In August 2016, top level scientists recommended the term Anthropocence to officially recognize a new epoch of time that we are experiencing on planet Earth. What is unique about this recommendation is that the term Anthropo, meaning human, refers specifically to the drastic impact that our human behaviors are having on the earth’s geology and ecosystems. Currently, the rate of species extinction is between 100 and 1,000 times higher than the normal rate, atmospheric carbon levels are now 60 PPM above the recommended level by climate scientists, and deforestation rates remain alarmingly high.
On a societal level the world’s 500 or so billionaires have assets of 1.9 trillion dollars, a sum greater than the income of the poorest 170 countries in the world and the amount of money that the richest 1 percent of the world’s people make each year equals what the poorest 57 percent make. On a more personal level the World Health Organization projects that depression will be the second leading cause of disability worldwide by the year 2020 and it is estimated by the CDC that one person dies from suicide every forty seconds.
Fortunately, individuals and communities are working together to address these challenges at many different levels, but, until we find a way to shift the underlying mindsets that determine our behavior, lasting change will not occur within the systems in which we operate. In support of this claim, scientists have identified many leverage points for systems change, and there is a growing consensus that the most profound change occurs at the level of the mind. Donella Meadows, one of the most renowned environmental scientists of the last century, comments:
“People who manage to intervene in systems at the level of paradigm hit a leverage point that totally transforms systems…In a single individual it can happen in a millisecond. All it takes is a click in the mind, a new way of seeing. Of course individuals and societies do resist challenges to their paradigm harder than they resist any other kind of change.”
For thousands of years contemplative practices have proven to be an effective medium for inspiring change at this level by imparting inner contentment and global compassion. With these mental virtues individuals are empowered to live simply and joyously care for others. We believe this type of change is essential for bringing forth and protecting a harmonious way of life for all current and future generations.