Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Tipping Point

More and more people seem convinced that something dramatic will happen at the end of 2012. Something dramatic will indeed happen -- and it could be something dramatically good. While the world will not suddenly become a paradise on earth, we could launch a process that would take it in that direction. Because the end of 2012 will be a transition from one age to the next. But into what age it will transit is not decided yet. All we know is that the processes of change that have been building throughout the 20th century will reach a point of no return -- the point at which whatever direction they take will become effectively irreversible. Now, we are almost at that critical tipping point.
The breakout from the old has started already, but it is not yet committed to a breakdown or to a breakthrough. It has not reached the tipping point because some people -- for the most part those whose economic and political interests are tied to the status quo -- believe that the current system can still be maintained. They are trying to restabilize it in business, finance, and politics, and refuse to admit that doing so is futile. Their efforts can delay the coming of the tipping point, but cannot avert it.

 The wiser option is to try to transcend the current system and find ways of organizing ourselves that allow us to live in peace with ourselves, with others, and with nature. This is a realistic option. We have the technology, the money, and the know-how to achieve it. The question is, whether we also have the will.

We need new thinking. Einstein told us that we can't solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the problem, and if our problem is the obsolescence of the world we have created, we need to shift to a new paradigm for our life and civilization. The same thinking that got us here will bring us to the critical tipping point -- and to the irreversible leap which is then likely to be down, rather than up.
We should have long known that the world we have created is not sustainable. In 1962, in her seminal book Silent Spring, Rachel Carson told us that the way we treat our environment is not tenable and is bound to backfire, and in 1972 the Club of Rome published The Limits to Growth, a computerized world model with social and economic and not only ecological parameters. It predicted that in the absence of major change, the world system would collapse in less than a hundred years. Today the condition of unsustainability is widely recognized, but not many realize that we don't have a hundred years before it reaches a tipping point.
We live in a time of crises. The crises are many and diverse, but their cause is basically the same: a serious, and in the absence of determined change, terminal mismanagement of our affairs on this planet.