Creating Alternatives

This article is based on my ideas about the Great Turning Movement. If you aren’t familiar with them, click here.

The Great Turning Movement already includes an enormous number of innovative alternatives that are models for aspects of a regenerative, transformed society. These are the seeds of the new culture that is emerging, and over time they will multiply and spread, ultimately leading to a new society. I have divided them into four categories–social, economic, professional, and ecological. Below I have listed just a few examples of each. There are many more.

Social Alternatives

There are many experiments with alternative social structures of all different kinds. For example:

  • Healthy private schools foster emotional intelligence, allow students to follow their interests, and promote whole-person learning,
  • Wisdom Councils or other forms of Citizens’ Deliberative Councils, involve a randomly selected small group of citizens meet for a number of days to come up with a solution for a thorny issue. They are educated about the issue and facilitated in a process that leads to a wise and often creative solution.
  • Products are designed to be made up of constituents that can be reused when the product is ready to be scrapped, so it doesn’t create any waste. This is called cradle-to-cradle manufacturing rather than the usual cradle-to-grave.

Ecological Innovations

People are experimenting with innovative environmental projects, as are showcased every year at the Bioneers Conference and portrayed in Paul Hawken’s book, The Ecology of Commerce. For example:

  • Projects and processes using biomimicry, which means learning from nature’s ways.
  • Regenerative agriculture, which focuses on topsoil regeneration, increasing biodiversity, improving the water cycle, enhancing ecosystem services, supporting biosequestration, increasing resilience to climate change, and strengthening the health and vitality of farm soil. (See Chapter 8 of Climate: A New Story, by Charles Eisenstein)
  • Innovative food systems in the oceans, such as Green Wave.
  • A growing number of local initiatives, such as community gardens, community supported agriculture, and nature-learning ecological projects for the schools.
  • People are working on restoring to health local rivers, oceans, mountains, wetlands, forests, coral reefs, farms, and so on, which has the additional benefit of helping to mitigate climate change. The Biggest Little Farm is an amazing documentary that shows the restoration of a dead farm into a beautiful local ecosystem.

Economic Alternatives

There is much innovative action around economic issues.

  • Alternative currency systems can create money in a new way that allows a steady-state economy, which doesn’t require economic growth to be healthy. (See Chap. 10 of Climate: A New Story, Charles Eisenstein)
  • The Scandinavian countries have pioneered economic systems that put people’s needs ahead of profit making, leading to a happier way of life. (Viking Economics, George Lakey)
  • Gar Alperovitz details a vast array of largely local initiatives in the U.S. that have the potential to change the control of wealth from corporations to the people. These include new cooperatives, neighborhood corporations, land trusts, municipally owned energy and broadband systems, state banks on the North Dakota model, alternative self-reliant micro-economies, and hybrid forms of community and worker ownership. He suggests that these can eventually scale up into a new economic system called a “pluralist commonwealth.”

Transforming Professions

Pioneers in existing professions are working toward transforming the way they work toward what we need for a new society. For example:

  • William McDonough is an architect who designs products, buildings, and business practices to be in line with the health of the earth. In manufacturing, this means designing products so their components can be reused at the end of the their lifespans instead of throwing themaway. This is called cradle-to-cradle manufacturing instead of the usual cradle-to-grave (Cradle to Cradle: Remaking the Way We Make Things).
  • Many lawyers are moving away from adversarial practice to using mediation to resolve legal conflicts, which is a move from competition to cooperation.
  • Internal Family Systems Therapy (IFS) is a form of individual therapy (which I practice, see Self-Therapy, Jay Earley) that implicitly promotes the values of a healthy society. It is non-pathologizing. People learn to have compassion for those parts of themselves that are causing them trouble. There is an understanding that there is a natural healing process in the psyche, which can operate when blocks are removed. And the healing comes from the true self of the client.
  • Holistic medicine involves a wide variety of approaches to health. They all trust that there is a natural healing process in the body, so they attempt to balance the body and remove blocks to healing, allowing this process to operate freely.
  • Many journalists are doing great investigative work and other fine reporting. However, too often we get, “If it bleeds, it leads.” The new journalism involves reporting on positive happenings and organizations and especially on organizations and movements that are aimed at social transformation. These journalists will be crucial in helping the movement to become more visible when the time is right.

These are just a few examples of numerous social, economic, professional, and ecological alternatives that are already happening. We can join with them and help them to realize what they collectively have to offer to the Great Turning. We might create a database of all these efforts, from which our members and others can choose who they want to work with. And many more alternatives will develop as the movement grows and spreads.

In addition, the Great Turning movement can publicize these alternatives to show that a new, healthy society is possible. For example, we could help sponsor a Wisdom Council process around a highly visible world issue and publicize the results and the process. Journalists who are part of the movement can help with this.