Stepping outside in January in Michigan makes a Southern boy question his resilience.  Why would people willingly come to such a cold, wind-blown place?  I guess the Netherlands in the 1880s must have been even worse.

michigan winterAnyway, the Dutch who migrated to western Michigan a little over a hundred years ago have certainly created a little chunk of European civilization.

Academics love to despise “modernism,” but I kinda like modern conveniences.  The question is: how resilient will our modern systems be? As we deplete and destroy the resources which our modern comforts require, we are undermining our future.

Why do we destroy our system’s resilience for the sake of momentary comfort?  One ecology researcher came up with an answer more than 20 years ago.

Richard Norgaard contends that five basic assumptions have led our modern American culture into the morass of climate change, species extinction and lack of resilience.

Today the acronym for these assumptions is even more trenchant: OMUMA.  If you thought Obama was bad for the country, you have never met OMUMA.  It explains why all our recent leaders and would-be leaders are pushing our culture to destruction.

OMUMA is Objectivism, Mechanism, Universalism, Monism, and Atomism.

We like people who know stuff at Meadowcreek, unless they are sure they know everything.  We are rightly suspicious of everything they say. Then again, we take everything with a grain of salt.

Traditional engineers and scientists, poor folks, are especially apt to fall for the dead end of OMUMA.

See what Norgaard had to say about it in his 1995 book, Development Betrayed:

Once you have digested OMUMA, you will have some tools to address the failings of traditional engineering approaches to ecological problems.  Some engineers are beginning to wake up, but many  need to hear from those of us who know the whole is often greater than the sum of their parts, systems are seldom mechanical, universal principles are wholly dependent on context, systems cannot be understood apart from the past effect of our values on those systems, and any one view of reality is inescapably partial.

It’s a hard sell, you’ll find out.  Nearly all who need to appreciate the destruction wrought by OMUMA are immersed in the sound bites which pass for wisdom in today’s dominant cultures.  No politician can admit he doesn’t have all the answers. This first step is required before you can ever learn to run away from OMUMA.

Atomism: Systems consist of unchanging parts and are simply the sum of their parts. Holism: Parts cannot be understood apart from their wholes and wholes are different from the sum of their parts.
Mechanism: Relationships between parts are fixed, systems move smoothly from one equilibrium to another, and changes are reversible, Systems might be mechanical, but they might also be deterministic yet not predictable or smooth because they are chaotic or simply very discontinuous. Systems can also be evolutionary.
Universalism: Diverse, complex phenomena are the result of underlying universal principles which are few in number and unchanging over time and space. Contextualism: Phenomena are contingent upon a large number of factors particular to the time and place. Similar phenomena might well occur in different times and places due to widely different factors.
Objectivism: We can stand apart from what we are trying to understand. Subjectivism: Systems cannot be understood apart from us and our activities, our values, and how we have known and hence acted upon systems in the past.
Monism: Our separate individual ways of understanding complex systems are merging into a coherent whole. Pluralism: Complex systems can only be known through alternate patterns of thinking which are necessarily simplifications of reality.