Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Toward a Sustainable Future

Addressing Sustainability Issues
"The US dollar, like all national currencies these days, is a debt-based currency created, not by the government’s printing press, but through the extension of credit from the central bank, via the fractional-reserve banking system, to borrowers in the government, business, and household sectors. As each new dollar is created, a new dollar of debt is also created, and as the supply of dollars accumulates over time, so too does the balance of debt." quote from "Debt Trapped: Exploring Monetary Futures" (O'Connor, 1)

Tracing patterns of popular consciousness over the last three hundred years my, "Toward a Sustainable Future: Integral Leadership in the New World Economy" as published in the Integral Leadership Review casts light on an incipient, but previously shrouded, account of why global economics is currently teetering on the brink of calamity.  Consequently, but addressing the prospect of just such a tragedy in a Preface to his We Hold These Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform, Richard C. Cook writes:
"As the world slides into an economic crisis marked by skyrocketing food and fuel prices and exponentially-growing debt, many people are fearful of a global catastrophe.  Continuous warfare, financial bankruptcies, and scarcity of basic resources paint a disturbing picture to which many are responding with scenarios of doom."
Collateral Damage
Yet similarly, and as Cook notes so insightfully in this same context, "Today's crisis, above all, is spiritual" (2). Stated differently, yet over the last three centu- ries, because the "certainty generally associated with objective reality" has "been viewed as more tangible or real" and subsequently "af- forded precedence over subjective experience (i.e. 'reality')" the province of consciousness and values "pertaining especially to moral and ethical develop- ment" has largely "been eschewed in relegation to the domain of religious doctrine."

Adopting an Integral Approach

For this same reason however, it's notable that scientists like Stuart Kauffman ("Towards a Post Reductionist Science") are expressing the pertinence of expanding scientific thought and inquiry beyond the limits of reductionism so disconcertingly evident across today's academic disciplines  (McConnell, 3).  Likewise, and stirred "by the urgency of our times", Jennifer Gidley in, "The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views", explains, "(w)e live in critical times —times of apparently human-created complexities, challenges and unprecedented change. In all the major domains of our lives the seams are beginning to fray."  Consequently, she cites findings pointing primarily to three of these realms:
Environmentally - Alterations of the biosphere "to the extent" that "our planetary homeland" may become "increasingly inhospitable for human habitation" in "the foreseeable future". 
Economically - A "growing inequity of wealth distribution" associated with unsustainable levels of "affluent consumption". 
Psycho-socially - "(D)isturbing trends" concerning the "mental health and well-being of young people".
Wilber's AQAL Model
For Gidley though, these indicators reflect the view of "(s)everal contemporary ecologists, edu- cators, philoso- phers and scien- tists", signaling "an epistemological crisis—or crisis of consciousness" as existing "at the heart of our planetary di- lemma" (4).  Sim- ilarly too, philoso- pher Ken Wilber's own contribution to Integral thought has led him to identify a "vertical component clash" as the "single greatest problem facing the world" in its impact on the subjective dimensions already referred to above and depicted in his AQAL model as the quadrants of individual (interior) 'intention' (Upper Left - UL) and collective (interior) 'culture' (Lower Left - LL).

Along these same lines, but pointing to the dominance of 'modern disciplines' (i.e. Economics, Education, Medicine, etc.) founded over the last four hundred years on empirical orientations arising from the Scientific Enlightenment, Wilber calls into account traditional Religion's seeming failure to nurture higher stages of spiritual intelligence (or 'ultimate concern') to any significant extent beyond Fowler's Stage 3, or Gebser's mythical, levels of respective development. By way of counterpoint to this assertion however, there's also a common injunction running through the vast scope of his writing involving the term exemplar which he elicits as knowledge emanating from the 'wisdom traditions' in general, and contemplative practice even more specifically (5).

Pioneering an Integral Future

Laurie Lipton's Icon
"The United States, locked in the kind of twilight disconnect that grips dying empires, is a country entranced by illusions. It spends its emotional and intellectual energy on the trivial and the absurd. It is captivated by the hollow stagecraft of celebrity culture as the walls crumble. This celebrity culture giddily licenses a dark voyeurism into other people’s humiliation, pain, weakness and betrayal. Day after day, one lurid saga after another, whether it is Michael Jackson, Britney Spears or John Edwards, enthralls the country . . . despite bank collapses, wars, mounting poverty or the criminality of its financial class." Chris Hedges from, "American Psychosis".

While not a new theme in the field of related academics, it's from this epistemological/ontological stance that "Towards a Sustainable Future" nonetheless, takes such direct aim at the shortcomings of neoclassical economicsHa-Joon Chang in "Breaking the mould" for example, refers to neo-liberalism as "an 'unholy alliance' between neoclassical economics and the Austrian-Libertarian political philosophy" [some punctuation modified], claiming that "despite its pretence of intellectual coherence and clear-cut messages" it protracts itself only through "intellectual contortion and political compromise" (6).
"In such a context, it should be noted, “society” is first and foremost—and often exclusively—seen as the system of governance schemes designed to order a potentially disorderly set of individuals scrambling for material rewards. Society, in such a view, is something that is designed by people—but mainly and even exclusively by those people who are “in charge” of looking after the whole and to keep it in a measure of internal order."
Echoing similar sentiments to Chang's, Christian Arnsperger however envisions the prospect of 'integral economics' as an "agent-based, complex-systems approach in which agents have evolutionary states of consciousness and which, consequently, evolves not only through positive and negative feedbacks from system to components but also—and mainly—through the agents’ own existential and critical reflection on what a meaningful, human potential–enhancing economic life could be."

Viewed within the context of a 'meta-discipline' methodology, Arnsperger further suggests these potentials be realized by adopting 'integral' practice that draws from an "empirical observation of the most highly realized exemplars coming from each culture, religion, or spirituality" through a paradigm of "experientially reproducible life trajectories (states evolving into traits as the individual evolves through necessary stages)" (7).

The Effect of Diverse Complementary Currencies
Arnsperger's vision however, is made all the more vital when juxtaposed with Bernard Lietaer's findings utilizing ecological models to better understand complex information and sustainable flow systems.  Lietaer's work in this regard has subsequently led to "scientific evidence that a structural fault is indeed involved in generating financial crashes", which in turn, helps confirm "that nature does not select for maximum efficiency, but for a balance between the two opposing poles of efficiency and resilience" (8).

Consequently, and as "Toward a Sustainable Future" concludes, once opened to redefining relationships "predicated on, and to some extent dictated by, a monopolization of" the very commodity (e.g. 'money') used to control or otherwise bind them, this planet's citizens stand poised to "venture beyond the limits and ignorance" of blind obediance to their masters' will and instead, awaken to the prospects of a shared destiny.


Works Cited

1. O'Connor, Daniel. "Debt Trapped: Exploring Monetary Futures." (2011): From Catallaxis, (March 2011). Web. 3 June. 2011.
2. Cook, Richard. We Hold Theses Truths: The Hope of Monetary Reform. Denver: Tendril Press. 2009. Print.
3. McConnell, Brian. "Toward a Sustainable Future: Integral Leadership in the 'New World Economy'." (2011): In Integral Leadership Review, (June 2011). Web. 6 June 2011.
4. Gidley, Jennifer. "The Evolution of Consciousness as a Planetary Imperative: An Integration of Integral Views." (2007): In Integral Review, Issue 5, (December 2007). Web. 3 June 2011.
5. Wilber, Ken. Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Boston: Shambhala Publications, Inc. 2006. Print.
6. Chang, Ha-Joon. "Breaking the Mould: An Institutionalist Political Economy Alternative to the Neoliberal Theory of the Market and the State." (2001): United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. Social Policy and Development Programme Paper Number 6, (May 2001). Web. 6 June 2011.
7. Arnsperger, Christian. "Building an Integral Economic Science: Opportunities and Challenges." (2008): Journal of Integral Theory and Practice, Volume 3, No. 4 - Winter 2008. Copyright, Integral Institute (2008). Web. 6 June 2011.
8. Lietaer, Bernard. “Is Our Monetary Structure a Systemic Cause for Financial Instability? – Evidence and Remedies from Nature.” (2010): From the Journal of Futures Studies, Vol. 14, #3, (April 2010) Web. 20 Mar. 2011.

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