We are in the midst right now of what author Paul Hawken calls “the largest social movement in history.” Individually and collectively, we are witnessing profound changes in our culture, our relationships, and our global consciousness.
Many call it the “Great Turning.” What are we turning from, and, more importantly, what are we turning toward?
We can see that much about the way we live together in global community is not working. Our relationship with our earth and each other simply is not sustainable.
Competition for diminishing resources, war, violence, hunger, and human dislocation and suffering dominate the news all too often. Governments strive to achieve greater power and influence even if it means sacrificing the well-being of their own citizens. We admire those who have achieved wealth and power, often regardless of how they created the success they enjoy. What is our metric of success? A growing economy, measured by ever-increasing corporate profits and a soaring stock market. Corporate officers don’t have a fiduciary duty to ensure employees are happy and cared for, families are fed, and the environment is not harmed. Their duty is to ensure that profits continue to rise.
My goal isn’t to dismiss the importance of an economic system that gives us the opportunity to find productive and meaningful work, enabling us to support our families and give our children a future. My question is whether we have created such a system.
Are we using our global resources in a manner that is sustainable? Many fear we are not, and indeed that we are depleting earth’s resources at a greater rate than they are being replaced. Is this course sustainable? Of course not. If the crisis doesn’t hit in our lifetimes, it will hit. How irresponsible is it for us to continue to live in a way that inflicts disaster and suffering on those who follow?
As communities and as nations, do we promote values of human dignity, collaboration and mutual respect? On the contrary – we appear to be living in times of increasing division, violence, tribalism, and strife. As our global population grows and resources need to stretch farther, we must develop models that enable us to responsibly share food, water, and energy resources. Too many suffer a lack of housing, food, and health care, and as a global community we can change it.
Author and teacher Joanna Macy writes that “the ecological and social crises we face are caused by an economic system dependent on accelerating growth. This self-destructing political economy sets its goals and measures its performance in terms of ever-increasing corporate profits – in other words by how fast materials can be extracted from the earth and turned into consumer products, weapons, and waste.”
We can easily feel overwhelmed by the challenges we face. However, there is good news as well – a shift in global consciousness is happening all over the world in recognition of these challenges. Instead of losing hope, millions around the world are stepping up and making the changes that can ensure a better future for us all.
Many see this movement as the third great human revolution in our history. The first was the agricultural revolution, occurring about ten thousand years ago. We settled in communities, created systems of barter and developed patterns of trade and commerce. The next significant change occurred three hundred years ago, in the Industrial Revolution. Beginning with the steam engine, continued invention brought us manufacturing on a large scale, the growth of industrial centers and profound changes in commerce and economic relations. Cities grew, and the countryside changed. We have since continued these trends with ever-exploding technological change and growth.
The third revolution, happening how, is called by many the ecological revolution, the necessary revolution, or simply the Great Turning. It is a shift away from what many call the industrial growth society and toward a culture of earth sustainability and human connection. It’s based on an understanding that we can thrive and still treasure and nurture our planet. It’s a shift toward what Joanna Macy has called “a life-sustaining civilization.”
Where do we see this shift happening? Everywhere. All over the world people are creating cells of healing and renewal.
We see it here, at One World. In our community we are part of it, promoting values of kindness, human dignity, and compassion. We teach respect for the earth and environmental responsibility.
We see it in local efforts everywhere – sustainable gardening, food coops, micro-loans to entrepreneurs in developing nations, or new development of renewable energy sources. The stories are growing of people who take garbage-strewn back lots and turn them into community gardens and community centers, city art projects that bring people together, and people everywhere creating new models of commerce and economic relationships in which all thrive.
At the heart of the shift that drives the Great Turning is the certainty that everything is connected. Notice I didn’t say “we are all connected” although that is true. This compelling truth isn’t limited to humankind, as all life is connected in the greater whole. As environmentalist John Muir wrote “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.”
The Great Turning celebrates life, and survival, and hope. As we change, we begin to look at our world differently and our possibilities open up. How fortunate we are to be alive at this time – to bring our gifts and our heart and our love to this wonderful work!
So what is your place in the Great Turning? What dream can you bring to this effort, the greatest social movement of our time? Don’t hold back, as the stakes are too high. Let’s join together to make the difference only we can make at this critical time in human history. Let’s turn together toward a future in which we, and future generations, can thrive.
Author: Rev. Melanie Eyre, Interfaith Minister
Spiritual Leader of One World Spiritual Center
Founder of North Fulton Interfaith Alliance