How to leave the Anthropocene — Fostering sustainability requires us to challenge our stories and paradigms

Paradigms

The imprint and impact of humankind on natural systems and processes have turned us into a geological agent. This has led to the current epoch being termed the Anthropocene, a time during which human actions are collectively shaping the state of Earth’s system. Our Dominant Social Paradigm has been a crucial determinant in creating this situation.

The Dominant Paradigm in the Anthropocene

In today’s Modern World, we follow what can be called the mechanistic paradigm to address many of the challenges of the Anthropocene.

A paradigm for reconnecting to self, others, and the more-than-human

Fostering a paradigm of interconnectedness, or a so-called relational paradigm, can help us to counteract the current situation. This paradigm contributes to understanding inner and outer transformations towards sustainability in the Anthropocene. It emphasizes the role of inner transformation as an inherent part of transformations towards sustainability, and explicitly highlights the intra-action, mutual dependence, and co-constituency of inner and outer transformation. Phenomena such as climate change are not something that are ‘out there’ or ‘external’, but instead are an inherent, constitutive part of our inner dimension. Hence, inner and outer dimensions are subject to an ongoing, non-hierarchical dynamic process of intra-action.

How can we live relationally?

Adopting a relational paradigm can be troubling, as it challenges the Dominant Social Paradigm. To overcome these challenges, specific transformational capacities and qualities must be developed. As our work, and the Inner-Outer Transformation Model show, this encompasses our ways of knowing, being, and acting in the face of socioecological realities. It requires a lifelong learning process of un-learning many of our habitual ways of paradigm-ing (in the Western, industrialized world), and calls for institutionalized facilities and spaces to nurture this process.

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Christine Wamsler

Christine Wamsler

Professor, Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies (LUCSUS). Founder and Director of the Contemplative Sustainable Futures Program. Mind&Life Fellow.