Unexpected floods, storms and fires, throughout the world has prompted me to make the point that the future must be seen as a process. From the bottom up.
A process in which “black swans” will gradually fill in the big picture.
There can be no “grand plan” of the kind that is the basis of conventional economic and land use planning. Which rely on explicit or implicit assumptions about how the world works. And assume growth.
It must be a process of gradually building our consciousness of what is going on. And assumed de-growth. Getting away from wishful thinking that the future will be much the same as now.
An article in the book Synergy Matters by Adrian M. Castell may help in understanding what is meant by bottom-up thinking and the opposite, top-down thinking: The term ‘top down’ is used to describe an approach to problem-solving where the problem space is defined first. The worldviews of the participants are used to conceptualise the desired state of the proposed system. Once this is achieved, the system is developed within this boundary. The components or subsystems are derived within the context of the predefined desired state. The term ‘bottom up’ is used to describe an approach where no assumptions are made about the boundary of the problem space. The behaviour of component parts is rationally observed to determine the properties they have. Management decisions or system designs are then based on the observed behaviour of components.
You just chip away, gradually, and gain more awareness and confidence as you do.
Lorenz Duremdes writes that bottom-up: …. is mostly process-oriented. You walk along the process and try to chunk them together coherently without necessarily knowing where the process will make you end up. You mostly experience and observe the past and chunk the data together. It is like picking up different puzzle pieces and discovering during the journey whether they truly fit together or not without knowing how the ending possibly should look like.
The Management Study Guide states that: It would be useful to think of top-down decision making as being akin to someone sitting on top of a tree telling those at the bottom about how best to take care of the garden on the ground. On the other hand, bottom-up decision making is akin to those at the bottom deciding on how best to tend the garden and ensuring that the other trees grow to the same height as well. It does not take a genius to figure out that those at the bottom have a better understanding of the ground realities than those at the top. The point here is that top-down decision making is becoming redundant in these days when autonomy and decentralization are the norm.
Our own planning must be focused on understanding the emerging future and preparing for it.
Knowing our locality will be important. To avoid floods we should avoid living in areas that are flat or low-lying. Detailed knowledge of local typography is just as important. Studying contours on maps and local memories will tell us the routes heavy rain and overflowing streams will take Much of which is a result of modern agriculture.
Public sector spending on coastal and river flood protection schemes, which provide short term relief should be diverted to supporting those who want to move away from areas that flood. Enabling local housing markets to evolve in response to the effects of climate change.
The notion that a “business as usual” future, protected from rising sea levels and inland flooding can be possible should be abandoned. Let nature have its ways as happened in the past when boroughs such as Ravenser Odd were abandoned as a result of shifting sands.
It must be a process of bottom-up thinking. With a rough idea of an end in mind, which changes as new realities emerge.
For the time being, maybe we should aim to stop global warming and climate change.
We must assume de-growth. This will be difficult because we haven’t been here before