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Thom Hartmann: As World Population Reaches 7 Billion, What Will Save Us From Ourselves?

There is a way to heal our broken world -- but it won't come from new technologies, a new leader or political party, the Rapture, or space aliens.

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If We Could Just Find the Right Lever

Something-will-save-us beliefs -- whether rooted in technology or religion -- suggest that our problems are always solvable by new and improved human actions: they're things we can control and manipulate if only we have the right science or can figure out the right prayers to motivate the right god(s) or space aliens.

The technological something-will-save-us believers say that we haven't yet mastered the technology of efficient and nonpolluting energy use, equitable economic and political systems, simple and widespread methods of food and birth control (and their distribution), better medicines, and efficient communications. Their refrain always begins, "If only there were more of..." or "If only everybody would..." and is then followed by the doxology of the particular solution being recommended.

Religionists say we just haven't yet mastered the technology of pleasing the particular god of their sect: if every last tribe is found and converted to a particular institutionalized religion, or if all the ancient prophecies are fulfilled, or if enough people would meditate with the right technique or say the right magic words or the right magical name, we'll be saved from doom. We haven't yet gotten that system perfect, they feel, so we need to work harder on it.

Older Cultures and the Synergist Worldview

The true problem we're facing is a natural and predictable result of this way of viewing the world. The problem is the stories we tell ourselves, what we see and hear and feel as we move through the world, our disconnection from the sacred natural world, and our insistence on quick-fix/external-to-us solutions to natural-world crises that we ourselves created.

Most of us can't even imagine what it would be like to live with a different worldview from our own. (We do, though, keep getting glimpses -- most often in the words of our "enlightened ones" -- and we usually ignore those glimpses because, being older-culture wisdom, they're so inconsistent with our way of life.)

The younger culture says, "Who cares what our children's children will inherit: that's their problem, and they can work out their own salvation just as we must work out ours."

The older-culture perspective says, "We're here, now, and must deal with the practical realities of this life. Any decisions we make must consider the impact on our grandchildren seven or more generations from now."

I find value in many of the technological suggestions people are exploring and promoting worldwide, and many must ultimately play a role in the transformation of our world if we are to avoid utter disaster. But none attacks the problem at its core. We must begin to live a sustainable, egalitarian, peaceful way of life. This can happen through political or religious transformation, but at its core its cultural transformation.

This is not a secret: Older-culture people have been shouting it at us since we first began our genocide against them 7,000 years ago. Most of them are still trying as hard as they can, but we're not capable of hearing because our culture has plugged our ears to their message. Here it is:

Return to the ancient and honest ways in which humans participated in the web of life on the earth, seeing yourselves and all things as sacred and interpenetrated. Listen to the voice of all life, and feel the heartbeat of Mother Earth.

Living from this place, all other decisions we make will be appropriate.

The good news is that this is a very clear solution, embodying, as it does, only a single issue and a single change in a single culture (ours). The bad news is that that single issue is the most difficult and wrenching change I can envision -- but we must begin, now, to take the first steps.