This essay is an outcome and a personal interpretation of the Open Debate & Engagemen tMeeting co-organized by the Club of Rome (CoR) and the World Academy of Art andScience (WAAS) in Dubrovnik on 21-22 March 2019. See credits and references at the end.
Setting the Scene: Why are we doing this together?
The world is full of confusing signals. Life expectancy has been steadily increasing. Literacy is slowly but surely reaching the entire humanity. Not without obstacles and setbacks, women are emancipating themselves everywhere. For Most of the World (6 out of 7 non-Western parts of humanity), aspirations for better levels of wellbeing are now a more tangible dream. Science and technology are breaking barriers in our knowledge and capacity to act. To many, caring for one another is the name of the game. Science and technology are also creating the possibility of dystopian futures with deeper divisions between winners and losers. Relentless competition is still the name of the game. Human-induced climate change and other effects of industrialization are destroying the vitality of processes on which human life depends. Exhaustion of workable fossil fuels is closing an era of energy metabolism with extraordinary returns. Millions of people have to move to keep alive, and families are torn apart. Signs of collapse are accumulating. Humanity is thriving. Humanity is committing suicide.
How do we make sense of these contradictory signals, some hopeful, many frightening? Is tragedy the inescapable reverse of hope? Do we have the collective intelligence to face the challenges, mostly created by ourselves? None of the incumbent discourses is able to answer these questions. Business as usual answers are disappointing so many people that all kinds of fears are emerging. And they are amplified and exploited in unscrupulous ways to create divisions and conflicts between ourselves. Risks of undesirable futures are growing fast. “Will our children be ok?” is an uncomfortable question for millions of parents all over the world. And living in a so-called “developed” country does not ensure anymore a positive answer. As shown by movements like the Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future, the identification of modernity with progress, on which most of present civilizations are built, is being challenged.