The Planetary Crisis
The world is in trouble, no doubt you’ve noticed. There are many symptoms of the planetary crisis you’ll see playing out in the news which are a result of the breakdown that we are facing. As a result, we are likely moving towards huge transformation which will be system-wide and all-encompassing.
The severity of problems we are confronting is staggering. Climate change, terrorism, racism, mass shootings, homelessness, extinction of species, massive migrations and mass inequality. The list goes on and on. But it is not chance that all these things are happening at this time in history. We have come to the end of an historical era, and our old ways of doing business are no longer working.
For the last 300-400 years, most of us in the developed nations have lived in what is called the Industrial Era or the Modern Era. We’ve adopted a worldview based on science, rational thought, technology, and competition for power. We have treated the natural world as a machine to be analysed and controlled. We have treated other people and other nations this way. We have even treated ourselves this way. This approach has brought some of us tremendous gains in knowledge, individuality, freedom, and comfort, but its very success has now spawned problems that it can’t deal with.
The tremendous explosion of our technical power, our population, and our ability to exploit the earth brings a whole new set of issues which the industrial worldview can’t comprehend. The industrial worldview can’t think in terms of limits or being part of a whole. It doesn’t understand feelings or intuition or cooperation. It has outlived its usefulness, and our continued attempts to apply it to our current problems are only making matters worse.
Our current lifestyle of material consumption and personal ambition has also outlived its day. While it once made so much sense in fuelling our drive toward freedom and mastery of our environment, it is now contributing to the problems and dangers we face. Capitalism has gotten out of control leading to massive inequality.
To make matters more difficult, a significant part of the world hasn’t even entered the Modern Era yet. Some are still engaged in religious fundamentalism of the Medieval Era, and some are even further back in the power orientation of the Empire Era.
The kind of whole-system social transformation that is needed, and is underway, has been called the Great Turning (by Joanna Macy, David Korten and others). It is the most important thing that is happening on the planet, though it is invisible to most people. That is the way it always happens with transformations; they aren’t apparent until they have progressed far enough to penetrate mass consciousness. So, even though you won’t hear about the Great Turning in the news, it is well underway, as has been documented by many of our thought leaders.
There have been five social transformations before in human history, as explained in Jay Earley’s book Transforming Human Culture. The most recent one was the transition from the Medieval to the Modern/Industrial Era, which included the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, and the scientific and industrial revolutions. Guy Dauncey has an interesting article comparing the steps that took us from the Medieval to the Modern Era with the steps we are now taking in going from the Modern to the Regenerative Era.
However, this transformation is even bigger than that. Not only are we moving toward a new era in social evolution, we are transitioning into a new kind of evolution. We are going from unconscious social evolution to conscious evolution (Barbara Marx Hubbard), where we are choosing the new world, to some extent, in line with this larger flow of evolution.
Our society is in crisis and breaking down, which is producing tremendous stresses and demanding we recognise the need for change. Ultimately it’s pushing us toward a different worldview and an entirely new set of life-affirming social structures that are appropriate to the current historical situation.
So what will this new world look like, when the transformation happens? Signs indicate that it will be built on a foundation of cooperation, interconnectedness, global consciousness, and an interest in the inner life and spirituality. It will involve cultural and racial diversity, social justice, equality of power, human scale institutions, planetary governance, and reverence for the planet.
Wouldn’t this be a beautiful world to live in! The new era that is arising will involve transformation at every level, not just politics and economics, but also our worldview and consciousness, our values, and our social institutions, such as education, religion, the justice system, prisons, energy, transportation, health care, media, community, and agriculture.
The following summarises this
Some of the Modern Era qualities in the left column (e.g oppression/exploitation, bigger is better) will be replaced by those on the right in the Regenerative Era. Others (e.g. rationality, individuality) will be integrated with the Regenerative Era qualities.
It’s very hard to imagine right now, but what this would mean is the end of war and national competition of various kinds, especially economic. In the Regenerative Era, we will still have our identifications with religions, ethnic groups, nations, and so on, but our most important identification will be with the entire human race and with the earth. This is necessary to build the cooperative world we need and to encourage us to take care of the natural world.
Much of this article first appeared in Jay Earley’s article ‘Planetary Crisis and Social Transformation. For more details please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org