and Business Resources
Issues of Human Evolution into Global Community
Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D.
Tachi Kiuchi's Tokyo newsletter, The Bridge
(For the January 2002 issue of The Bridge, a Tokyo Newsletter;
reprinted in The Cosmic Light, Quarterly Journal of the University
of Science & Philosophy, Jan. 2002.) Asked to address the five
most important issues we currently face, from good and bad news
perspectives, I immediately think holistically: How can we separate
the great issues of our time? Putting things in separate boxes for
consideration has been one of out greatest blinders to seeing the
whole situation we are in. From my vantage point as an evolution
biologist, there is only one issue facing us:
The formation of a Global Human Community living in harmony
with all other species.
Once this issue is named, it becomes easier to see its different aspects.
But it also becomes obvious that this is material for an entire book,
so it is a great challenge to summarize it in a single commentary! First
I must put it into evolutionary context. About two billion years ago,
Earth's first inhabitants, the archebacteria, overcame a long phase of
hostile creativity (warfare, colonization and competitive technological
development) by cooperating to form huge collaborative communities that
evolved into all presently existing biological cells other than bacteria,
including those of our own bodies. They literally created "multi-creatured
cells" that went on to evolve multi-celled creatures by shifting out of
a juvenile competitive phase into a mature cooperative phase as I have
pointed out before. This evolutionary pattern has been repeated by countless
species, as well as by entire ecosystems, and is now on the agenda for
our human species.
We will learn to cooperate as a global community or we will live in increasing
misery and perhaps go extinct in the not so far distant future. Now we
can proceed to a historical context. For some eight to ten thousand years
up to the present, humanity has repeated the ancient bacterial pattern
of "hostile creativity" characterized by empire building. From actual
empires, we progressed to national expansion into colonial empires and
more recently into multi-national corporate empires. All these phases
have increased our technological prowess while also increasing the disparity
between rich and poor that is now devastating the living system comprised
of all humans as well as the ecosystems on which we depend for our own
lives. A healthy, mature living system (cell, body, community, ecosystem)
is dynamically cooperative because every part or member at every level
of organization is empowered to negotiate its self-interest within the
whole. There is equitable sharing of resources to insure health at all
levels, and the system is aware that any exploitation of some parts by
others endangers the whole.
Clearly, internal greed and warfare are inimical to the health of mature
living systems. Therefore I see the formation of global human community,
or true globalization -- including but not limited to economics -- as
our natural evolutionary mandate at this time. If this essay were a book,
I would call it Glocalization: A Biological Theory of Globalization.
The term `Glocalization' is meant to bring attention to the fact that
local economies must be healthy in order to have a healthy world economy,
just as each of our cells and organs must be healthy to have a healthy
body. Now let us look at the bad and good news concerning five critical
aspects of this process of Globalization/Glocalization:
Worldviews: Scientific, Religious, Cultural and Personal
Bad News: Fundamentalism and dogmatism, religious, scientific,
cultural and personal, continue to plague us in this time of transition.
Social Darwinism -- the belief that there must be winners and
losers in the game of life -- is as destructive as any religious
or cultural dogma saying "Our truth is the Truth; believe it or
you are our enemy."
Good News: For the first time in history we are becoming
aware that each individual and each culture has a unique perspective
on the whole of human experience in our world and cosmos, giving
us a basis to move beyond tolerance into mutual respect without
the requirement of agreement in our stories of How Things Are.
We are shifting from the belief that there is One True Story to
the understanding that a multiplicity of stories can co-exist
if we agree on basic values, such as the perennial Golden Rule.
Science is making huge progress in its worldview. It is evolving
beyond belief in a non-living, entropic, hopeless and valueless
universe progressing toward heat death while accidentally evolving
some temporary competitive life forms on one or more planets.
Scientists are moving toward the view of a conscious, self-organizing,
learning universe in which syntropy and entropy function metabolically
in a process of creative evolution, especially on our living Earth
where life evolves toward cooperative purpose and ethics.
The view of Consciousness as the deep cosmic source of biological
evolution, rooted in many ancient cultures, brings science close
to religion as religion also indicates its willingness to open
to dialogue with other religions and with science itself. Many
new religions (Unity, Religious Science International, Global
New Thought, etc.) as well as the cooperative World Parliament
of Religions and the United Religions Initiative are in deep dialogue
among themselves and with scientists to discover their underlying
The Lure of Power: Economics, Currency and Warfare
Bad News: Empire-building economics have developed the
quarterly bottom line focus on continual competitive growth to
maximize profits -- a tyrannical mechanism preventing proper corporate
accountability to people and planet. Further, empire building
has spawned a debt-money currency that shifts wealth from the
many to the few, promoting terrible economic inequities that prevent
local economies from expressing their self-interests. Protecting
empires has led to huge production and trade of arms, with one
nation -- the USA -- now having gained 70% of the world market.
All this leads to a highly unstable situation in which conflicts,
often wrapped in religious cloaks though almost always economic
in their roots, break out continually and lead to further domination
by those with the most powerful weapons and further impoverishment
and desperation of the already poor.
The great allure of power over others is difficult for me as a
woman to comprehend. I have asked many men to explain it, and
when they speak about it honestly, I see in their eyes how deep
and real it is. The oil economy, with its attendant weapons economy,
has become the single most dangerous obstacle to human evolution.
It is controlled by a relatively small handful of men allied with
each other behind the scenarios of opposing forces we see in the
media they also own, just as it was during its inception during
World War II, in the German/American oil business alliances revealed
at the Nuremberg trials. The dangerous endgame of the human competitive
phase is being played out right now around oil interests, and
we must remember that the Stone Age did not end because men ran
out of stones.
Good News: We have plenty of alternative energy sources
to move "Beyond Petroleum" and the oil empires know they are the
way of the future as many within them begin to plan accordingly.
There are also strong movements promoting triple bottom lines,
and many medium and small businesses are shifting to concepts
of humane economic values and accountability to their communities
(for example, Business for Social
Responsibility, the Brazilian Ethos Institute, Social
Venture Network, and the Japanese interests reflected in this
Since seeing our Earth from space as a breathtakingly beautiful
living planet, and as we grow increasingly aware that the economies
of cells, bodies, families, communities and world are all living
systems with basic principles in common, we can more easily think
of ourselves as an economically linked global family that must
live at peace with itself and with other species. Once we shift
into this frame of mind we can see why every human community from
family to global community must be valued and insured opportunity
for economic participation, just as every species in a healthy
ecosystem contributes to the well being of the whole.
Global travel, transport and communications systems, though invented
during our competitive empire-building phase, are now available
for cooperative purposes. Alternative currencies rooted in barter
are mushrooming around the world as documented by Bernard Lietaer
in The Future
of Money. Living Economies is becoming a rapidly growing
concept (see the article http://svn.org/initiatives/livingeconomies.pdf
of which I am a co-author, and www.livingeconomies.org).
Besides these healthy directions, the global peace movement continues
to grow with countless websites and organized events and The Cultural
Creatives documented by Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson in Europe
and America are surely matched in Asia, and especially in Japan.
Deep dialogue among humans increasingly reveals our desire for
peaceful cooperation and our belief that it can be achieved.
Bad News: While we hear a great deal about the spread
of democracy around the world, all member nations of the World
Trade Organization gave up their sovereignty in signing the agreement
which said their laws could be overridden by WTO policies, which,
as already demonstrated, do not often serve their self-interest
within the global economy. In the US, as with other national governments,
corporate empire lobbies and campaign finances determine government
candidates and policies over the will of the people. At present,
our very Constitutional rights are being hijacked and turned into
weapons against us, eroding our civil rights, while in many nations
people do not yet have them as they must if we are to survive
and thrive as a species. These are examples of the endgame in
which the old system of competitive empire economics works hard
to protect itself against the evolution called for. As historian
Arnold Toynbee discovered in seeking the cause of past human empires'
demise, the extreme concentration of wealth and the refusal to
change when change was called for were fatal.
Good News: Despite all its problems and shortcomings,
the United Nations is a significant effort toward some kind of
world governance. We see with increasing clarity that the governance
of a living system must be in service to it -- to its health and
well being. Distributed networks of leadership, as in the City
of Curitiba, Brasil, and rotating leadership as in the Mondragon
Cooperatives of Spain are positive examples, as are the redistribution
of wealth in India's Kerala. The Internet is perhaps out greatest
hope for democracy at present, as increasing access to it around
the world brings people into dialogue on all the issues facing
us and gives hope for creative solutions.
Bad News: Despite knowing of alternatives such as hydrogen,
solar and wind energies, we continue to dig up fossil fuels over
which we fight wars and devastate peoples and ecosystems from
Afghanistan to the Achuar territories in the Ecuadorian rainforests.
We clog our heavy roads with heavy cars, pollute our atmosphere
and waters and soils with deadly exhausts and chemicals, misuse
our genetic understanding for the sake of profits alone. Our technological
societies continue to produce ugliness and poverty where beauty
and wealth could be universal.
Good News: The book Natural Capitalism, several
times cited here, demonstrates human creativity in moving us out
of the heavy industrial phase of coal, oil and steel into technologies
that are ecologically non-destructive, recyclable and sustainable.
Janine Benyus, also previously cited for her book Biomimicry,
points out that while we "heat, beat and treat" hydrocarbons with
96% waste during the production of heavy products and further
waste as these products go into landfills, Nature creates fabulously
lightweight materials of great strength, flexibility, durability
and amazing textures and colors, at ambient temperatures with
no waste. We are learning to mimic Nature's micro technology just
as we did the more obvious gross technologies of flying like birds,
digging like moles, swimming and diving like cetaceans, etc. It
is no longer difficult to envisage a future in which every man,
woman and child can live lightly on the Earth in elegant simplicity,
with great convenience and opportunity
Bad News: Our young people around the world, who are
about to inherit it and run it, have bad role models. We tell
them not to take from each other or beat each other up, while
world leadership, both political and economic is engaged in doing
what we say should not be done. We feed them on media assaults
of violence, false glamour, sex and cynicism instead of on positive
stories of human values, courage and creativity in service to
planet and people. We encourage them to see money as the source
of happiness and to seek instant gratification as consumers so
they will not live in the fear and depression their world inspires.
My own grandchildren face envy and hatred of their country as
they travel abroad because we, their elders, do not take ourselves
seriously enough as role models and do not stand up to right the
wrongs done in our names throughout our lives at the end of the
human empire-building era.
Good News: Many of us are gathering the courage to stand
up now and be counted as the old system gives way to the new,
and to help young people understand the transition. We must teach
them not to hate the old system, but to honor it for bringing
us to where we can see our unity with all life and evolve into
cooperative global community. We see that most young people are
moral and creative in positive ways, that they show signs they
will not perpetuate racism, that they love ethnic diversity, that
they identify with youth all over the planet, that they want to
develop spiritually as they take on the practical tasks of cleaning
up environmental devastation and learning to form global community.
We need to encourage the young Emerging Leaders in all these matters,
to listen to them, empower them, give them visibility and help
them take on the responsibility for which they are ready. They
are our hope and they still need us.
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