About the Center for Planetary Culture
The Center for Planetary Culture advances new ideas and solutions to today’s most challenging ecological, social, and political issues. We seek to establish a new society based on cooperation, social justice, and resilience.
The Center for Planetary Culture is a not-for-profit educational organization dedicated to a few fundamental propositions: that a transformation of global beliefs and practices is necessary for a sustainable and just society; that this transformation requires a meeting of indigenous and postmodern world views; that future development must mesh with ecological design.
The Center for Planetary Culture intends, through issue briefs, research papers, video productions, public talks, and social media, to define and explain what a new planetary culture entails. It will seek to rally support for this vision among cultural influencers and the public, and to stimulate vital debate on the future of technology, spirituality, and social change, along with other aspects of the transformation facing us today.
The organization will function as a new hybrid between a traditional think tank and a media destination site. We seek to attract collaborators across disciplines who are practicing a solutions-based approach to the ecological, economic, and political issues that face our global society. By creating a hub for transformational culture, we aim to inspire a new type of planetary citizenship that will re-define our relationships to one another and our environment.
Toward a Regenerative Society
By creating a hub for transformational culture, we aim to inspire a new type of planetary citizenship that will re-define our relationships to one another and our environment.
As a result of our rapid progress over the last centuries, we confront ecological as well as social problems of an unprecedented magnitude. According to estimates from the United Nation’s International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and other scientific bodies, the Earth’s temperature will rise 4 – 6 degrees Celsius by 2100. Even this estimate may be conservative. Scientists have discovered many positive feedback loops in the climate system that can accelerate warming once a tipping point has been passed. For instance, as Arctic ice melts, the ocean absorbs sunlight rather than reflecting it, accelerating warming. Other factors, such as loss of biodiversity and ocean acidification, are equally threatening to our future. Another immediate danger is large-scale release of methane – 20 times more powerful as a heat-trapping gas than CO2 – from the Arctic, as it thaws.
Over the last decades, our most powerful institutions – supranational organizations like the UN, national governments, as well as multinational corporations – have been unable to change the direction of human society with the speed necessary to avert catastrophic changes in our physical environment. Efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions have stalled, while “corporate sustainability” remains a distant goal. According to most accounts, we have only a short period of time left to address the threats to the future of our world. Every year – every month – is critical.
Current predictions of accelerating climate change and loss of biodiversity could cause a rapid decline and collapse of global civilization. The alternative is that we rapidly redirect our technical resources, change our social systems, and launch global initiatives to establish a world that is socially just and ecologically viable. How we react to this situation we have unleashed on Earth will be the legacy we leave to future generations.
Technically, nothing prevents us from reconstructing human society rapidly. We could use the communications infrastructure and social tools that evolved in the last decades to maximize efficiency and eliminate waste. Sustainable technologies for permaculture, bioremediation, rainwater harvesting, renewable energies, and so on could be mass distributed or manufactured locally. We could use mass media and social media to re-train the global population and disseminate a new set of values and principles that support a holistic and sustainable way of life. Facing rising seas, we could construct eco-cities that support local communities, with food and energy produced on site. Through a coordinated movement of civil society based on nonviolent principles, we could, in theory, dismantle the military industrial complex and institute universal peace. But to accomplish this, each of us must make a choice to participate in the transformation – as Gandhi said, we must be the change we wish to see in the world.
For a civil society movement to succeed, leaders and civilians must organize around a cohesive vision and shared strategy. With this Wiki, we invite the global community to work with us to envision and define this strategy. The goal is to critically evaluate the current system and move beyond the limits of outmoded ideologies and cultural blockages. We believe that, for human society to address the ecological crisis, we will need to reduce social injustice and share resources more equitably, while propagating a new set of values, cultural narratives, and beliefs. The new paradigm will be based on symbiosis, resilience, cooperation, and the rational application of our technical powers. We will highlight the many alternatives, experiments, and visionary solutions that point the way toward a world that works for all.
We believe humanity has the ability to rise to this challenge, through an ethos of individual as well as collective responsibility. Our extraordinary technical powers can be redirected toward building a regenerative society, in a short period of time, integrating mind and heart. We seek to apply a whole systems approach that integrates scientific and academic analysis with a spiritual, compassionate, heart-centered approach to defining regenerative and sustainable solutions for global transformation and ecosystem thriving. The goal of a regenerative social design is to heal the rift between man and nature, as well as man and man. As this research project evolves, we intend to apply these principles in the development and deployment of a solution-based action plan.
Message from Daniel Pinchbeck
We are told that more progress, more economic development, new material goods, better technological gadgets will somehow compensate for what we have forfeited. This is the lie promulgated by our current system. It is the vision of philanthro-capitalists, as well as technological utopians, disseminated through TED conferences and the mass media. We sense the inherent falseness of it – but any alternative seems impossible to envision or adopt.
Dear Friends and Collaborators,
Center for Planetary Culture is a new organization that uses the familiar structure of a think tank to explore cutting-edge ideas and practices. As part of our work, we consult, experiment, innovate, propose, propound and pontificate. We also incubate new media and technology projects. Our admittedly ambitious mission is to help humanity evolve to a new level of consciousness – to transition from competition and aggression to cooperation and symbiosis as our basic paradigm, shifting to a social model based on regenerative principles of design.
As executive director of CPC, I must admit that, until quite recently, I found think tanks to be a nebulous notion. The ones I knew seemed slightly intimidating and malignant – Project for a New American Century, which helped develop plans for the Iraq War; the RAND Corporation, with its connections to the NSA; the neoliberal Brookings Institute; the Council on Foreign Relations, with its Kissinger-esque and Strangelove-ian undertones; and so on. Many of the bigger think tanks seem like gears in the inexorable machinery of the military industrial complex – the New World Order of imperialist domination and corporate control, which continues to rampage across our world.
Yet, when my wife Jana Astanov and I were given the opportunity to start a think tank,we jumped at the chance. We realized that think tanks play a unique role in our culture:By taking an eagle’s eye view, they can apply long-range, strategic planning to crucial social issues, and cause ripples over time. While there are a number of progressive and radical think tanks, I couldn’t find any that reflected my particular viewpoint. In my past work, integrated social theory and political philosophy with explorations into the nature of consciousness and the knowledge systems of indigenous cultures.
We will never address the underlying problems we face not just as individuals, but as a species – without a profound change in our collective beliefs, values, and worldview. In my books, I proposed that our modern, or postmodern, civilization is undergoing a passage through the Underworld, as part of a collective initiation. The excessive development of one-sided rational and scientific thought led to a tremendous surge in human capability, on the one hand, but a near-total loss of our connection to nature and the Cosmos, on the other. Today, we experience constant vertigo – disorienting, dissociative – caused by the acceleration of technical and technological “progress,” which produces more information in every field of human endeavor, accompanied by the traumatic loss of any sense of meaning, soul, or sacredness to our shared Earth.
Loss of soul is the defining characteristic of postmodern civilization, now in its late – or terminal – stage. We all suffer from it, to one degree or another. All around the world,people seek to fill the inner void with degraded substitutes for true communion. We are told that more progress, more economic development, new material goods, better technological gadgets will somehow compensate for what we have forfeited. This is the lie promulgated by our current system. It is the vision of philanthro-capitalists, as well as technological utopians, disseminated through TED conferences and the mass media. We sense the inherent falseness of it – but any alternative seems impossible to envision or adopt.
We now know that our civilization is rapidly degrading the biosphere’s capacity to support life. The situation is so extreme that we approach the possibility of our own near term extinction. This is not an exaggeration. According to conservative estimates by scientists, we are on track for at least a 4 – 6 degree Celsius temperature rise by 2100. The oceans are 30% more acidic than they were 40 years ago, because they absorb a great deal of the excess carbon we emit, potentially causing the disintegration of all of the world’s coral reefs. If temperatures rise as predicted, more than 50% of species currently living will go extinct. The glaciers that bring fresh water to billions of people will disappear, as agriculture becomes impossible across vast regions.
Personally, I never expected to be obsessed with environmental issues or climate change. When I was in my twenties, I wanted to be an avant-garde writer in the tradition of Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, and George Perec. I still hope to write long experimental novels some day. However, right now we are putting our energy into developing a research project – a white paper and Wiki – on a strategic plan for transition to a regenerative civilization, where we have rebalanced our relationship to nature while ameliorating social and economic injustice. We are inspired by Buckminster Fuller, who wrote, back in the 1960s, that humanity had to choose between “utopia or oblivion.” Today it is even more evident that we will either design a world that works for everyone, or humanity will not survive.
Along with our research projects, Center for Planetary Culture intends to produce media, as well as creating events, conferences, and public forums. Last month, we held our first live event, a conversation between myself, independent diplomat Carne Ross, and musician philanthropist Peter Buffett. You can watch it here:
We see the Center as a collaborative project – in its own way, a “social sculpture,” to use a term coined by the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. We invite you to participate and collaborate with us. We have an omnivorous interest in new ideas and initiatives, and an insatiable desire to connect with writers, researchers, media makers, technologists, and other influencers who would like to join forces with us. Please email [email protected] for ideas on how you could get involved.
Center for Planetary Culture