To recognize fully what we should be doing now, we need to know what story we are in – where we have come from and where we are going.
Humans lived for hundreds of thousands of years as hunter/gatherers. We adapted to the ecologies in which we found ourselves, slowly accumulating our crucial store of knowledge: what plants were edible; how to make tools; how to kindle fire; the patterns herds of animals followed; and how to hunt.
This knowledge was embedded in the stories we told ourselves: that we lived in a physical world pervaded by a ubiquitous spiritual energy that took the form of the spirits of the places where we lived, the animals and plants we hunted and gathered, and also the form of the greater Goddesses and Gods – Mother Earth, Father Sky, and the others.
Our lives in our little bands were pretty harsh and we often treated other bands harshly. We depended on a finely tuned adaption to our world. Innovation was dangerous because it could take us out of the harmony with our environment that was necessary for our little bands to survive.
The Agricultural Revolution
Eventually, about 10,000 years ago, we undertook the first of four great economic revolutions. We learned how to domesticate plants and animals. The Agricultural Revolution enabled us to free ourselves a little from our total dependence on our environment. We created villages and, ultimately, cities, surrounded by farms.
As the Agricultural Revolution proceeded, patriarchal herding tribes came to invade matriarchal farming tribes and men came largely to dominate women in these evolving societies. We built urban civilizations structured as great kingdoms and empires with significant social stratification, often including slavery. And, we evolved the great religions to explain to us our place in the universe.
The Industrial Revolution
Then, about 300 years ago, we pursued our second great economic revolution. We discovered that we could make machines and harness the power of steam and electricity. The Industrial Revolution allowed us to gain even more separation from our environment.
We created a science that enabled us to learn more objectively how our world worked and we became so enamored with the conception of the machine, that we came to view our world and the larger universe around us as a great machine (though many people retained belief in one or another of the great religions).
And we created nation states and a capitalist economic system that treated people as if they were cogs in a machine and that treated the environment as a source of raw materials and a repository for our wastes.
The Information Revolution
Along about 70 years ago, we launched our third great economic revolution. We discovered that we could use electricity to generate, process, and transmit information, and we built computers and the Internet to do just that.
The Information Revolution has enabled us to connect most of our rapidly expanding population, automating industrial processes, and enabling us to do work and produce products and services much more efficiently. We are now at the point of building Smart Neighborhoods and Smart Cities and Smart Regions in which our information systems structure and facilitate most, if not all, of our activities.
Benefits and Costs
These three economic revolutions have given us many wonderful benefits. Most of us live longer and often healthier lives than our hunter/gatherer ancestors did, protected from the harsher aspects of the natural world. We are able to spend much less time on the activities necessary for our physical survival and we have more time to explore reality and create works of personal and social art.
Through this process, guided by our scientific endeavors, we have learned a great deal about the nature of our world and our universe. We are able to connect with each other all around the world and respond to opportunities and challenges.
Unfortunately, these benefits have come with great costs. Our hunter/gatherer ancestors’ fear of innovation has proved prescient. We have broken our harmonious relationships with the Earth’s natural ecology, leading to extreme pollution, habitat destruction, species extinction, and the climate crisis, all of which threaten our very existence.
It turns out that it is a mistake to view the environment in a mechanistic, linear fashion as natural resources to input into our industrial processes and as repositories for our waste and our pollution. We need a circular economy in which there is no waste and no pollution and everything that is produced is used beneficially.
And, while the Capitalist (and Socialist) economic systems that emerged out of the Industrial and Information Revolutions have created great wealth, they have distributed that wealth in a highly inequitable fashion, leading to a society with a relatively few people with great wealth and power, a larger group living comfortably, and a very large majority of people living in poverty and extreme poverty.
And, also, some of the nations of the world, which have become the dominant political form for the Industrial and Information Revolutions, have developed extremely frightening weapons of mass destruction and systems of local, regional, national and global warfare, embedded in ethnic, religious, and nationalistic conflicts. To date, our local, regional, national, and global systems of governance have been barely able to modulate the worst of these conflicts.
The Planetary Revolution
That brings us to our fourth great revolution. The time has come for us to create a global political, economic, social, and cultural system that can take advantage of what we have learned in our adventure of ecological semi-independence and complete the spiral we began when we separated from our hunter/gatherer starting place.
We can call it a Planetary Revolution because it is time for us to reestablish ecological inter-dependence and return to living harmoniously within the narrow environmental tolerances required for preserving and enhancing human life on Earth.
And, it is time for us to create ways of human life, for all people, that lead to an equitable distribution of wealth and opportunity and a respectful valuing of our ethnic and cultural diversities within the context our bedrock unity as one species inhabiting one small planet in a vast and widely interesting universe (multiverse, omniverse).
Millions of us recognize the need for the Planetary Revolution (calling it by many different names). And millions of us participate in one or many of the facets of the Movement that has emerged to bring about the Great Transformation whereby we all build together the society that is emerging on the other side of this moment of profound change.
Many of us are guided by the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals, adopted by all 193 nations in the world, that paint a pretty detailed picture of what the other side of this revolution looks like.
Many of us are supporting political parties and candidates and elected officials that recognize that the time for business as usual is over, the time for positive economic, social, and environmental transformation has arrived. The time has come to provide the cost-effective public services that are essential to our health and safety and to maintain the effective public regulation guardrails that are necessary to make sure private businesses stay on the right track.
Many of us are creating and/or working in businesses that are helping to solve our economic, social, and environmental problems and that are beginning to build examples of the way things will be once we have made this revolution.
Many of us are investing in such businesses, seeking to have an impact with our investments that goes beyond making us money and actually contributes to the realization of one or more of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Many of us are creating works of literature and music and art and dance that tell the story of this moment from many different perspectives and that present visions of what we are creating.
Many of us are discovering or rediscovering direct spiritual participation through new forms of meditation, new rituals, and/or new/old religious experience.
Altogether we are each called to be part of this Movement as we live our lives expressing our shared responsibility to one another and to the Earth by the care we take with each other in our families, our communities, our workplaces, and in our educational, cultural, and political institutions.
We are one people. We share one planet. And, in this moment of transformation, we have one overriding purpose, to join the Movement and truly bring about this Planetary Revolution.