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.
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.
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.
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
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. We 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
- 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 firstname.lastname@example.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.