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The WorldShift 2012 Challenge

The choice between these scenarios is not yet made.  As of today, we are moving along the path of the BAU scenario, but more and more people are waking up and searching for ways to move to a scenario of timely transformation. 

The question is: how much time is there for this shift? 

The window of time is finite: when conditions in a complex open system reach a critical point the system becomes chaotic, and it either transforms, or breaks down.  The longer the transformation is delayed, the more difficult it becomes to carry it out.  

To define the feasible decision-window we must take into account both the time by which idividual trends reach a critical phase, and cross-impacts and feedbacks among the trends.  

  1. The unfolding of individual trends. Time estimates of when individual life-threatening trends would reach points of criticality have been reduced from the end of the century to mid-century, and for some trends to the next ten to twenty years.  

For example, the sea level has been rising one and a half times faster than predicted in the IPCC’s Third Assessment Report published in 2001.  Forecasts published at the end of 2008 project global sea-level rise that is more than double the 0.59 meter rise forecast even by the Fourth Assessment Report.

Carbon dioxide emissions and global warming have likewise outpaced expectations.  The rate of increase of CO2 emissions rose from 1.1 percent between 1990 and 1999 to over 3 percent between 2000 and 2004.  Since 2000 the growth-rate of emission has been greater than in any of the scenarios used by the IPCC in both the Third and Fourth Assessment Reports.

The warming of the atmosphere progressed faster than expected as well.  In the 1990s forecasts spoke of an overall warming of maximum 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century.  Then the time-horizon for this level of increase was reduced to the middle of the century, and presently some experts predict that it could occur within a decade. 

At the same time, the prediction for the maximum level of global warming rose from 3 to 6 degrees.  The difference is not negligible.  A three degree warming would cause serious disruption in human life and economic activity, while a six degree warming would make most of the planet unsuitable for food production and large-scale human habitation.

  1. Feedbacks and cross-impacts.  Most predictions of points of criticality take only one trend into consideration—global warming and attendant climate change; water quality and availability; food production and self-reliance; urban viability, poverty, and population pressure; air quality and minimal health standards, or others.  They fail to consider the possibility that a criticality in one trend could accelerate the unfolding of other trends toward a point of criticality.

There are multiple feedbacks and cross-impacts among the relevant trends, both in regard to the biosphere and conditions in the human world.

In the biosphere, all the trends that affect human life and wellbeing also impact on the cycles that maintain the planet’s ecology within a humanly viable range.  This is the case in regard to the global water and the global carbon cycle: the alteration of these cycles by any one trend affects the way the other trends unfold. 

For example, an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere leads to global warming and that affects rainfall and the growth of forests.  That, in turn, reduces the biosphere’s carbon absorption capacity.  Feedbacks are also conveyed by air and ocean currents.  Warmer water in the oceans triggers hurricanes and other violent storms alters the course of major ocean currents, such as the Gulf and the Humbold.  And that triggers further changes in the climate.

Feedbacks also obtain between ecological and societal trends. For example: The warming of the atmosphere produces prolonged drought in some areas and coastal flooding in others.  Starving and homeless masses are impelled to migrate from the highly impacted areas to less hard-hit regions creating critical conditions in those regions as well. 

A drop in the quality of the air in urban and industrial megacomplexes below the minimum required for health creates a breakdown in public health, with epidemics spreading to vast areas.  A breakdown of the financial system would impact not only on banks and stock markets, but would interfere with industrial output and trade the world over, creating critical conditions first of all for the poorest countries and eonomies.

Cross-impacts among accelerating global trends reduces the feasible decision-window. The precise time for effecting meaningful change is not predictable with certainty, but due to feedback and cross-impacts among the trends, it’s likely to be less than the forecasts of critical points for individual trends. 

The decision-window may close within ten years and possibly sooner - conceivably by the end of 2012, coinciding with the famous Mayan prophesies that predict if not the end, then the transformation, of our world.

We do have a choice.  We can determine our own destiny and secure not just the future of humanity, but it's conscious evolution.  By rising to The WorldShift Challenge, we ask you to commit to the positive transformational change required to co-create at least the foundations of a peaceful, just and sustainable world by the end of 2012.  

Read and sign The WorldShift 2012 Declaration.