 'plants'. In that future era they approached these matters as dramatic opportunities. A policy gathering was also designed and assessed by the criteria of the dramatic arts. As such this view of a gathering is not too strange to us. We talk of the 'main players' and are sensitive to 'dramatic moments'. The media are especially sensitive to such aspects, to the point of placing pressure on organizers to structure the event so that there are such moments.

Events are 'staged' because of the media opportunities they offer.

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The key speakers prepare themsleves accordingly -- even to the point of being appropriately dressed, if not made-up and bewigged. But our efforts in this direction make rather uninteresting drama, except for the participants. In the future the challenge was to ensure that the different policy factions were represented by a cast of characters capable of giving adequate dramatic emphasis to the complex issues that needed to be aired, interrelated and resolved.

Even today the organizers of conferences are sensitive to the question of 'casting' -- who can most appropriately represent a particular perspective. But our descendants made this into a high art. Thus if some hard decision had to be made, the tragic dimensions were appropriately drawn out so that all were aware of what opportunities had to be sacrificed and the suffering that would cause.

If there were ridiculous inconsistencies under discussion, their potential as comedy was fully explored as it is today, outside the gathering, by cartoonists and political comedians. But the special merit of their dramatic approach was that they had skilled techniques for blending scripting and improvisation. In contrast with our programmed gatherings, the outcome was not necessarily predetermined. The inherent logic of the drama as it unfolded through the unscripted interventions of the participants could move the drama to some unsuspected conclusion.

In our time we understand this best in psychodrama and indeed their gatherings were to a high degree sophisticated psychodramas in which participants took the role of factions or constituencies rather than personalities. The dramatic dimension to their gatherings provided ways of giving form to otherwise 'bloodless' debates in which policy implications could take only a purely abstract form.

Faced with a complex of challenges and opportunities which could only be represented on an essentially incomprehensible complex mathematical 'surface' , the drama articulated the tensions between values such as joy and despair associated with different policy dimensions, however the gathering finally resolved them. In our day policy-makers do not weep at the suffering caused by the decisions they may be forced to make.

In that era, such dramatizations provided every justification for weeping when appropriate. The emotional implications of policies were thus fully explored during the policy-making process. In the closing years of the 20th century much is made of the of the increasing proportion of young people in the world, despite the reverse situation in western countries. Much is also made of rising levels of functional illiteracy -- even in western countries.

And it is clear that the young in general have relatively little interest in theorganization of society that is being passed thrust on them by their elders. Although they are deeply concerned by some of the issues, it is fair to say that a high proportion of young people have their core aspirations articulated through music and its embodiment in dance. In a world of many languages, it is one of the few that is shared worldwide. One of the shocking features of our era, to those of the future, was that those involved in policy-making had lost the art of dancing.

Formal dances, where they are held, have atrophied into a formal shuffle of little significance. Disco dancing on the occasion of any gathering is provided soley as a means of relaxing and cultivating relationships. Complex dances from our cultural heritage are executed as entertainment with little insight into their significance.

Our descendants developed the use of dance during such gatherings into a way of exploring the pattern of dualities by which our policy debates are variously polarized beyond any logical reconciliation. Such dualities and factional differences could be encoded in music as described earlier. But dance offered the possibility of acting out those tensions so that they acquired a felt reality -- and the sequence of the dance allowed particular polarities to be transcended in the pattern of the dance. Such dances bore some resemblance to ceremonial dances, and masked dances, of earlier times and cultures.

They also borrowed heavily from insights into self-organizing systems. Many formal patterns existed, but the dance itself, through choices made by participants, might stabilize temporarily in one, before switching into another, or through a cycle of patterns. Dances of this kind allowed participants to explore the boundary between their personal preferences, those of others, and the organization of the whole. They offered insights into patterns of organization in which sacrifices made to others under certain conditions, could be compensated by benefits under other conditions.

They illustrated the art of 'winning' and 'losing'. People were able to feel out where they could take initiative, leading some part of the dance, and where they could more appropriately respond to the initiatives of others.

Of most importance, such dances gave felt reality to complex patterns which could be used to interweave polarizing tendencies in social organization. They provided a means of understanding the 'temporal logic' of combining opposing factional policies as phases in policy cycles -- themselves interwoven in more complex patterns reminiscent of Buckminster Fuller's geodesic patterns. In effect, the whirl of the dance kept opposing elements within the larger pattern. This creative use of time was their key to the use of more appropriate and sustainable styles of organization.

We can hear a faint echo of this insight in the peasant farmer's traditional use of crop rotation to sustain the productivity of his fields and in our current approaches to traffic circulation. Vast sums are invested these days in the design and construction of prestigious conference centres, as one of the principal environments in which policy is articulated and approved.

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Although much is made of the advanced 'communications technology' installed there, no attention is paid to the fact that none of it is designed to facilitate unmediated communication between participants. Such centres are fundamentally totalitarian in concept.

All is controlled and articulated from the top and feedback from thefloor is severely controlled or impossible. In many cases this extends to the pattern of seating -- unmovably bolted to the floor for maximum exposure to messages from the podium. Not only does this mirror our social organization, it is also reflects the way in which meaning is communicated in such policy environments. It reinforces the patterns by which we tend to organize knowledge and insight --and how we subsequently impose them on others. In the time to come, the principles of architecture were basic to the organization of policy insights and their implementation.

The point here is not the way in which such principles were used in the physical design of conference environments, rather it is the way they informed the conceptual organization -- however that might reflect on the physical layout and communications technology. One of their insights was that in conceptual terms gatherings had to be 'constructed'. A meaningful policy conference was one which provided appropriate conceptual spaces for different purposes --and ensured communication between them.

In part the task of the conference was to build anew, on each occasion, such a pattern of spaces. To some degree this already happens in our time through the design of the programme. They made 'conference architecture' into an art form at the conceptual level. But the conference had to be designed and built by the participants -- the viability of the resulting 'building' was a measure of their success in policy design.

This is not place to discuss their approach to the 'foundations' or to many other features of the conceptual construct. Most striking perhaps was their use of space. Each faction found it reasonably easy to design a space for itself and its own 'wares' -- somewhat as do major exhibitors in designing their stands at an exhibition associated with a conference. The first real challenge was to be able to design with others a conceptual context in which participants with similar priorities and values could successfully explore their relationships.

In this phase, corresponding to the meeting of sub-plenary groups, the design views of participants were constrained and inspired by their immediate peers. Then followed the challenge of relating that space to those of other groups with other priorities, so that participants could move from space to space. At this design stage, each group had to take into account requirements of other groups -- compromises had to be made. The most challenging phase was the construction of the collective conceptual space in which all viewpoints were interrelated, providing integrity to the whole, namely the equivalent of a plenary conference room.

A central architectural insight lay in the means of constructing an arch -- or a series of arches which could be roofed over to protect the space. In effect, even for the smaller spaces, participants were often obliged to retrace the history of architectural principles and techniques. The challenge was to use opposing conceptual elements as columns and to use various ways of bridging between them to create the desired space -- whatever scaffolding was temporarily acquired to install keystones or their equivalent. For the smaller spaces this tended to call upon principles from the very early history of architecture.

To create a space for all views -- the conference in plenary form -- required a much more sophisticated understanding because of the wide expanse that had to be covered with minimum intervening supports. Their achievement was to use opposition between policy perspectives as 'compression elements' and to use mutually supportive perspectives as 'tension elements'. Their skill, inspired by physical buildings, lay in finding ways of using the dynamic interplaybetween two types of element to create structures which would be impossible with either of them alone.

They effectively used the elements of a duality so that the 2-dimensional stresses between them -- which normally render any conceptual construction impossible -- could only be resolved by engendering a space in 3-dimensions. In some cases this resulted in 'gothic' structures --'cathedrals of the mind' -- in others it resulted in what we might understand through Buckminster Fuller's tensegrity structures basic to his geodesic domes. Speculation about approaches to problems in the distant future is most useful when it sharpens our understanding of new possibilities in the present.

Our difficulty today is that few problems are insoluble, rather most of the solutions are themselves perceived as problems. Everyone's solutions -- when implemented -- are someone else's problems. So the test of a new approach is not whether it can be used to 'solve' a problem like the ozone layer, famine, drug abuse, etc. For any such solutions result in the emergence into prominence of new problems.

The total amount of problem 'stuff' seems to remain constant. It just gets shifted around under new labels a bit like shifting a heap of junk around in a yard. Success is claimed, through upbeat reporting, at the elimination of a problem in one domain, only by carefully avoiding recognition of its displacement into some other form or jurisdiction.

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The greens have taught us that there is no 'sink' into which we can dump all our junk -- the same seems to go for problems in general. But we continue to be seduced by a political equivalent to the traditional carnival 'shell game'. Effective action on problems continually eludes us -- its always associated with some other opportunity we have been unable to take.

One difficulty seems to be that we are trapped by habitual conceptual and procedural approaches to problems -- and their reflection in institutions and programmes. It suits most of us to point a finger at seemingly isolated problems like the ozone layer because our degree of accountability for them is limited. Its a bit like the Peter Principle in the promotional career of individuals -- problems end up getting most clearly defined at the level just beyond that in which we feel responsible for doing much about them. And when it comes to allocating resources to solve problems, no matter how severe, the process is most characterized by cynical tradeoffs for the short-term advantage of constituencies already privileged -- whatever media packaging is offered to make such solutions appear desirable.

What we are looking for is a way of working with large complexes of problems, perceptions and organizational networks that would provide a more fruitful context for the healthy features of political horsetrading. But to be of any value it also needs to rechannel and refocus what currently manifests in institutional operations as mutual accusation, suspicion, deception, manipulation, alienation, corruption, subversion and sabotage -- dynamics seldom discussed by enthusiastic problem solvers surprised at the ways in which their efforts get undermined in the real world.

Whilst much may be accomplished in the long-term by exploring processes through which people can 'come to know each other', 'reach consensus on values', 'love one another', and 'identify with humanity as a whole' or with Gaia, it is useful to question whether these 'positive' initiatives do not effectively serve as a rather beautiful avoidance mechanism -- at least in their present form. An alternative approach could make extensive use of aestheticinsights into the discipline of harmony and into the role of dissonance in enriching that harmony, especially as articulated in music.

Such an approach would recognize the place of easy harmonies, their limitations, and the role of more complex harmonies brought out by effective response to more challenging discords. But note that the 'discords' are not the nasty problems, but rather other groups opposing the 'harmonious' way favoured by my group in solving a problem -- our policy 'theme song' to whose irritating limitations we are totally insensitive.

Until we can work within contexts allowing each participating group to be recognized as part of the problem, we cannot collectively determine the nature of the solution that would be appropriate or sustainable. In any gathering the aim would be to use aesthetic devices music, colour, drama, etc to register the different perspectives represented and their associated dyanamics , to provide a conceptual scaffolding to hold their relationships as they developed during the event, and to suggest directions through which richer harmonies could be explored.

In contrast with the present preoccupation with a majority or consensus vote, the outcome would be expressed by a pattern or tapestry of views. Superficial or token unity would be replaced by a more complex, and more dynamic, set of relationships, reflecting the reality of the deepfelt differences between those represented within it -- as well as being both comprehensible and challenging to those in the outside world investing hope in the outcome of such gatherings.

The acid test would be the manner in which such dynamic patterns were reflected in the design of programmes, budgets, institutions and information systems. The key feature here would be the way in which policies ensured that opposing perspectives were brought into play at appropriate times to correct for programmatic weaknesses resulting from the excesses of any one insight or set of priorities. It is through a more disciplined use of time that it becomes possible to overcome the apparent impracticality of ensuring that a configuration of non-consensual insights guides policies of requisite variety.

In this light budgetary cycles at present can only be perceived as crude and clumsy, completely failing to take advantage of the flexibility and responsiveness that current computer software techniques could permit perhaps best seen in the rapid reallocation of resources through worldwide exchange and money market operations, despite their weaknesses. However it is the aesthetic insights that are needed to give form to appropriate patterns of complementarity.

And is any of this really possible in the immediate future?

The tragedy is that we are already using the software techniques and technology needed -- but not in response to the dilemma of our time. Similarly many of the aesthetic, scientific and policy disciplines, whose insights would be beneficial, are locked into expediently self-serving activities rendering them insensitive to external constraints.

Those with a mandate to fund exploration of social innovations avoid criticism by accepting advice resulting in more of the same. So yes it is possible, but it is not probable. We are stuck in a vicious circle such that gatherings of the wise, for the purpose of improving such gatherings, are rendered ineffective by the processes which they aspire to rechannel -- disguising their collective impotence under expressions of appreciation at their achievements, however minimal.

We are very much our own metaphor.

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For those locked into bureaucratic procedures, academic or artistic traditions, or into the prevailing conventions of policy-making, that future will appear fantastic indeed. But at a time when actors and playwrights become presidents, when policy is articulated through carefully staged photo opportunities, when major policies are communicated and discussed through their metaphoric wrappings, and when policy successes at the global level seem few and far between, then more open-ended approaches merit exploration.

Many references could have been supplied to give weight to points made and to possibilities alluded to. But this is not the place to do so. Those to whom the arguments speak will have their own references, and it is unlikely that references would persuade others to whom the perspective is unmeaningful anyway. Underlying this paper is a concern for the unexplored possibilities of metaphor in guiding innovative approaches to governance and the design of structures for sustainable development. Such uses of metaphor have formed the subject of a series of papers which developed themes first explored in the Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential This material will appear in the edition of that volume with an appropriate bibliography.

Finally it is a nice challenge to ask ourselves why the possibilities mentioned above could not be explored now rather than in the year -- if only for smaller groups and communities. The first step would require a clear distinction between such initiatives and those characterized by enthusiastic attempts to add on to a conference yet another performance of 'The Ode to Joy' or to 'celebrate' once again while the world is literally burning.

What would it take to determine what might be feasible? To represent Beauty, it would be necessary to have those with artistic skills of course -- but it would be vital that they not be locked into the need for a platform for themselves and their own work, rather than for collective concerns. To represent the Beast, much could be accomplished with accountants, lawyers and those from the organizational development world, in addition to those with policy skills -- but it would be vital that they not be locked into a narrow conception of their role.

When they gather together it would be vital to recognize that the personal needs of facilitators, with their favourite 'processes', are also part of the problem. We need to disillusion ourselves that the task just involves bringing appropriately skilled people together -- as in so many delightful gatherings and task forces of little consequence.

It calls for long-term commitment by many -- perhaps equivalent to the Apollo programme -- in order to escape from the conceptual gravity well in which we are stuck. Our tragedy is that innovation tends to be forced upon us, and justified, by disaster. It will probably take a major disaster to our planet before we can find ways to surmount the conceptual greed which drives us to advance our own views signed and copyrighted at all costs -- whether in the service of Beauty or of the Beast.

But there will come a time when a match-making gathering will explore the possibility of their marriage -- and the form it might take. Gregory Bateson. Quoted in: Mary Catherine Bateson. Our Own Metaphor report of a conference. Knopf, The references on the policy-related use of metaphor in the papers by Judge below are presented in a bibliography, with some of that material, in the edition of the Encyclopeda of World Problems and Human Potential below.

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