The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community

A choice awaits between potential crisis and positive transformation

| July 13, 2006

With the constant chatter about global warming, peak oil, and an ever-expanding economic divide, it's easy to want to stick your head in the sand as a million Chicken Littles rave about the falling sky. David Korten, however, manages to write about society's predicted imminent demise without sending readers over the edge to despair.

In an essay for Yes! drawn from his recently published book, The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Korten -- the co-founder of the magazine's publisher, the Positive Futures Network -- outlines the crossroads humanity faces. Our present actions have concrete, profound effects on people's future experience on Earth, he writes. We can forge ahead with decadent lifestyles that we and future generations will someday regret, or make drastic changes and look back on this time as a seized opportunity to plan and live within natural planetary boundaries.

Korten frames a brief history of human existence with his concepts of 'Empire' and 'Earth Community.' While the former -- marked by domination and oppression -- comprises most of our written history, the latter, much older model functions through partnership and sharing. As Empire reaches the limits of exploitation and unequal allocation of resources, Earth Community stands ready for its second wave. This would require a change in values from material excess to spiritual fulfillment, and the health of people and the environment. Such a change in values would be reflected in the leadership chosen to galvanize and effect change. What's more, Korten believes that putting the emphasis on family, nature, and spirituality could bring conservatives and liberals together and elevate the general population to a higher level of consciousness.

Idealistic? Yes. It won't be easy to overcome the psychological and physical control that Empire sustains, but Korten argues that breakthroughs in communication that overcome geographical barriers and resist censorship, such as the internet, have made such a shift possible. He cites the 2003 protest in the days before the Iraq war, which rallied more than 10 million people worldwide, as an example of impressive organizing without a center, budget, or charismatic leader. The challenges ahead may seem overwhelming, but Korten, at least, is optimistic that change is possible. -- Suzanne Lindgren

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