2020: start of the era of less

It’s the end of the year: a time of reflection. We are about to enter the year 2020. A year that has been a future horizon in many strategic sessions I’ve hosted over the past 15 years. And now we are there…close to a future once imagined. Something has been in the back of my mind for quite a while now: are we nearing the end of progress as we’ve seen it until now? Especially in the Netherlands, the country I live in, with the density of the population and infrastructure, the economic value that is generated here and the spur of innovation that is taking place, the question becomes: how far can we keep on pushing the boundaries? My feeling is we can’t anymore…

Entering the lessera

The signs around me all point to a new mindset and a new reality that has been slowly taking root. At the brink of 2020 we are entering the era of less. For lack of a better word I’ll call it the lessera. We have to start living in a world that is emitting less CO2; we have to reduce the amount of nitrogen emissions; will we see less agriculture as a result of that, will we build less? We are going to drive slower; we have to eat less meat; my daughter will soon get fewer days of education during the week; and the list can go on and on. This is all taking place right now, at this moment. The Netherlands, because of its limited size, might very well be one of the first countries in the world that is running into the limits of progress. And the question is: can we avoid a collision that stops us dead in our tracks?

Doing more with less?

Our societies are wired for ‘more’. We want to make more money; live in better houses; have more space; make more profit; get better education; be more innovative; etc. And for decades we’ve brainwashed ourselves that this was possible. We could rebuild an entire continent after a war and make life better for everyone. Technological advancements created opportunities for everyone to create the life you wanted…whatever you wanted. But that is no longer true for everyone. We have to learn how to do more with less. That sounds like a lame thing to say, an open door maybe, but I think that we really have to start to figure that out with each other. How might we really do more with less? The generation growing up right now will be the first generation that will be less wealthy than their parents. What world will they live in? Am I really willing to keep on pursuing my own dreams of a more successful life while my kids can no longer receive the education they need to make a living in the future, or live in a house that they can afford?

I don’t have the answer to this wicked problem or any of the underlying questions for that matter. But figuring some of them out in 2020 will be an important pursuit. And this post is a shoutout to all of you that feel this too. If you are willing to join us and help design solutions for the lessera please let us know! We are looking for collaborators to build a road towards a more sustainable future, and figure out how to do this. If you know of someone we should talk to, let us know.

Something to contemplate over during the holidays maybe. Best of whishes for 2020 to all of you. I’m looking forward to new horizons for the decades to come…