The Road to Tipping Point – Part 1

What is Emerging Now?

This thing he speaks of is like a memory, a remembrance of something we’ve always known. Bill Twist, president and co-founder of The Pachamama Alliance, is speaking about what we are capable of doing together as humans, how we are supposed to be living. It’s our umbilical connection to a source of collective wisdom that lies so deeply within us it’s almost inexpressible. It is emerging into our awareness now because we sense that there is a possible ending approaching, an ending that we are bringing upon ourselves. We teeter on the brink of unparalleled self-inflicted disaster as a result of our fascination with what we can do and a deficient capacity to reflect on what we are doing. Yes, we can demonstrate to a significant degree that we have mastery over our lives. It turns out, though, that this does not mean that we are masters of the earth.

There is an emerging awareness of a “new story” that each of us is an expression of planetary evolution in human form. We are beginning to understand our capacity for reflective awareness as the planet thinking about itself. The irony of this moment is that it has taken a threat of annihilation for us to look deeply enough into ourselves to recover the knowledge that we are joined with each other and all life as a completely integrated living system.

As we speak of building a movement, we are attracted to the metaphor of living systems. We are fascinated with the promise of understanding ourselves in a reality that is far more complex than commonly grasped, studying and replicating the dynamics of living systems in our thinking and actions, intending to create a reflective, self-sustaining consciousness that will spontaneously redefine the field of its existence into a higher order at some undefined, unscripted future moment.

Systems theory has been applied to living systems and other dynamic systems in all forms and orders of magnitude. Regardless of the scale, the elegant grafting the metaphor onto the system of choice invariably produces provocative and useful information. Building a movement is applied systems theory on the go.

Social Tipping Points

FOUR YEARS.GO is exploring the mystery of “tipping points.”  We imagine, as Bill Twist illustrates so well above, that individual awakening on a mass scale does reach a point at which it becomes pandemic, so infectious that there will be no force capable of turning it back. We know this because we have already seen it unfold in South Africa, in Berlin, Poland, the Philippines, India. Wherever an idea becomes so widely internalized, it can burst forth, externalized as a fait accompli, a shift that has already occurred. And of course it is always the powers that resist the shift who are the last ones to realize that it has indeed already occurred. A new reality crystallizes in a moment, when, as Jon Love says, “one more drop is added to an already supersaturated solution.”

None of these specific cases happened by accident. And, social tipping points in general, though they may appear to occur spontaneously, do not happen by accident. There is incalculable labor involved, often including blood and pain, a complex chain of events that include many deliberate calculated acts. They may not be prescriptive in the sense that people are being directly persuaded to change their behavior or act in a certain way. On the contrary, the most effective and powerful actions are often singular statements of principle, not primarily intended to persuade at all. Rather, they are expressions that do not speak to intellect so much as to something more connected to the heart-mind, the primordial wisdom, a soul-level knowing that is universal to us all.

James Hansen, the renowned NASA chief climate scientist, speaks of “climate forcings,” those factors whose influence on climate are unequivocal, such as the intensity of heat from the sun, the wobble of the earth on its axis, the elliptical shape of its orbit; and yes, the increase in atmospheric carbon produced by the human activity of burning fossil fuels.

A climate tipping point is reached when a positive feedback condition occurs and events assume an irreversible course; at least until that cycle is exhausted and the natural forces of equilibrium swing in the opposite direction. In the case of earth, that natural return toward equilibrium can take tens of thousands of years. Perhaps then, for a social movement to reach a tipping point, similar and deliberate “forcings,” coordinated to amplify and enhance each other, are required.

To believe otherwise might be a self-deception that will at best delay a tipping point or at worst, guarantee it is never reached. What then is the context for and what are the characteristics of such deliberate acts which are most likely to create the conditions for the deceptively spontaneous tipping point we are seeking?

Can FOUR YEARS.GO make a difference?

The idea of “four years to change the world” might itself just be one of those compelling ideas that potentially captures the mass imagination. Whether or not that turns out to be true depends not solely on whether it’s objectively true or whether the meme of “four years” ignites a sense of urgency in all who encounter it, but whether it stands in a context of a truth that is itself even more compelling than any specific action? In other words, what is the song of the earth at this time? Are we truly hearing it? In a sense, the “four years” is the “doing” part of the meme. What is the “being” part of it, the deeper message that cannot be ignored?

The answer to that question will unfold in due time. Meanwhile, we will continue to be in the thick of it, throwing down the challenge to create something beyond yesterday’s imagination. But at some point, something more deliberate, a focused forcing, might be required to manifest and amplify what is already occurring to continue re-stating that deeper message of the earth. As these next four years pass, FOUR YEARS.GO must continue to re-invent itself to reflect changing conditions.

What that might look like revolves around making a determination about where the hinge may be that connects the environment to all other issues. What are the critical factors determining the viability of human life on earth? There may be an issue that opens before us within the next couple of years that answers this question. In the meantime, there are several postulates to consider.

End of Part I


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