I came across a paper written a couple of years ago that makes very interesting reading. Collapse and Transformation , by D. M. Taylor and G. M Taylor is a not quite apocalyptic, but very close, rendering of the future we face.

There are only three possibilities for the future of civilization:

(a) Cascading environmental crises will rapidly escalate, producing uncontrollable economic and political crises. At some point these crises will cause the catastrophic collapse of the societal system. This process may produce irreversible damage to social and biophysical systems.

(b) Political and business leaders will proactively respond to the growing crises through supporting environmentally friendly technologies, introducing policies for sustainable development and preventing political unrest. These efforts will slow the rate of environmental destruction and help to extend the life of industrial civilization. However, attempts to improve the system without redesigning its unsustainable structure will ultimately fail. Over time efforts to manage crises will consume more and more scarce resources and industrial civilization will collapse.

(c) As regional and global crises increase and the world economy begins to fail, the ability of existing political and economic structures to influence and control people will weaken. Growing numbers of people will question the values of contemporary civilization and start to organize alternative structures. Maintaining and restoring large areas of the earth’s biosphere will become an international priority. At this point a successful transformation to a sustainable societal system is possible if new values and technologies have already developed an appropriate worldview – one capable of organizing functional new social structures. Should this happen, the collapse of contemporary civilization will become a springboard for the evolution of a sustainable civilization.

But unlike many similar articles, the authors build their case on systems thinking and complexity. They argue that a robust and resilient sustainable society can emerge if we are able to capture and harness a new holistic worldview. They juxtapose values of the old industrial age against a new sustainable age. The list is very close to the pairs I present in my book. For example, holistic/integrative vs. rational/analytic; interdependence vs. individual achievement; systemic vs. mechanistic; and self-regulating vs. bureaucratic.

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