The science of societal transformation is clearly described in the book Spiral Dynamics by authors Don Beck and Chris Cowan, based on the work of psychologist Clare Graves. It describes 8 levels of individual and collective human consciousness development, stating that human nature is not fixed. Humans are able, when forced by life conditions, to adapt to their environment by creating new, more integrated models of the world that allow them to handle a variety of new challenges.
Each new model transcends and includes all previous models. These conceptual models are organised around systems of core values and collective intelligences applicable to both individuals and entire cultures. These value systems act as an organising principle.
More advanced levels of integration are more complex, more intelligent and tend towards higher levels of order, harmony, peaceful co-existence and a sense of oneness with nature and the universe. However, all stages can co-exist in both healthy and unhealthy states. As human beings have free will, any stage of development can lead to undesirable outcomes with respect to the health of the human and social environment.
When undesirable outcomes occur the organising principle will be a catalyst for evolutionary change, leading to the next level of individual integration. When a critical mass of peoples and cultures have evolved to a more integrated level, solutions to seemingly insurmountable challenges emerge. Global Transformation
Humanity is in this stage now where it looks like we are facing huge challenges as:
- 3.6 billion people have no or only partial access to electricity
- 1.3 billion people have no access to clean drinking water
- 2.5 billion people have no access to sanitation
- 2.5 billion people live on less then 2 $/day
- 3.6 billion people are exposed to fossil fuel related air pollution in cities
- 7.0 billion people are exposed to the negative side-effects of climate change
- 3.5 billion people have together as much wealth as the richest 85 people
The global network of the Vital4Life Foundation believes that these challenges can be overcome by the creation of a new class of technologies which effectively address these challenges. The creation of new transformative decentralised energy technologies is an example of such emergence.
Evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris describes examples in nature which can act as a powerful metaphor for understanding evolutionary change when she tells the story of the caterpillar and the butterfly:
“A caterpillar can eat up to three hundred times its own weight in a day, devastating many plants in the process, continuing to eat until its so bloated that it hangs itself up and goes to sleep, its skin hardening into a chrysalis. Then, within the chrysalis, within the body of the dormant caterpillar, a new and very different kind of creature, the butterfly, starts to form. This confused biologists for a long time. How could a different genome plan exist within the caterpillar to form a different creature?
They knew that metamorphosis occurs in a number of insect species, but it was not known until quite recently that nature did a lot of mixing and matching of very different genome/protein configurations in early evolutionary times. Cells with the butterfly genome were held as disc-like aggregates of stem cells that biologists call ‘imaginal cells’, hidden away inside the caterpillar all its life, remaining undeveloped until the crisis of overeating, fatigue and breakdown allows them to develop, gradually replacing the caterpillar with a butterfly!
Such metamorphosis makes a good metaphor for the great changes, globalisation, in the sense of world transformation, is bringing about, as Norie Huddle first used it in her beautiful book Butterfly. Our bloated old system is rapidly becoming defunct while the vision of a new and very different society, long held by many ‘imaginal cell’ humans who dreamt of a better world, is now emerging like a butterfly, representing our solutions to the crises of predation, overconsumption and breakdown in a new way of living lightly on Earth, and of seeing our human society not in the metaphors and models of mechanism as well-oiled social machinery, but in those of evolving, self-organising and intelligent living organism.
If you want a butterfly world, don’t step on the caterpillar, but join forces with other imaginal cells to build a better future for all.”