11/19/2014 11:09 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Our Days are Worth Years

By: Joss Tantram


The value of life lies not in the length of days, but in the use we make of them.
Michel de Montaigne

Is time running out for a sustainable world?
Every day we are assailed with bad news about the environmental and social challenges coming our way. By 2050 we are told, we will have many millions (even billions) of hungry mouths to feed and less food, water or fertile soil available to support them.

We are also constantly told that the time to take action is running out. The inertia of our current industrial and economic models means that, even if we chose to change course, we will be experiencing the negative after effects of current practice for years to come.

All of this bad news may well come to pass. But it is also worth striking a note of optimism about the amazing capacity the human species has for creativity, innovation and hope.

However, do we have enough time left to act?

We don't always have to think of time as a linear pathway towards the future. Many millions of years are lived by human beings every day -- just imagine if we could harness and make use of that time.

Life in parallel
There are currently (Autumn 2014) around 7¼ billion people on the Earth, living 7¼ billion days each diurnal cycle. If we divide this number by 365, we find the equivalent number of years lived by the species every single Earth day. Humanity lives 19,903,247 years every single day and with each one that passes our "species time" grows.

That is a lot of time. Surely some more constructive use could be made of it?

Time is only running out for a sustainable future if we decide not to make use of the abundant human time we have available each day on this Earth.

It's time to start thinking of radically different types of organisations and initiatives; those that can utilise and benefit from parallel time.

A thousand year / day organisation
Every endeavour, organisation or initiative capable of coordinating the action of 36,500 staff or volunteers would be a "100 year/ day" enterprise -- making achievements possible that might otherwise take a whole century.

Similarly, 365,000 people working together could achieve a thousand years of activity in a single day, making a "1,000 year/ day" initiative, endeavour or organisation.

From the Golden Hour to a Golden Age
Whilst interesting as a fact, it's of course more difficult to achieve coordinated things in parallel than linearly. However, what if it is not time that we lack but coordinated will and intent?

We are currently in the Golden Hour for humanity (in medicine; the period following injury where medical intervention stands the best chance of preventing death).

For our current way of life this Golden Hour consists of a number of characteristics:
  • The knowledge, technology and science that provides us with a reasonably accurate and reliable picture of the state and health of the planet;
  • The deployable resources and intelligence that would enable us to either fix problems we can see or arrest the continuing injury we give rise to, and:
  • The social stability and democratic organization that would allow a coordinated and concerted effort should we chose to bother.

Perhaps, spurred by our recognition of Homo sapiens' Golden Hour, the idea of parallel time might provide the seed for a coming sustainable Golden Age. What if the sheer number of people on the planet could be seen as an asset to build a sustainable home for our species?

It is sometimes difficult to look at the future with hope, perhaps it is time to look at the present as an abundant resource of time, just waiting to be used to deliver a sustainable future.

These themes will be addressed in more detail through the Pioneers for Change Fellowship kicking off on March 23 and 24, 2015 in London. Pioneers for Change is an initiative of Adessy Associates.

About Joss Tantram
Joss Tantram is a Founding Partner of Terrafiniti LLP and an expert in sustainable strategy, reporting and management. Joss leads Terrafiniti's strategic services and their R&D and innovation initiative, Towards 9 Billion.

A frequent contributor to leading sustainability websites: including Guardian Sustainable Business, 2degrees, Green Futures, Sustainable Brands and Green & Blue Tomorrow, Joss blogs here.