In the first decade of the 21st century we face the choice between living in the last decade of an unsustainable, crisis-prone civilization, or in the first of a new and more peaceful world.
The world we have created is changing under our feet. On New Year’s eve the Russians celebrated in the former Red Square without a trace of ice and snow; in January New Yorkers walked in Central Park in shirtsleeves; the center of Greenland is taken up by an unfrozen lake the size of Lake Michigan, Lake Superior and Lake Eyrie combined, and there is hardly any of the legendary snow left on top of Kilimandjaro.
The climate is just one of many changes under way. Connected with climate change are a host of other processes that are just as prone to change as the ecology: economic, social, and political. In more respects than one, continuing to tread the path we have been treading up till now takes us to a dangerous tipping point.
Interestingly and importantly, also our map of the world is changing: science, too, is in the midst of a paradigm-shift. Understanding the emerging paradigm is important—it shows that the changes we face are not haphazard and chaotic, but have a deep logic of their own. Complex systems such as human societies do not evolve smoothly step by step: their development is highly nonlinear. Step by step they evolve merely to a point, then they reach a threshold of stability and either break down in chaos, or break through to a new way of functioning.
Yet the key contribution of science is not just theory, but a new and vital insight. It is the confirmation of what people have long felt but for what they could not give a rational explanation: our close connection to each other and to the cosmos. As the smallest particles we call quanta are connected with each other throughout space and time, so there are subtle but real connections among living beings throughout the biosphere. Recognizing these connections is vitally important, for it can inspire the solidarity we urgently need to live in harmony with each other and with nature.
The key insight from the sciences can be not only understood; it can also be experienced. To experience our connections with others, with nature, and with all of reality we need to foster inner growth: meditate, pray, open our consciousness to the subtle impressions and intuitions that flow into it when we do not repress them. When we no longer view the world through five slits in the tower but open the roof to the sky we develop empathy with other people and other cultures and sensitivity to animals, plants and the whole of the biosphere.