The Center for Ecozoic Studies recently ran its first iteration of the The Big Picture, a course designed and facilitated by CES founder Herman Greene that covers Earth history, cultural history, the onset of the Anthropocene, and possible responses to the Anthropocene. In the final class, we were asked to share our own ideas on potential responses to the Anthropocene. This focalizing question led me to outline what I see as three fundamental areas of consideration in humanity’s future if we are to make a transition to a more life-supporting mode of collective organization. These are incomplete and prefatory notes that feel much more like outlines for three individual and more fleshed-out articles to come sometime in the future. But they also give a sense of what I’m currently focusing on in my own research, and they make an appearance in the March-April issue of the Ecozoic Review. Hence, I’m sharing them here!
Three broad categories of consideration in the movement toward a more life-supporting civilization
1. Human Development
Essentially, this involves supporting the full flourishing of the individual, which includes growth that leads beyond fixation on accumulative and object-identified tendencies and cultivates the development of expanded inner awareness and authentic engagement with the world. Much more would need to be said here to give form to these words, but briefly, I see supporting individuals’ growth beyond habitual and unconscious egoic-survival-driven mentalities into a vaster notion of fulfillment and authentic purpose in the world as a crucial component in cultural development.
2. Cultural Evolution
One pertinent component of cultural evolution is the evolution of our values systems toward greater alignment with a vaster and more realistic conception of individual fulfillment and of collective wealth and wellbeing. A cultural orientation toward broader, less simplistic, and more comprehensive conceptions of wealth, value, and purpose is necessary, as is cultivating the individual and collective capacity to more fully sense and integrate the consequences of our actions into our awareness—which I believe is often an underdeveloped individual and cultural capacity.
3. Economic Systems Design
It’s very difficult to progress as a civilization when the incentives and systems that are in place are self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing, exerting strong forces that maintain the current system equilibrium. The design principles of our systems need to be updated and amended to enable us to align our economic and political activity with a flourishing and balanced human presence, rather than incentivizing the enclosure and commoditization of our various forms of capital (natural, social, cultural, etc.) and their conversion into consumer products based on an impoverished sense of human fulfillment and a short-sighted understanding of collective wealth and wellbeing. So much has and could be written about this. Very briefly, examining our systems of expanding credit, indicators of wellbeing, the failure to fully acknowledge the true value of non-market assets (including the wealth of the commons and various forms of unacknowledged capital), many instances of market failure, and our systems for making collective and social choices is necessary. In many ways, the problem is that while our systems appear complicated, they are in fact far too simplistic and incapable of incorporating the complexity of our real human and natural systems into their logic and the incentives they create. We need a new framework of simplicity that is simultaneously complex and dynamic upon which to develop continually emerging and evolving parameters that can operate in a way more aligned with broad conceptions of human fulfillment and collective wealth. This also implicates methods of political consensus and action, which are in many ways inseparable from questions of economics within an holistic and comprehensive approach to the field.