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This article focuses on the challenge of moving through and beyond a time of great transition and establishing ourselves as a viable species-civilization. If we do not step up to meet the material, social and moral challenges we face, we are very likely to follow the examples of more than twenty complex civilizations that have collapsed throughout history. Yet today - because nations and world societies are so tightly knit together and deeply interdependent, - should this occur - for the first time in known history, it is quite probable the human civilization itself will be at grave risk.
The transition will necessarily include the way we use energy, the patterns of consumption we choose, the work we do, the food we eat, the transportation we use, the education we promote, and the way we treat others "unlike ourselves." We will need to focus both on changing external systems and a transformation of our own being. This process may well require a number of decades; yet the time to begin is now: we need to be willing to meet the coming crisis early.
In reality, the momentum of our militarized, elite-driven, "top of the mountain" mentality is so well-established, there is a good chance that, as a species, we will need to "hit the wall" or be "brought to our knees" before we are willing to make what David Korten calls The Great Turning.
A Technological Binge
Jose Arguelles has argued that for millennia humanity has been caught up in a "civilizational trance," one that has now culminated in a sort of technological binge. We have become intoxicated, says Arguelles, with our growing power to manipulate our environment, and as a consequence, we have already created a dangerous and massive depletion of resources, as well as human exploitation.
Using the metaphors of addiction and recovery, Arguelles asserts that humanity stands at a critical juncture in its evolutionary path. We can be compared to an alcoholic hurdling toward his or her "bottom," and, as such, we face a stark choice between "continuing our binge" or reaching for sobriety. Our choices will determine whether we, as a species, will have the option of enjoying our beautiful planet, or soon face large-scale disintegration and crisis.
Let's take a look at humanity through the lens of addiction: to oil, rapacious use of natural resources, to an obsession with profit and shot-term results, to a "power-over paradigm"... and to denial.
Twelve-Step Approach ("Humans Anonymous")
Step One in the AA program states:
"We admitted we were powerless over alcohol and that our lives had become unmanageable."
One guide to "working Step One" suggests taking an inventory:
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