The Consequence Era

December 2012

Futurist and consultant Hardy Schloer wrote an article in the November 2012 issue of the Club of Amsterdam Journal that cited a time window he calls “The Consequence Era” to which I had a palpable response. Perhaps it was because our adolescent ways tend to ignore consequences, much like teenagers don’t think about the negative effects their actions have on others or themselves. For whatever reason, the term hit me and I wanted to add a bit of viewpoint to it. First of all, here’s the paragraph that the Spain-based Schloer wrote that grabbed my attention:

[blockquote]Human civilization has reached the most critical watershed period in its entire history so far. We refer to this period, 2010 – 2050, as the Consequence Era. It is the era in which we must deal with the consequences of unresolved inter-societal relations, misguided technological development, hyper-militarization of the world, and a dangerous neglect to manage environment and vital resources in a long-term perspective. Given that money and monetary instruments have become an artificial resource, especially in the past 300 years, this consequence also includes the results of our ill-designed global monetary system. Money all by itself, and how it is used in society, has created a severe scarcity that actually prevents us from solving all natural problems and promotes global conflict in an almost fully globalized world. It is therefore especially important to look at the economic conditions and transitions in order to understand the prospect of solving any other hard problems in the future, arising from the management of resources and production of vital supplies.[/blockquote]

While not as precisely pinned on the time continuum, British futurist and visionary Peter Russell wrote about the coming “Age of Consciousness” in his iconic book from the 1980s – The Global Brain. The graph he included in the book showed this Age of Consciousness appearing on the scene around 2010 – 2025, along the earlier segment of Schloer’s window.

Allow me to insert another view here: many if not most individual transformations occur when people are being pressed to make changes, often when in crisis. Fewer transformations occur when things are going well and someone simply decides to transcend their worldview just because there’s nothing on television at the time.

We are well into this “Consequence Era” and crises seem to be in no short supply. What are different about today’s crises is that they affect us all, rich and poor, North and South, East and West. The global commons are in danger and that affects everyone!

Will these crises motivate us to do what we seem to have been unwilling to do out of simple desire or a vision of a new consciousness? A friend of mine used to say something like “it is good to have a vision for new possibilities but it sometimes helps if one is being chased by a tiger at the same time.” Nothing motivates like fear. Sometimes vision alone is insufficient. Sometimes the combination of an attractive alternative positive and a frightening negative team up to accelerate the movement to a new state of consciousness. In this new state, unexamined assumptions, beliefs and attitudes get re-examined; old ways of behaving are abandoned; and new values are incorporated into society. I refer to these pressures in my book The Great Growing Up as Pulling and Pushing Forces for Transformation.

This combination of forces can result in an “overnight change” like what seemed to happen when the Berlin Wall came down. It can also be the result of our entire species suddenly growing up, recognizing the consequences of our actions these past centuries, the messes we have created, and getting into immediate action to make things right.

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John Renesch

John is a seasoned businessman-turned-futurist who has published 14 books and hundreds of articles on social and organizational transformation.

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