The Necessary Revolution - Peter Senge

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| V o LU M E 9, N U M B E r 2

Book ExcErpt 9.2

The Necessary Revolution
How We Got Into This Predicament
Something important has happened in the last stage of the industrial era that sets it apart from the past: Globalization has brought a level of interdependence between nations and regions that never existed before, along with truly global problems that also have no precedent. The Industrial Age isn’t ending because of a decline in opportunities for further expansion. It is ending because individuals, organizations, and governments are realizing that its side effects are unsustainable. But endings are also beginnings. In The Necessary Peter Senge Revolution, Peter Senge and his coauthors share the guiding ideas that are essential for creating a more sustainable future: seeing systems, collaborating across boundaries, and

moving from problem solving to creating. The book is full of stories and examples of individuals and organizations who are putting these ideas into action, many of whom are associated with SoL. This excerpt explains “how we got here” and lays out the case for urgency in radically shifting the kind of thinking that has made the industrial era so successful, and so disastrous.

The Wages of Success


ow did we get to the point where we are running out of the resources (such as oil) that support our way of life, and others (such as clean air and fresh drinking water) that support life itself? And how did entire industries, such as fishing and agriculture, find themselves in trouble as well, as chronic overfishing and the drive for ever-higher crop yields led to widespread depletion of fish stocks and a historic loss of topsoil? how on earth did we get here? the short answer is because of our success, success beyond anyone’s wildest dreams. In the first stage of the Industrial revolution (1750 to 120), the rise of large-scale manufacturing caused labor productivity in England to rise a hundredfold. But the revolution did not simply change the way we worked; it transformed the way we lived, the way we thought about ourselves, and the way we viewed the world. Nothing like it had ever occurred before.

The Necessary Revolution: How Individuals and Organizations are Working Together to Create a Sustainable World peter Senge, Bryan Smith, Nina kruschwitz, Joe Laur, Sara Schley Doubleday, 200

It didn’t take long for innovations such as the assembly line to spread to other countries in northern Europe and to the hinterlands of the United States, whose exploding population and vast store of natural resources enabled the former colony to become the next industrial power. Industry was booming and so, too, were

Book ExcErpt

| SENGE, SMIth, krUSchWItZ, LAUr, SchLEY


the material standards of living. As the United States’ population increased from about 10 million to 63 million between 120 and 190, the country’s industrial production grew thirtyfold. the resulting fivefold growth in output per person was even greater than the productivity gains on the other side of the Atlantic. the impacts the Industrial revolution had on quality of life were undeniable. As industrial expansion continued into the twentieth century, life expectancy in the industrial world roughly doubled, literacy jumped from 20 percent to over 90 percent, and benefits hitherto unimaginable sprang up in the form of products (from private cars to ipods), services (from air travel to eBay), and astounding advances in medicine, communication, education, and entertainment. With this kind of success, it is little wonder that the side effects of the Industrial Age success story went largely ignored. But the downsides of this great prosperity were steadily accumulating from the very beginning. Some were hard not to notice. In the 100s, England’s level of fossil fuel combustion grew dramatically, and so too did levels of water and air pollution. In the late 100s,...
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