Decades ago the great mythologist Joseph Campbell suggested, “Follow your bliss!”
That was excellent advice for his time, which some called The Age of Conformity. And while Campbell’s advice still has merit, our time is different. We are in the midst of a great unravelling. Think of climate change, species loss… Our challenge, for those of us who care, is to turn things around.
Turning things around means changing all the major drivers that make environmental and social trends worse. In other words, it means changing the aspiration and operating character of our global civilisation so profoundly that we end up operating within planetary boundaries, and taking care of people in the process.
A tall order! Understandably, some find it mind-boggling. The project is so immense it’s hard to know where to begin. That is, however, a way to make it mentally manageable that can orient us towards productive action. Catalysing mass commitment to transformational change spells it out.
But here, let’s consider the aspiration itself. How big should our aspiration be? I observe that many people turn their environmental concern into practical actions such as supporting renewable energy. Others put their energy into protest. Some think tanks develop progressive policy.
All of these are valuable. Yet none of them operate at the level of changing the whole system. “Ah”, some might say, “but won’t this be enough? There is a huge wave of positive change; aren’t we moving in the right direction?”
Is the glass half-full or half empty? Obviously it is both. Encouragingly, there are many good people doing so many good things. There are, literally, millions of groups care about environmental and social well-being, and each is making a contribution.
But overall environmental trends are getting worse. There are at least two reasons why this is so.
- The global power elites drive policies that increase economic growth and associated environmental destruction.
- The general public goes along with this.
It is as though we are in a boat headed for the falls. The captain – the big end of town – keeps us headed for the falls. Our local actions, even when they are successful, are like cleaning up oil spills in the engine room of the Titanic. As long as the ship is headed for the falls we will all go down together.
Or so I suppose. Some people are enthusiastic about the prospect of 100% renewable energy… as well they should be. But this focus ignores the multitude of other ecological trends that are contributing to the Great Unravelling, and beyond that, ignore the big meta-drivers such as devotion to economic growth, population growth, corporate control of governments, (e.g. big money in politics), and psychologically manipulate advertising.
I suggest, then, that in addition to our local projects, those of us who care about a positive future would do well to devote a portion of our efforts to communicate with people we know about the overarching goal of transitioning to a life-affirming culture, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological self-destruction. And follow-through by communicating about the profound systemic changes that are necessary to pull out of our ecological nosedive.
Inspiring Transition is a platform to support thought leaders and citizen-educators. One of our tools is Kitchen Table Conversations. Our intention is to inspire thoughtful mainstream commitment to doing everything required to turn things around, and evolve a society that cares for people and the planet – a life-affirming society.
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