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Kingsley Dennis, Ph.D. Headshot

Renaissance for Change: A New Civil Order?

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The world systems for a new era will be more likely not to emerge from an elite center, like the Renaissance that sprung up in Florence in the late Middle Ages, but from a groundswell of people-centred change. The "new renaissance" will come from the periphery or from the bottom up, a distributed and networked emergence of conscious individuals and groupings. Like ink dots on blotting paper, these conscious and creative active nodes will spread their influence through decentralized channels and processes until a time will come when the ink dots begin to fill the blotting paper. The social changes of the future are likely to come from revolutionary movements from the people, a shift catalyzed within the hearts, spirit and minds of the people. Movements for social and perceptual change are already growing, adding more pressure to the older institutions, which will be forced to adapt or die off.

The future years will demand that we change many of our current practices. It is imperative that creative individuals begin to think out of the box. It seems that our future will be steered more from the bottom up than from the top down. Frustration and despair can soon shift toward resilience, re-adaptation and renewal... What is being proposed by the framework of a new civil order is that as people are forced to learn new skills, they will take more and more responsibility for themselves. This will manifest also in revitalized concerns for one's family, friends and community. A shift of dependency is likely to occur that will take back power that many people had previously given away to external socio-political institutions (and commercial dependencies), and they will use this to empower themselves. People's relationship with technology is also likely to undergo a reevaluation. Instead of being wholly dependent on complex, unknowable technologies, people will learn to redesign tools to aid and empower rather than pacify themselves.

By this, it is meant that instead of technology working beyond us -- against us and/or out of our reach -- it will be working for us, and sometimes in more simplified forms. Projects and schemes already underway around the world that utilize new modes of technology include online gardening workshops for growing your own food. Information made available for self-farmers will encourage food production to be once again a prime aspect of family and civic life. There is currently a strong growth in the number of urban gardens and communal composting. Neighborhoods are sourcing water supplies and introducing local permaculture schemes. Social networks are already established that seek to bring home gardeners together to share tips, advice and friendship. Inspired innovators are currently developing new sustainable alternatives to industrial agriculture that push toward forming a post-industrial food system that is less resource intensive and more locally based and managed. An array of such start-ups includes BrightFarm Systems, SPIN-Farming, Virtually Green, Aquacopia, and NewSeed Advisors. Similarly, new networks are emerging of investors, donors, entrepreneurs, farmers and activists who are committed to building local food systems and local economies (such as the Slow Money network).

Alternative technologies are arising that seek to bypass traditional dependencies as the civil movement grows in power and determination. There are now markets for rocket stoves, vegetable-oil generators, solar refrigerators, cheap wind generators and reusable water bottles used as solar lamps. Innovations are also turning shipping containers into virtually cost-free homes. Social information networks are advising people on how to make their own soap, toothpaste, clothes and much more. Instead of recycling, there is now a movement toward "pre-cycling," that is, training people on how to exist not only on what they have, but also to transform their conception of necessity so that non-primary needs are taken out of the equation. Individuals and communities are learning how to live more on less. Monopolies of control belong to the old paradigm and will find no welcome as people collectively shift toward self-determination. It is predicted that these agents of self-determination will emerge as a new social generation of disruptive innovators. Disruptive innovation is that which is unexpected and arrives, usually from the periphery or the bottom up, to provide services that have previously been monopolized. Such disruptions are highly threatening to the hierarchical status quo, yet often empowering to civil society.

There is much disruptive innovation taking place around the world, with many tinkerers searching for solutions that are beneficial for people rather than for profit. And this shall be the new paradigm, the new civic order: a reorganizing of the social sphere away from consumerist dependency and exploitation and toward self-empowerment and community sustainability. People shall be motivated for their families and for other people rather than for profit and those binary digits in a virtual bank somewhere. The fallacy of the old world is angering a lot of people and the veil has already begun to fall. The curtain is being pulled back, and Dorothy is now seeing the Wizard for what he truly is: as the bald, bumbling man and not as the powerful maestro. We have been fooled for far too long, and it is time to wake up, to engage with the program of social evolutionary change, and to move on. The time is ripe for a new kind of emergent innovation, one that comes from high energies of experimentation and enthusiasm. Whatever the disastrous social consequences that the world may be forced to live through in the early 21st century, the renewal will be worth it.

A renaissance for change is coming into being, and it heralds an epoch for opportunity like none other.

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