12. The Passage to the Solar Age
The systems view of life is an appropriate basis not only for the behavioral and the life sciences but also for the social sciences, and especially for economics. The application of systems concepts to describe economic processes and activities is particularly urgent because virtually all our current economic problems are systemic problems that can no longer be understood via Cartesian science.
Conventional economists, whether neoclassical, Marxist, Keynesian, or post-Keynesian, generally lack an ecological perspective. Economists tend to dissociate the economy from the ecological fabric in which it is embedded, and to describe it in terms of simplistic and highly unrealistic theoretical models. Most of their basic concepts, narrowly defined and used without the pertinent ecological context, are no longer appropriate for mapping economic activities in a fundamentally interdependent world.
The situation is further aggravated because most economists, in a misguided striving for scientific rigor, avoid explicitly acknowledging the value system on which their models are based and tacitly accept the highly imbalanced set of values that dominates our culture and is embodied in our social institutions. These values have led to an overemphasis on hard technology, wasteful consumption, and rapid exploitation of natural resources, all motivated by the persistent obsession with growth. Undifferentiated economic, technological, and institutional growth is still regarded by most economists as the sign of a 'healthy' economy, although it is now causing ecological disasters, widespread corporate crime, social disintegration, and an ever increasing likelihood of nuclear war.
Paradoxically, economists are generally unable to adopt a dynamic view in spite of their insistence on growth. They tend to freeze the economy arbitrarily in its current institutional structure instead of seeing it as a continually changing and evolving system, dependent on the changing ecological and social systems in which it is embedded. Today's economic theories perpetuate past configurations of power and unequal distributions of wealth, both within national economies and between developed countries and the Third World. Giant corporate institutions dominate the global and national scenes, their economic and political power permeating virtually every facet of public life, while some economists still seem to believe that Adam Smith's free markets and perfect competition exist. Many corporate giants are now obsolete institutions that generate polluting and socially disruptive technologies and lock up capital, energy, and resources, unable to adapt their uses to the changing needs of our time.
The systems approach to economics will make it possible to bring some order into the present conceptual chaos by giving economists the urgently needed ecological perspective. According to the systems view, the economy is a living system composed of human beings and social organizations in continual interaction with one another and with the surrounding ecosystems on which our lives depend. Like individual organisms, ecosystems are self-organizing and self-regulating systems in which animals, plants, microorganisms, and inanimate substances are linked through a complex web of interdependencies involving the exchange of matter and energy in continual cycles. Linear cause-and-effect relationships exist only very rarely in these ecosystems, nor are linear models very useful to describe the functional interdependencies of the embedded social and economic systems and their technologies. The recognition of the nonlinear nature of all systems dynamics is the very essence of ecological awareness, the essence of 'systemic wisdom,' as Bateson called it.1 This kind of wisdom is characteristic of traditional, nonliterate cultures but has been sadly neglected in our overrational and mechanized society.
Systemic wisdom is based on a profound respect for the wisdom of nature, which is totally consistent with the insights of modern ecology. Our natural environment consists of ecosystems inhabited by countless organisms which have coevolved over billions of years, continuously using and recycling the same molecules of soil, water, and air. The organizing principles of these ecosystems must be considered superior to those of human technologies based on recent inventions and, very often, on short-term linear projections. The respect for nature's wisdom is further supported by the insight that the dynamics of self-organization in ecosystems is basically the same as in human organisms, which forces us to realize that our natural environment is not only alive but also mindful. The mindfulness of ecosystems, as opposed to many human institutions, manifests itself in the pervasive tendency to establish cooperative relationships that facilitate the harmonious integration of systems components at all levels of organization.
The nonlinear interconnectedness of living systems immediately suggests two important rules for the management of social and economic systems. First, there is an optimal size for every structure, organization, and institution, and maximizing any single variable - profit, efficiency, or GNP, for example - will inevitably destroy the larger system. Second, the more an economy is based on the continual recycling of its natural resources, the more it is in harmony with the surrounding environment. Our planet is now so densely populated that virtually all economic systems are thoroughly interwoven and interdependent: today's most important problems are global problems. The vital social choices we face are no longer local - choices between more roads, schools, and hospitals - nor do they affect merely a small part of the population. They are choices between principles of self-organization - centralization or decentralization, capital-intensity or labor-intensity, hard technology or soft technology - that affect the survival of humanity as a whole.
In making these choices it will be useful to keep in mind that the dynamic interplay of complementary tendencies is another important characteristic of self-organizing systems. As E.F. Schumacher has noted, "the whole crux of economic life - and indeed of life in general - is that it constantly requires the living reconciliation of opposites which, in strict logic, are irreconcilable." 2 The global interconnectedness of our problems and the virtue of small-scale, decentralized enterprises represent such a pair of complementary opposites. The need to balance the two has found eloquent expression in the slogan "Think globally - act locally!"
A second insight facilitated by the systems approach is the realization that the dynamics of an economy, like that of any other living system, is likely to be dominated by fluctuations. Indeed, several cyclical economic patterns with different periodicities have recently been observed and analyzed, in addition to the short-term oscillations that Keynes studied. Jay Forrester and his Systems Dynamics Group have identified three distinct cycles: a five-to-seven-year cycle that is influenced very little by changes in interest rates and other Keynesian manipulations but instead reflects the interaction between employment and inventories; an eighteen-year cycle related to the investment process; and a fifty-year cycle, which, according to Forrester, has the strongest effect on the economy's behavior but is of an entirely different nature, reflecting the evolution of technologies, such as railroads, automobiles, and computers.3
Another example of important economic fluctuations is the well-known cycle of growth and decay, the continual breaking down and building up of structures involving the recycling of all component parts. Hazel Henderson spells out the lesson to be drawn from this basic phenomenon of life: 'Just as the decay of last year's leaves provides humus for new growth the following spring, some institutions must decline and decay so that their components of capital, land and human talents can be used to create new organizations."4
According to the systems view, an economy, like any living system, will be healthy if it is in a state of dynamic balance, characterized by continual fluctuations of its variables. To achieve and maintain such a healthy economic system it is crucial to preserve the ecological flexibility of our natural environment as well as to create the social flexibility needed to adapt to environmental changes. To Bateson, "Social flexibility is a resource as precious as oil." 5 Furthermore, we will need much greater flexibility of ideas, because economic patterns keep changing and evolving and hence cannot be described adequately except in a conceptual framework that itself is capable of change and evolution.
To describe the economy appropriately within its social and ecological context, the basic concepts and variables of economic theories must be related to those used to describe social and ecological systems. This implies that the task of mapping the economy will require a multidisciplinary approach. It can no longer be left to economists alone, but must be supplemented by insights from ecology, sociology, political science, anthropology, psychology, and other disciplines. Like health care professionals, investigators of economic phenomena need to work in multidisciplinary teams, using different methods and perspectives and focusing on different systems levels to highlight different aspects and implications of economic activities. Such a multidisciplinary approach to economic analyses is already visible in a number of recent books by noneconomists on subjects that formerly belonged exclusively to the domain of economics. Innovative contributions of this kind include those of Richard Barnet (political scientist), Barry Commoner (biologist). Jay Forrester (systems analyst), Hazel Henderson (futurist), Frances Moore Lappe (sociologist), Amory Lovins (physicist), Howard Odum (engineer), and Theodore Roszak (historian), to name just a few.6
As Kenneth Boulding, Hazel Henderson, and several others have pointed out, the necessity of multidisciplinary approaches to our current economic problems calls for the end of economics as the predominant basis of national policy. Economics is likely to remain an appropriate discipline for accounting purposes and various analyses of micro-areas, but its methods are no longer adequate to examine macroeconomic processes. An important new role for economics will be that of estimating, as accurately as possible, the social and environmental costs of economic activities - in money, health, or safety - to internalize them within the accounts of private and public enterprises. Economists will be expected to identify the relationships between specific activities in the private sectors of the economy and the social costs generated by these activities in the public sector. For example, the new way of accounting would involve assigning to tobacco companies a reasonable portion of the medical costs caused by cigarette smoking and to the distillers a corresponding portion of the social costs of alcoholism. Work on new economic models of this kind is now in progress and will lead, eventually, to a redefinition of the gross national product and other related concepts. In fact, Japanese economists have already begun to reformulate their GNP in terms of a new indicator in which social costs are deducted.7
Macroeconomic patterns will have to be studied within a framework based on the systems approach and using a new set of concepts and variables. One of the main errors in all current schools of economic thought is their insistence on using money as the only variable to measure the efficiency of production and distribution processes. With this sole criterion economists neglect the important fact that most of the world's economic activities consist of informal, use-value production, exchange systems, and reciprocal arrangements of sharing goods and services, all of which occur outside the monetary economies8 As more and more of these activities - housework, child care, looking after the sick and the old - become monetized and institutionalized, the values that allow people to provide services to one another free of charge become distorted; social and cultural cohesion dissolves; and the economy, not surprisingly, begins to suffer from 'declining productivity.' This process is accelerated by the fact that the entire concept of money is becoming ever more abstract and detached from economic realities. While in today's global banking and financing system the units of money can be distorted almost at will by the power of large institutions, the widespread use of credit cards, electronic banking and funds transfer systems, and other tools of modern computer and communications technology have added successive layers of complexity that make it almost impossible to use money as an accurate tracking system of economic transactions in the real world.9
In the new conceptual framework, energy, so essential to all industrial processes, will be one of the most important variables for measuring economic activities. As industrial countries with similar standards of living show growing disparities in energy consumption, questions about their relative efficiencies in energy conversion are naturally being raised. Energy modeling, pioneered by the engineer and environmentalist Howard Odum, is now pursued in many countries by imaginative scientists from various disciplines.10 In spite of many unresolved problems and differences in methods, the mapping of flows of energy is rapidly becoming a more reliable method for macroeconomic analyses than conventional monetary approaches.
Measurement of the efficiency of production processes in terms of net energy, which is now being widely accepted, suggests entropy - a quantity related to the dissipation of energy11 - as another important variable for the analysis of economic phenomena. The entropy concept was introduced into economic theory by Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, whose work has been described as the first comprehensive reformulation of economics since Marx and Keynes.12 According to Georgescu-Roegen, the dissipation of energy, as described by the second law of thermodynamics, is not only relevant to the performance of steam engines but also to the functioning of an economy. As the thermodynamic efficiency of engines is limited by friction and other forms of energy dissipation, so production processes in industrial societies will inevitably generate social frictions and dissipate some of the economy's energy and resources into unproductive activities.
Henderson has pointed out that the dissipation of energy has reached such proportions in many of today's advanced industrial societies that the costs of unproductive activities - maintaining complex technologies, managing large bureaucracies, mediating conflicts, controlling crime, protecting consumers and the environment, and so on - make up an ever increasing portion of the GNP and thus drive inflation to ever increasing heights. Henderson has coined the term 'entropy state' for the stage of economic development in which the costs of bureaucratic coordination and maintenance exceed society's productive capabilities, and the whole system winds down of its own weight and complexity.13 To avoid such a grim future it will be necessary to judge economic activities and technologies not in terms of narrowly defined economic efficiency but in terms of thermodynamic efficiency, which will amount to a radical change of priorities. For example, an economic analysis in terms of energy and entropy makes it clear that our current military expenditures support the most energy-intensive and dissipative activities humans are capable of, as they convert large amounts of stored energy and materials directly into waste and destruction without fulfilling any basic human needs.
Like the concepts of efficiency and the GNP, those of productivity and profit will have to be defined within a broad ecological context and related to the two basic variables of energy and entropy. However, in doing so it will be important to keep in mind that, although entropy is extremely useful as a variable for economic analyses, the framework of classical thermodynamics in which it originated is quite limited. Specifically, it is not adequate to describe living, self-organizing systems - whether individual organisms, social systems, or ecosystems - for which Prigogine's theory provides a much more appropriate description.14 Recent economic analyses in terms of entropy have sometimes erroneously regarded the second law of thermodynamics as an absolute law of nature,15 and should be modified to make them consistent with the new theory of self-organization. For example, the concept of technological and organizational complexity will have to be refined and related to the dynamic state of the system under consideration. According to Erich Jantsch, the complexity of a system is limited only if the system is rigid, inflexible, and isolated from its environment. 16 Self-organizing systems in continual interaction with their environment are capable of tremendously increasing their complexity by abandoning structural stability in favor of flexibility and open-ended evolution. Hence the efficiency of our technologies and social institutions will depend not only on their complexity but also on their flexibility and potential for change.
When we adopt an ecological perspective and use the appropriate concepts to analyze economic processes, it becomes evident that our economy, our social institutions, and our natural environment are seriously out of balance. Our obsession with growth and expansion has led us to maximize too many variables for prolonged periods - GNP, profits, the size of cities and social institutions, and others - and the result has been a general loss of flexibility. As in individual organisms, such an imbalance and lack of flexibility can be described in terms of stress, and the various aspects of our crisis can be seen as multiple symptoms of this social and ecological stress. To restore a healthy balance we shall have to return those variables which have been overstrained to manageable levels. This will include, among many other measures, the decentralization of populations and industrial activities, the dismantling of large corporations and other social institutions, the redistribution of wealth, and the creation of flexible, resource-conserving technologies. As in every self-organizing system, the restoration of balance and flexibility may often be achieved through self-transcendence - breaking through a state of instability or crisis to new forms of organization.
Undifferentiated growth tends to go hand in hand with fragmentation, confusion, and widespread breakdown of communication. The same phenomena are characteristic of cancer at the cellular level, and the term 'cancerous growth' is very appropriate for the excessive growth of our cities, technologies, and social institutions. Because there is a continual interplay between individuals and their natural and social environment, the consequences of this cancerous growth are unhealthy for individual men and women, as well as for the economy and the ecosystem. The restoration of social and ecological balance will also contribute to improving individual health. Roszak summed up the interdependence between the well-being of the individual person and that of the planetary ecosystem: 'The needs of the planet are the needs of the person . . . the rights of the person are the rights of the planet.'17
The restoration of balance and flexibility in our economies, technologies, and social institutions will be possible only if it goes hand in hand with a profound change of values. Contrary to conventional beliefs, value systems and ethics are not peripheral to science and technology but constitute their very basis and driving force. Hence the shift to a balanced social and economic system will require a corresponding shift of values - from self-assertion and competition to cooperation and social justice, from expansion to conservation, from material acquisition to inner growth. Those who have begun to make this shift have discovered that it is not restrictive but, on the contrary, liberating and enriching. As Walter Weisskopf writes in his book Alienation and Economics, the crucial dimensions of scarcity in human life are not economic but existential. 18 They are related to our needs for leisure and contemplation, peace of mind, love, community, and self-realization, which are all satisfied to much greater degrees by the new system of values.
Because our current state of imbalance is largely a consequence of undifferentiated growth, the question of scale will play a central role in the reorganization of our economic and social structures. The criterion of scale has to be the comparison to human dimensions. What is too large, fast, or crowded in comparison to human dimensions is too big. People who have to deal with structures, organizations, or enterprises of such inhuman dimensions will invariably feel threatened, alienated, deprived of their individuality, and this will significantly affect the quality of their lives. The importance of scale is becoming ever more apparent even from the strictly economic point of view, as more and more large enterprises suffer from excessive centralization and the vulnerabilities of complex, interlinked technologies. The heat wasted by big American power plants in the processes of generation and transmission to the point of use would be more than enough to heat every house in the United States.19 Similarly, the rising costs of transporting goods across the country will soon make it possible for regional and local enterprises to compete again with national companies. At the same time the creation of small-scale, decentralized technologies will be the only solution to the problem of excessive federal regulation, which has become one of the most troublesome consequences of undifferentiated growth.
In the process of decentralization many of our obsolete, resource-intensive corporations will have to be allowed to undergo profound transformations and, in some cases, go out of business. And we shall need a new legal framework to clarify and redefine the nature of private enterprise and of corporate responsibility. In all these considerations the most important thing will be to achieve balance. Not everything needs to be decentralized. Some big systems, such as the telephone and other communication systems, must be maintained; others, like mass transit, need to grow. But all growth must be qualified, and a dynamic balance must be maintained between growth and decline, so that the system as a whole remains flexible and open to change.
Among the many examples of excessive growth, the growth of cities is one of the greatest threats to social and ecological balance, and deurbanization will therefore be a crucial aspect of the return to a more human scale. As Roszak has argued convincingly, the process of deurbanization is not something that needs to be enforced; it need only be allowed to happen.20 Several opinion polls have shown that only a small minority of city dwellers live in the city because they like it. The overwhelming majority would rather live in small towns, suburbs, or on farms, but cannot afford to do so. What we need, then, to curb the growth of cities, is to create the appropriate economic incentives, technologies, and programs of assistance that will allow people who wish to to make the transition from urban to rural life.
Similar considerations apply to the decentralization of political power. During the second half of our century it has become increasingly apparent that the nation-state is no longer workable as an effective unit of governance. It is too big for the problems of its local populations and, at the same time, confined by concepts too narrow for the problems of global interdependence. Today's highly centralized national governments are able neither to act locally nor to think globally. Thus political decentralization and regional development have become urgent needs of all large countries. This decentralization of economic and political power will have to include a redistribution of production and wealth, to balance foods and populations within countries and between the industrial nations and the Third World. Finally, at the planetary level, the recognition that we cannot 'manage' the planet but have to integrate ourselves harmoniously into its multiple self-organizing systems calls for a new planetary ethic and new forms of political organization.
To return to a more human scale will not mean a return to the past but, on the contrary, will require the development of ingenious new forms of technology and social organization. Much of our conventional, resource-intensive, and highly centralized technology is now obsolete. Nuclear power, gas-guzzling cars, petroleum-subsidized agriculture, computerized diagnostic tools, and many other high-technology enterprises are antiecological, inflationary, and unhealthy. Although these technologies often involve the latest discoveries in electronics, chemistry, and other fields of modern science, the context in which they are developed and applied is that of the Cartesian conception of reality. They must be replaced by new forms of technology that incorporate ecological principles and are consistent with the new system of values.
Many of these alternative technologies are already being developed. They tend to be small-scale and decentralized, responsive to local conditions and designed to increase self-sufficiency, thus providing a maximum degree of flexibility. They are often called 'soft' technologies because their impact on the environment is greatly reduced by the use of renewable resources and constant recycling of materials. Solar energy collectors, wind generators, organic farming, regional and local food production and processing, and recycling of waste products are examples of such soft technologies. Rather than being based on the principles and values of Cartesian science, they incorporate the principles observed in natural ecosystems and thus reflect systemic wisdom. As Schumacher has observed, 'Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful.'^ Such a redirection of technology offers tremendous opportunities for human creativity, entrepreneurship, and initiative. The new technologies are by no means less sophisticated than the old ones, but their sophistication is of a different kind. To increase complexity simply by letting everything grow is not difficult, but to recapture elegance and flexibility requires wisdom and creative insight.
As our physical resources become scarcer, it is becoming evident that we should invest more in people - the only resource we have plenty of. Indeed, ecological awareness makes it obvious that we have to conserve our physical resources and develop our human resources. In other words, ecological balance requires full employment. This is precisely what the new technologies facilitate. Being small-scale and decentralized, they tend to be labor-intensive and thus help to establish an economic system that is noninflationary and environmentally benign.
The shift from hard to soft technologies is most urgently needed in the areas related to energy production. As emphasized in a previous chapter,22 the deepest roots of our current energy crisis lie in the patterns of wasteful production and consumption that have become characteristic of our society. To solve the crisis we do not need more energy, which would only aggravate our problems, but profound changes in our values, attitudes, and life styles. However, while we pursue this long-term goal we also need to shift our energy production from nonrenewable to renewable resources, and from hard to soft technologies, to achieve ecological balance. The energy policies of most industrialized countries reflect what Amory Lovins, physicist and energy consultant to numerous organizations, has called the 'hard energy path, ' 23 in which energy is produced from nonrenewable resources - oil, natural gas, coal, and uranium - by means of highly centralized technologies that are rigidly programmed, and are uneconomical and unhealthy. Nuclear power is by far the most dangerous component of the hard energy path. 24 At the same time it is rapidly becoming the most inefficient and uneconomical source of energy. A prominent utilities investment adviser recently concluded a thorough investigation of the nuclear industry with the following devastating statement: 'The conclusion that must be reached is that, from an economic standpoint alone, to rely upon nuclear fission as the primary source of our stationary energy supplies will constitute economic lunacy on a scale unparalleled in recorded history.' 25
As the nuclear option is becoming ever more unrealistic and the heavy dependence of the industrialized countries on petroleum increases the risk of military confrontations, governments and representatives of the energy industry are eagerly pursuing a number of alternatives. In doing so, however, they still blindly stick to the obsolete principles of the hard energy path. Production of synthetic fuels from coal and oil shale, which has recently been vigorously promoted, involves yet another resource-intensive technology that is extremely wasteful and causes large-scale environmental disturbances. Nuclear fusion is often talked about, but is far too uncertain to be an acceptable solution. Besides, it seems to be pursued by the nuclear industry mainly to produce plutonium, which would then be used in fission reactors.26 All these forms of energy production require massive capital investments and centralized power stations with complex technologies. They are inefficient and highly inflationary without creating significant numbers of jobs. Conservation measures and solar energy could generate several times as many jobs as produced by the nuclear industry, while every new power station destroys about 4,000 net jobs. 27
The only way out of the energy crisis is to follow a 'soft energy path,' which, in Lovins' thinking, has three main components: conservation of energy by more efficient use, intelligent use of present nonrenewable energy sources as 'bridging fuels' during the transition period, and rapid development of soft technologies for energy production from renewable sources. Such a threefold approach would not only be environmentally benign and ecologically balanced; it would also be the most efficient and cheapest energy policy. A recent Harvard Business School study has stated authoritatively that efficiency improvements and soft technologies are the most economical of all available energy sources, besides providing more and better jobs than any of the other options. 28 The soft energy path should be embarked upon without further delay. Since the role of fossil fuels as a bridge to the new, renewable energy sources is a vital element of the necessary transition, it will be crucial to start the transition process while we still have enough fossil fuels to guarantee a smooth passage.
In the long run the greatest conservation of energy will be achieved by abandoning our present unhealthy and wasteful patterns of production and consumption in favor of an ecologically harmonious way of life. But while this profound change takes place, enormous energy savings can be accomplished by improving energy efficiency throughout the economy. This can be done right now by means of available technologies, while maintaining our present levels of economic activity. In fact, conservation turns out to be our best short-term energy source, outstripping all conventional fuels combined. This is dramatically confirmed by the observation that, during 1973-78,95 percent of all new energy supplies in Europe came from more efficient use. Thus millions of individual conservation measures added up to supply almost twenty times as much energy as all other new sources combined, including the entire European nuclear program. During the same time the United States, without trying very hard, obtained 72 percent of its new energy supplies from conservation measures - two and a half times as much as the energy from all other new sources. 29
An important part of using energy more efficiently is to use the appropriate kind for each task, which means applying the type of energy that will allow that particular task to be carried out in the cheapest and most effective way. In the United States 58 percent of all energy needs are for heating and cooling, 34 percent for liquid fuels to run vehicles, and only 8 percent for the special uses that require electricity. This electric energy is by far the most expensive, with electricity from a new power station costing about three times as much as the 1980 crude oil price set by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Thus electricity is grossly wasteful for most of our energy needs, and since we already produce more of it than we can use appropriately, building more centralized power stations would vastly increase the inefficiency of the entire system. As Lovins says, 'Arguing about what kind of new power station to build is like shopping for . . . antique furniture to burn in the furnace.' 30 What we need is not more electricity but a greater variety of energy sources that can be matched more appropriately with our needs.
Because we use more than half of our energy supply for heat, the greatest savings can be achieved by insulating our buildings more efficiently. It is now technically possible and highly cost effective to make buildings so heat-tight that they need virtually no space heating, even in cold climates, and many existing buildings can be brought to nearly that Standard. A further important means of increasing energy efficiency is the so-called cogenerations of useful heat and electricity. A cogenerator is a device which makes use of the heat that is inevitably produced in the generation of electricity instead of wastefully ejecting it into the environment. Any engine that produces motion by burning a fuel can also be used as a cogenerator. Installed in a building, it can efficiently operate the building's heating and cooling systems while, at the same time, driving its electric appliances. In this way the energy contained in the fuel can be converted into useful forms with up to 90 percent efficiency, whereas conventional generation of electricity alone would use at most 30 to 40 percent of the fuel's energy.31 Several recent studies have found that the combined effect of cogeneration and improved insulation, along with improved efficiencies in cars and machines, would result in energy savings of 30 to 40 percent without any changes in our standards of living and economic activities. 32
In the long run, we need an energy source that is renewable, economically efficient, and environmentally benign. Solar energy is the only kind of energy that satisfies all these criteria. The sun has been the planet's main energy source for billions of years, and life in its myriad forms has become exquisitely adapted to solar energy during the long course of planetary evolution. All the energy we use, except for nuclear power, represents some form of stored solar energy. Whether we burn wood, coal, oil, or gas, we use energy originally radiated to the earth from the sun and converted into chemical form by photosynthesis. The wind pushing our sailboats and driving our windmills is a flow of air caused by the upward movement of other air masses heated by the sun. The falling water that drives our turbines is part of the ongoing water cycle sustained by solar radiation. Thus virtually all our energy sources supply us with solar energy of one form or another. Not all these forms of energy are renewable, however. In the current energy debate the term 'solar energy' is used more specifically to refer to the forms of energy that come from inexhaustible or renewable sources. Solar energy in this sense is available in forms as varied as the planet itself." In forested areas it is present as a solid fuel (wood); in agricultural areas it can be produced as a liquid or gaseous fuel (alcohol or methane produced from plant products), in mountainous regions as hydroelectric power, and in windy places as wind-generated electricity; in sunny areas it can be transformed into electricity by photovoltaic cells, and almost everywhere it can be collected as direct heat.
Most of these forms of solar energy have been exploited by human societies throughout the ages by means of time-honored technologies. The U.S. Department of Energy likes to call solar energy an 'exotic' new energy source, but in fact the solar transition does not require any major technological innovations. It simply involves the judicious integration of long-known agricultural and technological processes into the activities of our modern society. Contrary to a widespread misconception, the problem of storing energy from these renewable sources has already been solved, and several studies have shown that the existing soft technologies are sufficient to meet all our long-term energy needs. 34 In fact, many of them are already being used successfully by solar-conscious communities. The most distinctive feature of these technologies is their decentralized nature. Since the energy radiated from the sun is diffused across the entire planet, centralized solar power stations do not make sense. In fact, they are inherently uneconomical.35 The most efficient solar technologies involve small-scale devices, to be used by local communities, which generate a wide variety of jobs and are benign in their effects. As Barry Commoner reminds us, 'When a pump fails in a solar device there is no need to call upon the President to visit the scene in order to calm the fear of catastrophe.' 36
One of the main arguments against solar energy is the claim that it is not economically competitive with conventional energy sources. This is not true. Certain forms of solar energy are competitive already; others can be within a few years. This can be shown even without questioning the narrow notion of economic competitiveness, which disregards most of the social costs generated by conventional energy production. One form of solar energy that can already be used with great advantage is solar heating. It can either be 'passive,' with the building itself capturing and storing the heat, or 'active,' as when special solar collectors are used. Energy from the sun can also be used to cool buildings during the summer. Solar heating and cooling systems have been developed intensively over the past few years and now represent a vibrant and rapidly expanding industry, as documented in the Harvard Business School report: 'Many people still assume that solar energy is something for the future, awaiting a technological breakthrough. That assumption represents a great misunderstanding, for active and passive solar heating is a here-and-now alternative to conventional energy sources. ' 37
Another solar technology with tremendous potential is the local production of electricity by means of photovoltaic cells. 38 A photovoltaic* (*The term 'photovoltaic' refers to the fact that an electric voltage is generated when light falls on the cell.) cell is a silent and motionless device that converts sunlight into electricity. The principal raw material used for its manufacture is silicon, which is present abundantly in common sand, and the manufacturing processes are similar to those used by the semiconductor industry to build transistors and integrated circuits ('chips'). At present photovoltaic cells are still too expensive for residential use, but so were transistors at the beginning of their development. In fact the photovoltaic industry is now going through the same stages as the semiconductor industry did two decades earlier. When the American space and military programs needed lightweight electronic equipment, massive federal investments led to a great reduction of production costs. This was the beginning of the industry that is now producing millions of low-cost transistor radios, pocket calculators, and digital watches.
Similarly, photovoltaic cells were first used to provide electricity for orbiting space satellites and were very expensive at that time. Since then their costs have dropped sharply, although their market is still quite restricted. For them to become competitive with conventional electricity, a further reduction of costs to $500 per kilowatt - about one-tenth of their present price - will be necessary, and this could easily be achieved with a substantial federal investment in photovoltaic technology. A recent study by the Federal Energy Administration estimated that the required price reduction to $500 per kilowatt would be achieved with a government order of 152,000 kilowatts of photovoltaic cells, to be delivered over a five-year period, for a total price of less than half a billion dollars. 39 This compares more than favorably with the two billion dollars of federal funds slated for the Clinch River nuclear breeder reactor, which has been estimated to produce electricity at a cost of $5,000 per kilowatt.40 Obviously a major investment of public funds in photovoltaic technology would launch a huge industry capable of producing electricity in efficient and benign ways, to the great benefit of all consumers. Similar estimates have shown that the generation of electricity from wind could be started almost at once, at economically competitive costs, if sufficient funds were invested in windmill technology.41
These developments would bring about fundamental structural changes in the utility industry, since photovoltaics and wind generators, like solar heating, are used most efficiently on site with no need for centralized power stations. The political power of the utility companies, reluctant to give up their monopoly in the production of electricity, is today the major obstacle to the rapid development of the new solar technologies.
Any realistic solar energy program will have to come up with enough liquid fuel to operate airplanes and at least some of our ground transport, and with liquid or gaseous fuel to be used for cogenerators where the local supply of solar energy is inadequate. The solar technology most readily available to obtain these fuels is also the oldest - the production of energy from biomass. The term 'biomass' refers to the organic matter produced by green plants, which represents stored solar energy. This energy can not only be retrieved as heat by burning the material; it can also be converted into liquid or gaseous fuels by distilling alcohol from fermented grain or fruit or by capturing the methane that bacteria generate from manure, sewage, or garbage. Both these fuels can be used to run internal combustion engines without any pollution, and both can be produced by well-known and relatively simple methods. Alcohol production from biomass is most developed in Brazil, where all gasoline contains up to 20 percent alcohol; and simple methane generators, producing fuel from manure and sewage, have been built by the millions in India and China.42
Of all the solar technologies, the production of methane - a major component of natural gas - with the help of bacterial activity seems to come closest to the principles observed in natural ecosystems. It involves the cooperation of other organisms - a characteristic aspect of all life - and can be used very effectively to recycle garbage, sewage, and underwater sludge, which are some of our major pollutants. The organic residue from methane production is an excellent fertilizer, ideally suited to replace at least part of our resource-consuming and polluting synthetic fertilizers. Like other forms of solar energy, biomass is widely dispersed and thus very appropriate for small-scale, local fuel production.
Here we need to keep in mind that the production of liquid fuels from agricultural products wil not sustain our transportation system at its present level. To do so would require massive alcohol production from farms, which would be an irresponsible use of our soils because it would cause their rapid erosion, as Wes Jackson has argued emphatically.43 Although biomass is a renewable resource, the soil in which it grows is not. We can certainly expect significant alcohol production from biomass, including crops, but a massive alcohol fuel program designed to sustain present needs would deplete our soil at the same rate as we are now depleting our coal, oil, and other natural resources. The way out of this dilemma will be to thoroughly redesign our transportation system, specially in the United States, together with many other aspects of our wasteful and resource-consuming life styles. This will not mean lowering our living standards. On the contrary, it will enhance the quality of our lives.
The authoritative studies of our energy options cited above show that the road to a solar future is open. Although significant technological advances are to be expected in several areas, we do not have to wait for any technological breakthroughs to embark on this historic transition. What we need most is accurate public information about the potential of solar energy, along with corresponding social and economic policies to facilitate the passage to the solar age. Barry Commoner has outlined a detailed scenario for replacing most of the nonrenewable energy sources in the United States with solar energy within fifty years. 44 His proposal does not assume any major technological innovations nor depend on any drastic measures of energy conservation. Either of these developments, both of which will almost certainly take place, would significantly shorten and ease the transition period.
The key to Commoner's sketch of the solar transition is the role of natural gas as the main bridging fuel. The basic idea is to expand the present production and distribution network of natural gas, and then to gradually replace the natural gas with solar methane. To do so, methane-generating plants would be built wherever sufficient biomass is readily available - in the form of garbage and sewage in cities, of crops, manure, and agricultural residues in farming areas, of wood in forest areas and seaweed along the coasts, and so on. Like natural gas, solar methane could easily be stored as a fuel reserve to balance the natural variations of other solar energy sources, and it would also be used for cogeneration of heat and electricity to conserve energy and reduce environmental pollution. Cogenerators could easily be produced on a large scale by the auto industry, as Fiat has already begun to do in Italy. The transition from natural gas to solar methane could be so smooth that it would hardly be noticed. In fact, it is already under way in some parts of the United States.
According to Commoner's outline, which is of course only one of many possible plans, the initial phase of the transition would consist of installing natural gas-fired generators wherever possible and building more extended gas distribution systems to supply them. At the same time active and passive solar heating, would expand, alcohol produced from waste and crops would begin to replace gasoline, and increasing amounts of solar methane, produced from biomass, would be added to the natural gas in the expanding pipeline system. Within several years the use of photovoltaic cells and wind generators would expand significantly, while the total production of solar energy would gradually increase, until it made up about 20 percent of the total energy budget after the first twenty-five years. At that stage, halfway through the transition period, solar energy and natural gas together would account for slightly more than half the total United States energy budget, which would make it possible to completely eliminate dependence on nuclear power. During the second half of the transition, the production of oil and coal would gradually be reduced to zero and natural gas production would fall to about half its present rate. At that point the system would be about 90 percent solar. In subsequent years the 10 percent contribution of natural gas could be eliminated, but it would be important to keep this energy source as a back-up fuel to compensate for irregularities due to unexpected fluctuations in climate. To carry out the entire transition, according to Commoner's estimates, the United States would need a supply of natural gas equivalent to about 250 billion barrels of oil over the fifty-year period, which represents a quantity somewhere between 10 and 30 percent of the estimated reservoir of natural gas in the United States. 45
The main obstacles to the solar transition are not technical but political. The shift from nonrenewable to renewable resources will force the oil companies to give up their dominant roles in the world economy and to change their functions in fundamental ways. One solution, suggested by Commoner, would be to convert those companies that wished to remain in the oil and natural gas business into public utilities, while the major oil companies would be likely to invest their cash in more attractive enterprises, as many of them have already begun to do. Similar problems will arise in other industrial sectors as the solar transition generates clashes between social and private interests. The soft energy path would clearly be in the interest of the overwhelming majority of energy users, but a reasonably smooth passage to the solar age will be possible only if we are able, as a society, to put long-term social returns before short-term private gains.
The transition to the solar age is really under way now, not merely in terms of new technologies but, in a broader sense, as a profound transformation of our entire society and culture. The shift from the mechanistic to the ecological paradigm is not something that will happen sometime in the future. It is happening right now in our sciences, in our individual and collective attitudes and values, and in our patterns of social organization. The new paradigm is better understood by individuals and small communities than by large academic and social institutions, which often tend to be locked into Cartesian thinking. To facilitate the cultural transformation, it will therefore be necessary to restructure our system of information and education, so that the new knowledge can be presented and discussed appropriately.
Much of this restructuring of information is already being done successfully by citizen movements and public-interest groups, and by numerous alternative networks. However, if the new ecological awareness is to become part of our collective consciousness, it will have to be transmitted, eventually, through the mass media. These are presently dominated by business, especially in the United States, and their contents are censored accordingly. 46 The public's right of access to the mass media will thus be an important aspect of the current social change. Once we succeed in reclaiming our mass media, we can then decide what needs to be communicated and how to use the media effectively to build our future. This means that journalists, too, will change their thinking from fragmentary to holistic modes and develop a new professional ethic based on social and ecological awareness. Instead of concentrating on sensational presentations of aberrant, violent, and destructive happenings, reporters and editors will have to analyze the complex social and cultural patterns that form the context of such events, as well as reporting the quiet, constructive, and integrative activities going on in our culture. That such a mature kind of journalism is not only socially beneficial but can also be good business is proven by the recent growth of alternative media that promote new values and life styles.47
An important part of the necessary restructuring of information will be the curtailing and reorganization of advertising. Since product advertisements tend to obscure the social costs generated by the patterns of consumption they stimulate, it is vital that information provided by environmental and consumer groups be given 'equal time.' Moreover, legal restrictions on advertising resource-intensive, wasteful, and unhealthy products would be our most effective way of reducing inflation and moving toward ecologically harmonious ways of living.
Finally, the restructuring of information and knowledge will involve a profound transformation of our system of education. Indeed, this transformation too is well on its way. It is not occurring in our academic institutions so much as among the general population, in thousands of spontaneous adult-education efforts undertaken by the social movements that emerged during the 1960s and 1970s. In the United States many of these movements have shown their durability in spite of repeated predictions of their early demise, and the values and life styles they promote are being adopted by ever increasing numbers of people. Although the movements sometimes fail to communicate and cooperate with one another, they all go in the same direction. In their concerns for social justice, ecological balance, self-realization, and spirituality, they emphasize different aspects of the gradually emerging new vision of reality.48
The last decade saw a proliferation of citizen movements formed around social and environmental issues, following the pioneering efforts of Ralph Nader. In recent years there has been a broad convergence of these movements and a tendency to go beyond single issues to address fundamental systemic concerns. Many organizations have been particularly concerned with corporate accountability and with the influence of large corporations on government policies. The political strength of these citizen movements is considerable, and opinion polls have shown that the overwhelming majority of the population considers them a positive social force. 49 Closely related to their efforts are the activities of a number of organizations referred to collectively as the ecology movement. These groups maintain information centers and publish newsletters on environmental protection, organic farming, recycling of waste, and other ecological concerns. Some also provide practical assistance in developing and applying soft technologies, and many of them belong to antinuclear alliances and coalitions.
Citizen and consumer movements are also the sources of emerging countereconomies based on decentralized, cooperative, and ecologically harmonious life styles, and involving the bartering of skills and home-produced goods and services. These alternative economies - also known as 'informal,' 'dual,' or 'convivial' economies - cannot be centrally planned and installed but have to grow and develop organically, which usually involves a great deal of pragmatic experimentation and requires considerable social and cultural flexibility. Interesting and significant patterns of countereconomies have grown in this way in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.50
The new emphasis on dual economies is based on the realization that these informal, cooperative and nonmonetized sectors are predominant in the world's economies, and that the institutionalized and monetized sectors grew out of them and rest upon them, rather than the reverse. This fact can be documented even in the industrialized countries, although the bias of economic statistics makes it almost impossible to carry out such an analysis.51 It is clearly necessary for any modern society to have both formal and informal sectors in its economy, but our overemphasis on money - dollars, yen, or rubles - to measure economic efficiency has created huge imbalances and is now threatening to destroy the informal sectors. To counteract this trend more and more people are now trying to drop out of the monetized economy, working only a few hours a week to earn a minimum of cash and adopting more communal, reciprocal, and cooperative ways of living to satisfy their other, nonmonetary needs. There has been a growing interest in household economies based on use value rather than market value, and a significant rise in the numbers of self-employed people. Household economies are ideally suited to develop small-scale soft technologies and to practice the various crafts now being revived in many countries. All these activities enhance the autonomy and security of families, households, and neighborhoods, and improve social cohesion and stability.
Another important contribution to the reorganization of economic patterns comes from worker-participation and self-management movements, which are active in Canada and several European countries. The first successful model of worker self-management was achieved in Yugoslavia and has since inspired similar developments in Sweden, Germany, and other Western European countries. In the United States and Japan, the idea that workers should participate in their own management is taking hold more slowly, owing to the different political traditions of these countries, but even there it is now beginning to be accepted. 52 Following the principle of thinking globally and acting locally, we now have the unique possibility of synthesizing and adapting to our needs the strategies of creative communities around the world - from the Chinese model of self-reliant communal development and the traditional values and life styles of numerous communities in the Third World to the Yugoslavian model of worker self-management and the informal economies that are now being developed in the United States and many other countries.
The new vision of reality is an ecological vision in a sense which goes far beyond the immediate concerns with environmental protection. To emphasize this deeper meaning of ecology, philosophers and scientists have begun to make a distinction between 'deep ecology' and 'shallow environmentalism.' 53 Whereas shallow environmentalism is concerned with more efficient control and management of the natural environment for the benefit of 'man,' the deep ecology movement recognizes that ecological balance will require profound changes in our perception of the role of human beings in the planetary ecosystem. In short, it will require a new philosophical and religious basis.
Deep ecology is supported by modern science, and in particular by the new systems approach, but it is rooted in a perception of reality that goes beyond the scientific framework to an intuitive awareness of the oneness of all life, the interdependence of its multiple manifestations and its cycles of change and transformation. When the concept of the human spirit is understood in this sense,54 as the mode of consciousness in which the individual feels connected to the cosmos as a whole, it becomes clear that ecological awareness is truly spiritual. Indeed, the idea of the individual being linked to the cosmos is expressed in the Latin root of the world religion, religare ('to bind strongly'), as well as in the Sanskrit yoga, which means union.
The philosophical and spiritual framework of deep ecology is not something entirely new but has been set forth many times throughout human history. Among the great spiritual traditions Taoism offers one of the most profound and most beautiful expressions of ecological wisdom, " emphasizing both the fundamental oneness and the dynamic nature of all natural and social phenomena. Thus Huai Nan Tzu: 'Those who follow the natural order flow in the current of the Tao.'56
While such ecological principles were expounded by even earlier Taoist sages, a very similar philosophy of flow and change was being taught by Heraclitus in ancient Greece. 57 Later, the Christian mystic Saint Francis had views and ethics that were profoundly ecological and presented a revolutionary challenge to the traditional Judeo-Christian view of 'man' and nature. The wisdom of deep ecology is also apparent in many works of Western philosophy, including those of Baruch Spinoza and Martin Heidegger. It is found throughout Native American culture, and has been expressed by poets ranging from Walt Whitman to Gary Snyder. It has even been argued that the world's greatest pieces of literature, such as Dante's Divine Comedy, are structured according to the ecological principles observed in nature. 58
The deep ecology movement, then, is not proposing an entirely new philosophy but is reviving an awareness which is part of our cultural heritage. What is new, perhaps, is the extension of the ecological vision to the planetary level, supported by the powerful experience of the astronauts and expressed in images like 'spaceship Earth' and the 'Whole Earth,' as well as the new maxim 'Think globally and act locally.' This new awareness is being generated specifically by numerous individuals, groups, and networks, but a significant shift of values has also been observed in large sections of the general population, a shift from material consumption to voluntary simplicity, from economic and technological growth to inner growth and development. In 1976 a study by the Stanford Research Institute estimated that four to five million adult Americans had drastically reduced their incomes and withdrawn from their former positions in the consumer economy in favor of a life style embracing the principle of voluntary simplicity .59 SRI further estimated that another eight to ten million American adults lived according to some, but not all, of the tenets of the voluntary simplicity approach - frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and concern with personal, inner growth. This value shift has since been confirmed by several opinion polls and has been widely discussed in the media. In other countries, such as Canada, the voluntary simplicity theme has emerged officially,60 as it has in California in the speeches of Governor Jerry Brown.
The shift from material growth to inner growth is being promoted by the human potential movement, the holistic health movement, the feminist movement, and various spiritual movements. While economists have seen human needs in terms of material acquisitions and have postulated that these needs are in principle insatiable, humanistic psychologists have concentrated on the nonmaterial needs of self-actualization, altruism, and loving interpersonal relationships. In doing so they have outlined a radically different image of human nature, which transpersonal psychologists have extended by emphasizing the value of a direct, experiential understanding of oneness with the entire human family and the cosmos at large. At the same time the holistic health movement is pointing out the impact of the materialistic value system on our well-being and promoting healthy attitudes and living habits, together with a new conceptual basis and new practical approaches to health care.
The forces promoting the new ideas about health and healing work both inside and outside the medical system. Physicians in the United States, Canada, and Europe are forming associations and holding conferences to discuss the merits of holistic medicine. As a result of these discussions doctors are trying to eliminate unnecessary surgery, diagnostic tests, and prescriptions, recognizing that this will be the most effective way to bring down health costs. Others are advocating restoring the integrity of the medical profession by getting their information about drugs from sources independent of the drug industry, for example by subscribing to independent medical newsletters and establishing closer links with pharmacists.
As to the organization of health care, there is now a strong trend toward decentralization and general practice, with a veritable renaissance of primary care in Europe and North America in the last few years. The emphasis on family practice has become much stronger in medical schools, where a new generation of medical students realizes that primary health care, motivated by the prevention of ill health and an awareness of its environmental and social origins, not only brings great human satisfaction but it also intellectually more challenging and more rewarding than the biomedical approach. At the same time there has been a revival of psychosomatic medicine, generated by recognition of the crucial role of stress in the onset and development of disease, and numerous research projects are focusing on the interplay between mind and body in health and illness.
With this growing interest in the broader context of health, nonmedical health professionals and institutions have been able to improve their status and increase their influence. Nurses, who have long perceived the shortcomings of the biomedical approach, are expanding their role in health care and fighting for full recognition of their qualifications as healers and health educators. They are also investigating various unorthodox therapeutic techniques in an attempt to develop a truly holistic approach to primary care. Public health organizations committed to prevention and health education are growing and gaining recognition in medical circles. In addition, some governments are taking a new interest in disease prevention and health maintenance, and various government agencies are being set up to study the development of holistic health care.
The most important force of all in this health care revolution is a strong grass-roots movement of individuals and newly formed organizations dissatisfied with the existing system of medical care. They have embarked on an extensive exploration of alternative approaches, including promotion of healthy living habits, combined with recognition of personal responsibility for health and of the individual's potential for self-healing; a strong interest in traditional healing arts from various cultures that integrate physical and psychological approaches to health; and formation of holistic health care centers, many of them experimenting with unorthodox and esoteric therapies.
The shift to the value system that the holistic health movement, the human potential movement, and the ecology movement advocate is further supported by a number of spiritual movements that reemphasize the quest for meaning and the spiritual dimension of life. Some individuals and organizations among these 'New Age' movements have shown clear signs of exploitation, fraud, sexism, and excessive economic expansion, quite similar to those observed in the corporate world, but these aberrations are transitory manifestations of our cultural transformation and should not prevent us from appreciating the genuine nature of the current shift of values. As Roszak has pointed out, one must distinguish between the authenticity of people's needs and the inadequacy of the approaches that may be offered to meet those needs.61
The spiritual essence of the ecological vision seems to find its ideal expression in the feminist spirituality advocated by the women's movement, as would be expected from the natural kinship between feminism and ecology, rooted in the age-old identification of woman and nature.62 Feminist spirituality is based on awareness of the oneness of all living forms and of their cyclical rhythms of birth and death, thus reflecting an attitude toward life that is profoundly ecological. As numerous feminist authors have recently pointed out, the image of a female deity seems to embody this kind of spirituality more accurately than that of a male god. Indeed, worship of the Goddess predates that of male deities in many cultures, including our own, and may also have been closely connected with the nature mysticism of the ancient Taoist tradition. 63
According to Beatrice Bruteau, different images of the Divine can be seen as reflecting different solutions to the fundamental metaphysical problem of 'the One and the Many. ' 64 The male god typically represents the One that can exist alone, independent and absolute, while the Many exist only by the will of God, dependent and relative. In human society such a situation is exemplified by the conventional father-child relationship. Fatherhood, as Bruteau points out, is characterized by separation. The father is at no time physically united with the child, and the relationship tends to be one of confrontation and conditional love. When this image of the father is applied to God, it naturally evokes the notions of obedience, loyalty, and faith, and often includes some image of challenge, with subsequent reward or punishment.
The image of the Goddess, on the other hand, according to Bruteau, represents a solution to the One/Many problem in terms of union and mutual embodiment, with the One manifest in the Many and the Many dwelling within the One. In such a relationship of union, which is not imposed or attained but is organically given, there is no sense of opposition between God and the world. Their relationship is characterized by harmony, warmth, and affection, rather than challenge and drama. Such an image is clearly maternal, reflecting the mother's unconditional love, mother and child being physically united and participating in life together.
With renaissance of the Goddess image, the feminist movement is also creating a new self-image for women, along with new modes of thinking and a new system of values. Thus feminist spirituality will have a profound influence not only on religion and philosophy but also on our social and political life. ^ One of the most radical contributions men can make to developing our collective feminist awareness will be to get fully involved in raising our children from the moment of birth, so that they can grow up with the experience of the full human potential inherent in women and men. John Lennon, always a step ahead of his time, did just that during the last five years of his life.
While men will become more active as fathers, the full participation of women in all areas of public life, which will undoubtedly be achieved in the future, is bound to bring about far-reaching changes in our attitudes and behavior. Thus the feminist movement will continue to assert itself as one of the strongest cultural currents of our time. Its ultimate aim is nothing less than a thorough redefinition of human nature, which will have the most profound effect on the further evolution of our culture.
Conventional sterotypic images of human nature are challenged today not only by the women's movement but also by a great number of ethnic liberation movements in revolt against the oppression of minorities through ethnic prejudice and racism. Their protest is amplified by the struggles of several other kinds of minorities - homosexuals, old people, single parents, the physically handicapped, and many more - who have been stigmatized by rigidly assigned social roles and identities. The roots of these protests lie in the 1960s, the decade that saw the simultaneous emergence of several powerful social movements all of which began to question authority. While civil rights leaders demanded that black citizens be included in the political process, the free speech movement demanded the same for students. At the same time thfc woman's movement questioned patriarchal authority, and humanistic psychologists undermined the authority of doctors and therapists.
Today a similar questioning of authority is being initiated at the global level, as Third World countries challenge the conventional notion that they are less developed' than the industrialized countries. An increasing number of their leaders now perceive the multifaceted crisis of the Northern Hemisphere with great clarity, and are resisting the industrialized world's attempts to export its problems to the Southern Hemisphere. Some Third World leaders are discussing how the countries of the Southern Hemisphere might decouple themselves and develop their own indigenous technologies . and economic patterns. Others have proposed shifting the definition of 'development' from the development of industrial production and the distribution of material goods to the development of human beings.66
Because femininism is a major force in our cultural transformation, especially in North America and Europe, it is likely that the women's movement will play a pivotal role in the coalescence of various social movements. Indeed, it may well become the catalyst that will allow the various movements to flow together during the 1980s. Today many of these movements still operate separately, without perceiving how their purposes interrelate, but several significant coalitions have recently begun to form. Not surprisingly, women are playing important roles in contacts among environmental groups, consumer groups, ethnic liberation movements, and feminist organizations. Helen Caldicott, who has helped to provide the antinuclear movement with a sound scientific basis, as well as a sense of urgency and compassion, and Hazel Henderson, who has lucidly analyzed the shortcomings of the Cartesian framework in current economic thinking, are examples of women in leading positions who are forging valuable coalitions.
The new alliances and coalitions, which already interlink hundreds of groups and networks, aim to be nonhierarchical, nonbureaucratic, and nonviolent. Some of them function very effectively around the world. An example of such a world-wide coalition is Amnesty International's great campaign for human rights. These new, effective organizations demonstrate how the world-wide implementation of vital functions, such as environmental protection or the fight for economic justice, can be achieved through the coordination of local and regional actions, based on agreed-upon global principles. The multiple networks and coalitions have not yet asserted themselves decisively in the political arena, but as they continue to give substance to the new vision of reality, a critical mass of awareness will be reached that will allow them to coalesce into new political parties. The members of these parties, some of them already being formed in various countries, will include environmentalists, consumer groups, feminists, ethnic minorities, and all those for whom the corporate economy is no longer working. Together they clearly represent a winning majority at a time when most voters are so disenchanted they do not even bother to participate in elections. By bringing this nonvoting population back into the electoral process the new coalitions should be able to turn the paradigm shift into political reality.
Such predictions may seem rather idealistic, especially in view of the current political swing to the right in the United States and the crusades of Christian fundamentalists promoting medieval notions of reality. But when we looked at the situation from a broad evolutionary perspective, these phenomena become understandable as inevitable aspects of cultural transformation. In the regular pattern of rise, culmination, decline, and disintegration, which seems to be characteristic of cultural evolution, the decline occurs when a culture has become too rigid - in its technologies, ideas, or social organization - to meet the challenge of changing conditions.67 This loss of flexibility is accompanied by a general loss of harmony, leading to the outbreak of social discord and disruption. During the process of decline and disintegration the dominant social institutions are still imposing their outdated views but are gradually disintegrating, while new creative minorities face the new challenges with ingenuity and rising confidence.
This process of cultural transformation, shown schematically in the diagram below, is what we are now observing in our society. The Democratic and Republican parties, as well as the traditional Right and Left in most European countries, the Chrysler Corporation, the Moral Majority, and most of our academic institutions are all part of the declining culture. They are in the process of disintegration. The social movements of the 1960s and 1970s represent the rising culture, which is now ready for the passage to the solar age. While the transformation is taking place, the declining culture refuses to change, clinging ever more rigidly to its outdated ideas; nor will the dominant social institutions hand over their leading roles to the new cultural forces. But they will inevitably go on to decline and disintegrate while the rising culture will continue to rise, and eventually will assume its leading role. As the turning point approaches, the realization that evolutionary changes of this magnitude cannot be prevented by short-term political activities provides our strongest hope for the future.
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