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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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It's the same problem with which the prophets of old wrestled: their message was most often Change your way of seeing and living in the world because the path you're currently walking will lead to disaster. As secular and Bible history show, such prophets were almost always ignored, at least until the predicted (and inevitable) disasters struck, and even then the responses to the disasters were reactive: more animal sacrifices, building bigger temples, developing new medicines, drilling deeper wells, seizing distant and more fertile lands, and so on.

The worldview of older cultures rarely brought them to the inevitable and cyclic crises that younger cultures have faced since their first eruption 5,000 to 7,000 years ago. Because people in these older cultures assumed that humans were intrinsically good, emphasis was on nurturing and healing rather than controlling and punishing. Because they believed that humans and natural systems were not separate but rather interpenetrated and interdependent-synergistic-they developed cultural, religious, and economic systems that preserved the abundance of their natural environment and provided for their descendants generation after generation.

So What Are the Easy Answers to Difficult Problems?

Unlike many of our self-assured gurus, ecologists, and technologist something-will-save-us believers, I don't claim to know the exact details of our future. What I do know is that if we are to save some part of this world for our children and all other life, the answers won't simply rest in just the application of technology, economy, government, messianic figures, or new religions, sects, and cults.

True and lasting solutions will require that a critical mass of people achieve an older-culture way of viewing the world-the perspective that successfully and sustainably maintained human populations for hundreds of thousands of years. Because I'm convinced that our problem is rooted in our worldview, the solutions I offer derive from ways we can change that, which will then naturally transform the technological/political/economic details that emerge from that new perspective. For example:

  • History demonstrates that the deepest and most meaningful cultural/social/political changes began with individuals, not organizations, governments, or institutions.
  • In helping "save the world," the most important work you and I face is to help individuals transform their ability to perceive reality and control the stories they believe because people do tend to live out what they believe is true. This has to do with people's taking back personal spirituality, finding their own personal power, and realizing that most of our religious, political, and economic institutions are younger-culture dominators that must be transformed if we are to prevent them from destroying us.
  • Then, out of this new perspective, we ourselves will come up with the solutions in ways that you and I right now probably can't even imagine.

In the reality and the experience of an older-culture perspective-a life-connected worldview-we find a life rich and deep with wisdom, love, and the very real experience of the presence of the sacred in all things and all humans. It is a world that works for every living thing, including our children's children's children.

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Thom Hartmann is an author and nationally syndicated daily talk show host.