Trapped in First Tier Thinking: The Black Elephant Phenomenon

Recently Quartz Magazine ran and end of the year issue about climate change. While acknowledging that 2018 will be the worst year on record, the authors praised our collective efforts to address the planetary ecosystems issues we’re facing. Should we give a pat on the back for these efforts for addressing climate change from a New Second Tier paradigm? Hardly.

This week a judge in my hometown San Diego rejected the county’s climate action plan in light of the October reports that say things are a lot worse than we initially thought. He ordered county administrators to draw up a realistic plan that is more restrictive than “the worst case scenario” which their pre-October research relied on.

Can that be real? Can matters be a lot worse than what our research shows, and are we ready to take the necessary action and still live within the paradigm we’ve created for ourselves? The simple answer is no, or we don’t know for sure. But we will continue addressing this issue through readily available methods, because if we admit that we really don’t know, we become completely paralyzed. Therefore the Black Elephant Phenomenon, ignoring rare and devastating events that are not hidden but are in plain sight.

I’m a believer in how Albert Einstein captured the nature of the First Tier mind in this simple statement: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them”. Yes, let’s reverse that carbon stuff and all will be fine. This, is my opinion is the most complex form of linear thinking, but it remains linear in the face of a problem requiring the anticipation of exponential change.

Mother Nature is the most complex system we will ever be tasked to understand and we have weakened her resilience and ability to forgive. This requires our thinking to be as resilient as that of Mother Nature. We need to anticipate what a complex system in collapse is doing and plan from there.

We are not only warming the planet, we are destroying earth’s species and it’s oceans at an exponential rate. In our First Tier myopia that pleases the Blue-Orange Green Complex, we plant a tree and create ocean sanctuaries and go about our ways trusting that Mother Nature’s resilience will take care of the rest. That paradigm is quickly dying and we haven’t invented a new paradigm that renders our old ways obsolete. We cannot solve our problems from the same values prism that created them and therein lies humanity’s biggest challenge: Having the courage to take a monumental leap in thinking that will show us what we know today to be a Band-Aid solution for an issue requiring major surgery and decades if not centuries of restorative contraction and rehabilitation.