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Wherever we look today we are confronted by challenges to global sustainability, but it's difficult to cite instances where our response as a community, as a species, has been equal to the challenge. ...
Wherever we look today we are confronted by challenges to global sustainability, but it's difficult to cite instances where our response as a community, as a species, has been equal to the challenge. We certainly have sufficient understanding and technical capability to shape an effective response, so it seems that the will is lacking. How do we explain – and make good - this lack of will? I suggest that part of the answer to our apparent paralysis can be found in the writing of an historian of science, Thomas Kuhn, who in his work on The Structure of Scientific Revolutions introduced us to the notion of 'paradigm'. Kuhn's critical insight into the dynamics of a shift in paradigm is that we do not shift away from an established paradigm, no matter how uncomfortable we are about its ability to answer our questions satisfactorily. When the shift finally comes, it is always towards a new, compelling paradigm, not away from the old, flawed one. So, I argue that an essential, and missing, ingredient in the current discussions and debates on global sustainability is a genuine shared vision of a sustainable future - as the late Donella Meadows describes it, not what we'll settle for, but what we really want. As a community, we will not shift away from the current paradigm of fragmentation and scarcity until we can engage with a new and better vision of wholeness and abundance.
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