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War, weather, weak signals, wild cards.

This moment in history is a bit like a Biblical epic, the forces of light rallying against the forces of darkness, with both sides thinking they are the forces of light. The stakes are high. The issues are clear. This month they reached critical mass. The dark forces are looking stupid and shifty and selfish, but they will fight back. This is where the danger lies.

What has triggered the foggy hint of dawn?

1. The sudden widespread acceptance that human behaviour has screwed up the weather.

2. The growing acceptance that the Coalition has screwed up Iraq, and that those who ordered the invasion are complicit in the deaths of HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of civilians and should be put in the dock.

(The torturers are already being pursued:
" )

In most cases, the warmongers not only exaggerated the threat posed by Iraq, they dismissed the threat posed to the environment by global warming. Like flat-earthers, they stuck to their falsehoods in the face of the evidence. Probably because the denial served to advance their careers and/or political agendas. It allowed world leaders to ignore the scientific warnings of death and destruction that lay in the wake of wild weather. The mishandling of war and warming at the highest level is the most catastrophic failure of leadership since 1938, when Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich, fluttering a scrap of paper and said "peace in our time". Six months later, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia.


Despite the extraordinary sea change of public opinion in the past weeks, the policies of George Bush and John Howard remain fossilised. Such leaders will continue to put their own interests above the wellbeing of people and planet. And continue to put "the national interest" above the interest of the world at large.

Why is this?

Because such types - still the majority - have not crossed the threshold into a new way of thinking. They are trapped in a dying paradigm, sinking in a Darwinian swamp, armed with a Newtonian worldview, spouting imperial claptrap. Us against them, etc. An attitude which infects my own prose (and may require therapy); an obstacle to growth, a curse on the world.

Instead of spin, we need dialogue. Instead of hate speak, we need vision and a shared purpose. In a world where admired leaders
come up with disgusting weapons, legalised torture and the race to dominate space, how can we create common ground? (Last year Washington spent $416 million on renewable technologies and $75 billion on military research). So many citizens are gearing up to save our eco-systems, yet so many politicians seem only to want to save their skin. (Polls show over 90% of Australians are concerned about global warming and over 60% are prepared to pay more in taxes help).

The new paradigm has arrived, but the old guard are still out to lunch, slugging the last of the wine. And the oil.


The true motive for invading Iraq was to put a garrison on top of an oilfield - one of the biggest and purest fields in the world. Washington has long been aware that the reserves of oil are diminishing and that world demand is accelerating. According to energy investment banker Mathew Simmons, the current supply of 85 million barrels a day will shrink to almost a quarter of that in 13 yeas. As he told the US Department of Defense in June, "THIS IS A BIG DEAL!" Simmons urges the military to "plan, organize and fight to
win the energy war".

But what kind of energy will be used to fight and energy war? As the era of cheap and abundant fossil fuel declines, hardly a government in the world has a blueprint for total sustainability. At the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio, a clue to US thinking was revealed by President Bush senior: "The American way of life is not negotiable". Meaning? Uncle Sam grabs the world's oil and everyone else lives off potato skins, wearing windmills on their hats.

Whatever the Pentagon is planning, I do not believe the majority of citizens will accept an US/THEM world; a landscape of five star fortresses overlooking a global archipelago of gulags.

Though fossil fuels are failing, the global brain continues to evolve. Connect, co-operate, create - this is the way to outwit neo balkanisation, immigration camps and state terror. (A scenario powerfully depicted in the latest futurist movie, Children of Men). This is a moment of awakening - of learning how to live lightly off the planet 24/7. When you think about it, how can the world have a massive change of climate, without a change of consciousness? The creation of alternative energy will also require an alternative way of thinking. Even our relationship with the wind, sun, crops and waves will become more intimate, interdependent, and productive. Maybe the hovering state of emergency can be transformed into a state of emergence.


This triumph of the individual as heroic consumer is promoted relentlessly by the media, and seems to have resulted in the decline of a sense community. The income gap gets ever wider, both within nations and worldwide (587 billionaires now own more wealth than 50% of the rest of humanity, and it doesn't rate a headline). In a sustainable future, tomorrow's leaders will need to extend their horizons beyond winning the next election. In fact, to break the mindset that is largely responsible for creating today's deadly perils, they will need to embark on a journey "personal transformation". Yes, this sounds hopelessly hippie. But it is starting to happen in today's organisations that pursue innovation and social responsibility. "New leadership is about working in teams and building transformative capacities in colleagues" according to Communities of the Future (COTF), which describes itself as an "evolving network of people and organizations working in collaboration to develop new concepts of governance, economic development, leadership, and education/learning for a fast-paced, interconnected, and increasingly complex society". It's a fine sentiment and a vital goal, but time is melting away, like glaciers.

New research shows the Earth's climate could change quickly, and violently -,,1860560,00.html. "Average sea-level rise has increased from two millimetres a year in the early 1990s to more than three millimetres a year now". Jim Hansen of NASA, predicts sea-level rise will be 10 times faster within a few years, as Greenland destabilises. In short, "scientists are panicky about the sheer speed" of disruptions. "Building an ice sheet takes a long time," says Hansen. "But destroying it can be explosively rapid."

So what might be the qualities of community in a post carbon world?

" A balance of materialism and spirituality.
" Integrity...emphasis on wholeness...and the importance of family & friends. The focus is interdependency.
" A new concept of the common good....helping each other succeed.
" Collaborative individualism ... and connective listening.
" Living systems as models for society.
" Seeking to be self reliant, self empowered and "off the grid".
" Accepting the future can no longer be taken for granted - it needs to be rescued.

The choice is clear: evolve or regress, adapt or stagnate.
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Richard Neville has been a practicing futurist since 1963, when he launched the countercultural magazine, Oz, which widened the boundaries of free speech on two continents. He has written several books, including Playpower (71), the bio of a global (more...)
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