Will our global civilization still be around centuries from now? Only if some of the more radical ideas currently being discussed can become the mainstream thinking of people around the world. That’s the only way in which the global forces currently pushing us towards environmental catastrophe can shift direction and offer humanity a hopeful future.
A remarkable report published by the German Advisory Council on Global Change called “World in Transition, 2012” suggests this is already happening. The authors believe that a global consensus is forming that supports a sustainable approach to our environment and is willing to prioritize choices that enhance the quality of life rather than economic growth and increased consumption. Here’s what they say:
There is ample evidence… to suggest that the core values of a large part of the world population include the protection of the natural environment…. There appears to be a relatively wide, cross-cultural consensus that the prevalent way of doing business should be embedded in higher-ranking goals of sustainability, environmental conservation, and climate protection, or generally in aspects of a more caring and careful resource management. To put it another way: anyone supporting sustainability is not, or no longer, swimming against the tide.
If this were true, this would be one of the most important shifts in global history. It would imply that the overwhelming force in the world that has propelled globalized capitalism and ever-increasing economic growth at the expense of our natural environment and sustainability is being subsumed by a force for hope that’s pushing in the other direction.
Not that the report is already claiming victory for a sustainable future for our world. They carefully scrutinize all the different factors that are driving us towards the cliff: climate change, environmental degradation, ocean acidification, lack of freshwater, and lack of any agreement among governing bodies that could keep our global warming to less than 2 degrees.
What we need, they say, is nothing less than a Great Transformation – a new, revised social contract where the nation state is no longer the “sole basis for the contractual relationship,” recognizing the “disproportionate distribution of resources” in our world today, and giving increased consideration to the natural environment.
How will we get there? We need “a new storyline,” to further develop human civilization, with changed narratives, guiding principles and meta-narrations, including a radically different relationship with the natural world. Instead of the old paradigm of “conquering nature,” we need to recognize that we ARE nature – we are only conquering ourselves.
It is my hope that liology can help by offering a framework for this new storyline – a framework that integrates both science and spiritual wisdom to recognize that the deepest spiritual fulfillment a human being can experience arises from the understanding of our intrinsic connectivity with the natural world – both within ourselves and all around us.
One of the more astonishing things about this report is that it’s coming from an “independent, scientific advisory body to the German Federal Government.” It’s heartening to realize that this is the kind of advice that the German government, responsible for the fourth largest economy in the world, is hearing from its appointed advisors.
Click here to download a copy of the report.
And here’s a presentation I gave last year on Humanity’s Changing Metaphors of Nature, which includes a suggestion for a new metaphor of nature as “integrally connected organism.”