A People's News Agency (PNA) Dispatch
Toward a Common Future
Archives: February, 1998
Toward A Common Future
by Roar Bjonnes
Humanity has reached a turning point, a defining moment in history. We
stand at a crossroads, and the path we choose to follow will affect future
generations at least as profoundly as the industrial revolution affected
our lives. The main problems of modern planetary civilization can no
longer be solved in isolation. Environmental destruction, cultural decay,
and technological excesses, along with with increased poverty, even in the
world's richest nations - are all systemic problems that cannot be changed
with the fragmented approaches so far employed by politicians and
scientists. We need bold, new, comprehensive concepts and visions.
But most of all, we need a change of heart. As playwright and former
president of Czechoslovakia Vaclav Havel said before a Joint Session of
the United States Congress in 1990: "Without a global revolution in the
sphere of human consciousness a more human society will not emerge."
Through the lectures and writings of many leading edge thinkers, we have
been urged to answer some fundamental questions: How can we steer our
ecological society toward ecological balance? How can we create a more
equitable world economy that does not devour the web of life on which it
is based? How can we, amid a civilization of shopping malls and fast food
restaurants, cultivate richness of culture and sacredness of soul? What is
the role of consciousness in the healing of people and nations?
To find the answers, we need to combine the urgency of the environmental
and social justice movements with the wisdom of the indigenous elders, and
the latest interdisciplinary research in science with the timeless
intuition of the ancient mystics.
The voices of many dissenting experts echo the deep sentiments of millions
of people all over the world. Most Americans, for example, identify
themselves as environmentalists. More and more households recycle paper,
glass and soda containers, buy energy-efficient light bulbs, and donate
money to help save the whales and the rainforest. On Capitol Hill, in the
courts, and in the streets, the environmental movement has enjoyed many
victories. Yet, despite all these accomplishments, the environment is in
serious trouble, and the problems are getting worse with each passing year.
Materialism versus fulfillment
Another tragic irony is that, while modern society has been highly
effective in producing material goods, it has failed to provide us with a
deeper sense of fulfillment. Consumer society's excessive use of throwaway
food and beverage containers, for example, is as much an economic,
cultural and spiritual issue as an environmental one. We can no longer
afford to isolate our problems and our solutions, they are all
interrelated. As the late futurist Willis Harman suggested, we need to
address the "systemic failures" of industrial civilization head on. To
heal consumer society's wounds - including its environmental damages,
cultural decay, economic disparity, and spiritual shallowness - we must
examine and treat it as a complete organism, much the same way holistic
medicine attempts to restore the whole individual.
But environmental, political, economic or cultural changes are not enough.
A truly holistic vision for both people and planet must include Cosmic
Consciousness or God - the source from which everything originates and to
which we all one day will return.
Since the UN published its global report Our Common Future in 1987, a new
concept called sustainable development has spurred a creative marriage
between business and the environment. According to Maurice Strong,
Secretary General of the UN's Conference on Environment and Devlopment
(UNCED), and Anita Roddik, founder and managing director of the famous
natural skin care company The Body Shop, sustainable development and
socially responsible business ventures promise to hold some of the answers
to creating a healthier planet.
The sustainable development movement, however, with its emphasis on
ecology and economy, may fall short of its hailed promise to save the
planet if it does not embrace culture and consciousness as important
aspects of its planetary reformation program. Moreover, as Indian
philosopher P. R. Sarkar observed, capitalism itself has inherent flaws
which needs to be remedied. Sustainable capitalism is therefore a
contradiction in terms. Hence, Sarkar advocated a new economic system
primarily based on worker-owned, cooperative enterprises. Private
capitalism, he argued, is best suited to the small scale only, since it
can do little harm in creating disparity or environmental damages if not
allowed to concentrate extreme amounts of wealth in the hands of a few
While seeking a better future, it is important not to forget the past. The
present is a manifestation of past ideas and the future is a reservoir
waiting to contain the outpouring of today's visions. The reductionist
world view of modern scientism, with its lack of respect for both earth
and spirit, has no kinship with the past or any deep concern for the
future. Our new vision of wholeness - if it is to emerge as the true
inspiration for a new economic and political order - must therefore be
rooted in the deep, spiritual wisdom of the sages of the past while at the
same time be open to technological innovation and change.
Existential and utility value
Ecology and economy, both from the Greek *oikos,* mean "house" in the
broadest sense. Ecology (eco-logos) is about our understanding of the
planet as our home and our search to find harmonious ways to work and live
on it. Economy (eco-nomos) is about how to derive wealth from the
cultivation and utilization of the environment and about how to distribute
this wealth appropriately among the members of our social family.
Both ecology and economy should be concerned with the existential and
utility value of a being or an object. All inhabitants of nature, just
like ourselves, have an existential right to live and co-exist with
others. But since spirit or consciousness is more fully expressed in a cow
than in a carrot, and since we do have to eat, we will create less harm,
spiritually and ecologically, if we eat carrots rather than cows. Seen in
this light, the issue is no longer - as it has been for so long in the
forests of the Pacific Northwest - owls vs. jobs, but rather how jobs and
owls can co-exist in sustainable harmony. So, for us dwellers in the earth
household, spiritual ecology is the foundation on which the structure of a
balanced economy is built.
The inner glue
Culture - from the Latin *cultura*, to cultivate, tend or worship - is
about the intellectual and artistic expressions of humanity, the
collective soul of society. Consciousness, or *conscius* in Latin, is
about knowledge of others or oneself, the wisdom of that which is both
seen and unseen. Since spirituality or consciousness is the one source
that binds the diverse expressions of the universe together, it is also
the inner glue which links all beings and activities on planet earth
together. This happens whether we know it or not. But in order to change
our current course towards global collapse, it is imperative that we start
acting with conscious, spiritual intentions in all that we plan or do.
Thus our hope and goal is a local and global spiritual culture through
which the songs of healing and unity can be sung in harmony with the
spirit of the Cosmic Creator.
In Western society, the material development of life has surpassed our
cultural or spiritual achievements. And when material science becomes
almighty, there remains no cultural sophistication. Satellite dishes and
frozen microwave dinners are produced to a society of couch potatoes with
few shared rituals to celebrate the joy of existence or to mark life's
In Eastern societies like Bali or India, the transcendent intricacy of
culture and spirituality has, as its shadow, created the rituals of widow
burning and the dogmas of caste. In these societies, culture has surpassed
science and created a need to balance the obsession of faith with a more
Nevertheless, the new global society is emerging. It is emerging through
ascetic yogic monks working on laptop computers. It is emerging through
American physicians practicing the ancient arts of Chinese acupuncture and
Indian ayurvedic medicine. It is emerging through rainforest shamans from
South America contributing their medicinal and ecological knowledge to
scientists from Europe. It is emerging through indigenous peoples'
protests against clearcutting in the Philippines. The cultures of East and
West, North and South are coming closer day by day. Through the blending
of science and intuition, ecology and economy, culture and consciousness,
and through the radical changes forced upon us by the growing
environmental and economic crisis, a new social paradigm is emerging.
Through this resurgence we will discover new ground on which the
foundations for our ancient future can be based.
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