I The Status of Integration

A Vision of the Future of Science: Reintegrating of the Study of Humans and the Rest of Nature

Robert Costanza

The Role of Envisioning in Creating the Future

Envisioning is a primary tool in futures studies (Garrett 1993; Slaughter 1993; Kouzes and Posner 1996; Razak 1996; Adesida and Oteh 1998). There has also been significant practical success in using envisioning and “future searches” in organizations and communities around the world (Weisbord 1992; Weisbord and Janoff 1995). This experience has shown that it is quite possible for disparate (even adversarial) groups to collaborate on envisioning a desirable future, given the right forum.

Meadows (1996) discusses why the processes of envisioning and goal setting are so important (at all levels of problem solving); why envisioning and goal setting are so underdeveloped in our society; and how we can begin to train people in the skill of envisioning, and begin to construct shared visions of a sustainable and desirable society. She tells the personal story of her own discovery of that skill and her attempts to use the process of shared envisioning in problem solving. From this experience, several general principles emerged, including:

1. In order to effectively envision, it is necessary to focus on what one really wants, not what one will settle for. For example, the lists below show the kinds of things people really want, compared to the kinds of things they often settle for.

2. A vision should be judged by the clarity of its values, not the clarity of its implementation path. Holding to the vision and being flexible about the path is often the only way to find the path.

3. Responsible vision must acknowledge, but not be crushed by, the physical constraints of the real world.

4. It is critical for visions to be shared because only shared visions can be responsible.

5. Vision must be flexible and evolving.

This chapter represents a step in the ongoing process of creating a shared vision of the future of science. It lays out a personal vision of the kind of science I would really want to see in the future and why this new vision of science would be an improvement over what we now have. The paper itself is an attempt to share that vision, without getting bogged down in speculation about how the vision might be achieved or impediments to it's achievement. Hopefully, the ideas presented here will generate a dialogue culminating in a shared vision of the future of science that can motivate movement in the direction of the vision.

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