Reflections on Humanity and Goats

By Grace Parazzoli

“The health of the eye seems to demand a horizon. We are never tired, so long as we can see far enough.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nature

For the reason Emerson states so perfectly, I crave open water. Surrounded by nothing but sea, and occasional islands in the distance, without phones or internet or material possessions beyond what will fit in a backpack, I am never tired. The world feels like a very different place. Concerns about politics and the future are, temporarily and seemingly miraculously, replaced by something else. I think that something else is pure wonder. bvi sunset

My husband grew up sailing off the coast of Washington State, and every now and then, we leave our urban life to live on a chartered boat for a week at a time. He is captain, while some friends and I contribute odd jobs like cooking, pulling lines, and driving the dinghy that takes us onshore. The last time we did this, we visited the British Virgin Islands, where my husband had been a decade prior, and which he recalled as being lush and beautiful.

Beautiful, yes. The islands were badly hit by Hurricane Irma, and their lush vegetation is just starting to grow back. On some parts of some of the islands, houses are nothing more than floors and shards. The Bitter End Yacht Club on the island Virgin Gorda, which my husband reminisced about loving during his previous trip to the BVI, is decimated. One morning, while docked off Spanish Town in Virgin Gorda, I went on a run and found myself in a graveyard of boats, most damaged beyond repair. hurricane irma

But as we spoke to locals, story after story attested to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of communal bonds. Houses are being rebuilt—together. We heard people make donation requests—not for themselves, but for the local charities they had always supported. One couple on the island of Anegada spoke about the immediate aftermath of the hurricane. They had no electricity and just a few cans of food. What quite literally saved them was a pilot from Puerto Rico who flew over to the island bearing a planeful of pizza! At the time, Puerto Rico had not yet been hit by Hurricane Maria; if only we as a nation could show Puerto Rico the same kindness. 

But we aren’t doing that. I realize that I may be painting a false picture in this article: one in which humans are all humanity—in the sense of compassion and generosity—and nature is a ruthless destroyer. We were only met with kindness during the trip; individually, I do tend to see only the generosity and compassion in people. Yet during the trip, there were undeniable reminders of the collective role of humankind in natural devastation. The one that is most vivid in my mind is the goats.

When we stopped on the island of Prickly Pear, the sight before us was of building foundations, fallen beams, and goats. goats 2The goats were everywhere, meandering around and occasionally stopping to scratch along a piece of debris. They are adorable animals, their symbolism less so. As Center for Global Awareness president Denise Ames wrote in her book Waves of Global Change:

Sailors used to leave goats on islands to guarantee that on their return trips, they would have an abundance of fresh meat. But with no natural predators, the goats bred faster than the sailors could eat them. Lacking natural limits, the goats ultimately devoured the island’s vegetation and over-taxed the environment to such a degree that native species could no longer survive. The multiplying populations of goats in due course starved to death. Our “island” the Earth has suffered the consequences of our goat-like instincts to consume everything in sight without regard for the future. With no natural predators or self-imposed limits, we are in peril of suffering the same fate.

Wildlife biologist Juliet Lamb has noted that half of recorded extinctions have taken place on islands. “Ever since humans began moving around the world, we’ve wreaked havoc by unleashing novel species in sensitive island ecosystems,” Lamb writes. “Rats, rabbits, cats, goats: we love species that breed fast and have voracious, generalist appetites. For an island native, it’s a perfect storm of destruction.” She discusses attempts to eradicate goat and other invasive species, a subject explored with typical profundity by the podcast Radiolab, in the episode “Galapagos.” goats 1

What hath humankind wrought? I haven’t broached the role of global warming in storm patterns and extreme weather conditions, because others have done it much better than I ever could. But in the small creatures that roam around these islands, our influence is undeniable, the uncertainty of our and our planet’s future brought back to mind.

That’s what happens when you stop looking out at the horizon, as Emerson wrote about, and start looking a little closer. The exhaustion returns.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you agree with the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote? Why or why not?
  2. What do you think about the analogy comparing Earth to islands overpopulated by goats?

The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In February 2018, the CGA launched Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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Can We Ever Learn to Get Along?

By Nancy Harmon

As you may have read on our website and in previous blogs, the Center for Global Awareness is launching an exciting new effort called Gather: Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection. We are making our materials user-friendly for adult study and discussion groups, with the aim of providing opportunities to enhance awareness of critical global issues and create possibilities for reaching across cultural divides in our increasingly combative world. (You can find more information about Gather in recent blogs by Denise and on our website at www.global-awareness.org.) Denise and I piloted Gather in January by teaching a class called “Worldviews: Five Perspectives on the World.”

Our goal was to introduce our worldviews concept, described in Denise’s book Five Worldviews: The Way We See the World as a way to understand differing points of view with increased empathy, which could help in reaching across cultural divides. We did this through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute and Oasis, national organizations that provide lifelong educational opportunities for people over 62 by offering affordable classes on a vast variety of topics, from archaeology to yoga. Participants’ curiosity and desire to stay informed and share ideas provided a ready audience for the beginning of our Gather program.

presentation

CGA president Denise Ames giving a presentation on worldviews

Many people recognize and are concerned that our discourse in the US has been changing over the years, especially since the last presidential election. It has become so abrasive that we cannot participate in civil discussions of differing ideas. Just yesterday, I was talking to a friend about the recent March for Our Lives, focused on ending gun violence, and he told me of a group of people he knows who didn’t want a pro-life group to march next to them. What a missed chance to find common ground and shared values!

This is just the kind of attitude Gather has been created to explore and respond to—namely, the attitude that “if you don’t agree with us about everything, we are not interested in you.”

Denise and I advertised our class in the Osher and Oasis catalogs as an opportunity to look at five different ways of describing the ideas and beliefs present in the world today: indigenous; modern, including populist left and populist right; fundamentalist; globalized; and transformative (as presented in Denise’s book Five Worldviews). In our class, we examined how people’s values and beliefs are formed, hoping that better understanding can lead to more curiosity and compassion for one another.

Wind turbines

The transformative worldview seeks alternatives to the environmental, economic, and social problems created by globalism.

There was a lot of interest in the topic. Both classes filled up quickly, and one even had a waiting list. After introductions and a brief overview of the syllabus, we gave participants a unique six-question quiz, designed by Denise to help people identify their own worldviews. We were quite surprised to find that nearly everyone in both classes identified with the transformative worldview, which seeks alternatives to the environmental, economic, and social problems created by globalism. A Powerpoint of pictures, cartoons, and posters then illustrated some of the main qualities of each worldview, followed by lively discussions of participants’ experiences with the different worldviews.

We then introduced the ideas of Jonathan Haidt, a moral psychologist, professor of ethical leadership at New York University, and author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. This book takes on the chasm between liberals and conservatives with some fascinating research that also helps to explain our worldviews concept. Haidt’s interviews with a wide variety of people have helped him identify six foundations on which our moral decision-making is based: care/harm, fairness/cheating, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, sanctity/degradation, and liberty/oppression. All have contributed to the survival of the human race throughout history. His book provides convincing evidence that while liberals base decisions mostly on the foundations of care/harm and fairness/cheating, conservatives base their decisions on all the foundations. Thus, the divide emerges. It has now been exacerbated by new political rhetoric and media bias that tend to demonize “the other.”

Haidt believes that the chasm dividing America is the most serious threat to our nation today. His research has led him to the conclusion that, as products of human evolution and the tribalism of the past, we adopt moral beliefs that bind us to those who think like us and blind us to the values of others. In addition, through hundreds of interviews in which he asked people to respond to a moral dilemma, he found that moral decisions come from our gut—from intuition, rather than moral reasoning. Reasoning comes later, as we attempt to justify the decision already made. Haidt contends that we will not be able to change one another’s minds about strongly held beliefs, so we must reach out to the other side to identify common ground.

You may be wondering by now if, during the Gather classes, we accomplished our goal of discovering ways to communicate effectively with those in a different camp. Participants did seem to be convinced that trying to get people to change their minds through discussion—usually an argument—was probably futile. Therefore, going for the common ground made more sense. They came up with a list of ideas that would contribute to a productive and civil conversation. Here is the list:

  1. Show sincere curiosity. Don’t start a discussion unless you really want to know.
  2. Take the heat out with ground rules for discussion from the start. For example, no one gets to talk for more than two minutes without inviting a response.
  3. Examine the disgust factor. We have very strong feelings regarding politics today. Find the human face.
  4. Use respectful language.
  5. Listen actively. Don’t interrupt or try to have your next response at the ready.
  6. Be ready to acknowledge and even appreciate a good point when/if it’s made.
  7. Acknowledge differences, while trying to find commonality. Help each other through the discussion.

7 guidelinesTo some participants, what seemed to be more problematic than having a discussion was finding someone to discuss with. As Haidt has pointed out, we are increasingly able to surround ourselves with ideas and people we agree with. Our mobility allows us to live in neighborhoods of our choice; our news coverage is often reported by journalists with a bias in one direction or another; religious denominations now promote political points of view; and the internet delivers us information tailored to our leanings. Denise and I were hoping for a class made up of various worldviews, yet participants were pretty homogeneous in their worldviews. Some participants believed that people on another side wouldn’t be willing to talk to us. Others didn’t want to risk alienating someone they loved and respected.

How do we find those who are different from us and willing to talk? One example just appeared for my husband and me at a lecture about Trump and Jacksonian politics. My husband asked the presenter how he responded to those who disagreed with him, admitting that he was struggling with this issue. At the end of the event, a man approached us and said, “I’m a Trump supporter, and I’d like to talk with you.”

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you agree with Haidt that we are facing a crisis of civility and understanding that threatens the future of our nation? Why or why not?
  2. If you do agree that there is a crisis, is it important for us as citizens to take responsibility for tackling this crisis?
  3. How can we find people to talk to about these issues?

The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In February 2018, the CGA launched Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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A New National Narrative: Concluding Insights of the Transformative Worldview

Today we conclude our blog series on the transformative worldview. For a review of the rest of this series, please visit the other articles through the following links: Part 1 (introduction), Part 2 (cultural patterns), Part 3 (political patterns), Part 4 (social patterns), Part 5 (economic patterns), and Part 6 (environmental patterns). Thank you for joining us as we explore this important way of seeing the world!

Events today pose a huge challenge for us: environmental degradation, a huge socioeconomic gap, unchecked individualism, a political system out of touch with reality, and worldviews unable to deal with future challenges. Our innate behaviors and historical experiences have not prepared us well for the urgency of the global issues that confront us; we do not have a firm track record that we can draw on. Our innate behaviors as a species have equipped us to deal with threats such as marauding lions or the needs of our immediate 25-member group, but now we must deal with the threat of planet-wide environmental devastation and the needs of our immediate 7+ billion–member group!

We often turn to our political or religious leaders as potential saviors. However, they are also overwhelmed with the issues, or they are caught in their own intransigent, outdated worldview. Our political leaders in the U.S. are adept (somewhat) at dealing with isolated problems in a legal, deliberative, cumbersome way, with built-in mechanisms to stymie impulsive actions. But they have failed to provide a vision of where we need to head and what we need to do. With their enslavement to corporations for their campaign donations, their intransigent bipartisanship, and their entrenched worldviews, many politicians are unable to provide the leadership the citizenry so desperately craves.34 President Donald Trump, US

The 2016 election in the U.S. of President Donald Trump was a rejection of many liberal democratic principles that the country and Western nations were founded upon. Half of the people in the U.S. voted for an authoritarian-type leader who is dispensing with the checks and balances carefully put in place over the years. They put their faith in a government run by wealthy oligarchs. Trump supporters are blithely rejecting our liberal traditions, just to cut through the bureaucracy and get results that benefit them. These political actions, unprecedented in U.S. history, are sure to have profound consequences.

Some of our religious leaders have also failed us, although many are working hard to bring about change. Many religious people, for example, have scoffed at the idea of climate change. However, some evangelical leaders are now alarmed that we humans are contaminating God’s creation and are calling for action. Other religious people continue to disbelieve the hard scientific findings. They are embedded in the minutiae of their faith and fail to see the “big picture” issues that are causing such distress around the world.  35 Religious Leaders

A challenge today and in the future is how to accommodate diverse opinions without losing social and national cohesiveness. There is a need to reduce the rigid dogma of fundamentalism, without losing the sense of shared meaning and purpose that traditional religion offers. There is a need to embrace the technological wonders of the globalized worldview that connect people throughout the world, yet reject the rampant consumerism and social divides that economic globalization fosters. There is a need to counter the pessimism, obscurity, elitism, and uninspiring and fragmenting effects of postmodern thought, without losing the ability to probe below surface meanings. What worldview will emerge to replace the shattered worldviews that have failed to provide a framework enabling us to address vast global problems?36 Village in Mexico, photo Denise Ames

One drawback to the transformative worldview is that many enthusiasts feel self-righteous about their “cause” and are unwilling to listen to others. The sanctimonious behavior among some has estranged people who otherwise might be drawn to worthy causes. While shouting tolerance and the rejection of hate, many have shown intolerance to views other than their own, especially on college campuses. That hardly makes for an inclusive movement! A willingness to listen and consider other views and people will do much to further many of the positive qualities of the transformative worldview.
37

Those supporting a transformative worldview need not totally disregard the other worldviews in shaping a new one, yet they need to be selective and mindful in fitting the values of the other worldviews into a new framework. Even though the traditional, modern, and globalized worldviews are the dominant paradigms at this point in time, the transformative worldview is gaining momentum and continues to mount a vigorous challenge to mainstream ideas, while offering viable options for a sustainable and more equitable future. Which worldview or combination of worldviews will global citizens choose for our future? While some people are already taking action, others are going through a process of debate, consideration, and deliberation. We all have a voice and critical stake in the outcome.

For many people, the transition to a new way of thinking and acting is a difficult one to make. But many are inspired to make the world livable and safe for our children and grandchildren. Although we eagerly install fluorescent lightbulbs or turn off our computers at night, deep structural, systemic changes are difficult to accomplish on our own. Our worldviews are embedded in the way society is structured; it is hard to make the leap to another worldview. Malcolm Gladwell described a “tipping point,” when things quickly make a dramatic shift to something different. The signals indicating that we need to shift to a different worldview are becoming ever more readily apparent. The leap to a transformative worldview is ever more urgent.  39 Tipping Point

It is essential to create a different worldview that can enable us to avert environmental collapse, deal with the myriad issues facing us today and in the near future, and forge a way of life that is happier and more fulfilling. Inspired by these goals, I have written my book Five Worldviews: How We See the World from a transformative worldview perspective, promoting it as a viable worldview today and in the future. After much research and reflection, I find that transformation is necessary to help us make the shift to a new way of thinking and acting that will move us into a new and more creative, tolerant, compassionate, and sustainable relationship with each other and our world.  40 Transcending worldviews

One step in formulating and expanding a transformative worldview is one that you have just accomplished: reading about worldviews. My goal is not for us to forcibly convert people to a transformative worldview. Rather, through listening, kindness, and compassionate conversations, we can actively demonstrate to others that the transformative worldview is a life-enhancing future scenario in which all people have a crucial stake. 41 no titleIt is my intent and hope that through engaging with others and seeing other perspectives, we can shift our consciousness to a transformative worldview. We can make that leap!

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider
1.  Do you see the transformative worldview as a viable alternative worldview?


Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. The CGA recently launched Gather, Global Awareness Through Engaged Reflection. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues. The simple acts of talking and listening allow us to see different perspectives, transcend deep political and cultural divides, and engage with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

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A New National Narrative: Environmental Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

Today’s blog considers the environmental patterns of the transformative worldview. For more in this seven-part series on the transformative worldview, please see Part 1 (introduction), Part 2 (cultural patterns), Part 3 (political patterns), Part 4 (social patterns), and Part 5 (economic patterns). Next week we will conclude this series with some final observations.

Those holding a transformative worldview treat the environment as not just an economic commodity. They feel that the Earth must be healthy to sustain humans and our fellow species. This view represents a shift in attitude that has been gaining momentum throughout the world. A new ecological awareness has awakened the perception of the interdependence of everything in nature, where every event has an effect on everything else.

Humans are seen as part of the mystery of the Universe and not isolated, separate, superior entities. With this awareness comes responsibility, along with an urgency to repair the damage done to the environment and halt further environmental destruction. Even tourism has taken an ecological turn for many travelers who opt for popular ecotourism destinations such as Costa Rica and Belize. Ecotourism involves visiting fragile, pristine, and relatively undeveloped natural areas; it is intended as a low-impact and small-scale alternative to large-scale commercial tourism. 29 Ecostourism in Costa Rica

The human population grew exponentially in the 20th century and continues to be an urgent issue in the 21st century. The carrying capacity of the Earth is severely strained by our current population. Will our Earth be able to sustain 9 to 12 billion people, a number projected to occur around 2050? If those future billions have a lifestyle like Americans today, the capacity for the Earth to provide resources will be severely compromised. 30

The dire consequences of climate change have galvanized millions of people adhering to a transformative worldview to work toward alternative and renewable energy, especially in the form of wind and solar energy. Our fossil fuel–dependent lifestyle has finally brought world-wide attention, even among some Western politicians, as a shift from our addiction to oil and coal is slowly underway. Events such as the first Earth Day in 1970, the Rio Environmental Conference in 1992, the Kyoto Treaty in 2001, the Copenhagen Climate Conference in 2009, and the United Nations Climate Change Conference in 2015 address the importance of a safe, healthy environment for sustainable human life. A growing number of people think it is of utmost importance to save the planet from environmental ravages.

A connected issue to energy, urban revitalization, is forcing many of us to rethink our car-dependent city configurations and accompanying suburban sprawl. Because of the excessive amounts of energy used to maintain this way of life, efforts are underway to switch to more energy-efficient modes of public transportation. Additionally, the alienating nature of suburbs has sparked rethinking among some people and a movement toward more community-focused neighborhoods that reduce commuting time and conserve valuable suburban land for agriculture and biodiversity.  31

Some ecologists suggest replacing the current economic measurement method—gross domestic product (GDP), which merely measures national spending without regard to economic, environmental, or social well-being—with a genuine progress indicator (GPI). The GPI, created by the organization Redefining Progress in 1995, measures the general economic and social well-being of all citizens. For example, if a business is responsible for an oil spill, the costs associated with the cleanup contribute to an increase in GDP, since the cleanup costs actually grow the economy, according to this measurement. But GDP ignores the environmental damage of the oil spill, which has a negative long-lasting cost and impact. In calculating the GPI, the costs of the oil spill would be subtracted from the total, since it damages the environment over the long-term. When using GPI calculations, the U.S. economy has been stagnant since 1970.i 32

A growing number of ecologists see the Earth as an interconnected organism that awakens our sacred relationship with nature and positively supports our psychic well-being. This shift of consciousness revives an ancient mystical accord with nature that has sustained humans for millions of years. A modern worldview has contributed to a destructive relationship with the Earth. Some people feel that a more benign connection would improve human health and mental well-being, as well as prevent the extinction of many endangered species, which add to the diversity of life.

Even though we are overshooting Earth’s carrying capacity, it is not too late to make changes. Our human capacity for thinking long-term, globally, and holistically does not have a great deal of historical evidence, yet such thinking is not beyond our capabilities. 33We can change, and we must do so. Adjusting our thinking to view the long-term consequences of our actions is paramount. Growth needs to be reconsidered as the mantra of our society. Instead, acting within the limits of our Earth’s capacity holds the key to our future well-being and survival.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. What do you think is the most important thing you can do individually and collectively to preserve the diversity of life?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

i “Genuine Progress Indicator,” Redefining Progress. http://www.rprogress.org/sustainability_indicators/genuine_progress_indicator.htm.

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A New National Narrative: Economic Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

In Part 5 of our seven-part series on the transformative worldview, we consider the economic patterns of this worldview. For an introduction to the transformative worldview, please visit Part 1. Part 2 discusses the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview, while Part 3 considers its political patterns and Part 4 its social patterns.

Those holding a transformative worldview believe in creating a more just, equitable, and sustainable economy that places less stress on an overtaxed environment. They are trying to counter the damage from global capitalism and its related values of greed and consumption that have been inflicted upon the human psyche. Many individuals and organizations with a transformative worldview struggle to eliminate free trade agreements such as NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and the WTO (World Trade Organization), which have wreaked havoc on local economies, workers, small businesses, and the environment, while enriching multinational corporations and their shareholders. 22 Local business, Buckhannon, West Virginia

Some people are working to reinstate bilateral trade agreements, where each trading nation makes its own mutually beneficial trade agreements. Others are working to set up alternative business forms, such as nonprofit businesses, cooperatives, and local, community, or employee-owned enterprises. For example, a committed group of individuals in my local community is working to establish a community-owned bank in which the state and local governments deposit their excess funds. The profits from this enterprise are channeled back into the local community rather than to out-of-state investors. Many people struggle to break the corporate lock on the “economic imagination” and develop diverse enterprises in which workers have a stake in their workplace, and the sustainability of the Earth is given utmost consideration. 23 Green City Growers. a cooperative

Some people argue that we can more effectively deal with the extraordinary rate of economic change by actively participating in life choices and not embracing rampant consumerism. Natural capitalism, which places priority on the well-being and sustainability of the Earth, is among the many economic changes that are emerging. Other significant economic changes include socially responsible investing, social entrepreneurship, micro-credit banking, community development, local businesses, self-managed worker-run enterprises, cooperative enterprises, nonprofit organizations, and disinvestment measures. For example, some people on college campuses are calling on college financial administrators to disinvest their investments from the fossil fuel industry. There is also a renewed call for stricter financial sector regulations, a cap on excessive executive compensation, the breaking up of large corporate holdings, and other reforms.  24 Small Local Loans

One alternative to the globalized economy is the redevelopment of the once-flourishing local or domestic economy. Local community members, government officials, and business owners can alleviate the wealth depletion of the local economy by returning to “economic self-determination.” This return to local capitalism reduces dependency on multinational corporations while creating wealth-accumulating enterprises at the local level. Local economies can produce, market, and process many of their own products for local or regional consumption, reducing transportation and middleman costs. 25

Local capitalism can bring local economies into harmony with the surrounding ecosystem, foster cooperation within the community, and substitute more personalized local products for more expensive imported, and often substandard, goods. In order for such a change to occur, the real effort must come from the local community, which can better utilize available resources in imaginative ways and provide more economical and high-quality food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and energy. A transfer of economic interests and activities from urban, core centers to the local community can reduce dependency on the core and revive local economic vibrancy.i

Concerns are arising over the fact that our industrial form of agricultural production is no longer able to meet the needs of the world’s population. Along with industrial agriculture’s enormous demands for irrigation water, its chemical inputs deplete the fertility of the soil, and its fossil fuel dependency contributes to global warming. Alternatives to mass-produced, industrial agriculture are emerging, such as the rise of sustainable, organic, and local agriculture. An alternative to industrial agriculture, organic farming connects what one eats to how one lives. It also considers the person charged with spraying destructive chemicals on foods and the considerable harm done to his/her health. 26 Organic greenhouse farming

A number of communities scattered throughout the world are working to incrementally achieve the goal of greater local businesses rooted in the community. For example, in the United States, a worker-owned initiative is located in the economically hard-hit city of Cleveland, Ohio. The “Cleveland Model” involves an integrated array of worker-owned cooperative enterprises targeted at the $3 billion purchasing power of such large-scale “anchor institutions” as the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Case Western Reserve University. The association of enterprises also includes a revolving fund, so that profits made by the businesses help establish new ventures. A worker-owned company, Evergreen Cooperative Laundry, is a state-of-the-art commercial laundry that provides clean linens for area hospitals, nursing homes, and hotels.27 Cleveland Model It includes 50 worker-owners, pays above-market wages, provides health insurance, and is still able to compete successfully against other commercial laundries. Another enterprise, Ohio Cooperative Solar (OCS), provides weatherization services and installs, owns, and maintains solar panels. Each year, two to four new worker-owned ventures are planned for opening. A 20-acre land trust will own the land of the worker-owned businesses.ii A revitalization of the local economy does not mean isolation and a complete rejection of the global capitalist economy, but rather an integration of global and local economies.

Technological Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

Some people supporting a transformative worldview dispute the notion that scientific progress and our faith in technological fixes can solve all complex problems and make the world a better, safer place to live in. Instead, the transformative worldview has a tacit understanding that science, technology, and a consumer-materialistic way of life have certain limitations and repercussions for our human species, as well as for other life forms on Earth. However, most people in the transformative movement realize the importance of internet and computer technology in instantaneously linking and organizing people around the world, while also providing accurate and transparent information.

Even though technology cannot fix all problems, perhaps it can help us deal with some of the urgent issues. But instead of using technology as the latest consumer fad, we need the wisdom to direct the technology to positive ends. As we have found in world history, one thing that humans are good at is making tools. 28Sometimes the repercussions of our tool-making creations are not immediately apparent; the atomic and nuclear bombs come to mind as inventions that have had few, if any, redeeming qualities. But many inventions have been beneficial—the internet has certainly benefited me. Many new innovations are underway to help “clean up” the environment, bring more energy efficiency to our way of life, and treat medical issues. Perhaps technology will provide the tools we need to save ourselves—but we will need to know how to use it in ways that are beneficial rather than harmful.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. What economic changes (if any) do you think should be promoted by those holding a transformative worldview?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

i Wendell Berry, “Decolonizing Rural America,” Audubon 95, no. 2 (March-April 1993): 105.

ii Gar Alperovitz, “America Beyond Capitalism,” Dollars & Sense.

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A New National Narrative: Social Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

Below, in Part 4 of our seven-part blog series on the transformative worldview, we consider the social patterns of this worldview. In Part 1, we introduced the transformative worldview; in Part 2, we considered its cultural aspects; and last week we explored its political perspectives.

Some people adhering to a transformative worldview see the rights of indigenous people, women, non-elites, animals, and the environment as worthy of promoting. Some people earnestly work toward eradicating racism, sexism, classism, and homophobia around the world. Since around the 1990s, for example, LBGT movements, a term that was not in widespread use before 1990, have been achieving human rights for lesbian, bisexual, gay, transgender, and transsexual people around the world. The LGBT social movement advocates for the equalized acceptance of LGBT people in society. Although there is not an overarching central organization that represents all LGBT people and their interests, many organizations are active worldwide. Today these movements include political activism and cultural activity, such as lobbying, street marches, social groups, media, art, and research. The 1990s saw a rapid push of the transgender rights movement, and it continues today.

17 LGBT rainbowSome people who promote a transformative worldview believe that education is the key to ushering in alternative changes. Some wish to deinstitutionalize our educational establishments and make our schools diverse, engaging, and beneficial to all, not just to an elite group. They are critical of No Child Left Behind, which they believe overemphasizes testing and “punishes” schools that “fail” to meet arbitrary national standards. Popular among many educators (including this author) are holistic educational practices that encourage diversity, inquiry-based learning, activities that connect with our multiple intelligences, a global perspective, and a holistic world history!

The importance of communal values, rather than an overemphasis on individualism as the central cultural value, is important to many people connecting with the transformative worldview. Emerging social values can be gathered from contemporary culture, from diverse ancient traditions, and from our own imaginations. For example, we can learn to draw upon the wisdom of our elders and their historical insights. Intense individualism is a learned behavior historically created and promoted by Western society, especially the United States. Those who support a transformative worldview believe a shift to a worldview that emphasizes greater cooperative, supportive, and life-enhancing attributes is a viable and necessary alternative. Visionary Mary Clark notes, “We urgently need to reinstate feelings of relatedness and community into our social vision.”i  18 !Kung Elderly Woman

The negative and positive effects of rapid social changes in the 20th century and early 21st century are playing out today. Our society is fraying at the edges because of social fragmentation and alienation. The social structures that are in place in the U.S. today widen the income gap, perpetuate poverty, alienate individuals and families, foster rampant individualism, and encourage the growth of a consumer society at great cost to the environment and individual well-being. When these seemingly intractable problems are looked at from a holistic perspective, they can be addressed more effectively. We are constantly blaming groups or individuals for “causing” these problems: Politicians blame teachers for not educating students satisfactorily, teachers blame parents for not providing a good foundation for education, liberals blame television and social media for “dumbing down” students, and advertisers say to just be “cool,” and all is well. Yet the whole system is out of balance.

The values and beliefs of the modern and globalized worldview govern our social system. Some supporters of the transformative worldview say our society drives us to pursue individual rewards, pleasures, and recognition, while the family, community, and commons are devalued and rendered subservient to the individual. Children are trucked to day-care centers so that parents can earn money in the marketplace, taking them away from the home and their children. Even when there is enough leisure time for family or community enjoyment, it frequently revolves around the marketplace providing platforms for entertainment. The adage “it takes a village to raise a child” has been replaced by “it takes a day care to raise a child.”  19 Extended family, Spain

The indigenous worldview provides valuable insights into societal readjustments. Historically, the band, group, family, village, clan, and tribe have provided mechanisms for human belonging. Humans have a universal, innate sense of wanting to belong to something bigger than just themselves. It is in our deep collective unconscious to live in connection with each other; it has only been recently that we have deviated from this norm. 20 Communal !Kung People

Instead, there has been a shift from community to the individual. This has intensified since the end of World War II and further intensified since the 1980s, when the ideal of the individual reigned supreme. Now rampant individualism has reached a crisis point. Social disengagement and alienation are expressed in the upsurge in the use of anti-depressant drugs, the rash of teen suicides, and an untold number of broken families. For example, from 2001 to 2014 there was a 2.8-fold increase in the total number of prescription-drug-related deaths. We have become untethered from our innate human need—the need to belong.

For individual well-being, those supporting a transformative worldview argue that our social currents need to change to a more equitable, nourishing, and sustainable way of life. 21The good news is that many people recognize this is an urgent issue and are remaking social institutions to foster more community spirit. They are rethinking the self-serving individualism that permeates the values and attitudes of many parts of American and world society. For example, many religious institutions are once again encouraging their places of worship to provide a setting for social interaction and support for their members and others in the community. Changing parts of the system can trigger changes in the whole system. It is a huge challenge, but once awareness is reached, change can come about. Perhaps once again we will be able to claim that it takes a village to raise a child.

questions-to-consider
Questions to Consider

  1. What does the saying “it takes a village to raise a child” mean to you?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

i Mary E. Clark, Ariadne’s Thread: The Search for New Modes of Thinking (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989), 490-492.

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A New National Narrative: Political Patterns of the Transformative Worldview

In this seven-part blog series, we are exploring the transformative worldview and its many complexities. For an introduction to the transformative worldview, please refer to Part 1 of this series. Last week, we explored the cultural patterns of the transformative worldview, and today we take a look at its political patterns.

The transformative worldview advocates for a decrease in the dominance of the nation-state arrangement. Other political configurations are emerging to challenge or complement the sovereignty of the nation-state. The organization, structure, and services that governments provide for their citizenry are changing markedly because of the shift by many nations from managed capitalism and socialism to neoliberalism and state capitalism. With more wealth concentrated in the hands of the elite, politicians have increasingly supported policies that favor the wealthy. Although the political organization in the U.S. is a republic with democratically elected representatives, increasingly we see that democracy is divided into two contending segments, which I call elite democracy and participatory democracy.  12 Clean elections

Many in the transformative movement favor involvement in participatory democracy for the benefit of all, not elite democracy in which a few wealthy oligarchs dominate the political agenda. For example, a movement for what are called Clean Elections strives to make elections publicly funded from government sources and small constituent donations, instead of from wealthy corporations and individuals who expect favorable responses to their agendas from “their” elected politicians. My hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, for instance, passed Clean Election regulations for local elections in 2005 and elected a Clean Election mayor in late 2017.

Peace and justice movements have had renewed vigor since the invention of the internet and social media communication. There are many local peace and justice chapters that encourage local engagement. (For example, I am a member of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice.) 13 no captionBecause millions of people can now be connected instantly, the issues of peace and social and economic justice are garnering attention and action. Among some of the many causes advocated by this diverse movement are democratic reforms, peace efforts, nuclear disarmament, population control, human rights, animal rights, gay rights, equality for non-elites, indigenous people’s rights, women’s and children’s issues, racial equality, and protection from hate crimes. These causes are moral and ethical standards that guide nations’ policies and action. For instance, advocacy groups in the United States are lobbying for a Department of Peace to balance the Department of Defense’s enormous financial outlays and influence.

World institutions and organizations are gaining more authority and legitimacy as they try to complement the authority of the nation-state. During the 20th century, world political institutions evolved that reflected a more interdependent world. One of the first such institutions, the League of Nations, established after World War I in 1920, failed to prevent the outbreak of World War II, although its successor, the United Nations (UN), has proven to be a more successful organization. The UN has a peacekeeping wing to enforce its objectives. International political entities today include nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and world, regional, and citizen-diplomat groups. International organizations, such as the already mentioned UN and the International Court, are charged with the overwhelming task of helping to stamp out terrorism, regulate arms, monitor human rights, prevent disease and hunger, and protect the environment. The WTO, World Bank, and IMF are global institutions charged with governing the global economy. 14 United Nations, New York City

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are privately created organizations with an international scope, unaffiliated with a particular nation. NGOs transcend narrow national interests in dealing with issues affecting the world and include such well-known world organizations as the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders, and the Human Rights Watch. Many of these organizations have local and state chapters for easy engagement by ordinary citizens. 15 Human Rights Watch, an NGO

Regional political organizations complement national governments. Regional organizations include the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which has taken on new objectives, along with its primary Cold War goal of protecting Western Europe. The Organization of American States (OAS), established in 1948 with 21 members, is the oldest regional organization of states. The European Union (EU), a regional organization of currently 28 member nations, has achieved a cooperative economy, established its own currency, the euro, and removed tariff barriers for easier trade. 16 Euro symbol, Frankfurt, Germany, photo Denise Ames

Formed in 2001, the African Union has 54 members on the African continent. One of its objectives is the promotion and protection of human rights, such as the right of a group to freely dispose of its natural resources in the exclusive interest of its members. In 1945, Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia signed the Pact of the Arab League States and created the League of Arab States, with 22 members in 2017. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has 10 members and was formed in 1967.

questions-to-consider

Questions to Consider

  1. Do you think there is a role for the nation-state in a more globalized world? If so, what would its role be?

Dr. Denise R. Ames is a long-time educator and president of the nonprofit Center for Global Awareness. The Center for Global Awareness develops books and materials with a holistic, global focus for adult learners and educators. In January 2018, the CGA will launch the Global Awareness Adult Conversation and Study Program, or Gather. In this unique program, adult learners form small study groups to launch conversations about pressing global issues, seeing different perspectives, transcending deep political and cultural divides, and engaging with others to create positive change. Please email info@global-awareness.org or visit www.global-awareness.org for more information.

Posted in cultural divide, GATHER, politics, Uncategorized, worldviews | Leave a comment