"Our common home is falling into serious disrepair… [This is] evident in large-scale natural disasters as well as social and even financial crises, for the world’s problems cannot be analyzed or explained in isolation… It cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected. (Francis 2015, paragraphs 61, 138)"
Unfortunately, this understanding has not yet become clear to most political and business leaders. They are still unable to “connect the dots,” to use a popular phrase. Instead of taking into account the interconnectedness of reality their “solutions” tend to focus on isolated issues, thereby simply shifting the problem to another part of the system. For example, by stimulating economic growth, environmental problems, such as loss of biodiversity, and climate change, increase. Stricter regulations relating to environmental and social responsibility often have negative economic consequences. The challenge is to develop an economy that unites opposites without coming into conflict with nature and society.
More generally, the dominating context of understanding is often connected to shortsighted perspectives. According to Segall, “our scientific way of knowing – constructed on the metaphysical assumption of the bifurcation of subject and object, fact and value, meaning and matter” (Segall 2013, p. 19), threatens the continued existence of the community of life on Earth. We can conclude that scientific materialism leaves us in the impossible position of having to deny in theory what we are unable to deny in practice.
What we need is solutions that are systemic and sustainable from a long-term perspective. Instead of building economies (and societies) on knowledge focused on how to conquer nature, the great challenge of our time is to build and nurture sustainable communities designed in accordance with living nature. The idea that research should come up with knowledge that gives human beings power over nature must be replaced by a new approach to science. The aim should be to develop knowledge that teaches us how we can adapt economy to the principles found in nature.
The mechanistic worldview, describing the universe as a machine composed of elementary building blocks, has lost its dominating position in favor of an organic worldview describing the material world as a network of inseparable patterns of relationships; and “that the planet as a whole is a living, self-regulating system“ (Capra and Henderson 2009, p. 7).
While the social Darwinists of the nineteenth century saw only competition in nature, we are now beginning to see continual cooperation and mutual dependence among all life forms as central aspects of evolution. Evolution is no longer seen as a competitive struggle for existence, but rather as “a cooperative dance in which creativity and the constant emergence of novelty are the driving forces” (Capra and Henderson 2009, p. 7). To illuminate this very important point Capra refers to Margulis and Sagan, who ascerts; “Life did not take over the globe by combat, but by networking” (Capra 1997, p. 226). Based on the fundamental ideas of complexity, networks, and patterns of organization, a new holistic science is slowly emerging.
Capra and Luisi (2014) call this new science “the systems view of life” because it is grounded in “systems thinking,” or systemic thinking — thinking in terms of relationships, patterns, and context. The systems view of life has important applications in almost every field of study and every human endeavor, because most phenomena we deal with in our professional and personal lives have to do with living systems. Whether we talk about economics, the environment, education, healthcare, law, or management, we are dealing with living organisms, social systems, or ecosystems. And consequently, the fundamental shift of perception from the mechanistic to the systemic view of life is relevant to all these areas.
We have the opportunity to create a future consistent with “our true nature and possibility as living beings born of a Living Earth” (Korten 2015, p. 1). Scarcity can be overcome, conflict reconciled, and moral dilemmas and psychological frustrations resolved (Davis 2012, p.129). The question is how to develop an economy that strengthen nature’s inherent ability to sustain life. In other words, the economy must adapt to ecological limits and principles.