"The more we study the major problems of our time, the more we come to realize that they cannot be understood in isolation. They are systemic problems, which means that they are interconnected and interdependent. For example, stabilizing world population will be possible only when poverty is reduced worldwide….Scarcities of resources and environmental degradation combine with rapidly expanding populations to lead to the breakdown of local communities and to the ethnic and tribal violence that has become the main characteristic of the post-cold war era.
Ultimately these problems must be seen as just different facets of one single crisis, which is largely a crisis of perception. It derives from the fact that most of us, and especially our large social institutions, subscribe to the concepts of an outdated worldview, a perception of reality inadequate for dealing with our overpopulated, globally interconnected world.” [Fritjof Capra, from “The Web of Life”, 1996]
Fritjof Capra, in the quote above, draws our attention to what he calls an “outdated worldview.” He and others from the physical and social sciences have written extensively about the paradigm shift now occurring all around the planet. Discoveries in physics, biology, mathematics, and other sciences during the past century have widely discredited the heretofore prevailing notion of reductionism—that worldview which sees reality as a set of mechanical interactions whose parts can be reduced to, and studied as, separate entities, particles, or phenomenon.
The search for the building blocks of matter, or of life itself, has led to the astounding realizations that matter is energy in motion; that life is process as well as substance; that consciousness is an inherent and critical component of any living system; and that everything is connected through a vast set of interdependent webs or networks.
This revolution in science has led to a shift in thinking as radical as the Copernican discovery of the Sun rather than the Earth as the center of our solar system. It is as big a change for the human family as the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution and the Age of Information Technology all rolled into one, for it re-orders how we think about the nature of reality itself, of everything in our world and in our lives.
Capra says further:
"The paradigm that is now receding has dominated our culture for several hundred years, during which it has shaped our modern Western society and has significantly influenced the rest of the world. This paradigm consists of a number of entrenched ideas and values, among them the view of the universe as a mechanical system composed of elementary building blocks, the view of the human body as a machine, the view of life in society as a competitive struggle for existence, the belief in unlimited material progress to be achieved through economic and technological growth, and—last, but not least—the belief that a society in which the female is everywhere subsumed under the male is one that follows a basic law of nature. All of these assumptions have been fatefully challenged by recent events. And, indeed, a radical revision of them is now occurring.”
—Louise Diamond, from “A Systems Approach to Peacebuilding”