The Great Transformation

There are several “Great Transitions” circulating, visions for a transition to a just and sustainable economy and society.  Tellus Institute convened the Global Scenario Group, to produce the Great Transition Initiative in 2002, a comprehensive set of alternative futures.  More recently, the New Economics Foundation presented their own multi-segment Great Transition Report.  Both reports have much in common, centered on the need for an economy that respects ecological boundaries and delivers greater equality.  Both reports are thoughtful, mind opening, and worth study.

Personally, I prefer the term transformation.  Our children transition from summer back to school in the fall.  A caterpillar transforms into a butterfly.  There is no doubt that the series of transitions underway at the beginning of the 21st century will constitute transformation when complete.  With respect to finance, we seek to reform and transform.

I would like to introduce a recent speech by Thomas Homer-Dixon, called “The Great Transformation – Climate Change as Cultural Change.”  Homer-Dixon describes four essential components of the Great Transformation:

  • a cognitive transition
  • an economic transition (note Capital Institute is working to reform and transform finance, the key intervention point to bring about the economic transition Homer-Dixon is talking about)
  • a political transition
  • a normative transition

Together, these four transitions represent the keys to what Homer-Dixon calls “The Great Transformation”.  I would like to simply highlight and contrast Homer-Dixon’s “normative transition” with that of the modern day “individualists” as represented by the likes of Glenn Beck and certain “Tea Party” leaders.

We live in an interdependent world, there is no going back to the “individual.”  Individual freedom, responsibility and initiative are essential, but subservient to the common good in an interconnected world (think Internet, or limits on screaming “fire” in a movie theatre).   Importantly, common good, and community do not suggest communism, or any “ism.”  It is not a left versus right issue.  It is modern biology (Darwin’s “survival of the fittest” has been misunderstood) and physics and complexity science.  I prefer science to ideology.  That we live in an interconnected system, with infinite fractal-like subsystems is increasingly apparent and well documented in science.  Such an understanding of the “oneness” in life happens to align with many of the great religious beliefs.  Interesting.

Take time to read Homer-Dixon’s illuminating speech:   “The Great Transformation – Climate Change as Cultural Change.”