My mind theoretically would like to believe the change that is needed to save our species and planet is possible. In vivo, perceiving directly, there is no effin way it will end well. Humans do what humans do. In the law of thirds (1/3 will continue destruction no matter what, 1/3 will do the right thing, and 1/3 may be convinced to do the right thing) you are betting heavily that the 1/3 who will do the right thing will put steps in place to convince that middle 1/3. I see little evidence that this is happening. The big question is: can 1/3 of humans save the planet when 2/3 more or less are working actively or passively to destroy it?
My initial response to that was to feel deflated and demoralised.
However, it got me thinking. I looked up the ‘rule of thirds‘, — and found that it appears to relate primarily to the composition of visual images, which clearly isn’t particularly relevant to the problem of how to change the course of our self-destructive society.
This reminded me of the ’80-20 rule’, otherwise known as the ‘Pareto principle‘. This principle is named after the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, who originally noticed that 80% of Italy’s land was owned by 20% of the population. This was latched on by management thinker Joseph M. Juran, who suggested that it could have wider implications.
The Pareto principle, which has been found to apply in a number of disparate fields, states thats that 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes.
Now, according to the United Nations Development Programme, in 1989 the richest 20% of the world’s population controlled 82.7% of the world’s income:
|Quintile of population||Income|
(I believe — although I have nothing to back up that belief — that this inequality has only gotten worse in the decades since: the rich have got richer, at the expense of the poor.)
So: if 80% of effects come from 20% of causes, the way forward seems clear to me. What’s needed is to focus the activities of the wealthy 20% on solving the world’s problems.
The next question, of course, is: how on Earth do we do that?