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Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2016
19 Pages, Grade: A
A Macroshifts in Society
1 No change- Business As Usual (BAU) Scenario
1.1 The Economic and Political Processes
1.2 The Ecological Dimensions and the Military Fallout
2 The Timely Transformation Scenario
2.1 The First Step
2.2 The Crystallizing Contours of a Cooperative World
2.3 The Rise of a Sustainable Civilization
B Planetary Ethics
1 Is it too late to change direction?
2 Laszlo’s 10 commandments
Macroshifts in Society and Planetary Ethics
What is a quantum shift in the global brain? According to Laszlo the global brain is the quasi-neural energy- and information- processing network created by six and a half billion humans on the planet, interacting in many ways, private as well as public, and on many levels, local as well as global. He goes on to say that a quantum shift in the global brain is a sudden and fundamental transformation in the relations of a significant segment of the six and a half billion humans to each other and to nature— a macroshift in society—. The two shifts together make for a veritable “reality revolution” in society as well as in science. In his book, Laszlo tells us that we are at a pivotal point in evolution, where our generation is in the position to determine the fate of humankind. Nevertheless, we can no longer continue on as we have done until now. He believes it will make a major alteration in human consciousness to unleash the creativity and open-mindedness needed to bring about necessary changes. In his book, Laszlo searches for a scientific framework that could potentially help us explain the sense of “oneness” that people tend to experience when meditating. It is this sense of “oneness” that Laszlo believes we should be capitalizing on in order to bring about the large scale social change that he believes would be necessary in order to save humanity for potential extinction. Laszlo (2008, introduction) argues about the reality revolution. According to him, with the coming of the first decade of the twenty first century the world witnesses a new reality, that is both individual and global. Our reality is especially changing because the world has become insecure and is no more viable. The beginning of this century is particularly interesting because it offers us the opportunity to choose between an obsolete and declining world or another possibility, that is to say a new and sustainable one. Everything bifurcates, nothing continues the same way. Therefore, Laszlo indicates that we live in a period of bifurcation in the midst of an important revolution of our world, that he calls Macroshifts. The bifurcation he refers to is the way we relate to each other, to the cosmos and to nature. As a result of that behavior, most of us have thought that we could continue to do business as usual, that things would remain the same. But unfortunately, we cannot; on New Year’s Eve 2007, the Russians celebrated in the former Red Square with no trace of ice and snow Laszlo reports. Equally important, in January of the same year, New Yorkers walked in Central Park in shirtsleeves; there is rarely any of the legendary snow left on top of Kilimanjaro. This exemplifies that the Earth is factually transforming under our feet. The most visible ongoing transformation is the climate. This book is very amazing as Laszlo uses it as a tool to warn humankind about the dangers that await the world if it continues in the bad direction. This is the reason why I have selected two specific subjects to deal with in my book review and analysis, divided into small sections. I will develop the following topics: macroshifts in society and planetary ethics.
Abstract from Laszlo’s book:
“Had he lived today, Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, would affirm with deeper conviction than ever: To be or not to be is indeed the question.
It is not the skull of an individual human being that Hamlet would ponder, but this living blue-green planet, the home of humanity. How long will it support us? Will we destroy its delicate
balances, or will we set out to heal the damage we have already inflicted? Will we manage to evolve as a conscious social and cultural species—or will we become extinct like the dinosaurs?
The question is: Evolution or extinction?”
A proverb from China says, “if we do not change direction, we are more likely to end up exactly where we are headed.” If we apply this proverb to today’s context, this would be terrible:
- There is deepening insecurity in countries both rich and poor and greater propensity in many parts of the world to resort to terrorism, war, and other forms of violence.
- Islamic fundamentalism is spreading throughout the Muslim world, neo-Nazi and other extremist movements are surfacing in Europe, and religious fanaticism is appearing the world over.
- Governments seek to contain violence through organized warfare world military spending has risen for the past eight years running and has reached more than one trillion dollars a year.
- One in three urban dwellers in the world live in slums, shantytowns, and urban ghettos. More than 900 million people are classified as slum-dwellers. In the poorest countries 78 percent of the urban population subsists under life-threatening circumstances.
- Climate change threatens to make large areas of the planet unsuitable for human habitation and for an adequate level of food production. Very few countries are still food self-sufficient —and the internationally available food reserves are shrinking.
- The amount of available fresh water is diminishing rapidly; over half the world’s population faces water shortages. On average, 6,000 children are dying each day of diarrhea caused by polluted water.
When reading these facts that we are witnessing, those facts illustrate the reality revolution Laszlo refers to. Our world is dangerously shifting because we do not want to change our direction. We have to realize that our world-environment- is shifting as a result of our mass production society. We keep producing goods and services without taking seriously how the way we do it can jeopardize our life on this planet and also the life of future generations, who are our children. Something is to be done in order to change direction.
In this perspective, Laszlo talks about two possible scenarios: business as usual (BAU), it means we continue to spiral downwards. Climate change continues to have a negative impact on ecological systems as well as the economy which could potentially contribute to an increase in terrorism and organized crime. Or Timely Transformation- people shift their thinking patterns; realizing that they have the potential to be “agent of change”. Business leaders decide to adopt a strategy where the pursuit of profit and growth is informed by the search for corporate, social and ecological responsibility, Laszlo (2008, p. 12).
Before I continue, I would like to give the definition Laszlo provides concerning macroshifts. According to Laszlo (2008, p.17), when any type of system instability reaches a critical point, that the system must either collapse or shift itself into a more self-sustaining one. These critical “tipping points” constitute Macroshifts. Macroshift phases include:
- The trigging phase, when change is ongoing.
- The transformation phase: change becomes more rapid. With the advent of greater technologies, humans were able to produce and acquire more. This resulted in population growth which had a greater impact on the environment.
- The critical phase (also known as chaos): society is now in a vulnerable state. Small fluctuations can have a strong ripple effect which causes bifurcation whereby the stress on the natural system either exceeds its capacity or we are able to adapt appropriately and breakthrough rather than enter into the final breakdown phase. We are currently at this juncture.
If we do not change our direction and continue to do business as usual, we will undergo critical moments arising in regions most wide-open to the hazardous effects of climate change. It is in this respect that Laszlo accounts what is currently being experienced on our planet:
- Changing weather patterns create drought, devastating storms, and widespread harvest failures.
- Coastal areas are flooded by rising sea levels.
- Famine spreads in areas dependent on adequate rainfall for food production and areas exposed to tornados, hurricanes, and violent storms.
- Massive waves of migrants from the worst-hit areas seek areas where resources are more assured.
The breakdown of the poorest and most directly exposed regions creates a global security threat:
- Epidemics of infectious diseases spread over Africa, Asia, and the Americas owing to heat waves, outbreaks of agricultural pests, and contaminated drinking water.
- The waves of migration to relatively well-off regions overload the local resource base and create conflict with the established populations.
- Terrorist groups, nuclear proliferators, narco-traffickers, and organized crime form alliances with unscrupulous entrepreneurs and expand the scale and scope of their activities.
In this regard, Laszlo indicates that terrorism spreads, together with declared and undeclared attacks on countries suspected of harboring terrorists. Then he states that the North Atlantic Alliance linking Europe, the United States and Russia collapses. France, Germany, Russia and China form a coalition to balance what they perceive as growing U.S. military-economic hegemony, joined by Brazil, India, South Korea, and other developing countries.
Accordingly, global military spending experiences a sharp rise, as the U.S. and its allies and the opposing bloc countries enter the spiral of an arms race. For this reason, global economic stagnation combined with U.S. unilateralism weakens the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization. As regional economic agreements become more attractive than multilateral trade arrangements and bilateral trade with the U.S., trade wars become frequent and destabilizing. North–South trade agreements are cancelled and trade flows disturbed; the international economic/financial system is in shambles. Consequently, people exposed to poverty join rebellions against local landowners and government officials.
This first point illustrates the factual consequences of doing business as usual, consequences that can be very dramatic for the world economy. These Laszlo’s arguments are difficult to be refuted as they are so obvious. In effect, in our today’s world we can see that some European countries together with some developing countries form coalition to block America’s supremacy. I do not believe that things in such a context can help us change direction; I mean that a hostile nation-to-nation context could never be favorable for the change we need to save our planet from extinction. Laszlo describes the economic and financial chaos that is the result of business as usual.
As for the ecological dimensions, Laszlo declares that we have water and food shortages in Sub-Saharan Africa, China, southern Asia, and Mesoamerica that generate water and hunger-wars. The fact of exploiting soils too much and overfishing of seas and rivers particularly reduces harvests in the industrialized countries and produces growing reliance on a decrease stock of global food reserves. So hunger and unhealthy conditions accelerate the spread of HIV/AIDS, and other epidemics throughout the poor countries.
With regard to the military fallout, political and economic conflict between the U.S. and its allies, and the opposing military-political bloc reaches a crisis point; belligerents and armaments lobbies press for the use of weapons of mass destruction. Regional wars erupt in the traditional hot spots and spread to neighboring countries. The main military-political-economic power blocs decide to make use of their collections of hi-tech weaponry to achieve their economic and political objectives. Some among the new strong-arm régimes employ nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to resolve regional conflicts. To this end, wars fought with conventional and nonconventional weapons escalate to the global level.
Laszlo affirms that in order to avoid humankind to suffer the end of its age, we have to stop doing business as usual because the world and the environment we are living in is shifting as a result of our economic and industrial activities, given that we always want to make profit. Actually, we are currently behaving in a way that is unsustainable and jeopardizes our daily life in a sense that there will be a time where we will not be able to breathe properly because of air pollution. I remember the first time I left Libreville (Gabon) to go to Madrid (Spain), I found it difficult to breathe fresh air since there is no fresh air there. You know in Africa we might not yet perceive the consequences of pollution, but on that day, when I realized in Madrid that I could not breathe properly I wanted to go back to my country, and then observed that pollution is really a reality. That is the result of the pursuit of high consuming and productivity in the western world.
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