The Invisible Revolution

Fifty years ago, the evolutionary manifesto Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth laid out Buckminster Fuller’s vision for an invisible revolution. 

In it, he argued that status quo conceptions of “wealth,” combined with ever-increasing over-specialization, would lead to extinction. True wealth, he claimed, derives from humanity’s “organized capability to cope effectively with the environment in sustaining our healthy regeneration and decreasing both the physical and metaphysical restrictions of the forward days of our lives.” 

In other words, true wealth is rooted in our capacity to regenerate know-how, well-being, and conditions conducive to life. There were caveats, however. Truly regenerative wealth, Fuller insisted, would need to include everyone. The transformation had to happen fast. And achieving this scale of transformation would require a revolution: Not a bloody revolution, but an invisible revolution of design and invention. 

In the years after his death, BFI has worked to support this invisible revolution in its contemporary manifestation. The world has shifted, but many of Fuller’s principles and provocations are more alive than ever.

Fuller intuited that humanity’s continued existence depended on our ability to discern regenerative design principles in order to support the integrity of life’s cycles. He hoped the invisible revolution would catalyze unprecedented levels of cooperation. And I recently had the honor to speak about the invisible revolution at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, where the Operating Manual was originally published.

An Invisible Revolution: McConville at SIUC from Saluki World on Vimeo.

Since joining the BFI board of directors in 2007, it has been my greatest honor to serve this community. Through the Buckminster Fuller Challenge and other programs, the BFI team has had the privilege of identifying and working with those on the vanguard of this revolution. From water retention in India, to carbon-sequestering in grasslands, to toxin-removing bioremediation in decimated landscapes, these efforts share an ethic of caring and compassion, driven by a commitment to making the world work for everyone.  While some of the practitioners have been deeply influenced by design science, others have arrived at principles and practices through other means. And the strategies developed by this community have never been more urgently needed.

After twelve years of board service, over half as chair or co-chair, I’m honored to hand over the ship’s wheel to the good Tom Chi, a true comprehensivist. Words cannot adequately express the gratitude I’ve felt to work with and learn from the BFI community, including Allegra Fuller Snyder, Jaime Snyder, Elizabeth Thompson, Josh Arnow, Kurt Przybilla, Bonnie Devarco, Medard Gabel, Lucilla Marvel, Sean Holt, Kirk Bergstrom, Mark Beam, Jessica Lipnack, Sarah Brooks, Dawn Danby, Carson Linforth Bowley, Faith Flanigan, Amanda Ravenhill, and the other dedicated staff, board members, supporters, and volunteers that make, and have made, the work of the Institute possible. 

I look forward to cooperating with all of you in the next phase of BFI’s own regenerative evolution…

Omnidirectionally, as ever, 

David McConville