The Essential Paradigm Shift

Phyllis Creighton and Derek Paul
revised edition, February 2020


Earth’s biosphere faces unprecedented threats from the destructive effects of civilization — warring, wastefulness, consumerism, burgeoning population, overexploitation of natural capital, and blindness of humankind toward the living system of which it is part. Failure to change course will spell disaster only too soon. Thus a new basis for policy making is imperative, and it must be grounded in a holistic way of thinking, to replace the paradigm that has underpinned thinking in the western world for more than three centuries.

What is that old paradigm? Faith in reason, science, and technology took hold during the Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment, leading to an assumption of progress as their inevitable reward. The paradigm of that past era, which still holds sway, posits economic growth and the concomitant technological advances as measures of the desired progress. It has not only fostered materialism and the present wasteful consumerism, but has led recently to the concentration of wealth and power in corporations and fewer and fewer hands, with rising economic inequality. Collectively, we are depleting Earth by the consumption annually of more resources than Earth can supply, and by accelerated extinction of species. We need a new conception of progress.1 Men have shortsightedly ridden roughshod over nature for too long.2 Seeing it as an externality to dominate and use, they exhaust its resources through greed and wanton warring. This human drive for mastery has left us an ecologically threatened planet in the throes of disintegration.

The risk of ecosystem collapse3 is matched by prophetic scientific insights: if a living system such as the ecosphere is allowed to reach a state of too great disorder, death will ensue. Social stress, strife, and violence compound the breakdown. Regionally or globally, such disorder can mean death on a large scale.4

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