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Volume 20 Issue 4
November/December 2014

Our Daily Food – Choice or Chance?

Everything is About to Change

Beyond Right and Wrong: Using Mediation to Transform Conflict

Adventures in Lucid Dreaming

The Secret to Good Health and True Happiness

Geothermal and Solar as Heat Sources

We’Moon 2015: Wild Card


Everything is About to Change
Paul Hanleyby Paul Hanley

Eleven billion people will populate this marvelous planet by century’s end. Adding 3.7 billion to an already overburdened world will force everyone to change everything.

In my new book, ELEVEN, I argue that the sweeping changes that will make a full world work will wholly transform humankind, reshaping its inner life and external conditions. This process will result in the emergence of a new culture, a new agriculture, and ultimately a new human race.

But the transformation that will bring about this new and better world will occur concurrently with a terrifying disintegration of the old one, making the 21st century a precarious time.

If we were to follow a business-as-usual scenario, the world economy would grow by 500 percent, to $250 trillion (in 1990 dollars), by the time our population hits 11 billion in 2100. That would increase the human ecological footprint—which already exceeds Earth’s biocapacity by 60 percent—by more than 300 percent.

In other words, pursuing a business-as-usual approach is simply impossible; it would bring down civilization.

The good news is that an alternative future for humanity, in which a population of 11 billion is a boon rather than a catastrophe, is not only possible, it is the next, inevitable stage in human evolution. We can find hope in the fact that everything that needs to be done to make the world just and sustainable is being done somewhere, successfully, already.

A key consideration is this: It’s not so much how many people there are, it’s what kind of people they are. A world peopled by rampant consumers has no future. But in ELEVEN, I show that people can be altruists and Earth healers—and be better off for it.

Take Yacouba Sawadogo, known as the “Man Who Stopped the Desert.” According to one expert on desert reclamation, this humble farmer from Burkina Faso has “single-handedly had more impact on conservation than all national and international researchers put together. In this region [Africa’s Sahel], tens of thousands of hectares of completely unproductive land has been made productive again thanks to the techniques of Yacouba.”

Not only did Sawadogo develop methods to restore desertified farms, he transferred his hard won knowledge to hundreds of other farmers. So much land has been reclaimed that the local climate has changed; it now rains more.

With 11 billion Yacoubas, the world would be a great place!

In ELEVEN, I show that our outer world is a reflection of our inner world, quite literally. That’s why the transformation that is required to make an 11-billion-world work is not primarily a matter of technical solutions, such as adopting solar power. It’s primarily a process of altering our thinking, worldviews, and ethics.

The materialistic worldview that emerged from scientific enquiry, when untempered by knowledge acquired from a fuller range of ways of understanding reality, undermines our sense of meaning and purpose, enervating humankind.

The physicist Stephen Hawking famously described human beings as nothing more than “a chemical scum on an insignificant planet.” If our outer world indeed reflects our inner world, as we come to accept this demeaning self-perception, is it any wonder the world is polluted by chemical scum, or that we are destroying the integrity of the planet, dooming it to insignificance?

Orthodox science sees human beings as mere automatons programmed by past events. But when we read our reality using all the means at our disposal, from science to art to mediation, tapping the accumulated spiritual knowledge of 7,000 human cultures, we come to see human beings as powerful change agents. And as we change our inner world, to an ethic of love, unity, and service, our outer world becomes beautiful, too.

Ideas transform landscapes. In ELEVEN, I show, for example, how people on China’s Loess Plateau, considered the most eroded region of the planet, united around the idea that they could restore their degraded farmland. With a common purpose, they were able to rehabilitate an area the size of Belgium. Forests and rivers are growing and flowing again. The farms are productive. Incomes have doubled and tripled, raising the once demoralized residents out of grinding poverty.

In the coming century, we will see a dual process of destruction, as a moribund old world order disintegrates, and one of renewal as a new culture emerges. But beyond that, as Thomas Berry put it, “The historical mission of our times is to reinvent the human at the species level.”

Only an ethical revolution will allow us to reinvent ourselves, so that we can carry a sustainable, ever-advancing civilization forward. And only a worldwide, grassroots capacity-building process can make this revolution succeed.

Over the course of centuries, but primarily over the last 60 years, we have been “trained” to see ourselves as consumers. We have to retrain ourselves in a new culture where one’s inner life and authentic relationships are paramount.

In ELEVEN, I introduce a new model of capacity building for cultural transformation. Making the world work for 11 billion people will be the most difficult task humanity has undertaken. It will take decades and centuries to reinvent humankind. But what better way to spend our time?

ELEVEN is available from www.friesenpress.com/bookstore and other online booksellers.

Paul Hanley has published thousands of articles on the environment, sustainable development, agriculture, and other topics. He is editor and co-author of Earthcare: Ecological Agriculture in Saskatchewan (Earthcare 1980) and The Spirit of Agriculture (George Ronald 2005). Paul is a recipient of the Canadian Environment Award. He has been environment columnist with the Saskatoon StarPhoenix since 1989.


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