How the New Scientific Reality Can Change Us and Our World, Rochester: Inner Traditions, 2008.
This book by Ervin Laszlo is dramatic; it is like approaching an abyss and looking down how steep it is. This is a metaphor for the possibility of refusing the necessary changes that we are facing globally now. It is the looming possibility of annihilation of the human race. By the same token, we could be at the bottom of the steep wall and look upwards; this then is a metaphor for the possibility to rise from our ashes, so to speak, and restart our life’s journey, as a human race founded upon the basis of a new worldview, a new scientific, social and global understanding of our ultimate interconnectedness.
To give an overall judgment of the book upfront, it goes in my view beyond his earlier book The Chaos Point (2006) in that it contains the basic (quite catastrophic) information of the earlier work, but goes beyond and provides in each chapter a kind of retrospective of parts of Laszlo’s earlier works. In addition, in Part Three, it contains the basic history and objectives of the ‘Club of Budapest’ that was founded by Laszlo for cognizing, in a large team project, various solutions of an integral and holistic kind to our global worldwide challenges. In addition, I found this book to be written in a very easy-to-understand language, which gives me a hint it might be written for younger people or college students. To begin with, let me provide an overview over the structure of the book, for it by itself contains a map that traces the territory in clear lines.
1. Evolution or Extinction: That is the Question
2. Macroshift: The Dynamics
3. The Roots of Unsustainability
4. A Better Way to Grow
5. A New Vision
6. A Planetary Ethic
7. The Culture of Holos
8. Evolution, Not Extinction! A Call from Fiji
9. The Cosmic Plenum: The New Fundamental Concept of Reality
10. Nonlocal Coherence: The New Concept of Manifest Reality
11. The Akashic Field: The Newly Rediscovered Concept of Reality
12. Metaphysical, Theological, and Ethical Implications
13. The Next Evolution of Human Consciousness
14. A Brief History of the Club of Budapest
15. Manifesto on Planetary Consciousness
16. Principal Activities of the Club of Budapest
17. Objectives of the GlobalShift University
18. Objectives of the World Wisdom Council
19. Objectives of the International Survey of Emergent Cultures
20. Objectives of the Global Peace Meditation/Prayer Days
Laszlo explains in ‘The Birth and Body of this Book’ that Part One is meant as the ‘practical part’ which focuses on the shift of the world we are living in, and that Part Two is the theoretical part, and focuses on the changes in science that have blown up the former Cartesian worldview and created a new dimension of scientific thinking that is called ‘holistic’ or ‘holos movement.’
Now, starting with Part One, I would like to quote the eight points the author makes here, which could be a diagnosis of the present global situation, and which are further outlined in his earlier book, The Chaos Point (2005).
- 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, shanty-towns, or 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.
- Although more women and girls are being educated than in previous years, in many parts of the world fewer women have jobs and more are forced to make ends meet in the ‘informal sector’.
- Frustration and discontent continue to grow as both power and wealth are becoming further concentrated and the gap widens between the holders of wealth and power and the poor and marginalized populations. Eighty percent of the world’s domestic product belongs to one billion people; the remaining twenty percent is shared by five and a half billion.
- 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.
After this quite matter-of-fact summary of just the peak of the iceberg of our global problems, Laszlo shows two possible scenarios. The first scenario is the Business As Usual Scenario, the second is the Timely Transformation Scenario. The first scenario is an extrapolation of the facts onto a probability scale when no change is done, that is, when even the need for change is (as all so often) denied, by our political policymakers and the big capital.
Now, to read through the first scenario is quite dramatic; it looks like an apocalypse, scientifically explained, while it reminds the politically conscious observer of all what is daily written in our newspapers and shown on our television screens; with the difference, however, that the analysis in those media is lacking for the most part, presenting the picture, without more. It is the picture of a dying civilization that virtually suffocates in the violence it has brought about in thousand years of patriarchy that virtually turned nature upside-down, and does so to the present day. I shall summarize here as follows, and these quotes are adapted from pages 9-11 of the book:
1. The Business As Usual Scenario
—The Weather Pattern. Drought, storms, harvest failures, flooding, famine, hurricanes, disasters
—The Security Threat Pattern. Epidemics, agricultural pests, contaminated water, waves of migration, terrorist groups, nuclear proliferators, narco-traffickers, organized crime, unscrupulous entrepreneurs
—The Ecopolitical Pattern. Terrorism, NATO collapses, France-Germany-Russia-China coalition to balance US military-economic hegemony, joined by Brazil, India, South Korea and other countries, Global military spending, Arms race, Global economic stagnation that weakens IMF and WTO, North-South Agreements cancelled, trade flows interrupted, trade war replaces trade flow, growing poverty
—The Ecological Pattern. Water and food shortages creating hunger in many parts of the world, Overexploitation of soils and overfishing leading to a shrinking of international food reserves, Starvation and unsanitary conditions create epidemic disease in most poor countries, gulf stream vacillates, global warming has reached alarming dimensions
—The Military Pattern. Discord rises both between U.S. and their allies, and this whole bloc and the opposing blocs to reaching a crisis point which can lead to global war including the use of mass destruction weapons, Strong-arm régimes rising in Southern Hemisphere, Regional wars, Major power blocs may decide to use high-tech weaponry to achieve their ecopolitical goals, New strong-arm régimes are in possession of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons for resolving regional conflicts, War may escalate to a global level
2. The Timely Transformation Scenario
—The First Steps. Experience of terrorism, rising poverty and cataclysms change people’s way to think and drive them to finding solutions together, Worldwide popular movements organize themselves effectively so as to impact upon political leadership and intercultural solidarity, Political leaders begin to take anti-course action, Business leaders may change strategies where profit of growth is informed by corporate, social and ecological responsibility, E-Parliament is created online, linking parliamentarians worldwide, providing a forum for debate for serving the common good, NGOs link through the Internet and develop shared strategies to restore peace, and implement new and viable social policies.
—The Crystallizing Contours of a Cooperative World. Money is shifted from military to educational purposes and for projects that are ecologically sustainable, A worldwide renewable energy program is created, that is ecological and provides key solutions, Agriculture is restored to its primary importance in the world economy, Business leaders join for creating a self-regulating market economy that ensures fair access to natural resources, etc.
—The Rise of a Sustainable Civilization. National, continental and global governance structures are reformed or newly created for finding creative solutions that are sustainable for all members of society, A new consensually created globally coordinated market begins to function as an eco-system and natural resources will be distributed equitably, International and regional conflicts are solved by developing a higher trust-level in the possibilities of the ‘new human’/12-14
We could change direction: with a timely transformation we could create a peaceful and sustainable world. Will we create it? Einstein told us that we cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that produced it. Yet, for the present we are trying to do just that. We are fighting terrorism, poverty, criminality, cultural conflict, climate change, environmental degradation, ill health, even obesity and other ‘sicknesses of civilization’ with the same means and methods that produced the problems in the first place—we are resorting to armies and police forces, technological fixes, and temporary remedial measures. We have not mustered the will and the vision to bring about timely transformation./14
We are nearing a tipping point, but the situation is far from hopeless: near the threshold of system-collapse, predictions of doomsday have / a paradoxical effect. They raise people’s level of awareness, motivate widespread consciousness change, and may end by becoming self-falsifying prophecies. /15-16
Now, it is important to remember the lecture from The Chaos Point (2005) that Laszlo reminds in ‘Macroshift: The Dynamics.’
At the threshold of a critical instability, fluctuations that were previously corrected by self-stabilizing negative feedbacks within the system run out of control—they break open the system’s structure. The system enters a period of chaos. Its outcome is either the disintegration of the system into its individually stable components (breakdown) or rapid evolution toward a kind of system that is resistant to the fluctuations that destabilized the prior system (breakthrough)./18
As I cannot quote through the entire book without bursting the limits of a book review, I will give pointed comments on important passages. Now, within the Macroshift phase, we are entering the bifurcation point around 2020, now being in the 3rd of the 4 stages; there is one important thing that systems theory has overlooked so far: it is the impact of human intention. Laszlo writes:
In the human world, unlike in nature, a bifurcation can be decisively influenced by conscious will and considered purpose. Human will and purpose decide whether the world heads toward breakdown or toward breakthrough. This sensitivity of human intervention is a remarkable feature of today’s civilization. It places a unique opportunity in our hands: the opportunity to tip the scales of human destiny./31
Even if they are large and wealthy, nation-states cannot survive in isolation; a condition of their self-maintenance is that they produce viable conditions for the states with which they are economically and politically linked. This constitutes a supranational cross-catalytic cycle. It is the basis for the functioning of the transnational organizations of which the European Union (EU) is a prime example./33
This is obviously an important political argument that however seems to be taken lightly by our ‘strong-armed’ political leaders, with the result that there are hostilities almost everywhere, ongoing wars, civil wars, ongoing genocide in several major parts of the world, and political chaos with grand parades to cover the failures of the system. And looking further in the roots of unsustainability, we see that ‘in the six decades since World War II, humanity has consumed more of the planet’s physical and biological resources than in all of history prior to that time.’ In ‘A Better Way to Growth’, Laszlo then proposes to shift from Extensive to Intensive Growth, explaining:
The ends of extensive growth can be encapsulated in three ‘Cs’: conquest, colonization, and consumption. These ends are served by corresponding varieties of means: First, the technologies that use and transform matter, the technologies of production; second the technologies that generate the power to operate matter-transforming technologies, energy-generating technologies; and third, the technologies that whet people’s appetites, create artificial demand, and shift patterns of consumption, the technologies of propaganda, PR, and advertising./48
The vision of the world in which modern people place their trust is the one they consider scientific. This vision is largely based on the physics of Newton, the biology of Darwin, and the psychology of Freud. However, these conceptions have been overtaken by new discoveries. /52
The author then enumerates Nine Outdated Beliefs and Six Particularly Dangerous Myths.
Nine Outdated Beliefs
- Everyone is unique and separate
- Everything is reversible
- Order calls for hierarchy
- Efficiency is the key
- Technology is the answer
- New is always better
- My country, right or wrong
- The more money I have, the happier I am
Six Particularly Dangerous Myths
- Nature is inexhaustible
- Nature is like a giant mechanism
- Life is a struggle where only the fittest survive
- The market distributes benefits
- The more you consume the better you are
- Economic ends justify military means