Shaping a Planetary-Scale Renaissance

Jul 29th, 2021 | By | Category: Environment/Sustainability

By Geoffrey Holland, writer for Transition Earth.

[Photo by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash]

[Photo by Louis Maniquet on Unsplash]

Some 500 years ago, Europe experienced what came to be known as the Renaissance.  It was a period in which the arts, literature, and even the sciences flourished. It began in Italian Florence early in the 15th century.  It was the time when luminaries like Galileo, Copernicus, Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo, Cervantes, and Shakespeare made their marks.

The European Renaissance emerged out of the dark age doldrums.


We are going to see a burst of creativity that will make the Renaissance pale in comparison.

Marilyn Ferguson


Consider Where We Are Now

We could call the historical moment we are in the industrial age doldrums.

Look at what we see all around us. The human culture is coming apart at the seams. We can’t get over a pandemic because we’ve got too many people invested in science denialism.  These are the same people that resist gender and racial equality and are hostile to social justice.

Progressive minded people are intensely engaged in the fight with people in denial to determine who will shape the future.

The old guard is not going away quietly. They made the rules. They are still in charge.  As long as it stays that way, the human culture will not act adequately to address climate change. To be sure, that means ever more misery for millions around the world:  more and bigger floods, more and bigger draughts, more and bigger wildfires, and more and bigger killer storm events. There is no mystery or uncertainty about any of this. We are already well down the road to destroying the only home we have. Unless we act wisely and decisively, and do it very soon, much of life on Earth will not survive.


Destroying a rainforest for economic gain is like burning a renaissance painting to cook a meal.

E.O. Wilson


Our world is a mess and getting worse by the day. The cause is clear. It is our deep-seated cultural denial and inaction in the face of overwhelming evidence.

Life on Earth is in very big trouble The dysfunction is global in scale… Dear reader: you have to know this if you’ve been paying any attention at all.

We humans are already caught in a global-cultural tailspin.  The question is can we shake off the ugly inertia, level our wings and start to fly again before darkness and chaos consume us.


Growth for the sake of growth is the creed of the cancer cell.  

Edward Abbey



The Fourth Evolution of Man

Humanity’s total time on Earth has been about 200,000 years. The first age of humanity was about caver hunter-gathers spreading around the world. Humanity 2.0, the age of agriculture started about 10,000 years ago. The Industrial age that emerged about 200 years ago is where we are now; at the very end of it.

What comes next is uncertain. The tribalists wedded to the current way of being on Earth are fighting to save what they value.  If they win, we lose…We all lose if we go tribal.

The time has come for the human animal to move to the next stage in our evolution.  We are currently mired in the last throes of Industrial Age Humanity version 3.0

If transcendence emerges from our current planetary tumult, it will happen because we have made the choice as a global human culture to stand together for the sake of our own survival. If the coming era emerges as we all should wish for, it will be built of a foundation of gender equality and social justice for all. Women will have an equal place at the levers of power at every level of society. If we follow this course, the transcendent iteration of Homo Sapiens to emerge will effectively qualify as Humanity 4.0.


It’s Where We All need to Go

A world shaped by Humanity 4.0 will put the public interest and the fate of our planet first. It will do its best to deliver dignity for all, and respect for all life. Planetary stewardship will be a common obligation for every person on Earth.

Humanity 4.0 is the antithesis of self-interested tribalism. It’s a place where all humans live together as equals under a common set of codes and standards; rules and regulations designed to protect and preserve the Earth system. The same rules apply to everyone. No one gets a pass.

We need Humanity 4.0 to become a cultural meme worldwide.


The character of a whole society is the cumulative result of the countless small actions, day in and day out, of millions of persons. Who we are as a society, is the synergistic accumulation of who we are as individuals… Small changes that seem insignificant in isolation can be great contributions when they are simultaneously undertaken by many others.

Duane Elgin, Choosing Earth



[Photo Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash]

[Photo Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash]

Getting Past the Tribalism

For most of our existence, we humans were stone age cavers.  About 10,000 years ago, we began to move into the next phase of human evolution. Humanity 2.0 was about subsistence agriculture and living in permanent settlements.  When that happened, the egalitarianism that shaped humanity to that point gave way to a new paradigm for human existence, defined by male-dominance. Men were in charge. Women were subjugated to a form of property, nature was relegated to mindless exploitation and plunder.

Tribalism took hold across the planet during this agriculture era. Historically, gender dominance powered by warrior leaders and religious dogma translated to plenty of violent confrontation, mayhem, and human suffering.

It was only 200 or so years ago that the industrial era, aka Humanity 3.0, began. Male dominance did not go away, it grew to include bankers and corporate profiteers applying a ‘winner take all’ business model.  It triggered exponential growth in the plunder of nature.

This is where humanity finds itself now; trapped in a downward spiral with a handful of over ripe capitalists profiting massively at the expensive of all the rest of us. We now have nearly eight billion humans engaged in mindless resource overreach.

At this moment, America is polarized as never before.  On one side are mostly white Americans: conservative, religious, wedded to science denial.  Generally, they are the same people who remain unvaccinated; the same people who are getting sick from the highly infectious delta variant of the COVID virus. Politically, they are committed to obstruction in the US Congress, and voter suppression in the states they continue to control.

On the opposite side are all the rest of us: progressive minded people, to include white people, brown people, black people, the majority of women, and the LGBTQ community.

Roughly speaking, based on what we see consistently in poll after poll, the breakdown is about 30% conservative tribalists mired in the past, while on the other side are the 70% or so that recognize the need to embrace forward-thinking public policy that serves the best interests of nature, people, and planet.

The political reality is that we are caught in a stalemate between the old ways and a transformative new beginning.  Meanwhile, as we dither, nature continues to unravel, our atmosphere chokes on ever more heat-trapping pollutants, and the human future becomes darker and more forbidding by the day.

Bottom line: we must find our way past the tribalism. We must recognize that we are all in this together.


Ultimately, we actually all belong to only one tribe, to Earthlings.

Jill Tarter, Astro-physicist



Some Worthy ‘Choosing Earth’ Wisdom

An initiative called Choosing Earth encourages a ‘deeper understanding and robust conversation about our future’, with a view that is ‘wide, deep, and long’:

  1. Look Wide:Look beyond single factors such as global warming and include a wide range of trends including climate justice, overconsumption, species extinction, and more.
  2. Look Deep: Look beneath the outer trends such as climate change and species extinction to include the inner realities of evolving psychology, values, culture, consciousness, and paradigms. This includes the invisible dimensions such as spirituality and inner growth.
  3. Look Long: Look far into the future—much farther than the short run of the next five or ten years—in order to awaken a deep concern for the well-being of future generations.

Complacency is not an option. We have to step up and become a better variety of human now; the humanity 4.0 brand of human.  That requires planetary-scale consensus, and a level of across-the-board-cooperation that offers the best chance of a positive, life-affirming future for all of Earth’s planetary citizens.


In sum, the struggle for our future is . . . the struggle between those who cling to patterns of domination and those working for a more equitable partnership world.

Riane Eisler



Butterfly rebirth theme


Choosing A Partnership World

I first learned about the ‘Partnership Way’ from a book titled, The Chalice and the Blade, by the iconic social-scientist, Riane Eisler.   It’s built on a foundation of gender equality and cooperation in all ways. It’s about behaving like we are a part of nature, rather than above and superior to it. It’s about dignity for all, and responsible planetary stewardship.


Partnership ideas  and images alone, without structural or institutional change, cannot bring about this shift… the spread of these ideas and images is an essential part of this process, not only because it raises our consciousness to the possibility of more satisfying and sustainable alternatives, but because it is essential to counter the powerful backward pull of dominator ideas and images that are constantly regenerated by  religious and scientific authorities, politicians, educators, and in our time, the mass media.

~ Riane Eisler, Sacred Pleasure[i].


I am so grateful to Riane Eisler. I believe the ‘Partnership Way’ is the model for living that all of humanity must embrace. Cooperation, trust, and commitment to restoring the resiliency of our Earth’s living biosphere; that’s how we survive the existential mess we’ve made of our planet.

Getting to a transformed, partnership-driven Humanity 4.0 is a tall order given the tribally fragmented global culture that exists today.  We must get past the ‘every man for himself’ mentality that largely defines us in this late stage of the industrial era.

Further descent into tribalism is a dead end for humanity.  Survival for life on Earth depends on all the world’s people cooperating with common purpose as planetary citizens.

We must get past the political tribalism that obstructs the path to a better world.


The renaissance in 15th century Europe and throughout Asia and other geographical regions represented a remarkable period of human transformation. What the earth – now steeped in the murderous Anthropocene – urgently requires is a planetary-scale renaissance that embodies the best in the arts and sciences; in every viable approach to sustainable technology; every guise of compassionate inspiration we can muster, working as individuals and collectively, to liberate all habitat and species from the killer in humanity. To jettison human cultures and ideals well beyond the abyss in which they have – solely by human folly – been ensnared. To do this – to engender a new beginning of universal kindness, worthy of the biosphere – or perish.

 ~ Michael Charles Tobias, Author, Naturalist



[Photo NASA on Unsplash]

[Photo NASA on Unsplash]

Enabling a Green Planetary-Scale Renaissance

The human population is nearing 8 billion, on the way to 10-12 billion. The best thing we can say about that is there are more people operating out on the leading edge of artistic expression, technical innovation, and enlightened politics than ever before.

Getting to the next transformative level of human evolution requires inspiration on a planetary scale.  We need the world’s artists and innovators to use their creative gifts to bring the world together in common purpose. We need them to light the way for the collective human culture. To a significant extent, this is already happening.

Let is give this trend a name and encourage it to flourish. Let’s call it the New Green Renaissance. Let’s make it work on a planetary scale.

Here are some ideas that should be core messages of the green renaissance in the arts and sciences.

  • We humans are part of nature, not above and superior to it.
  • We are responsible for the mess we’ve made of our world.
  • We have an obligation to fix our mess and correct our bad behavior.
  • We are all equal, regardless of gender, with the same rights and responsibilities.
  • We need a common set of rules and obligations that apply on a global scale.
  • We choose compassion and respect for all life.
  • We appreciate and celebrate our gifts from nature.
  • We appreciate indigenous cultures and value their wisdom.

An endless range of creative possibilities can emerge out of these common Humanity 4.0 principles.  We need to see this creativity reflected in the lyrics of our music icons, in the popular fiction we read, in the art we create, in movies, and in television programming.

The good news is, we can see that a new green planetary-scale renaissance is already underway, led by artists and innovators across the globe. Let us celebrate their planetary-positive creative energy. Let it inspire us to transform our ourselves into planetary citizens sharing the wisdom and values of Humanity 4.0.


What I’m suggesting to you is that this could be a renaissance. We may be on the cusp of a future which could provide a tremendous leap forward for humanity.

Jeremy Rifkin



[i] Eisler, Riane; Sacred Pleasure, Harper Collins, San Francisco, 1996



Geoffrey Holland is the author of The Hydrogen Age, and the Coordinator of the Stanford University MAHB Dialogues

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