What can human systems learn from the rest of life on Earth?

What can humanity learn from the principles that govern living systems to help us find ways of sustaining our society? One of the keys to sustainability lies in changing how we interact with one another and with the living ecosystems we’re part of – making the shift from seeing ourselves as separate from nature to seeing ourselves as totally embedded within it.

Systems thinker, Donella Meadows, once said that our most intractable global problems arise from the mismatch between the way we see the world and the way it actually is. We treat the world as if it were divisible, separable, simple and infinite when, in fact, we are connected with everything and everything is connected with us as part of one, single, complex system.

Our first experiment in taking inspiration from living systems is the Living Grid: an initiative that’s reimagining the future of the UK energy network by learning from the decentralised, decarbonised, democratic, interactive energy system that already exists on our planet.

Our first experiment: a new story of energy

In living ecosystems, it’s the behaviour of individual organisms acting in cooperative concert that sustains the conditions for life.  Our human energy network is arguably a threat to life by causing climate change.  In the UK, as we tackle climate change by adding more renewable energy generation to the energy grid, bill-payers are bearing unnecessary costs because the dynamics of how the network operates aren’t compatible with these new sources of power.

What can we learn from the planetary energy system that we’re part of, to develop a better energy network that serves the interests of the whole?  We’re part of a living energy system that converts, delivers and uses renewable energy in an efficient and resilient way, so what can we learn from it to help us evolve our human energy network?  

We’re investigating questions like these, and more, through the Living Grid.  A big thank you to SmartestEnergy – our 2017 funding partner – for making this exciting experiment possible, and to Open Energi who supported the first phase of the Living Grid and who helped to get this exciting initiative on its feet.

Let’s connect

If the Living Grid, or the idea of humanity embedding ourselves more consciously as part of living systems, strikes a chord, please reach out. We’re collaborative in everything we do.  

Gemma Adams: g.adams@forumforthefuture.org

Heidi Hauf: h.hauf@forumforthefuture.org

This website is affiliated with Forum for the Future.  


You can find out more about Forum for the Future’s learning, insights, projects and observations as we strive to catalyse system change at System Change Field Notes.