Whether you believe it or not, we have a problem that we cannot ignore, and we don’t have time to
wait to resolve it. This problem matters to us all because everyone on the planet is connected to it,
whether they want to be or not. The problem will be solved by direct, brave, confident, assertive
action led by a committed few, but requiring the participation of engaged and active masses in a
significant and coordinated way.
Solving this problem requires massive systematic change. Once humanity understands the significance
of the challenge and the need for change, that insight cannot be unlearned. People will then need to
make a choice - either to be part of that change, or to wait for the change to come to them, from
someone else who is leading that change, in their own way.
While many would hope for that change to come in a relatively smooth and peaceful manner, change
like this, if it happens at all, does not happen in a peaceful and smooth manner. Thus, the road to a
future beyond this challenge will be a rough and bumpy one, with many twists and turns.
What is the problem?
Humanity has broken its connection with nature, and is growing increasingly disengaged with the only
place known in the universe to sustain it. It is to the point where the planet cannot foreseeably support
the expected needs of future generations. Humans are growing, consuming and extracting in ways
that strip nature of its ability to heal and refresh itself, and at a pace at which many humans are now
only beginning to understand. Whether through the impacts of overpopulation, poor resource
management, pollution or climate change, the evidence is clear and the clock is ticking.
We maintain that, of any organization, or collection of organizations on the planet in a position to
address this problem, it is the mission driven businesses that will be the most significant leaders of the
change required to solve this problem. Mission driven businesses are the most capable of driving
needed change at the breakneck speed required, while still being able to adjust and learn from failures
along the way. It is this pace where mission driven businesses excel- better than government,
nonprofit or traditional businesses - because of their nimble adaptive nature, as well as the alignment
of their incentives with both impact and financial outcomes. This paper will highlight the key
components of the challenge in detail and showcase how a team of teams can lead to the future
we both desire and desperately need.
What is the Problem
As we alluded to in the introduction, humanity has a problem because it is not taking care of its natural
environment. Moreover, it is destroying it. While evidence of this is clear on a number of fronts, many
people still refuse to acknowledge the problem because of three things: ignorance, fear and scarcity.
Ignorance is the easiest to understand. Many people just don’t understand, or choose not to
understand, the severity of the problem and the potentially irreversible nature of some of the damage
that has been done. Once they do understand the challenge, then the awareness of scarcity takes
hold. As people take stock of what they have, they often only see the lack of something and then
respond with a scarcity mindset. Then, the fear sets in. Fear to act, fear of change, fear of being right
and fear of being wrong. The challenge is daunting so the fear is high.
Why is humanity not taking care of the only environment in the universe known to support it? Many
agree that it is because they have become disconnected from it...that they see the planet as
something outside of themselves that exists to deliver something to them, rather than that they are an
active participant within that fixed ecosystem. It is as if they cannot understand the simple laws of
nature that tell us that everything is connected and every action has a reaction. It is this disconnect
that has allowed organizations of all types to allow their incentive structures to evolve in a way that is
not aligned with the long term self interest of humanity. Contrary to what some may say, greed is not
good. Pursuit of maximizing financial returns to shareholders without taking into account the impact on
the ability of the planet or the ecosystems to continue to deliver such returns is pure folly. Sadly, what
might be even worse (or at least just as bad) are misguided interventions based on flawed thinking
that cause extensive ripple effects and unintended consequences. This can easily add to the feelings
of fear and scarcity. If people think, “we tried to fix this and got it wrong!” how soon will they take a
chance to try again?
Truly, any attempt to solve this problem must understand these truths, then take the courage to act.
Leaders of this solution must make their decision on data and insights, not hyperbole and conjecture.
That said, they need to understand that there is not one point of view that has all the answers, but
rather, that there must be a comprehensive, multidisciplinary, collaborative approach to addressing the
challenges. Humanity’s disconnection from nature has created an environmental, economic and social
crisis that is a persistent, underestimated cost to the global economy and chance for survival of the
species. When extreme weather from climate change damages existing infrastructure, existing assets
lose value, economies lose productivity and pollution is released into the environment. There is then
extensive resource allocation required to fix a broken system. The rampant biodiversity collapse
because of poor resource management is more than cosmetic. In the short term, it undermines
ecosystems that have evolved over centuries to support the diversity of life on the planet. Over the
long term, the collapse of different components of the ecosystem lead to loss of freshwater, soil and
other elements critical to the sustenance of life and unique ecosystems. When you combine the
decrease in supply of resources with the increase in demand for such resources, the outcome is
obvious - an increase in cost, scarcity, and fear that lead to conflict. Right now the world is seeing wars
because of a fear of scarcity of limited resources - a story as long as human history - but now humanity
may be playing for all the marbles in the potential conflicts that lie ahead.
Why Does It Matter
This challenge matters because of its breadth and urgency. It affects all of humanity, and humanity
does not have time to wait. If people desire to avoid more global increases in fear, scarcity and
ignorance, individuals who see the truth, and the path forward, need to make a choice to act. Instead
of seeing this challenge as a calamity, such people can take this message as an opportunity, and make
important systematic changes. Many understand that humanity may on the cusp of evolution to a
higher state, rather than de-evolution into chaos. Leaders must drive the embrace of that evolution.
The future of humanity on the planet depends on leaders who can pull different types of people
together to address difficult challenges. They need to show people that all is not doom and gloom
and that humans can be more resilient and adaptive than many people think they can be right now.
They need to remind others of the lessons of history and that humanity has faced existential
challenges before and succeeded in massive systems change.
How Is It Solved
We believe that the solution to this challenge is relatively simple to deliver in concept . Humanity has
all the information and technology needed to address the challenges at hand. We can take lessons
from nature to solve our growth challenges. We can refine and redesign the economic system, by
learning to place a value on nature, based on both its historical knowledge and empirical potential. To
do this, those who choose to embrace this task need commitment, coordination and leadership.
First, leaders must commit to action. People need to learn the difference between sustainability and
regeneration, explore the strengths and weaknesses of different approaches and frameworks (like that
of the UN Sustainable Development Goals), and develop an understanding of how and why things got
to this point, without blaming or shaming a particular individual, group or industry. Humanity must get
clear on how we got to this point, in order to move forward in a cleaner, healthier, more sustainable
Next, coordination must come through multiple channels. There must be inspired and coordinated
actions with every sector in the global economy. In the public sector, global government action and
coordination must set the stage and establish the rules for a sustainable, inclusive and regenerative
economy. Governments will do this if individuals activate to hold them accountable to learn,
communicate and act in ways that serve the many. The nonprofit sector must come to a reckoning and
look itself in the mirror. This sector must provide transparency on what is working and what is not, and
hold itself accountable to demonstrate that they are actually delivering the results they proclaim...and
make radical change when they do not. Again, individuals have a responsibility here, as through their
charitable giving we choose where the funds go and how high the expectations are set.
It is in the private sector where the most change and action must occur. Corporations have a huge role
to play, as consumers, suppliers, employers and industrial change makers. Corporate leaders must
seize the opportunity for global leadership ahead of government inefficiency and inaction. We must
find a way to revalue their approaches, asset valuations, and risk assumptions to those that reflect a
world of finite resources and growth potential. Growth companies play a critical role as well. We can
set an example on how to build impact into their DNA early on, avoiding the temptation for surface
measures and embracing the opportunity to create new value in industry. Startups play an essential
role. We rapidly create solutions to fill gaps in what is needed in industry by moving at breakneck
speed to provide solutions to UN SDGs (and related frameworks) that focus on global environmental,
economic and equity challenges. They move quickly, but will move even more quickly when the
financial industry provides even more approaches to support their growth. While recent innovations in
the fiat world are helpful, many more are needed. The most exciting innovations recently have come
from emerging technologies that provide new pathways for financing projects and companies.
Innovations like blockchain, cryptocurrency, NTFs, DeFi and DAOs create unique opportunities to
reduce the barriers to and creation of capital for investment in essential solutions. Investors too must
refine their calculations of risk and return to factor in the current economic reality and adjust their
investment protocols accordingly.
To many this may sound like a lot...maybe too much, but innovators must start with basic steps in the
right direction, and then accelerate through approaches that help new industries grow at the speed
and scale that is bigger than that of the problem. While healthy competition is essential and natural,
going forward, humanity must collaborate and compete in a different way. Innovative organizations
and ecosystems must collaborate to quickly experiment and learn to find the best way forward.
However, as not all ideas have the same potential to lead to a desired outcome, healthy, fair
competition is important to sort the good ideas from the bad. The evolution of a system that practices
“coopetition” cannot happen quickly enough. It will require the planned coordination of a diverse set
of committed leaders to figure out how to do it right, and continuous experimentation, refinement and
persistence to deliver desired results.
Who We Are & Why We Exist
This is the challenge of our time, and the mission to which we are called.
Thruline Networks is an impact investment focused media, program management, and advisory
services firm that takes a living systems approach to building resilient solutions to sticky problems
(related to UN Sustainable Development Goals) in resilient infrastructure, food and health.
Our goal is to help build and grow 100+ impact unicorns in the next decade. We will accomplish this
goal by working with a portfolio of organizations in each existing sector - public, private (startup,
growth companies and corporate), and non-profit - to build 4th sector, mission driven, impactful,
scalable and profitable companies that operate at the intersection of profit and purpose.
Phil@ThrulineNetworks.com / 312-961-5235