Memorial Day Week: Humanity’s Game of Thrones in the Anthropocene by Glenn Page

I evaluate and I know things! I am Glenn Page, Principal of SustainaMetrix and founder of COBALT based out of Portland Maine.

RECENT HEADLINES within a week of each other:  THE GREAT HOUSES IN ‘GAME OF THRONES’ THAT COULD GO EXTINCT! (Newsweek April 29, 2019). And from the New York Times on May 6: HUMANS ARE SPEEDING EXTINCTION AND ALTERING THE NATURAL WORLD AT AN UNPRECEDENTED PACE. Which one do you think people are talking about? As we evaluate the final season of the Game of Thrones, the lesson that was learned is that once warring factions had to come together to address a common threat – their extinction! Viewers around the world were riveted. Yet the recent UN Report is barely raising an eybrow. Do we really worry more about fictional characters and their extinction as opposed to life on this planet?

SOBERING THOUGHT: We know that every 14 days a global culture goes extinct. Species extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than natural background rates. Sit down for this: predictions of future rates are expected to be 10,000 times higher (Meine, 2018). So, in this rapid genocide of cultural and ecological diversity do we stand a chance?

Evaluatively, we need to consider the scale and magnitude of loss that we, collectively, have created. Geologists, who take the long view, are calling this time a new geologic era, the Anthropocene: the era of human impact on the future of the Earth. This carefully parsed designation is based on a substantial and growing body of evidence that the stability and resilience of the Earth’s systems are at risk due to cumulative human actions. (Ellis, 2018). Geologists are the ones serving as the impartial third party evaluators, speaking truth to power who are saying the evidence is overwhelming, we know what we are doing and we can label it!

RAY OF HOPE: global initiatives are underway in response such as the SDG’s, Paris Agreement and Declaration of Indigenous Human Rights to reverse this trend through worldwide collaborations. We know we need far more political will. Just as in the Game of Thrones, the real leaders chose to come together. Stark reality may indeed trump national pride!

Here in the Gulf of Maine, we have one of the most rapidly warming systems on the planet with a long and dismal history of extinctions (see Bolster 2012). You may not be aware, but indigenous tribes such as the Passamaquoddy still live and contribute significantly in this region and are also struggling mightily to retain their language, cultural practices, and basic sustenance (see MITSC and Berkes 2017). Ironically, they have lived through dramatic climate change, yet remarkably few people are asking the key evaluative questions such as: how did they do it and what can we learn from local indigenous knowledge?  And so, it is time!

As evaluation practitioners and theorists, we can choose to ignore the larger dynamics of social and ecological extinctions or we can come together and face this enormous challenge.

As in the Game of Thrones, with more books on the horizon, so too is our future unwritten. But  this is not HBO, this is not fiction! The very future of our own species depends on our ability to adapt, engage and listen. This transdiscipline of evaluation must itself evolve to contribute to a new way of collective seeing, connecting and accelerating transformation of the systems that are causing extinction.

Rad Resources:

The American Evaluation Association is celebrating Memorial Week in Evaluation. The contributions this week are about the concept of extinctions — those long past, recent, imminent, and foreshadowed. Do you have questions, concerns, kudos, or content to extend this aea365 contribution? Please add them in the comments section for this post on the aea365 webpage so that we may enrich our community of practice. Would you like to submit an aea365 Tip? Please send a note of interest to . aea365 is sponsored by the American Evaluation Association and provides a Tip-a-Day by and for evaluators.

1 thought on “Memorial Day Week: Humanity’s Game of Thrones in the Anthropocene by Glenn Page”

  1. Theresa McGauley

    We don’t talk about it because the thought of it is overwhelming, depressing, frightening, and we feel paralyzed, powerless. I certainly don’t have any sway over politics or industry. I do have an idea though, in order to thaw us from our frozen fear, perhaps we should talk about the dilemma using Appreciative Inquiry. I have taken the following passage from the website of The Center for Appreciative Inquiry ( Appreciative Inquiry is a way of being and seeing. It is both a worldview and a process for facilitating positive change in human systems, e.g., organizations, groups, and communities. Its assumption is simple: Every human system has something that works right–things that give it life when it is vital, effective, and successful. AI begins by identifying this positive core and connecting to it in ways that heighten energy, sharpen vision, and inspire action for change. As AI consultant Bernard J. Mohr says, “Problems get replaced with innovation as conversations increasingly shift toward uncovering the organization’s (or group’s, or community’s) positive core.”

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