Scalable behaviors are everyday practices and actions that allow billions of people to coexist peacefully and equitably on the same planet. We have an idea of what some of them are, and what they are not. We won’t get into specific behaviors here, since that requires a lot of discussion and will be controversial. Rather, I’d like to focus on the idea of scalable behaviors, how to identify and nurture them, and how they can impact the codified norms of society. Scalable behaviors are really the set of acceptable behaviors from the perspective of globally sustainable living.

Acceptable behaviors have to be defined in the context of meta-models. Most people are religious, and they need a meta-model to buy into, whether it is Christianity, Buddhism, Mormonism or whatever. Historically we’ve seen any single religion cover a lot of different and sometimes conflicting behaviors. Christianity has been used and abused to justify everything from the Conquest of Native Americans, to Hitler’s Reich, to prosperity doctrine to ascetic missionaries. Parallels can be drawn to other religions. A meta-model, it turns out, can be adapted to cover many sets of behaviors. Likewise, a simple behavior like charity is embraced by many religions. Since we don’t expect scalable behaviors to contradict any fundamental premise of a religion, then can we simply be agnostic to religion in our discovery?

It is a bit of a conundrum: it’s best to define universally applicable behaviors outside of a religion (so they can become parcel of any religion). Religion, however, provides a structure to govern the recognition, certification and dissemination of behaviors. So how do we go about this? For now, let’s just call this process ‘The New Sacred’ – we haven’t defined it yet, but I have blogged about the need for it recently. The New Scared also includes structures for the facilitation of myth making. It can be the myth-agency or myth boutique described in another post recently.

Qualifying behaviors as good or bad can’t just be an academic exercise: excellence has to be experienced to be discovered. Behaviors are simply the manifestation of individual decisions to act. It comes down to how we define our choices in a specific context. We have to both define and teach them. What are some of the techniques we can use?

Classification is an obvious start. Defining behaviors in the context of a sustainable lifestyle will obviously have everything to do with a healthy planet. Best practices in farming and permaculture, recycling, conservation, energy self-sufficiency, etc. will naturally come into play. We must have a tolerant attitude towards the behaviors of other communities as well. Behaviors that foster healthy commerce are of course required. We need a new pattern for consumption – we have to generate a new demand. We just identified three classes: food production, energy and commerce. There are many.

Once classified, however, how do we structure them? This will require more research. Behaviors will be judged in relation to outcomes. There are likely to be typical conflicts that force the choice. There might be techniques for forcing the decision, much like evangelicals use the constructs of sin and damnation to force a choice for the Savior. Relevant values can be associated with the decision to be highlighted in any argument or artistic dramatization that drives a character into the right choice.

Eventually we’ll de-construct these behaviors into specific decision patterns that can be assimilated into our shared stories and new cultural myths. Movie making has many tricks that can help us teach the behaviors. Well-crafted movies put characters we empathize with in dramatized scenarios that can be translated to something in our own lives. We follow along his or her decision making process and side (or don’t side) with them. The rules that apply in the character’s mind become patterns in our own minds. We recall these when we face similar circumstances. If the perspective is different from our own, we are educated and may change the way we view the topic or decision. That’s part of the power of great movie making.

A deep knowledge of behaviors and their associated drivers can become a subversive skill used for good. The pathology of sustainable choices could prove quite useful. If people want guidance, why not lead them into a positive cycle. We’ve been in negative cycles too long.

— Roy Zuniga
Shilshole Beach, WA

copyright 2012 roy zuniga – all rights reserved