The Planetary Crisis and Social Transformation

The Planetary Crisis

The world and the U.S. are in trouble. And not just from Trump and other right-wing demagogues. They are just symptoms of the planetary crisis and breakdown that we are facing, which is moving us toward a historical 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, the rise of right-wing demagogues, and the takeover of our governments by corporations and the rich. 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 a historical era, and our old ways of doing business are no longer working.

For the last 3 or 4 hundred years, most of us in the developed nations have lived in what is called the Industrial Era or the Modern Era. We have adopted a worldview based on science, rational thought, technology, and competition for power. We have treated the natural world as a machine to be analyzed 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 fueling 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 and corporate dominance of the political process.

To make matters more difficult, a significant part of the world hasn’t even entered the Modern Era yet. Some of them are still engaged in the religious fundamentalism of the Medieval Era, and some are even further back in the power orientation of the Empire Era.

In addition, corporations have taken over the government of many developed nations, creating great inequality, unemployment, and wage stagnation. And as a result, some people have turned to authoritarian types like Trump, thinking that they will solve this problem. Of course, it is just the opposite; these demagogues are only making matters worse. However, the good news is that the people who object to government by the wealthy and corporations may be induced to join our movement if we can help them to see who is really on their side.

Social Transformation

Our society is in crisis and breaking down, which is producing tremendous stresses and dangers but is also impelling us to recognize the need for change. It is pushing us toward a different worldview and an entirely new set of life-affirming social structures that are appropriate to the current historical situation.

Our collective psyche is erupting with signs and portents of this new way of being. We don’t know exactly what it will finally be, but we have hints 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 earth.

Wouldn’t this be a beautiful world to live in! And we can begin to live it now, by creating loving community and innovative alternatives which move us toward this beautiful world that our hearts know is possible (to borrow the phrase from Charles Eisenstein).

The new era, which can be called the regenerative era, 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 summarizes this.

(The idea of a pluralist commonwealth is explained under Economic Alternatives.)

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.

Planetary Governance

A major aspect of the Regenerative Era will involve some governance moving to the planetary level. In the Modern Era, the nation-state has been the main unit of politics and culture. As we are moving to the Regenerative Era, we can see the beginnings of this planetary shift in the United Nations and the European Union, but there is much further to go.

This doesn’t mean that most of the governance will be at a global level. In fact, one of the principles of a regenerative society is that governance will take place at as local a level as possible. We will only have regional, national, or planetary governance for those issues that require it at that level. For example, climate change is a global phenomenon, so it must be governed at the planetary level. Most issue can be handled by a much more local governing unit.

This planetary governance will mean the end of war. Once there is an overarching global government, nations won’t be able to make war on each other, just as in the U.S., New York and New Jersey won’t ever go to war with each other.

A planetary government will also reduce or elimnate economic competition between nations. This will also happen because most economic activity will be happening at local levels, except where national or international trade is needed. 

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. We will create a truly planetary society. This is necessary to build the cooperative world we need and to encourage us to take care of the natural world.

Of ocurse, we must be on our guard to make sure that a planetary government is not taken over by anti-democratic forces the way our national governments have been taken over by corporations, or worse by right-wing demagogues. Hopefully, the change in worldview and regenerative governing and economic processes that are emerging with the Great Turning will ensure that this doesn’t happen.