Yes, it could, and it is. Also for the first
time; we now have the knowledge, the technology, the transport,
the communication and the wealth to provide everyone on the planet
with sufficient food, clean water, healthcare, education, and
housing. What we don't have yet is the willingness of the controllers
of that wealth to use it for such a collectively beneficial purpose.*
But this may change faster than we think. The very problems enumerated
above are generating an unstoppable force for change. What an
exciting time to be alive!
What is urgently called for is mass education
and information dissemination, not simply at the intellectual
level but with the emotional depth essential to galvanise people
out of denial and complacency. This is already occurring in many
ways, in many places. Even the conservative media have picked
up the environmental cause, and rock stars are adopting social
causes in far away places. Films like The Inconvenient Truth,
Supersize Me, and Fahrenheit 9/11 are having an impact, and books
on every aspect of the need for change are proliferating.
It is into this arena that a small group of
people in the UK formed a not-for-profit communication organisation
called Be the Change, from a call by Mahatma Ghandi for people
to "Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
Starting in 2004, they held three annual three-day conferences
in May in London to audiences of some 500 people each and they
have spawned many other similar initiatives around the world including
Keynote speakers at these events have been world
experts in climate change (Tim Flannery), the new economics (Bernard
Lietaer), corporate social responsibility (Frank Dixon), conflict
resolution (Scilla Elsworthy), global water shortages (Lucien
Gill), leadership (Norman Drummond), personal and spiritual development
(Deepak Chopra), culture transformation (Don Beck), new education
initiatives (David Orr), new science discoveries, healthcare and
more. The breadth of subject matter covered is not just in order
to have something for everyone, but to reflect and stimulate the
whole system thinking that is essential for a sustainable future.
It is undeniable that issues can no longer be successfully addressed
in isolation on our shrinking interdependent planet.
Be the Change seeks to go beyond information
to engage with and empower their participants not only to take
action in a personal practical sense such as exchanging their
car for a hybrid or recycling their grandmother, but also to awaken
others to the issues. Between annual conferences and with a similar
objective, Be the Change now also delivers a series of one day
symposia entitled Change the Dream, and trains others to do the
same, something they are free to do anywhere, anytime.
The symposium was originally inspired by a meeting
between indigenous tribesfolk in Equador and John Perkins, an
American anthropologist. It was they who drew his attention to
the false assumptions that we Westerners make and that result
in our destruction of the earth's natural life systems. Subsequently
one of the tribal elders said to another visiting Westerner, "If
you come to help us, don't waste your time. If you come to explore
how we can work together to save the planet, then let's talk."
And talk they did. This symposium was one of the happy outcomes.
Change the Dream addresses three inseparable
issues, environmental sustainability, social justice and fulfilment
in life. It progresses through exposing the current situation
of all three, to the misguided assumptions that have led to the
fault lines in each. It goes on to explore what is possible for
the future and concludes by encouraging participants to be innovative
and courageous in their quest for remedial initiatives.
Along the way, the symposium reveals some startling
facts such as that in the past 60 years, 90% of all lions, tigers,
elephants and big fish have vanished from the earth. We are apparently
already into what is called the sixth extinction, the fifth being
the one that destroyed the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. In
the area of social justice, it reveals that the ratio of CEO pay
to average worker pay in the US has grown from 43 to 1 in 1973,
by ten times to 431 to 1 in 2003, and similar elsewhere. And in
terms of life fulfilment, it reveals that in the US one in each
four people has significant mental disorder, and in the UK that
"6 out of every 10 people are miserable at work."
It quotes the finding of the conservative business
magazine, Fortune, that major disasters such as earthquakes, drought,
floods, epidemics and hurricanes that had occurred at roughly
20 per year worldwide from 1900 till 1960, have risen exponentially
thereafter up to some 400 occurrences per year now. One explanation
for this is that a small rise in sea water temperature causes
a breakdown in the earth's resilience, resulting in a considerable
increase in the violence of natural events.
In the seminar section on, "How did we
get there?", the great cultural historian, Thomas Berry is
quoted as saying that since the beginning of the industrial age,
we have been in a period of "technological entrancement,
a mental fixation, (the dream) that alone can explain how we have
come to soil our waters and destroy our environment". We
have fallen into the trap of quantitative external progress, and
forgotten the qualitative internal which to balance it, and which
ultimately is infinitely more important. That is the oldest story
in the world - the quest for the Holy Grail in which the warrior
hero searches the world for the gold, only to discover on his
exhausted return that all the time it lay under his bed.
Another and perhaps the most pervasive and destructive
of our false assumptions today is the fear that "there is
never enough" which in turn causes us to consume all we can,
with hardly a thought for the less fortunate, other life forms
or future generations. We are also invited to question the wisdom
of infinite growth on a finite planet, the location of "away"
when we throw things there, and it reminds us that "consumption"
was once considered to be a dreadful disease - it still is.
Throughout the symposium, many video clips are
shown of the magnificence of the earth and the wisdom of scientists
and philosophers who are striving to preserve it. There are participative
exercises to process responses and emotions, and group discussions
about positive action. It is definitely not a programme of intractable
doom and gloom but one offering hope and opportunity. So much
so that after a recent symposium in London, 85 out of the 100
participants asked if they could train to become deliverers, and
the response has been similar elsewhere including in Australia.
Be the Change and Change the Dream are but two
initiatives in a worldwide movement that can be seen as the planet's
immune system kicking in to cleanse itself of the selfish assertive
adolescent phase of human development that has been predominant
for centuries, and to move us on into the transformational space.
Still to come, but showing signs of emergence,
is the time of interdependence and collaboration for the good
of the whole. It first put its head over the parapet in the sixties
in the US with the anti-war and hippy movement but it was beaten
back by the strong conservative power elite. This time the movement
is more widespread and less vulnerable and the old guard political
leadership in the States and elsewhere is in decline and disarray,
thanks in part to the folly of the Iraq war.
Corporate leaders too are under pressure struggling
to cope with globalisation, instant communication, staff expectations
and the speed of change. Corporate crime is widespread. Never
before have the institutions of business been viewed with such
public mistrust and even contempt than they are today all over
the world with the possible exception of China and India. Elsewhere
capitalism is showing its systemic inadequacy as the planet is
degraded under the weight of CO2 produced by the consumer culture.
However the planetary immune system response
is spreading fast and everywhere with a remarkably consistent
set of common positive values and purpose. On the other hand,
it is not centralised, it has no leader, it is both bottom up
and top down, it has little ego and a lot of passion. The old
world leaders were clever but cleverness is no match for the consciousness
so present in the movement and so powerful in the long term. It
is indeed a grass roots movement. It has so quickly become too
big and too widespread to be stoppable. Maybe that is what was
meant by the injunction that "the meek shall inherit the
Evolution can be seen as the purpose of life
and as inevitable. Evolution is always towards higher levels of
benevolence, compassion, caring and trust. Forward movement usually
attracts some resistance; that is to be expected but not feared.
The state of the world and the habitat of life, as we know it,
is under threat, but the stream of consciousness is flowing in
the right direction. Be the Change and Change the Dream are molecules
in that stream in which every atom counts. The atom is you.
It was anthropologist Margaret Mead who said,
"Never believe that a small group of dedicated and committed
people cannot make a difference, indeed it is the only thing that
ever has". In fact the greatest barrier that most of us have
to overcome is our limited and limiting self-belief. "If
you believe that you personally are too small to awaken people,
then you have never been in bed with a flee." It's time to
Be the Change.