Alex Steffen’s “The Snap Forward” Can Help Spark the Transformational ’20s
Updated: Feb 15
Dear friends & colleagues
Start with this explanation or read this summary, a 42-minute podcast from August 24 that summarizes his major themes: Waking up in The Snap Forward: Understanding when we are is the key to understanding everything else. (his show notes are at the end of this document)
Alex Steffen’s new book, The Snap Forward is coming! Just from previews, I’m getting new insights and emotions about our global emergencies, timetables, and opportunities. I’m expecting he will be announcing the publication date soon. I hope The Snap Forward will reach many audiences and contribute mightily to rapid shifts in awareness and global action.
I invite you to set aside a few hours to immerse yourself in this bonanza: read and hear how this extraordinary global futurist sees our world in new ways.
I first encountered Alex Steffen and his World Changing website and book15 years ago, during my plug-in car days, via. A decade later, he popularized the concept of a carbon bubble. And he introduced the concept of "predatory delay.” That’s when people know what they do is ruining our world, but they will, with no hesitation, make as much money doing it as long as possible. (Actually, 1700 years before, in his Confessions, St. Augustine said it first, "Oh, Master, make me chaste and celibate - but not yet!")
He first applied both concepts to fossil fuels. Now he’s broadened them to bubbles of unsustainable valuation, brittleness, and outdated expertise. And he sees predatory delay wherever human activity profits from destroying ecosystems and the biosphere.
He’s enlightening about how our world is already experiencing discontinuities and risks for people, places, and systems. And he explores how, as we re-value everything, we’ll have a chance to change everything. He’s bringing all this together in what I hope will be a worldchanging book, The Snap Forward.
For previews of Steffen’s overall message, you can read a handful of articles and hear about a dozen talks, each 14-32 minutes, at AlexSteffen.Substack.com. He’s asking for $15/month or $100/year to access the audios as podcasts.
MY OFFER: That could be where I come in! If you know me, I’m happy to start you off with a gift of a month’s access, from my “awareness budget.” (In 2017, Or shell out $15 once or $100 for a year. I began giving receptive people copies of Drawdown, the Most Comprehensive Plan to Reverse Global Warming. And I handed out 50 of No One is Too Small to Make a Difference, by Greta Thunberg. As COVID arrived, I was offering This is Not a Drill, an Extinction Rebellion Handbook, and Facing the Climate Emergency: How to Transform Yourself with Climate Truth, by Margaret Klein Salamon.) The Snap Forward could change your outlook as much as these four put together!
These days, I sign off,
Together in grief and hope, with radical determination
P.S. My reactions so far… Here are parts of comments about themes and solutions I’ve sent to Alex Steffen (I haven’t yet heard back from him.)
Something’s coming, something great: I add to denial and downplaying a third D: despair. Will we find in the book a fundamental hopefulness that if/when we snap forward, all of humanity's future will be better than we dare imagine? And counterpose goals Steffen aptly labels timid with bold and courageous ones? I dream of a time when MOST people say, “the way the world works now sucks in too many ways—for me and everyone I know. I wake up every morning inspired to find ways and inspired to build a world based on safety, health, abundance, and prosperity.”
Responding to intergenerational injustice: Older people can collaborate with and support multitudes of young people to stabilize, regenerate and restore our communities, systems, species, and biosphere. I’m starting to recruit people from my networks to help build my proof-of-concept ActiveAllies.org. Here’s a doc with a video and transcript of my March presentation on intergenerational climate activism to SF Villages & Ashby Village. And here’s Bill McKibben on Intergenerational Climate Activism.
We have solutions and are creating more natural, technical, and hybrid ways to reverse global warming. While we electrify everything, we can begin to remove >1 trillion tons of excess CO2. Here are two videos from Airminers, the growing carbon dioxide removal (CDR) community: Carbon Removal is a Trillion Dollar Opportunity, an hour with the ultimate serial entrepreneur Bill Gross, and Keynote at “Carbon Removal Takes Flight”, 21 minutes by Marcius Extavour, XPrize Energy & Climate VP. I’m working with Airminers Founder Tito Jankowski and others to spread the word about rapidly scaling CDR. On this final point, in his members-only podcast July 7, “We find it hard to see how much change is now inevitable” he talked at 1:52 about people “needing some magical thinking about how we’re going, to for example pull carbon out of the air or restore ecosystems or revive extinct species and the like, perhaps even geoengineer the planet.” I hope people in touch with Alex will be able to introduce him to other ways of thinking about these categories of responses.
Notes and links from this 42-minute podcast August 24, 2021 that summarizes his major themes: Waking up in The Snap Forward: Understanding when we are is the key to understanding everything else.
This episode is a quick 45-minute jaunt through a handful of ideas that challenge our deepest understandings of how the world works. It is, therefore, ideal beach listening for these lazy days of late August.
A recap of where we are so far in the book: We are in a planetary crisis. That crisis is made up of huge, interconnected, steepening climate and ecological problems. The impacts of that crisis are so large, they are eroding the material foundations of our societies. The world we built is no longer suited to the planet we’ve made. And that crisis is bigger in human terms than natural terms, involving societal upheavals, political conflicts, combinatorial explosions of risk, and the loss of predictability. The actions demanded of us are now disruptive in their speed and magnitude — and, because far more people are served by speed than delay, those actions are inevitable and cannot come too soon. That reality has surrounded us with unsustainable, untenable, and outdated systems and practices that are seriously overvalued. To defend these bubbles, slow interests have evolved a strategy of predatory delay.
Predatory delay involves a wide variety of approaches — denialism, downplaying, scaremongering, continuity propaganda, and civic sabotage — to prevent people from understanding the true nature of the situation we’re in, or from being able to act effectively together. This has led to widespread adoption of the idea of an orderly transition, and the rise of triangulatory strategies to mute calls for faster action. All this has meant four decades or more of a widening gap between the pace of our learning and the scale of discontinuity we face.
When we grasp the truth of when we are, we find ourselves in a new situation: We find ourselves in the middle of The Snap Forward.
The Snap Forward is the recognition that the imperatives of discontinuity are driving the largest changes in human societies. It involves a compression of comprehension — a need to immediately grasp 40 years of delayed understanding. This is psychologically intense. It also means a need to see the imminent release of a huge amount of built-up torque, the pressures caused by the disconnection between the human systems we have and the new physical, political, and economic realities of life on Earth. Finally, it means a realization that large-scale actions are now being driven not primarily by collective agreement of all parties, but by the growing power of those who see fast action as not only being in their self-interest, but also to their direct advantage.
All of this is happening simultaneously, which is itself unprecedented. But when we center the planetary crisis, there are ways of seeing the world that transform our understanding of when we are, what we want, and what we’re capable of doing.