Meta-Cognition and Awareness on the Societal Scale
Achieving sustainability is becoming our society’s most urgent movement. It is impelled by a newly globalized understanding of the planet. We now know what our parents’ society did not–that there are no “externalities,” no “away”… hard distinctions become tenuous in light of our new interconnectedness, and our global communications have become nearly instantaneous.
This is where we are at… simultaneous to this emerging perspective (and not separable from it), we are now gaining a perspective on global ecological degradation. It is our generation’s challenge to dig in and engage with the real world in applying our growing understanding. It is our task to comprehend, interpret and achieve sustainability in our human societies.
To achieve this grand goal, unprecedented in human history, we must avoid the very real urge to insulate ourselves with virtual stories, games and perpetually “on” media technology. Media can be one of our most powerful tools in inspiring this call to action, but it is also a potent tool to distract us, to relieve the stress of a complex and confusing reality through entertainment. Media can be used healthfully, to inspire, illuminate and connect, but it can also be used as a drug of escapism. And if we become fully addicted, this time, it might even be fatal.
Another seductive but misleading element in the global debate about the meaning of sustainability is the urge to see this movement as a push toward “universality” in human experience and society. While we may sense ourselves moving towards a globalized awareness, and possibly hinging on a historic moment of society-level self-awareness, we must pause to ask ourselves: will it be like a “tipping point,” or will it be an ongoing process merely increasing in complexity? Will it be like a push towards a universal “one mind” consciousness among all disparate humans (thinking like a colony thinks rather than the way individual ants “think”, for example)… or does our burgeoning awareness require a push for a broader level of tolerance of conflict, of multiplicity of experiences and perspectives, of coming to accept that we may never again be able to claim we know something to be 100% true? How does conflict and reflection relate to cognition?
No matter what the actual transformation looks like, we may be nearer than ever to meta-level consciousness, provoked by our critical survival need to address the issue of ecological and social sustainability.
So what kinds of social processes would stimulate and facilitate emergent awareness of this kind? If the mission is to achieve some kind of “shared perspective” on the state of the dynamic global ecosystem and our relationships to it, what would improve our efforts to do so?