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Global Consciousness Change

Summary: Global Consciousness Change: Indicators of an Emerging Paradigm

Excerpted by permission from Global Consciousness Change: Indicators or an Emerging Paradigm, a report prepared for the Millennium Project, P O Box 2449, San Anselmo, CA 94960. To learn more about the Millennium Project visit their website A printed version of the report, which includes a guide for study, dialogue and action, is available. Send e-mail to for more information.

by Duane Elgin, with Coleen LeDrew

Numerous trends indicate that the industrial era is on a collision course with nature -- from ozone depletion to climate change, rainforest destruction, and environmental pollution. The global ecological crisis is compounded by social, economic, and spiritual challenges that are equally daunting. Is there a countervailing set of indicators that shows that we humans may be waking up to our predicament? Is there a set of trends that shows that we are beginning to consciously organize ourselves to respond to the ecological, social, and spiritual challenges we face?

The objective of this inquiry was to discover whether global culture and consciousness are significantly changing in such a way that new patterns of values and approaches to living are emerging. To discover whether this is so, we examined a number of the most comprehensive global and US surveys of the past decade. We organized this inquiry into five thematic question areas:

* Is the global communications revolution fostering a new global consciousness?

* What is the extent of humanity's global ecological awareness and concern?

* Is there a shift underway toward "postmodern" social values?

* Is a new kind of experiential or firsthand spirituality emerging?

* Is there a shift underway toward more sustainable ways of living?

From this inquiry, we have concluded that a new global culture and consciousness have taken root and are beginning to grow in the world. This represents a shift in consciousness as distinct and momentous as that which occurred in the transition from the agricultural era to the industrial era roughly three hundred years ago. Because communications technologies are a powerful force driving the emergence of this new epoch, it would be convenient to call it the "communications era." But that name would be ill-suited since the most distinctive feature of this emerging era is not technological change, but a change in human consciousness.

This change in consciousness has two primary features. First, there is a further awakening of our unique capacity to be self-reflective -- to stand back from the rush of life with greater detachment, observe the world and its workings non-judgementally. Second, from this more spacious perspective, the Earth (and even the cosmos) are seen as interconnected, living systems. Because of these two features, we are calling this emerging change in culture and consciousness the "reflective/living-systems" paradigm or perspective.

Because of survey limitations, it is impossible to estimate with any accuracy the percentage of the world's population moving toward a reflective/living-systems way of life. In the US, a conservative estimate is that 20 million people -- 10 percent of adults -- are consciously exploring new ways of living that seem consistent with this paradigm. While this group is a relatively small percentage of the US population, we believe they represent an important harbinger of changes in global culture and consciousness.

Go to the Indicators of an Emerging Paradigm section of the report: Global Consciousness Change.

About the Author

Duane Elgin is the project leader and primary author of this report. He is a researcher, author, and lecturer with more than 25 years experience in the subject of paradigm change. He is the author of Awakening Earth: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture, and Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich. He is also co-author, with Joseph Campbell and others, of Changing Images of Man.

Coleen LeDrew is the project coordinator and contributing author of this report. She has wide ranging experience as a project manager, researcher, counselor, and educator.

A preliminary version of this report was presented by Duane Elgin to the State of the World Forum, a gathering of world leaders convened by the Gorbachev Foundation.

A printed version is available from:
The Millennium Project:
P O Box 2449
San Anselmo, CA 94960
415.460-1797 (fax)

Visit their website at:

© May 1997

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