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Great Turning

This article refers to the 2006 book The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David Korten, and The Great Turning Initiative based on that book and others' work, including Joanna Macy, who uses Great Turning to refer to a change she sees us in from a civilization primarily focused on industrial growth to a more life-sustaining civilization.

The Book

In The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community, Korten makes a number of primary arguments:

  • "Empire" - a form of social organization based on hierarchies, chauvinism, and domination through violence, started developing about 5,000 years ago. A primary characteristic of empires is a significantly unequal distribution of power and benefits, with a relatively small portion of the population receiving a disproportionately large share of the wealth.
  • Corporate consolidation of power represents a modern version of empire.
  • The rise of powerful modern technology combined with the control of empires is becoming increasingly destructive to communities and the environment.
  • We are about to face a perfect storm of converging crises including climate change, peak oil, and a financial crisis caused by an unbalanced economy. This will cause major changes to the current economic and social structure.
  • These crises present an opportunity, if we so choose, for significant changes that replace the paradigm of Empire with one of Earth Community. The vision of Earth Community is based on sustainable, just, and caring communities which incorporate mutual responsibility and accountability. These values, which are shared by most of the world's people, are eloquently described in the Earth Charter.

The initiative

David Korten has been traveling throughout the US and Canada giving interviews and presentations on the ideas of The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community. Additional commentary, information and resources are available at The Great Turning website, and in various articles. At a Great Turning conference in Columbus, Ohio (March 30-April 1, 2007), a community of individuals interested in Great Turning issues was established which now maintains a Great Turning wiki. Members of this community are sometimes referred to as Great Turning Navigators.

Author Joanna Macy promotes a similar vision in lectures and workshops, which she also calls The Great Turning. Her key theme is that we are living during a transformation from an industrial growth society, which is causing a social and ecological crisis, to a more life-sustaining civilization. She refers to this is as "the essential adventure of our time".. Joanna Macy and David Korten occasionally collaborate, sometimes presenting Great Turning talks at the same conference.

A following for some ideas of The Great Turning has developed in some religious communities. It has been the subject of sermons , and at least one religious organization, the Unitarian Universalists for a Just Economic Community, has taken The Great Turning on as a major focus.

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