Conscious Global Change From the Inside Out

Author // Ervin Laszlo

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Conscious Global Change From the Inside Out
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The unsustainable condition of the human and the humanly impaired natural world constitutes a global emergency, and it calls for global-level cooperation to avert a global-level breakdown. Global-level cooperation is a new requirement in the history of humanity, and it’s not surprising that we are not prepared for it. Our institutions and organizations were designed to protect their own interests in competition with others; the need for them to join together in the shared interest has been limited to territorial aspirations and defense, and to economic gain in selected domains. Preparedness for globally cooperative action that subordinates immediate self-interests to the vital interests of the community is lacking, both in contemporary nation-states and in business enterprises.

Globally coordinated emergency action could produce positive results. The world lacks neither the financial nor the human resources for effective emergency action. Abject forms of poverty could be eliminated, energy- and resource-efficient technologies could be made widely available, water could be recycled and seawater desalinized, and sustainable forms of agriculture could be adopted. We could muster the energies to implement such action, and we have the technologies. Even a modest increment in the effective use of the solar radiation reaching the planet could supply the necessary energies, and the reassignment of but a fraction of the funds currently devoted to destructive purposes could finance the principal projects. The reason for the lack of globally coordinated effective action doesn’t lie in the condition of humanity relative to the condition of the planet, but in the lack of will and preparedness of the people and institutions of the human world to ensure their survival on the planet.

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A number of persistent beliefs and assumptions prevent the bulk of humanity from perceiving the current condition of global emergency and acting on it. For example:

It’s still widely held (although now less and less often voiced) that the planetary environment is practically infinite. It’s an inexhaustible source of resources and an inexhaustible sink of wastes. This tacit belief obstructs the recognition that we are vastly overusing the planet’s resources and overloading nature’s regenerative capacities.

Another dominant belief is that matter is passive and inert, and can be engineered to suit our wishes. The belief that with our sophisticated technologies we can manipulate the world around us to respond to our personal, national and economic objectives produces a plethora of unforeseen side effects, such as the destruction of ecological balances and the massive extinction of living species.

It’s also widely held that life is a struggle where only the fittest survive. This arbitrary application to human society of Darwin’s theory of natural selection justifies no-holds-barred competition and creates a growing gap between an ever-shrinking group of economic and political power-elites and the marginalized mainstream of the people.

The still-dominant economic wisdom is that competition is good, for the free market, governed by what Adam Smith called the “invisible hand,” distributes wealth. When one does do well for oneself, one also does well for one’s fellows in the community. Yet the penury of nearly half of the world’s population offers clear testimony that this tenet doesn’t hold in today’s world, where the skewed distribution of power and wealth distorts the operations of the market.

Numerous personal values and beliefs hamper the will to engage in globally cooperative emergency action. The ethos that characterizes the modern world puts the individual on a pedestal, holding him or her to be unique and above nature. In the words of Francis Bacon, the superior status of modern man justifies “wrenching nature’s secrets from her bosom” for his own benefit.

Last but not least, there is a persistent belief that the selfishness and egocentricity that characterizes modern people are unalterable expressions of human nature; they cannot, and therefore will not, change. People have always pursued their own interests and always will, mitigated at the most by the interests of their immediate family, enterprise or ethnic or national community.

Given the persistence of such beliefs, the failure of both nation-states and business enterprises to join together in global projects is by no means surprising.

The silver lining on these ominous clouds is the growing openness of young and sensitive people toward adopting new and more responsible ways of thinking and acting. The “alternative cultures” are growing rapidly, but they have yet to produce the globally coordinated action needed to cope with the global emergency. Bringing them together to form a critical mass that has sufficient economic and political weight to implement the “worldshift” that would transform the structures and operations of society and re-stabilize the cycles and balances of nature is conceivably the most urgent and important project of our time.

To contribute to this epochal task we need to mobilize the will and the vision of people everywhere, especially young people. And by “young,” I mean not only those who were born in the last two decades, but those who conserve a fresh and innovative spirit—the spirit of adventure combined with a sense of responsibility. There are many such people today, and I am addressing the following message to them in their and all our best interest.

You, the young people of the world, are the movers and shakers, the music makers—the most privileged people who ever walked the Earth. For the first time in history, one generation—your generation—holds the key to the greatest challenge our species has faced since it proudly named itself homo sapiens. This is the challenge of change—of profound, timely and conscious change.

Privilege entails responsibility. You have the privilege to meet the challenge of timely and conscious change, but you also have the responsibility that goes with the privilege: the responsibility of taking an active part in promoting this change.

To live up to this responsibility you need to understand the nature of the problem and its possible solution. Why do we, the human family, face the challenge of change? And what can you, your generation, do about meeting the challenge? There is a straightforward answer to both these questions.

We face the challenge of profound and timely change because the world your fathers and forefathers have created is not sustainable. “Unsustainable” means that if the world doesn’t change, it will break down. It cannot keep going as it is.

Take a look around you. Summers are getting hotter, winters milder, storms more violent, the extremes more pronounced, the variations more unpredictable. A little less cold could be a good thing in many climes, except that global warming also means that less rain is falling on productive lands; that forests are dying; that water tables are dropping, and that, because ice is constantly melting into the Arctic and Antarctic oceans, sea levels are rising the world over.

How long before thousands of millions will be pressed below the level of bare subsistence? Before hundreds of millions will be driven from their homelands by hurricanes and floods? Before whole cities and entire islands will be submerged?

The answer to this question is straightforward, as well. You need to take to heart two wise sayings, by two of the wisest people who ever lived on this planet. Albert Einstein said, You can’t solve a problem with the kind of consciousness that gave rise to the problem. And Mahatma Gandhi said, Be the change you want to see in the world.

Take Einstein’s insight first. You need to develop a new consciousness, adopt new thinking. This means not just acquiring more data or more information—mere additions to the current kinds of knowledge. It means new knowledge, a new way of thinking. Some call it a new paradigm.

The new paradigm is in active development. It is variously called the holistic paradigm, the integral mode of thinking, or the systemic view of the world. Its main and decisive feature is that it doesn’t fragment the world in order to understand it. It doesn’t reduce the diversity we experience to one or two factors for the convenience of analyzing it. The “analytic approach” can provide sound technical knowledge, but not true understanding. It’s the knowledge of the specialist, who knows more and more about less and less. Specialized knowledge, the knowledge of the technician, while good for specific applications, fails when it comes to coping with the whole in which that application occurs. It cures the illness, but loses the patient.

The knowledge of mainstream society is fragmented, and it’s not only fundamentally incomplete, it’s fundamentally misleading. Things in the world are not separate, independent of one another. As cutting-edge scientists now realize, all things in nature are connected, and in the final count all things are what they are because of and through their connections.

Sound knowledge takes into account the connections. It perceives the forest and not only the trees. Trees are an organic part of the forest, and you cannot truly know a single tree in the absence of having an idea of the forest in which that tree is growing.

We live in an organic world, and our knowledge must be organic: whole and integral. Such knowledge is available. It’s the knowledge you need to live up to the challenge of changing the world—of consciously changing today’s unsustainable, moribund world into a sustainable and viable world. The Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University is committed to gathering such knowledge, to bringing together the people who develop it and who can effectively deliver it.

Consider now Gandhi’s advice. Why is it important to “be” the change you want to see in the world? Is changing yourself the way to consciously change the world around you?

The answer is that it is indeed. In a critically unstable system even small “fluctuations” can provoke major transformations. You have heard of the “butterfly effect.” The popular story is that when a monarch butterfly flaps its wings in Southern California a storm develops in Outer Mongolia. The tiny air current created by the butterfly grows and grows, until it changes the pattern of weather on the other side of the globe. This is entirely possible, although the actual origin of the term is different. It refers to the shape of the “chaotic attractor” that meteorologist Edward Lorenz discovered in the 1960s when he tried to model the world’s weather. This attractor, a mathematically generated modeling device, has two “wings,” where each wing models one path in the evolution of the world’s weather. Lorenz found that even tiny alterations in the factors that influence the weather can make for a sudden, and initially unpredictable, shift from one of the wings of the “butterfly” to the other—from one global weather pattern to another.

The fact is that a chaotic system—and the world’s weather is such a system—is supersensitive and inherently unpredictable. But not only the world’s weather is chaotic: So is the world’s economy, the world’s financial system, and the world’s natural environment. All these systems have now been pushed to the edge of chaos, and as a result they have all become supersensitive. Butterfly effects are coming about in them.

You, the young generation of our chaotic times, are precisely positioned to be the butterfly that creates the crucial effect. You were born at exactly the right time: at the time when the world around you is becoming open to change.

It’s hardly possible to create real change in a stable society: It has powerful defenses against it. There is a simple reason for this: Those who hold the reins of power fear change—it may divest them of their privileges. Whether they are politicians, business leaders, or ecclesiastical, educational or social authorities, the powerful, unless they are exceptionally open and wise, do everything in their power to maintain the status quo. They try to “excommunicate” those who want change—not literally, as the Church did in the Middle Ages, but by modern means: by ignoring the agents of change, and if ignoring them is not feasible, then by discrediting, ridiculing and isolating them.

This is not an insurmountable problem for you, today’s young generation. The dominant forces in the world still resist change, but they no longer have the power to resist it effectively. Contemporary societies are no longer stable; they suffer from multiple crises— economic, financial and ecological, even social and cultural crises. They are approaching a condition of chaos, and in a condition of chaos new thinking can spawn new behavior and lead to effective innovation. Even small groups and seemingly minor initiatives can catalyze major change.

There was chaos in the human world in the past as well, but it was local, and the opportunity to change was likewise local. Today’s chaos is global, and the opportunity it brings is also global. Failing to seize it would be not just the height of stupidity: It would be a crime against humanity.

The bottom line is this. The world needs timely and effective change: a global shift. Your generation is uniquely positioned to bring about that shift. The Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University is committed to make available to you the new-paradigm thinking you need to evolve your consciousness, develop new thinking, and change yourself so you can change the world.

To The Young People Of The World

We are the music makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone seabreakers,
And sitting by desolate streams;
World-losers and world-forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world forever, it seems…
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Ninevah with our sighing,
And Babel itself in our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.

—Arthur O’Shaughnessy

The Giorando Bruno Globalshift University is the first online university to make high-quality fully accredited university education accessible to young people in all parts of the world. It held its Founding Congress at the Budapest Historical Museum in the Royal Castle of Hungary on September 9, 2011, and is open for enrollment on five continents.

The open letter to the young people and the Covenant adopted by the University indicate the University’s commitment to young people, and its resolution to offer a program of education that empowers them to be self-reliant and productive members of society, as well as effective architects of a world that is sustainable and peaceful, and free of the barriers and subordination that often constrain the lives and the opportunities of young people today.

The Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University’s Covenant With the Young People of the World


The world we and our fathers and forefathers before us have created is no longer sustainable; it either breaks down in chaos and anarchy or breaks through to a more sustainable, equitable and peaceful world;


The choice between breakdown and breakthrough is yet to be decided, and it is likely to be decided ultimately by the young people who are now reaching maturity and will soon be entering positions of responsibility in society;


It is the task of higher education to bring relevant information and knowledge to young people, and relevant information and knowledge embraces today the information and the knowledge on the basis of which young people—and people who are young in spirit, whether young or old—can evolve the wisdom and the determination to become conscious and responsible architects of a new world;

and Whereas

The Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University, being a global online university aspiring to reach young people and people young in spirit the world over, is in a unique position to provide the information and the knowledge on the basis of which people can develop the wisdom and the determination to become conscious architects of a more sustainable, equitable, and peaceful world.

The Giordano Bruno GlobalShift University now resolves to enter into this covenant with the young people of the world

To do its utmost to provide the scientific and humanistic concepts and insights that can empower young people and people young in spirit to evolve the new thinking and the new consciousness Einstein said is needed to solve the significant problems of our time, so that they may become conscious and dedicated architects of a sustainable, equitable and peaceful world, as well as responsible and productive members of their family, their community, and the community of all life on Earth.

In the fulfillment of this Covenant, The Giordano Bruno Globalshift University resolves to challenge and put on trial the doctrines, the structures and the institutions that create artificial barriers between peoples, nations and cultures, and subordinate the great majority of the people to the economic, political and doctrinaire interests of a political, economic, or cultural minority, just as the ecclesiastical authorities and institutions of the late 16th Century had put on trial Giordano Bruno for refusing to subordinate his insights and his convictions to their authority.

Pathways Issue 34 CoverThis article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #34.

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