January 30th, 2013
In a recent column I listed the Five Contexts of the Shift Age. As stated there, while the true cliché of the Information Age was “content is king” the true cliché of the Shift Age is “context is king”. We live in an increasingly contextual world. The context in which we receive or consume information shapes the information as much as the information itself.
In my just published book “Entering the Shift Age” I wrote about the five contexts through which we would look at almost everything in the future. Whether it be education, energy, technology, health, politics and economics all aspects of the future for the next 20 -30 years will be viewed, to a greater or lesser degree through these five contexts.
The first context of the Shift Age is the Earth Century. This was a concept I came up with when angered by how much Earth Day has become a marketing event in a column in 2011. The 21st century will be the Earth Century. It will be during this century that humanity faces the reality of whether it wants to destroy itself and much of what exists on this magnificent planet or not.
We now feel a finiteness about Earth that has largely not been felt before. We are living in a time of historic animal and plant extinction. Oceanic animal populations have declined dramatically. Extreme weather and natural disasters are increasing. Water is becoming the next big resource issue for humanity. The idea of looking at our planet as Spaceship Earth is being ever more understood an embraced. An increasing number of humanity now sees the truth in the great quote from Marshall McLuhan: “There are no passengers on Spaceship Earth. We are all crew”
The Shift Age is and will be the age when humanity alters its sense in relation to our planet. All of our previous history has been about growth, economic growth and the use of the planet’s resources for our immediate needs. The earth seemed to be unlimited in its space, resources, and ability to absorb whatever humanity did. No longer. That is why the stark reality of our relationship with our planet will become ever more central to how we think about almost any subject. Spaceship Earth will be a focusing metaphor for much of humanity’s activities.
One of the key economic issues in the next 30 years will be to make growth evermore congruent with sustainable growth.
The Anthropocene Era
Anthropocene Era was a term made popular by Paul Crutzen, a Nobel Prize-winning Dutch scientist at the beginning of this century. He was thinking that what is generally regarded as the current epoch, the Holocene Era was no longer valid, as so much has changed in the 12,00 some years since it was acknowledged to have begun.
In Greek, Anthro means human, so Anthropocene means the epoch of humanity. Thus we have now entered the epoch of Earth when humanity is the single most profound influence upon the Earth. As ice was the dominant influence in the Ice Age, humanity is now the dominant force on Earth in the Age of Humanity.
At this juncture, the conversation about humanity’s effect on Earth is a largely negative one, highlighting all the things our species does that have adverse consequences, debated only by the degree of the effect. In the Shift Age, the thinking will become much more proactive – not just what we can do to slow down harmful practices and trends, but what we might be able to do, create, and invent that could positively change or reverse these threatening trends.
In the next column we will look at the second context of the Shift Age. If you would like to read about all Five Contexts of the Shift Age, you can do so inexpensively with this mini-eBook.