Dr Anneloes Smitsman on the Root Causes of the Sustainability Crises & What you Can Do About It

On 24 March 2023, the Elders moved the Doomsday clock to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has been to catastrophe since it was created in 1947. The Elders is an independent group of global leaders working for peace, justice, human rights, and a sustainable planet, founded by Nelson Mandela in 2007. Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders and former High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged humanity to realize how “We are on the brink of a precipice. But our leaders are not acting at sufficient speed or scale to secure a peaceful and liveable planet.” She affirmed how scientists had warned us for decades, yet the political and economic will lag far behind. She urged how we must change this and take action in 2023 to avert catastrophe.

 To better understand the root causes of humanity’s sustainability crises, we have consulted systems scientist, Dr. Anneloes Smitsman (Ph.D., LLM), an award-winning pioneer in human development and systems change. Smitsman is renowned for her research and systemic design for regeneration and thrivability through her Transition Plan and EARTHwise Constitution for a Planetary Civilization. She applies her revolutionary ideas with radical new scientific truths to design further education, governance, business, and economics systems for an increasingly complex world.

The core thesis of her work and research is that the human-made systems designed during the industrial age need more evolutionary principles and planetary embedding of complex living systems. As such, those mechanical systems were designed for exponential economic growth and political domination without consideration of solid planetary boundaries.

In her research on systemic transformation, she explains, “Mechanistic systems, although having enabled the short-term benefits of rapid modernization and technological advancement, are at the root of our worsening climate and biodiversity crisis. These mechanistic growth archetypes also cause systemic thrivability barriers that impact our capacities to evolve as a species, keeping us stuck in the behavioral loops typical for juvenile species.”

Smitsman also emphasizes in her many publications that the sustainability crises of the modern world are a direct result of the mechanical growth archetypes that became the dominant operating systems for our societal development. Her system designs address these root causes of the sustainability crisis by providing a diagnostic framework for transforming the underlying mechanistic growth archetypes and offering living system-based growth archetypes that are regenerative by design.

However, she cautions that implementation of such design principles will only happen if the underlying political and economic paradigm shifts to one focused on planetary security and collective wellbeing.

As the CEO and founder of EARTHwise Centre, Smitsman has a proven track record of working from vision to strategy, strategy to tactics, and tactics to operations. As such, facilitating the necessary practical realization of the future we want by working on co-creating new economic, governance, and educational systems based on living systems. She plays a massive role as a leading pioneer in human development and strategy change, providing transformative solutions for moving from crisis to thrivability.

Her professional work and personal story inspire hope and commitment for the more beautiful future we all want for our children and provide essential guidance for becoming the required people for this time of tipping point change.

The worsening climate crisis brings insurmountable challenges that are now starting to affect the entire world. At times it may appear impossible to reconcile the disparities between nations, groups within countries, and even between people to solve the root causes of these crises. However, global cooperation has already resolved issues such as acid rain and ozone depletion. We dealt with them by acknowledging the urgency and working together to create regulations addressing the issue’s root. We are capable of working together if we commit to the necessary changes.

Smitsman explains how the sustainability crisis is also a human design and coordination problem, which can only be solved by applying living systems principles for how we grow and develop our societies. As scientists have warned, the existence of our species and millions of others will be seriously threatened if humanity does not alter its production and consumption of energy and resources.

Here below are some further tips that Smitsman shared with us for what you can do to help regenerate our world and live more sustainably:

  • Reduce your ecological and carbon footprint by reducing the consumption of products and services that require fossil fuels, and replace those with renewable energy resources where possible.
  • Reduce meat and fish consumption, and increase the intake of locally produced organic vegetables, fruits, and grains.
  • Reduce the use of cars or carpool with others, and use public transport fuelled by renewable resources.
  • Reduce usage of planes with high emissions, and explore other less carbon-intensive transport modes.
  • Repurpose clothes and furniture when possible, and get creative about how to live well in ways that don’t require increasing consumption of materials and resources.
  • Create a vegetable garden or a vertical wall for growing your vegetables and fruits.
  • Measure the energy consumption patterns of your household over time to explore how you can reduce your energy demands.
  • Place water bottles in your freezer and fridge in empty places to help keep temperatures low.
  • Install solar panels and rainwater harvesting to reduce your ecological footprint, and adjust your garden for climate change and dry periods.
  • Reduce waste and support biodiversity by composting your food waste and applying permaculture principles to increase the biodiversity in your living environment. Explore the use of biochar for improving soil health and reducing emissions.
  • Support the local bees and insects by protecting the habitat they need and by reducing or stopping the usage of harmful pesticides and chemicals.
  • Create shaded areas for your house to reduce exposure to the summer sun, such as reducing the need for cooling devices in summer that is carbon intensive.
  • Educate yourself and your family on how to take initiatives for a sustainable and thriving world and future, and support each other as a community to prepare for crises.
  • Get active in your company, school, or organization for adopting a sustainability charter (if not yet in place), with concrete commitments for reducing emissions, striving for zero-waste, and becoming net positive.