from The Institute for the Study of Human Knowledge
Increasingly in recent years, the media have reported the incidence of new environmental "crises"-- explosive population growth, pollution, over-consumption of energy, depletion of resources, and the multiple impact of inappropriate technological intervention.
Yet, few social critics and even fewer citizens realize that problems which we have come to consider "environmental" are problems of human choice, action, and understanding. Overcrowding, polluted waters, urban smog, gas shortages, are created anew each day by our own decisions. As such, they represent problems of human, not technological, dimensions.
Many contemporary thinkers have noted that the global crisis in our environment has common roots with current problems in medicine, psychology, and education. One source of the difficulty is that we are trained largely for analysis, to divide whole systems in order to study the parts. In so doing, we have failed to develop the ability to perceive the whole dimensions of the problems facing humanity and to assess properly the consequences of our actions.
What is most needed, therefore, is not a set of programs or even new technological solutions, but a new understanding of our actions and their effects. This ability to perceive comprehensively can be learned and developed through psychological methods which are known in Eastern and Western worlds.
MODES OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING I: WESTERN SCIENTIFIC PERSPECTIVE
Recent research has indicated that human capacities for understanding are not limited to the analytic mode. In most people, half of the brain is specialized to link elements together. The relevance of the development of these two modes to our current situation will be discussed.
THE WORLD PROBLEMATIQUE
The world problematique presents an overview of the threats to human life from population, energy consumption, and resource allocation.
SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL
In the excitement over the unfolding of his scientific and technical powers, modern man has built a system of production that ravishes nature and a type of society that mutilates man. Yet it remains a widespread assumption that if only there were more and more wealth, everything else would fall into place.
There has never been a society without its sages to challenge this kind of materialism. Today, however, this message reaches us not solely from the critics but from the actual course of physical events. It speaks to us in the language of terrorism, genocide, psycho-social break-down, pollution, and exhaustion. What is most needed today is the development of a lifestyle which while utilizing the benefits of wealth for civilization, accords to material things a secondary place in the order of priorities.
SYMBIOSIS OF EARTH AND HUMANKIND
... clearly not all human incursions into the environment are destructive. In many instances, the "natural" environment has been modified to produce mutual advantages for both man and nature.
MODES OF HUMAN UNDERSTANDING II: THE PERSPECTIVE OF THE EAST
Finding solutions to present and future concerns re-quires greater knowledge of how people think, how they have thought in other times and other cultures, and what influences the process of understanding. A study of this kind helps to identify the continuing influence and determining effect of our cultural heritage.