Constructive environmental scanning: A method in creating positive world paradigms for more sustainable alternative futures

Naude, Jan H. (2016-03)

Thesis (D.Phil)--Stellenbosch University, 2016.


ENGLISH SUMMARY: The research posits that people who generally do environmental scanning on the Litany Level of Knowing do not have good judgement and foresight about the global contextual future and are, therefore, ill-equipped to influence world thought leaders to adopt global measures that will be necessary to develop sustainable alternative global futures. People’s poor judgement and foresight of the global contextual environment can be attributed to a deficient environmental scanning methodology that affects their knowledge base adversely and prevents them from having a good comprehension of future reality. What they learn from their scanning of the contextual environment create mental constructs with a futures disposition of pessimism, hopelessness and inaction about the global future. The research approach is situated in the Futures Studies discipline of inquiry. Futures thinking holism is foundational in this context, specifically its concern with systematic and explicit thinking regarding alternative futures that aims to give some form of human control over the future. This is based on the three interrelated inquiries of Futures Studies, viz. measuring the future to obtain knowledge about the future, imagining the non-existing future, and purposefully designing the future. A multi-strand concurrent mixed method research design with a qualitative dominant approach was adopted to do a thematic qualitative text analysis of formal semi-structured interviews as well as of primary and secondary survey data. This resulted in case- and thematic-oriented perspectives to answer the research question. Constructive Environmental Scanning (CES) as a more balanced and holistic approach is posited to overcome the lack of knowledge regarding the global contextual environment and to enhance people’s future consciousness to pursue sustainable alternative futures. From a theoretical perspective, CES is a critical thinking approach based on a proposed new Matrix Integral Layered Environmental Scanning (MILES) method. The purpose is to create depth in the environmental scanning inquiry to transcend superficial information and understanding encountered by scanning practitioners. The qualitative interview strand of the inquiry provided a perspective of people’s measuring of the global future, the impact of this measuring on people’s images of the global future and what influence these images have on people’s actions to create a better world. It showed that people generally have insufficient knowledge of contextual global developments due to their over-reliance on the Litany Level of Knowing for information, have a pessimistic-fearful disposition towards the global future and mostly do not contribute towards creating a better world. The quantitative survey strand of the inquiry supports the perspectives of the qualitative strand in general terms. However, it provides additional and important insights showing that people’s measuring, imagining and making of the future follow a different track when seen from the perspective of the transactional environment. It showed that despite having insufficient knowledge of the contextual global environment due to scanning on the Litany Level of Knowing, people tend to have an optimistic-hopeful disposition towards their personal future and is positively inclined towards making an active contribution on the local level to create a better world.

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