Climate Change

David Houle

David Houle is one of the Co-Founders and Managing Director of the Institute. David Houle is a futurist, thinker and speaker. Houle spent more than 20 years in media and entertainment. He has worked at NBC, CBS and was part of the senior executive team that created and launched MTV, Nickelodeon, VH1 and CNN Headline News.


The Collapse of Legacy Thinking




The collapse of legacy thinking is one of the underlying reasons for all the disruption and transformations of the 2020s.  It is one of the reasons that the Co-Founders of The Sarasota Institute, Phil Kotler, Jason Voss and I felt it necessary to create a purely 21st century endeavor.  The thinking and resultant realities that were created back in the 20th century are what is now being disrupted or being creatively destroyed here in the 2020s.  A vision into the future based fully on the realities of this century is our mission.


My book “Entering the Shift Age” was published in 2012 only a few days before 12/12/12 (which many of you will recognize as the date of the Mayan Prophecy). The true meaning of that ancient prophecy was not that the “world will end”, though that was the assumptive conclusion of many, but that “the world as we know it will end.” As a futurist who had labeled this new era “The Shift Age”, I sensed that there would soon be major disruptions in what we believed to be reality. A new reality was coming to replace the old one.


From “Entering the Shift Age”


“Legacy thinking delayed the West from seeing how the world would change at the end of the 20th century. After living for almost fifty years in a cold war with the Eastern Bloc, the West turned inward once that war had been won. It didn’t see that a global economy was dead ahead, with all the resulting disruptions in domestic economies as hundreds of millions of new workers/consumers came online. An “us versus them” thinking had so ruled western cultures that the victory of democracy over communism kept the West from realizing the new risk from a virulent non-nation state enemy… terrorism.


Most people have an organized way of looking at the world. They build this view through experience, reading, or learning from people they respect. Once in the brain, this becomes fixed as one’s ‘valid’ view of the world. In order to see the future, you have to break that view.”


The Shift Age, roughly 2005 to 2030, is a time of collapse of our legacy view of the world. It is one of the characteristics of the age. The Shift Age is the transition from our reality up to 2000 to the new reality we will be living in by 2030. In almost every aspect of human society – culture, business and personal life, a massive collapse is occurring.


Here’s a rough timeline of that collapse:


2000 to 2009

The collapse of 20th century thought began with the war on terrorism, the explosion of China in both GDP growth and two hundred million new members of the global middle class, the Great Recession, the iPhone, the ubiquitous move to digital content and the scale up of social media. The groundwork for today’s reality was being put into place, yet people (especially those who had lived most of their lives in the 20th century) still viewed the world through a legacy lens.


2010 to 2020


On 1/1/10, I named this the Transformation Decade. A time when the collapse of legacy thinking accelerated. This decade included a slow recovery from the Great Recession, the explosion of cloud computing, the rapid spread of smart phones, and tablets, a massive increase in physical retail bankruptcies, the upgrades from 2 to 3 to 4G broadband technology, Brexit, Trump’s election, an explosion of deficits in governments around the world, and the almost doubling of GHG emissions. This last point is the driver behind the shock of discovering that global warming is happening much faster than predicted.


What are the big collapses in legacy thinking still to come?


The Nation State


We have entered the global stage of human evolution. This means that we are moving toward more global integration economically, socially, culturally and ultimately… politically. This Flow to the Global means that the function and independence of nation states around the world will change. The major challenges facing humanity are all global in scope: our climate catastrophe, wealth inequality, immigration, natural resources including water, and climate refugee migration. No one nation state, or even several working together, can solve these global problems. We require an elevated entity to be tasked with solving these global issues. Nation states will gradually refocus on caring for the welfare of their citizens, infrastructure projects, and social systems.


A subset of the concept of the nation state was a primary reason for launching the 2003 war on Iraq. The Defense Department was called the War Department during WWII. After the war, the decision was made to keep it in place but to change the name. The mandate of the Defense Department was to ensure that our national military was stronger than any other country’s military. The concept of the nation state completely infused the Pentagon. So, when the new “asymmetrical enemy”, Al Queda, attacked America on 9/11/01, the US felt that it had to attack a nation state, because that was the definition of an enemy… not a network of non-national terrorists. So we entered an ill-advised, unnecessary and costly war.


Governmental Institutions and Political Parties


When the US Congress is respected by less than 20% of the people they serve, we no longer have an of the people, by the people, for the people system. As for political parties, the Republican party does not represent the will of their constituents on many issues including gun reform, affordable healthcare and our climate crisis. As many Republicans have said to me, “this isn’t the Republican Party I was a part of all my life”… as evidenced by the many Republican groups who have overtly endorsed the Democratic presidential candidate.


Energy and Energy Use


We are rapidly exiting the era of fossil fuels, the dominant energy source of the last 150 years. This will cause systemic changes:


  • gas stations will be repurposed as charging stations,
  • through time energy costs will go down not up
  • car dealerships will rapidly decline in number (electric vehicles have many fewer moving parts, and need much less maintenance),
  • beginning in 2021 there will be a rapid increase in autonomous vehicles on our roads, able to operate almost 24/7, meaning many fewer vehicles will be needed.


I could go on for pages. This above is just a short list of the more obvious changes in our near future.


The key thing to understand is that whatever you think your reality is, for most people, it is based on legacy thinking. The reality of the 20th century is in collapse. Our legacy thinking of the last century must also collapse, or we are deluding ourselves. Physical retail, land lines and newspapers are all vestiges of the past.  Beach front property is becoming distressed property in many areas. Insurers are declining coverage on homes and businesses in fire or flood prone areas.


As a futurist, I regularly open my presentations and keynotes by asking the audience to suspend what they think reality is. We must question our beliefs in how the world works, our legacy thinking, in order to see the future reality that is rapidly approaching.


The 2020s will be the most disruptive decade in history, in large part because the reality of the last 75 years is collapsing!