At this time most people are too busy with their lives to pay much attention to national or global issues. However, we have already begun to enter the phase of growing global crises. As rising energy and food prices send shocks through the global economy, more and more people will begin to ask questions. As the crises worsen people will increasingly look for alternative political and economic solutions. At this point, if positive solutions and good leaders exist, rapid constructive change is possible.
The situation is similar to that of Europe in the late 1930s. Before the Second World War, people were busy working, fixing up their houses, planning vacations and saving for their children’s education and their retirement. There were many warnings that war was coming, but they were dismissed by mainstream politicians. As a result, when war broke out in 1939, it came as a shock to most people.
Priorities Changed Overnight
The mobilization for war that took place in the United States after it was attacked by Japan is an example of how rapid change is possible when people unite behind a common cause. Priorities changed overnight. Defeating fascism was suddenly more important than paying off the mortgage or buying new furniture. The entire economy was changed over from consumer to military production within a few months.
Men went to war, women went into the factories and the country went from high unemployment to a labor shortage. Although the United States was only at war for three and a half years, during this time enormous quantities of military goods were produced and scientific breakthroughs were made in many areas including radar, jet aircraft and nuclear energy.
The example of the Second World War shows that once the majority of people and governments in the world reach agreement on the urgent need to create a sustainable global economy, economic structures and technologies can be rapidly transformed. As the old saying goes, where there is a will, there is a way.
Sceptics argue that attempts to create a sustainable economy will result in economic ruin. In contrast, studies by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggest that greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by a third by 2030 at a cost of just 0.03% of the annual growth of the world GDP. The complete transformation of the global economy will be much more expensive. However, it is not likely to cost more than the Second World War, when American military expenditures rose from1% of the national income in 1939 to 42% in 1944—an enormous effort that did not destroy the American economy.
It is estimated that the Iraq war will cost the United States between $1 trillion and $4 trillion. If this money had instead been invested in developing renewable energies, by now the US would be well on the way to creating a more efficient, prosperous and sustainable economy and freeing itself from dependence on expensive energy imports.
People need to become aware that the transformation of the global system is a requirement, not a choice. Living in a continually degrading world where the climate becomes hotter and more erratic each year, and where global crises grow progressively worse is not an option. This future would be a nightmare from which we and our children could not awake.
The problem is that most people and most governments will not become convinced of the need for change until the global economy has begun to collapse. This process will cause immense misery and damage. The danger is that the downward spiral of poverty, hunger, wars and environmental destruction will become unmanageable and humanity will cross one ecological and social tipping point after another.
Will People Wake Up?
The hope is that as the global environment and economy begin to collapse, the majority of people will wake up to the urgent need for constructive change. But for this to happen a clear vision of a sustainable alternative must already exist and be supported by a critical mass of well-organized people. Progressives will also need to give more and more leadership as the crises mount. We will need to intervene to stop the descent towards disaster, chart a constructive course of action and guide the process of global reorganization.
Millions of people and thousands of organizations are already working towards a better future. The momentum for change is further supported by the emergence of systems-based societal and material technologies. But our trump card is the transformative power of societal evolution.
Not only is knowledge spreading around the world, but a global consciousness is developing – awareness that humanity is interconnected and that the fate of our species is inextricably bound up with the fate of all life on Earth. With this awareness come new views, new values and new relationships. A sustainable global society has already begun to emerge, and unless there is a catastrophic collapse, its evolution cannot be stopped.
Our role is to accelerate the process through helping the emerging elements of the new sustainable system come together. We can do this through:
- Developing a common vision of a sustainable future
- Networking knowledge of local and global problems and solutions
- Helping to develop coalitions in support of constructive initiatives
- Helping communities develop sustainable solutions through empowering them with systems tools and other resources
Societal evolution is magical because it is a self-organizing process involving billions of people. It is too vast and complex a process to be either directed or controlled, but it can be supported. And at this critical juncture, the evolution of our species needs all the protection and support that we can give.
Love and faith: the gift of our ancestors
In 1950 few people could imagine how electronics would change the world. In 1985 few people could imagine the rapid and relatively non-violent collapse of the Soviet Union. Few people can now imagine that industrial civilization will either collapse or be transformed within their lifetimes. But it will. We are living in a time of great changes, great fears and great opportunities.
It is our destiny to save life on Earth. Although we are the best educated generations in history and although we have tools that our forebears could never have dreamed of possessing, still the challenges are daunting. Will we have the wisdom, the courage and the commitment to avoid disaster and create a sustainable future? If we look to the past, we can have hope for the future. Everyone that is alive today is here because of the love and commitment of thousands of previous generations.
You wouldn’t exist if any one of your ancestors had not been protected and cared for as a child. No generation in the past ever neglected or failed in their duty to future generations, so why should we? We are the products of a long evolutionary journey that has been sustained by constant love and faith. The same love will give us the courage and strength to create a better world for the countless generations that are still to come.
About the author:
Graeme Taylor is a social activist committed to constructive global transformation and the coordinator of BEST Futures, a project supporting sustainable solutions through researching how societies change and evolve.
Available at amazon: Evolutions Edge
It will look like this: Supporting Evolution – The Magical Formula