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Saturday, 26 July 2008 00:58


Section VI - The Curve of Hope
Chapter 9 - The Ecozoic Era


The present disintegration of the life systems of the Earth is so extensive that we might very well be bringing an end to the Cenozoic period that has provided the identity for the life process of Earth during the past sixty-seven million years. During that period life expanded with amazing fluorescence prior to the coming of the human.

‘The Universe Story'
Berry & Swimme, pg 3


What might life look like when we've re-achieved sustainability?

The last phase of the construct, ‘ Epochs of Sustainability: A Curve of Hope ,' is called, ‘The Ecozoic Era' - a name coined by Father Thomas Berry and Dr. Brian Swimme in their book, ‘The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to the Ecozoic Era, A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos.' The last chapter of Berry and Swimme's book is a description of the Ecozoic Era, and I urge you to read it if you have not already done so. They are totally forthcoming concerning the magnitude of the problem we've created, and eloquent in their discussion of our choices and the actions we must take.

As you can see from the ‘ Epochs of Sustainability ' chart, the magnitude of our plundering of the Earth's resources is a rather recent phenomenon, measured in hundreds of years. The seeds for it, however, were planted a few millennia ago. Even a few thousand years of unbridled exploitation is a very, very short time when put in the perspective of the millions of years that spans the Cenozoic Era now concluding, and still incredibly brief when seen in terms of the 2.6 million years of human existence.

I was introduced to ‘The Universe Story' and the term 'Ecozoic' in a graduate class taught at Portland State University by Professor Tom Johnson. The class was entitled, "Business as a Living System." I mention this because it is a marvelous example of how we might change current paradigms in our education system, and my experience is elaborated in the chapter above on Transformative Learning .

When you look at the ‘ Epochs of Sustainability ' chart, it isn't apparent that there are choices we might make other than moving into an Ecozoic Era. Berry and Swimme warn us that we must be careful not to slip into a ‘Technozoic Era,' where we look to technology as a savior and neglect to look at the necessary transformational changes to our current cultural beliefs, mores, and actions.

When I first drew the chart I characterized this period as ‘Managed Sustainability.' My description of meeting The Natural Step System Conditions of harvesting within the Earth's capacity to renew, polluting within the Earth's capacity to cleanse, producing only biodegradable waste, and equitably sharing scarce resources, is probably a good start. And we will have to manage the world's population, and introduce a precautionary principle so that there are more checks and balances on scientific experimentation.
As we internalize what it means to be sustainable, there will other cultural shifts that will serve as awakenings and take us beyond 'Managed Sustainability.' All of them have been mentioned previously, and there are several that I think are worth mentioning again at this point:

  • the recognition of the finiteness of the planet and that growth is terminal when it takes us beyond the Earth's capacities to support us;
  • our current priority scheme of placing profit before people, and people comes before planet, needs to be reversed - the health of the planet is critical to meeting the needs of the people, and both are necessary to keep profits sustainable;
  • an extension of a current shift we are making from ‘dominion' to ‘stewardship' to an understanding that it is the Earth that is taking care of us, and if she is to take care of us then we need to be in concert with her;
  • our recognition of the sacredness of all life - the discerning of mystery and viewing life with a sense of awe and reverence;
  • our primary thought process needs to be grounded in living systems rather than Newtonian physics;
  • the need to shift from our predominantly finite games to the infinite game of global community, peace, living within the capacity of the Earth's systems, and sharing what is scarce.

The next section, the last section of this book, uses an appreciative approach to moving forth into the Ecozoic Era. Life, by definition, isn't a problem - it is a blessing. In the Appreciative Inquiry sequence, the first and always present question is, "What brings life?" We are entering into an organic process.

Our ‘Affirmative Topic of Choice' will be ‘Finding our Place in Creating a Sustainable Global Community.' From the work you've done to date, it should be clear that we are each a player - positioned to move forth. Each of us is driven by some combination of our own interests and our sense of commitment to community and future generations.

I would hope that we all agree that global community is an infinite game that provides the container for all the finite games we wish to play. Our core values are essentially the principles and virtues necessary to assure sustainability - a constitution of sorts with statements regarding our relationship with the Earth. The United Nations has a beautiful document, ' The Earth Charter ', that may serve this purpose, or be a starting point for its development as included in the ' Sustainability Principles ' in 'Reference Documents' listed in this site's Table of Contents .

One of the major benefits of our appreciative approach is it helps each of us discern that we are part of the process of achieving the Ecozoic era. And wherever we are, it's a good place to begin the next leg of our journey.



Think about the community that you want for yourself, your children, and the generations that follow. We may have hopes or fears regarding what they'll think and say about us. Most of us recognize that we must be the change we wish to happen in the World, or it won't happen, and to one degree or another we are being that change. Now think about some change you've made in your life so that you are better at modeling what you want the world to be.

What is it you are doing?
Who are you primarily doing it for?
How might you do more to model the attribute(s) you wish create or increase?
How are you encouraging others to model the same or similar behavior?


Rev. 2009-03-01 MOM

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