As individuals alone we cannot make durable change on massive and complex issues like the ecological crisis or the current global pandemic. Personal habits like recycling or limiting airplane travel—or complying with quarantine orders—are good practices, but they alone will never result in the changes we need to save ourselves from disaster. Carbon dioxide levels will continue to rise, increasing numbers of species are on the verge of extinction, and our health systems are in crisis: We must lean into strategies that honor our interdependence.

Like the pandemic, our planet’s ecological crisis is a collective challenge that demands a collective response on a scale and in a timeframe never before seen by humanity. Indeed, even the crises are related, as we are likely to see more frequent pandemics due to climate change. These are not issues that can be “solved” with money, technology, or government alone. Our ability to meet the overwhelming scale of the ecological crisis, along with other systemic crises, will require building movements and decentralized networks that engage large numbers of people and organizations, promote trust over transactions, and embrace an emergent approach to learn their way into the future.

What we’ve learned is that we can catalyze our ability to create systemic change when we emphasize decentralized leadership over top-down hierarchies, relationships of trust over transactions, and an emergent approach to strategy rather than one of control. Each of those principles is hindered by the dominant culture of individualism, competition, and top-down decision-making we swim in. To create a future where both human and natural systems thrive, we must embrace these principles of bottom-up collaboration while unlearning patterns of control. Our ability to transform systems of injustice and confront the global ecological crisis depends on it.

Read the full article about interdependence and the ecological crisis by Lindley Mease and David Ehrlichman at Stanford Social Innovation Review.