From a dialogic perspective, Richard Heinberg’s new book: Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival is a must read. Heinberg is the Senior Fellow-in-Residence at the Post Carbon Institute and has written 14 books on the subject of fossil fuels and their impact.
One of the books most important points is building horizontal power in contrast to vertical power. Horizontal power is lateral and depends on strong relationships not necessarily based on a chain-of-command structure. Horizontal power is communal in nature and depends on building trustful, sustaining relationships that are collaborative, respectiveful, and alive with generative potential, etc. These are all in line with the worldview expressed in Bohm-inspired Dialogue (A form of dialogue based on the work of the late Daivd Bohm, a quantum physicist turned philosopher (1917 – 1992)).
Vertical power depends on a dominator or colonizing, might-makes-right ethic. It doesn’t need the qualities that help horizontal power thrive, those that create strong lateral bonds between people and that better ensure quick adaptive action – especially those we will increasingly be facing in quickly changing local environmental conditions. Dialogic power can enhance the buildup of this kind of horizontal power. It can lead to a show down with out-of-control, destructive vertical power. With enough horizontal power we can tell the king he has no clothes. By inquiring into a new visions for our future, we can support the voices that stand up to dominator power that are keeping us on our current environmental death march.
Another point from Heinberg’s work is that we can’t count on technology alone to save us from the terrors of climate change. Human’s tool-making ability has been our species success factor in conquering the world. Technology alone will not get us off of planetary destruction. All of the renewable technology we might build will not be enough to sustain our present life styles. But by dialoging with others on how to live with less dependence on fossil fuels, we might find ourselves living in simpler, and happier ways. It doesn’t mean going back to cave days, but it might mean inventing (dialoguing about) new ways of living with others that get our needs met, but differently.
This is where Dialogue’s generativity will be most useful. In Dialogue we look for the in between, the ideas that can lead us forward to what might be better for the whole. What does living in the moment look like that is a more coherent way of organizing our lives together? We need to be talking about this at all levels of society. Everywhere with everyone. We can’t make this movement down the birth canal without everyone being onboard.
Imagine Dialogue circles forming neighborhood by neighborhood with conversations focused on how we can share resources in times of emergencies. Imagine leaders of climate justice groups and indigenous tribes forming Dialogue circles with each other. Imagine new government entities forming through Dialogue that place clear limits on fossil-fuel based technologies. Imagine groups of such leaders inquiring into and unfolding alternative life-style and governance patterns that are necessary to protect and sustain life on our finite planet. Bohm-inspired Dialogue and the world it can engender just may save our lives and the future generations to come.
We are leaving a civilization based on vertical power or dominion over others to one that has not been fully described. Building horizontal power will help us develop the new visions needed for collective life in the future. Dialogic power can help us build the shared meanings that will be required for us to step into this new, sustainable, global civilization.
Thelma and Louise held hands as they glided off the cliff. We need to learn how to hold hands and forge the bonds that will help to unfold new ways of being together.
As David Bohm was most famously known for saying: A change of meaning is a change of being. We clearly need new meanings right now.
Find a Dialogue circle to join or form your own. Join the conversations we need to build our future.