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Ethical Markets share: Dr. Hazel Henderson, CEO ©2020

“Ethical Markets is happy to bring you this  latest co-authored article “Pandemics: Lessons Looking Back From 2050″ by Hazel Henderson and our esteemed Advisory Board member Fritjof Capra.   We hope for your feedback and feel free to circulate this to  your networks.
~Hazel Henderson,  Editor”


Fritjof Capra and Hazel Henderson, University of California, Berkeley, CA 1982

Imagine, it is the year 2050 and we are looking back to the origin and evolution of the coronavirus pandemic over the last three decades.  Extrapolating from recent events, we offer the following scenario for such a view from the future.

As we move into the second half of our twenty-first century, we can finally make sense of the origin and impact of the coronavirus that struck the world in 2020 from an evolutionary systemic perspective. Today, in 2050, looking back on the past 40 turbulent years on our home planet, it seems obvious that the Earth had taken charge of teaching our human family. Our planet taught us the primacy of understanding of our situation in terms of whole systems, identified by some far-sighted thinkers as far back as the mid-nineteenth century.  This widening human awareness revealed how the planet actually functions, its living biosphere systemically powered by the daily flow of photons from our mother star, the Sun.

Eventually, this expanded awareness overcame the cognitive limitations and incorrect assumptions and ideologies that had created the crises of the twentieth century. False theories of human development and progress , measured myopically by prices and money-based metrics, such as GDP,  culminated in rising social and environmental losses:  pollution of air, water and land; destruction of biological diversity; loss of ecosystem services, all  exacerbated by global heating, rising sea levels, and massive climate disruptions.

These myopic policies had also driven social breakdowns, inequality, poverty, mental and physical illness, addiction, loss of trust in institutions — including media, academia, and science itself — as well as loss of community solidarity.  They had also led to the pandemics of the 21st century, SARS, MERS, AIDS, influenza, and the various coronaviruses that emerged back in 2020.

During the last decades of the 20th century, humanity had exceeded the Earth’s carrying capacity. The human family had grown to 7.6 billion by 2020 and had continued its obsession with economic, corporate, and technological growth that had caused the rising existential crises threating humanity’s very survival.  By driving this excessive growth with fossil fuels, humans had heated the atmosphere to such an extent that the United Nations (UN) climate science consortium, IPCC noted in its 2020 update that humanity had only ten years left to turn this crisis situation around.

As far back as 2000, all the means were already at hand: we had the know-how, and had designed efficient renewable technologies and circular economic systems, based on nature’s ecological principles.  By 2000, patriarchal societies were losing  control over their female populations, due to the forces of urbanization and education.   Women themselves had begun to take control of their bodies and fertility rates began to tumble even before the turn of the twenty-first century.  Widespread revolts against the top-down narrow economic model of globalization and its male-dominated elites led to disruptions of the unsustainable paths of development driven by fossil fuels, nuclear power, militarism, profit, greed, and egocentric leadership.

The basic lessons for humans in our tragic 50 years of  self-inflicted global crises — the afflictions of pandemics , flooded cities,  burned forestlands, droughts and  other increasingly violent climate disasters — were simple, many based on the discoveries of Charles Darwin and other biologists  in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries:

  • We humans are one species with very little variation in our basic DNA.
  • We evolved with other species in the planet’s biosphere by natural selection, responding to changes and stresses in our various habitats and environments.
  • We are a global species, having migrated out of the African continent to all others, competing with other species, causing various extinctions.
  • Our planetary colonization and success, in this Anthropocene Age of our twenty-first century, was largely due to our abilities to bond, cooperate, share and evolve in ever larger populations and organizations.
  • Humanity grew from roving bands of nomads to live in settled agricultural villages, to towns, and the mega-cities of the twentieth century, where over 50% of our populations lived.   Until the climate crises and those of the pandemics in the first years of our 21st century, all forecasts predicted that these mega-cities would keep growing and that human populations would reach 10 billion by today, in 2050.

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“Pandemics: Lessons Looking Back From 2050” by Fritjof Capra and Hazel Henderson

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