Why does Novasutras emphasize ecospiritual community, instead of focusing on direct activism or lifestyle changes to promote agaya and ubuntu? Because shifting the mindset, moving toward a new paradigm, is the most powerful thing we can do to change the current system, and make the rapid transition we need.
Change the Mindset, Change the System
Unlike most activist organizations, Novasutras starts from the intention of inspiring a movement large enough to change the whole paradigm of civilization. We believe that we must change the mindset that underlies the system. We need to transform the ideas of our culture that are so fundamental, they go largely unspoken and unchallenged. In “Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System,” beloved ancestor (late, great) systems thinker Donella Meadows says that it is at the vast and profound level of paradigms that you can make the most change:
(in increasing order of effectiveness)
12. Constants, parameters, numbers (such as subsidies, taxes, standards).
11. The sizes of buffers and other stabilizing stocks, relative to their flows.
10. The structure of material stocks and flows (such as transport networks, population age structures).
9. The lengths of delays, relative to the rate of system change.
8. The strength of negative feedback loops, relative to the impacts they are trying to correct against.
7. The gain around driving positive feedback loops.
6. The structure of information flows (who does and does not have access to information).
5. The rules of the system (such as incentives, punishments, constraints).
4. The power to add, change, evolve, or self-organize system structure.
3. The goals of the system.
2. The mindset or paradigm out of which the system — its goals, structure, rules, delays, parameters — arises.
1. The power to transcend paradigms.
Most efforts toward policy change operate at the least effective level (12), though some can go as far as changing the rules of the system (5). But if we want deep change, we need to work at changing the goals of the system (3). The most effective way to do that is to change the mindset that created the current system in the first place.
Imagine if we were no longer operating in a system where the mindset is focused on endless, escalating economic growth. What if the goals (3) and incentives (5) of the system were not about acquiring wealth?
The Level of Urgency
Right now, our civilization faces awesome and terrifying risk. We are fast approaching some tipping points that threaten to completely destabilize the way modern humans live. Things are already changing rapidly. Some things are improving, while other changes are making things worse. Some of the things that most need to change seem stuck.
We are on the crumbling edge of climate catastrophe. We have polluted the air, water and soil in ways that may take millennia to heal. We are in the midst of a major species extinction crisis. Global economic and power structures are moving toward ever-greater inequity, a trajectory that has historically led to revolution and the collapse of great civilizations. People around the world are increasingly unhappy, with attendant problems of violence, substance abuse, and angry, polarized discourse. Each of these alone is bad, but they have synergistic effects that reduce our chances of resolving any of them independently.
This kind of broad approach is not compatible with the usual strategies of political parties, NGOs and issue-driven social movements.
Cultivating an Ecospiritual Mindset
We each need to find a spiritual practice that helps us apprehend our interconnectedness with everything and everyone—including those still caught in the [Industrial Growth Society] paradigm of separation…~ Molly Young Brown, “Facing the Great Unravelling”
A spiritual and visceral understanding of our interdependence will serve as a guide for our responses to the cataclysms we face. It will open us to feedback from the ecosystems and social systems in which we live—and ultimately to feedback from the whole web of life of Earth.
Spiritual movements can provide people with the kind of new cultural template that will allow for radical changes throughout the system. Imagine what a widespread ecospiritual mindset could do. What new visions for a thriving future can we create?
New social and spiritual movements often emerge in times of great turmoil and cultural upheaval. We are on the threshold of such a time of dire beauty*. It is up to us to decide how to proceed with our dangerous, beautiful assignment* in light of these challenges.
Will you join in this dance to create a sane, reverent* civilization, and midwife together a renaissance that will rise from the rubble* of what is wrong today?
*phrases borrowed from Caroline Casey, with much respect and admiration