A letter from Daniel Pinchbeck

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Dear Friends and Collaborators,

Center for Planetary Culture is a new organization that uses the familiar structure of a think tank to explore cutting-edge ideas and practices. As part of our work, we consult, experiment, innovate, propose, propound and pontificate. We also incubate new media and technology projects. Our admittedly ambitious mission is to help humanity evolve to a new level of consciousness – to transition from competition and aggression to cooperation and symbiosis as our basic paradigm, shifting to a social model based on regenerative principles of design.

As executive director of CPC, I must admit that, until quite recently, I found think tanks to be a nebulous notion. The ones I knew seemed slightly intimidating and malignant – Project for a New American Century, which helped develop plans for the Iraq War; the RAND Corporation, with its connections to the NSA; the neoliberal Brookings Institute; the Council on Foreign Relations, with its Kissinger-esque and Strangelove-ian undertones; and so on. Many of the bigger think tanks seem like gears in the inexorable machinery of the military industrial complex – the New World Order of imperialist domination and corporate control, which continues to rampage across our world.

Yet, when my wife Jana Astanov and I were given the opportunity to start a think tank,we jumped at the chance. We realized that think tanks play a unique role in our culture:By taking an eagle’s eye view, they can apply long-range, strategic planning to crucialsocial issues, and cause ripples over time. While there are a number of progressive and radical think tanks, I couldn’t find any that reflected my particular viewpoint. In my past work, integrated social theory and political philosophy with explorations into the nature of consciousness and the knowledge systems of indigenous cultures.  

We will never address the underlying problems we face not just as individuals, but as a species – without a profound change in our collective beliefs, values, and worldview. In my books, I proposed that our modern, or postmodern, civilization is undergoing a passage through the Underworld, as part of a collective initiation. The excessive development of one-sided rational and scientific thought led to a tremendous surge in human capability, on the one hand, but a near-total loss of our connection to nature and the Cosmos, on the other. Today, we experience constant vertigo – disorienting, dissociative – caused by the acceleration of technical and technological “progress,” which produces more information in every field of human endeavor, accompanied by the traumatic loss of any sense of meaning, soul, or sacredness to our shared Earth.

Loss of soul is the defining characteristic of postmodern civilization, now in its late – orterminal – stage. We all suffer from it, to one degree or another. All around the world,people seek to fill the inner void with degraded substitutes for true communion. We aretold that more progress, more economic development, new material goods, bettertechnological gadgets will somehow compensate for what we have forfeited. This is thelie promulgated by our current system. It is the vision of philanthro-capitalists, as well as technological utopians, disseminated through TED conferences and the mass media. We sense the inherent falseness of it – but any alternative seems impossible to envision or adopt.

converted PNM file

We now know that our civilization is rapidly degrading the biosphere’s capacity to support life. The situation is so extreme that we approach the possibility of our own near term extinction. This is not an exaggeration. According to conservative estimates by scientists, we are on track for at least a 4 – 6 degree Celsius temperature rise by 2100. The oceans are 30% more acidic than they were 40 years ago, because they absorb a great deal of the excess carbon we emit, potentially causing the disintegration of all of the world’s coral reefs. If temperatures rise as predicted, more than 50% of species currently living will go extinct. The glaciers that bring fresh water to billions of people will disappear, as agriculture becomes impossible across vast regions.

Personally, I never expected to be obsessed with environmental issues or climate change. When I was in my twenties, I wanted to be an avant-garde writer in the tradition of Kafka, Thomas Bernhard, and George Perec. I still hope to write long experimental novels some day. However, right now we are putting our energy into developing a research project – a white paper and Wiki – on a strategic plan for transition to a regenerative civilization, where we have rebalanced our relationship to nature while ameliorating social and economic injustice. We are inspired by Buckminster Fuller, who wrote, back in the 1960s, that humanity had to choose between “utopia or oblivion.” Today it is even more evident that we will either design a world that works for everyone, or humanity will not survive.

Along with our research projects, Center for Planetary Culture intends to produce media, as well as creating events, conferences, and public forums. Last month, we held our first live event, a conversation between myself, independent diplomat Carne Ross, and musician philanthropist Peter Buffett. You can watch it here:

Planetary Culture Panel – A discussion with Carne Ross, Peter Buffett, and Daniel Pinchbeck from Center for Planetary Culture on Vimeo.

We see the Center as a collaborative project – in its own way, a “social sculpture,” to use a term coined by the German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys. We invite you to participate and collaborate with us. We have an omnivorous interest in new ideas and initiatives, and an insatiable desire to connect with writers, researchers, media makers, technologists, and other influencers who would like to join forces with us. Please email research@planetaryculture.com for ideas on how you could get involved.

Daniel Pinchbeck
Executive Director
Center for Planetary Culture

Learn More
We are a fiscally sponsored project of Planetwork NGO, Inc. CA 501(c)3 and supported by Tides Foundation. For more information about our views, you can read my recent interview in Ever Conscious Magazine, and Jana Pinchbeck’s interview on Numinous.net. Recently I collaborated with Joe Brewer, culture designer, to write this article – Can Corporations Make the Big Pivot? Joe and I outlined his impressions from the Sustainable Brands Conference in the context of the economic paradigm shifts currently underway.

top image caption: Tianjin, an eco-city in China being built on the coast for 350,000 people. It combines restoration efforts, an advanced public transportation system, and renewable energy. Richard Register of Eco-City builders consulted on the project and discusses it here: http://permaculturenews.org/2013/01/30/from-traffic-jams-to-ecocities-interview-with-richard-register-president-of-ecocity-builders/
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