World in Transition, a Great Transformation

Looking at climate change and sustainability challenges it’s clear that individual action, our actions, are necessary. However we struggle when faced by scale and speed – a fast and revolutionary global shift is needed. How can any one person make a difference?

The German Advisory Council on Global Change puts individuals at the heart of a radical new ‘business basis‘.  They say:

“individual actors can play a far larger role in the transformation of social (sub-)systems than the one that has been accorded to them for quite some time”

The council, a scientific advisory body to the German government, in its beautifully written 400+ page report (World in Transition: A Social Contract for Sustainability) rest the prospect of a ‘Great Transformation‘ on 4 pillars:

  1. knowledge (evidence) based, 
  2. individual actors and change agents, 
  3. a proactive state (governments) and, 
  4. establishment of effective global governance. 

We’ve seen unsustainable societies – such as the USSR, communist eastern Europe, Libya and Egypt -fall in recent times. Today’s unsustainable global carbon society could be similar but we have to actively plan for our future.

The council compares our the change we’ll undergo to only two in human history – the neolithic (farming)  and the industrial revolutions. The difference is it requires consious guidance rather than the evolutionary change seen during these previous revolutions.

This ‘Great Transformation’, then, is by no means an automatism. It very much depends on ‘organising the unplannable’ if it is to succeed within the available tight timeframe. This is unique in history, as the ‘world’s great transformations’ of the past were the result of gradual evolutionary change.

And the Council’s take home line? It “has reached the ultimate conviction that the great transformation into a low-carbon society is not just necessary, but really feasible.”

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