On the morning of November 9, 2016, people around Planet Earth awoke to the realization that Donald J. Trump had been elected President of the United States. For some this was the answer to a prayer, for others the foreboding of impending disaster. Some were confused and dismayed, still others were just relieved that a long, bitter election campaign was over. Regardless of one’s internal emotional response, each person worked to create a story and understanding of the implications of the US Presidential election both for the larger global community and for their own personal lives in the days and weeks ahead. I interpreted this much-watched event in terms of changing worldviews.
Looking over the results, trying to figure out who voted for whom and why, the maps seem to indicate that the best single predictor for how any person voted would be the population density of the county in which they lived. The people who lived in more densely populated areas more likely voted for the Clinton/Kaine ticket, those in less densely populated area more likely voted for the Trump/Pense ticket. At Emerging Ecology we have spent the past year examining how worldviews impact peoples’ decisions and how these worldviews have changed over long periods of time. Some of our research and discussion is available on-line at www.emergingecology.org/worldviewsalon.html. We too found that throughout the long sweep of human civilization, population density has had a profound effect on worldview and that worldview plays a dramatic role in shaping opinions, values and actions.
Participants in the nine-session Worldview Salon series that ended in June 2016 concluded that around the globe, human civilization stands on the cusp of moving from a society characterized by extractive economies, ethical compassion, and urban systems to one characterized by eco-futuric communities, interspecies jubilation, and embodying mutually enhancing relationships between the human and the non-human world. The magnitude of this transition compares to the one that happened more than 400 years ago when the lure of urban, industrial and technological lifestyles began to overtake the agrarian way of life that had sustained the human community for as much as 4,000 years. However, during the conversations at the salons, it also became clear that the details of these new understandings and patterns of living were not clearly defined nor were the underlying rationales clearly stated in ways that fostered confident action and motivated sustained, impassioned commitment.
When individuals or whole societies come to a juncture where their old worldview proves inadequate but a new one remains undefined, an interior crisis of courage and conviction arises. Inventing new social forms, new personal self-understandings, and new patterns of action requires facing ambiguity and uncertainty and raises enormous possibilities of failure and confusion. An alternative to creating a new worldview to meet the more complex realities being encountered often involves advocating either a) doing current things with more conviction, or b) returning to patterns and policies that worked in previous worldviews. These, finally, were the two alternatives facing voters in the US Presidential election of 2016.
In this context, I interpret the voice of the people winning in the electoral college vote count as saying that we wish manufacturing jobs would return to employ most of the people, we long for the days that it was safe to say “Merry Christmas” to anyone you pass on the street during the dark nights of winter, and we hope that the exhaust from our cars and the smoke from the power plants doesn’t do too much harm to the trees in the mountains and the lungs of our children. While the actual majority of voters that entered the polls chose a candidate who advocated continuing many of the policies of the recent past, their enthusiasm was less than in similarly inclined voters in recent elections. The impact of this diminished enthusiasm was compounded by the lack of policies and programs that enhance ecological viability while promoting wide-spread social well-being. People looking for these choices often simply stayed away from the polls.
Much will change in the United States and in our relationship with the peoples of other nations as the transition of power occurs in Washington during January 2017. Some things will not change. The sea levels will continue to rise; and people living near the coasts will experience more flooding and loss of property. Global climate change will continue unless human actions change. The daily production rate of petroleum by natural means will no longer rise and the cost of production of crude oil will not substantially decline–new regulations or the removal of constraints will not affect these conditions. Gay people in this country and overseas will continue to fall in love and live together; they will continue to seek the same recognition and protection afforded to any other couples. Women will continue to strive to make their own decisions about their bodies and their reproductive options. Individuals will struggle with their gender identity and how to express this in public and in their private daily lives. Diverse people with divergent ideologies, theologies, lifestyles and cultural understandings will continue to live in close proximity with each other, and people of all perspectives will expect to be treated with dignity and respect. Social media will amplify these longings and desires.
Much work needs to be done before the dawning of a new day empowered by a worldview that instills ecological inclusivity on our Planet in an emerging Universe. People, generally, are reluctant to try new and untested alternatives; failure and tribulation gain few converts. At the practical level, renewable energy sources and low-impact living patterns cannot remain options for only the wealthy and the secure nor can opulent homes and consumptive lifestyles continue to command the support and publicity of the popular press. New interpretations of ancient wisdom sources combined with contemporary music, literature and art are needed to empower the human role in shaping the Planet’s future. At the individual level, moving beyond striving for personal wholeness and individual improvement to a desire to actively shape and enrich the future of both the human and the non-human realms calls for new skills, understandings, and capacities unimagined in previous eras.
We live in exciting times. The foundations of tomorrow are being built in the neighborhoods and communities of today. This work compels me to action and to working with others committed to this same work.