As another new year rolls in, I am filled with optimism for the times ahead. Okay, I know that sounds rather naïve and out of touch with the world today, so bear with me a moment. There is no denying that there are a lot of bad things happening out there, and the media certainly takes care of dwelling on the negative. Our minds are flooded with stories and images of wars, terrorist acts, climate catastrophes and all the rest. With seven billion people trying to share our tiny planet, it’s no surprise that we are hitting some major glitches, but crises precede transformation and open our minds to creative solutions, and there are a lot of potential solutions brewing these days.
Here are just a few highlights we can celebrate from the past 12 months.
Addressing Climate Change
Certainly the Pope has inaugurated a very important change in the Catholic Church. The fact that an institution of its size is showing signs of a major shift regarding topics such as climate change and income inequality is an indication that a cultural shift is happening.
The topic of climate change is also taking on a much more pervasive cultural understanding. As a whole, we are beginning to realize that the environment and planet do need our attention. I feel good about the global recognition of a climate crisis, even if the Paris summit left us hoping for more. At least we are making small steps to start making environmentalism a top priority.
A New Financial Paradigm
For the financial markets, 2016 begins with a gigantic thud. This is not all bad, however, unless you have lots of money invested in Chinese stocks or oil companies. The world economy is in an interesting state, as we see a shift away from the industrial growth model to the new financial paradigm that takes the preservation of the planet into account. I think this is a trend that will continue for years to come, with markets trending sideways to downward as the world economy converts from its emphasis on consumption and industrial growth to service and environmental preservation. I am personally assuming that the change will take place gradually, over many years, and that the world economy does not implode like a house of cards. We need stability so that we can continue to work together to build the new economy.
Upgrading our Moral Standards
Much of the same can be said for our overall cultural condition. We need to see vast changes from the antiquated model based on conflict, suspicion and escalating military might. Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to find a way to be culturally inclusive and live in peace. That means, of course, that something has to be done on a worldwide scale to control the manufacture and distribution of armaments. That is a huge task, but it can gradually be accomplished over the years ahead.
In order for the social, economic and cultural transformation to actually happen it will require a shift in our basic human values. Some practices that were culturally acceptable in the past— owning an automatic weapon, criticizing religious beliefs different from our own, consuming with no heed to the effects on the environment—can no longer be considered to be part of the new value structure. We have to upgrade our moral standards as a species.
While we might not be certain of how it will all play out, what we can be sure of is that in 2016 we will see an increasing sense of cooperating communities that fuse together with a driving force to develop an understanding of the greater good of the planet.
Global Grassroots Movements
This growing sense of community, which author Paul Hawken has eloquently pointed out, has already begun with the millions of grassroots movements, NGOs and social activists that are finding each other and their common cause to work together to build a better world. A good example of this is the development of the Global Purpose Movement that Greenheart has been supporting. At our November summit meeting in Sedona, AZ, we set the cornerstone of how this movement can grow and gain momentum in the years ahead. Stay tuned for developments on that account.
Staying Positive in the Midst of Change
One of the key contributors to the Global Purpose Movement is futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard. At a recent dinner meeting in Chicago, Barbara and I were discussing our growing collaboration. With her usual sense of high energy and boundless enthusiasm, Barbara was excitedly laying out the plans of our work together. I was just sitting there, deep in thought.
“What’s wrong, Emanuel?” She asked. “Why are you looking so serious when we have such a wonderful purpose ahead of us?”
“You’re right,” I replied. “Sorry, I was just thinking of all the work there is to do.”
“Well, nobody ever said that saving the world was going to be easy! Come on, cheer up, or the work will never get done!”
Barbara is absolutely right, and we should take her wise advice as we look to the year ahead. It might not be easy, but it will get done.
So, cheers to 2016. It might be a bit of a roller-coaster, but we can also enjoy the ride.