Edward Lorenz was a pretty smart chap. He coined the “Butterfly Effect” metaphor, which has since become part of popular culture, particularly through Chaos Theory and the science fiction thriller film by the same name.
The Butterfly Effect explores how small things that we do now have an intrinsic effect on other things happening now. Lorenz posed the question, “Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas?” Without delving too deep into philosophy, the short answer in our opinion is yes. Everything is interconnected.
What’s even more fascinating is how the things that we do now don’t have immediate consequences, but have crazy, real-world effects in the longer term. This is known as Cathedral Thinking. Roman Krznaric talks about this in his book The Good Ancestor, as “celebrating the time rebels who are reinventing democracy, culture and economics so that we all have the chance to become good ancestors and create a better tomorrow.” Essentially, how do we make better decisions now for the benefit of unborn generations?
If you haven’t read Krznaric's book, it’s a bloomin’ good read. In a world where we’re plagued by the tyranny of the now, Krznaric offers a perspective that allows us to think about the future - a beacon of hope.
A fun example of cathedral thinking comes from Wales. In 2015, their parliament appointed a ‘Future Generations Commissioner,’ to help to enshrine the rights of future citizens in law. Pretty cool, huh.
We don’t quite work at a parliament level - that’s all a bit too fancy for us.
But we do make pans. Really good cast iron pans. And whilst a Three Generation Guarantee may seem like a marketing ploy, it’s not. It’s our way of holding ourselves accountable, and confirming that we make products that will last. It’s then our collective responsibility to make sure that there’s a planet to leave them in, because future generations have no choice over what planet (if any) they inherit.
So yep. Governments. Economists. Giant corporates. People with fancy titles need to do their bit. And it may seem like we can point the finger and wait for "them" to do something. But there are plenty of simple things that we can all do on an individual level to embrace Cathedral Thinking. Here are just three of them:
Shop Well. Buy Once.
Consumerism exists. The structures around us have created it, and continue to maintain the status quo. But if we really question the quality of things that we buy, we’ll buy better things, less frequently. Which is good for us, and the planet.
Technology in recent decades has led us to believe that convenience is a good thing. But just because something is convenient, does that mean it’s any good? There are plenty of companies out there making quality things, in amounts that don’t lead to so much waste. These things are often way more beautifully crafted and might take a little longer to get to you. They might also be less available. But they’re out there. And not only will this lead to more support for smaller and more ethical businesses, you’ll also support the planet - something that future generations will thank you for.
Question the source.
We’ve noticed that people are starting to vote with their wallets. Cheap things tend to be cheap for a reason - and the reason isn’t often a good one. So people are buycotting those companies. Ask them where and how they source their products. Question if a 20% discount, eight times a year is a good thing. Future generations have zero choice in how companies make their goods and services today – so if you currently buy from ones who are making them in an unsustainable or unethical way, find an alternative who’s making them in a more sustainable and ethical way.
What are your thoughts on Cathedral Thinking? What advice would you give to people looking to consider their choices today on behalf of future generations? Who are the companies, countries, governments etc. that are doing this well? We love to discover and support others trying to do their bit for the planet.
Drop them in the comments section below so that we can make the future happen, together.
By Joe Carter, Co-Founder & Managing Director - The Ironclad Co.