what it is, and why we need it


Where there is no vision, the people perish

Psalms, Old Testament

One cannot solve a problem with the same

kind of thinking that gave rise to the problem

Albert Einstein

As we enter the Third Millennium, we find ourselves in the midst of the fastest and most profound transformation in the history of humanity. The current transformation is as profound as that which led from the Middle Ages to the industrial age, but it is faster, occurring in a matter of decades rather than centuries. The opening decade of the Third Millennium will be as different from the Modern Age as that age was different from the Middle Ages.

The new conditions call for radically different ways of thinking and acting. This poses a problem, because the speed with which the new world is breaking on us has not given us time to evolve the required insights, values, and practices. For the most part, we still attempt to cope with the conditions of the coming 21st century with the thinking and practices of the 20th. This, however, is like attempting to live in today's industrial societies with the mind-set of medieval villages. It is ineffective and, because of the vulnerability of our societies and ecologies, it is also dangerous. The danger concerns everyone. Given the increasing links and dependencies forged by global markets, technologies, and information, lagging perceptions and practices in one segment of society are a threat to all the others.

The Bible told us that where there is no vision the people perish; and Einstein realized that one cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that gave rise to that problem. Translated to the end of the Second Millennium, these insights mean that we cannot reach the beginning of the Third without evolving the kind of vision that would be appropriate to our changing conditions. A new direction must be found for our collective evolution. We cannot afford to let habit and inertia guide our steps; the further unfolding of our destiny must be conscious. We must evolve our vision and our consciousness.

In an address to the joint session of the US Congress on the 21st of February, 1990, Czech President V?clav Havel, an Honorary Member of the Club of Budapest, said, "without a global revolution in the sphere of human consciousness, nothing will change for the better... and the catastrophe towards which this world is headed ? the ecological, social, demographic, or general breakdown of civilization ? will be unavoidable." He was right. We cannot cope with the transformation of our economic, social, and ecological systems without a corresponding transformation of our vision and consciousness. To live with each other and not against each other, to live in a way that does not rob the chances of others to live as well, to care what is happening to the poor and the powerless as well as to nature ? this calls for sensitivity and for empathy; for sensing the situation in which we find ourselves and creatively responding to it. Our vision must rise from today's ego-, business, and nation-centered dimension to a broader human-, nature-, and planet-centered one.

Fortunately, a new vision is already transforming in people of open mind and creativity. The world over, young people are questioning established values and beliefs and seeking alternative lifestyles and consumption patterns. Is competition still the royal road to success ? would cooperation not produce better results? Does efficiency mean obtaining maximum productivity for every person and every machine ? would true efficiency not lie in producing humanly needed and socially useful goods and services? Is the accumulation of wealth and of the material goods that money can buy the true marks of a person's worth ? would some traits that money cannot buy, such as gentle-ness, wisdom, and caring, not be the real marks of a person's excellence? Could it be that the basic feminine values of nurturing, caring, and relating are the best antidotes to the indifference, self-centeredness, and chronic aggression that prevail in today's societies? Sensitive and concerned people of all ages manifest a fresh appreciation of existence and reverence for nature, evolve humanitarian and ecological concerns, and find that differences among people, whether in the area of sex, race, color, language, political conviction, or religious belief, are interesting and enriching rather than threatening. More and more people realize that we cannot do anything to nature without simultaneously doing it to ourselves, and that other people, whether next door, in distant parts of the world, or of generations yet to be born, are not separate from us and their fate is not indifferent to our own.

A new vision has become crucial for our times. It is needed to ?

? temper our collective quest for economic and material growth with a quest for social justice, cultural development, and a sustainable and healthy environment.

? moderate individual egoistic drives and appetites with the ethic of living in responsible ways -- ways that allow others to live as well.

? create social, economic, and political systems that can fulfil the needs of their people without undermining the integrity of their life-sustaining environment.

? provide creative, adequately remunerated and meaningful jobs for all people who need them and are willing to work.

? enable governments to perceive, and act upon, the emerging requirements of regional and global policy development and implementation.

? define and create a lasting system of local, national, and global security without expensive, wasteful and dangerous weapons systems and military establishments.

? sustainably and equitably to manage the use and enjoyment of the natural resources that are the collective patrimony of the world's peoples and nations.

? make social and environmental accountability part and parcel of the mission of public and private institutions and the culture of local businesses and global companies.

? evolve a holistic approach to food production and distribution, health care and social welfare, beyond the dictates of short-term economic logic.

? appreciate, and make productive use of, the social and cultural diversity of the contemporary world in the pursuit of common goals and objectives.

? go beyond no-holds-barred competition in zero-sum "I win, you lose" games toward cooperative actions aimed at achieving shared benefits in positive-sum "I win, you win" games.

These elements of the needed vision share a common trait: they encompass not only the trees, but also the forest. The "forest" in our days is the planet in all its natural and human diversity and splendor. A truly planetary vision could heal the split between mind and body, self and other, human being and nature. It could give give us a new sense of meaning and significance. And it could inspire a profound sense of responsibility. We would come to see that we are part of the grand scheme of things; that we evolve or perish together.

When we evolve a planetary vision we realize that it is our responsibility to evolve together and create a world where individuality, innovation and diversity are not the source of disunity, conflict and degradation, but the basis for harmony, cooperation, peace and sustainable wellbeing.

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