By Monica Sharma
We are living in a time of whole system transition on a personal and planetary scale that affects every aspect of life as we know it. Patterns of possibility are emerging that have never before been available to all the earth's people and to the whole planet. Two million organisations are working toward ecological sustainability and social justice, according to Paul Hawken. Millions of individuals are self-organising to make a better world in spite of the negative factors that threaten to destroy us.
Technological innovations and collective wisdom have created unprecedented opportunities for change. The revolution in communication technologies and the Internet have made it possible to connect all people in the world for the first time in human history. The new science of consciousness is revolutionizing our attitudes and worldviews, and the interdependence of all life is now an established scientific fact.
Yet, in 2007 three billion people barely manage to eke out an existence. Poverty, malnutrition, lack of employment and inadequate shelter, combined with an ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, have resulted in human suffering and violence on a massive scale. Almost a billion people live on less than a dollar a day. Each day is a life-and-death struggle for those faced with chronic hunger, illness and environmental hazards in a world that has enough food to feed everyone, the money to tackle disease, and the power to make decisions to create a hazard-free environment. Over 40 countries are scarred by violent conflict. Three million people die of AIDS every year, and 40 million live with the virus. Some 115 million children of primary school age are denied schooling. At least 180 million children are engaged in the worst forms of child labour; there are some 300,000 child soldiers; 1.2 million children are trafficked every year—that is more than 3000 a day; and 2 million children, mostly girls, are exploited in the sex industry.
We have the technology and the resources: so what is missing? Too few see how limited our current responses are for the enormity and complexity of global problems which ultimately affect human well-being. In explaining the causes of our global crises, we generally focus on economic, social and political forces. Governments, corporations, the United Nations (UN), civil society, and other institutions focus on financial and monetary parameters, technological (e.g., medical, educational, informational), political, administrative, military, diplomatic, legal, and economic resources, measures and approaches. These approaches are necessary, but partial. Not until we see the global problematique as symptoms of a more fundamental, deeper-rooted crisis can we begin to mount a more integral and profound response that is likely to move us forward in a more sustainable way. That crisis is in our individual and shared mind-sets, where psychological and cultural factors and forces reign. That crisis challenges all of us, in the Northern countries and in the Southern countries alike!
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MONICA SHARMA, M.D. is the Director, Leadership and Capacity Development, at the United Nations. She is responsible for whole systems transformation and leadership development worldwide, with a focus on least developed countries. She is pioneering generative and integral approaches leading to transformation on a global scale.
- Also by Monica Sharma: Conscious Leadership at the Crossroads of Change -