Skip Navigation
Education for the Third Millenium

The following article is based on a paper written for presentation at the EDUCATION FOR THE THIRD MILLENNIUM Conference in Catamarca, Argentina, in April, 2002.

by Hazel Henderson

Education for this Third Millennium must be holistic. Teacher training and curricula needs to be geared to help all students to see our precious blue planet whole and understand the problems we humans face at the start of this new century. Since we only use about 10% of our brains, this expansion of our awareness is well within our grasp. One of the ways humans can expand their spatial and temporal frameworks is to create scenarios of possible and desirable futures. Using this futurist tool, let us imagine ourselves looking back from the middle of this Third Millennium. It is the year 2050 and much has changed - for the better!

Over the past 50 years, our understanding of human psychology and spirituality did begin to match our knowledge of the material world. We learned that in these times of accelerating change, visioning exercises are necessary, pragmatic and can yield practical results. Today, visioning a world of peace, equity, cooperation and ecological sustainability is taught in all our schools. Parenting is honored, loving relationships and role models are taught and showcased in our media.

As we remember, the 20th century, the bloodiest in human history, left the human family with an agenda of unfinished business. Visionary people had sketched out this agenda throughout the past century. From North America, Margaret Sanger's vision had helped empower women and advance human rights. Rachel Carson, in Silent Spring, 1962, taught us that social innovation has not kept up with technological innovation - and launched the environmental movement. Buckminster Fuller and Martin Luther King, Jr. had pointed the way toward building a world that worked for everyone. Elise Boulding's Toward a Global Civic Culture (1987) and Building Cultures of Peace (2000) and her lifetime of crusading for peace-building, had envisioned the powerful civic society organizations of today. Margaret Mead taught us to believe in the power of a small group of concerned citizens to change the world - "Indeed" she used to say, "it's the only thing that ever has." Visionaries from around, the world pointed the way; Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Mother Theresa, Thich Nhat Hahn in Asia, Nelson Mandela in Africa, Vaclav Havel and Jean Monnet in Europe and in Latin America Perez Esquivel and Eduardo Galeano among many others.

Our extraordinary array of technological tools became life-threatening, as well as life-enhancing: from nuclear, chemical, biological weapons, to bioengineering, jets, satellites and computers; the flowering of tools of mass communications and the Internet. All these technologies became global by the turn of our 21st century. Many were unassessed and unregulated. A haphazard form of globalization was the result. It wasn't until 2030 that the "gun culture" in the USA died out as the guns in schools and on streets increased public horror and awareness of the gun makers' lobby.

The work of many grassroots activists and writers eventually tamed the globalization of technologies and those rampant global markets. Agreements between countries curbing money-laundering, taxing currency speculators, arms traders and polluters, are now part of international law. These taxes, and fines for abusing our global commons are collected by national governments, to replace the taxes lost to speculators and tax havens. After the crash of 2010, nations signed agreements and securities laws (like a global version of the USA's old Securities and Exchange Commission). Tax evasion was outlawed and many of the former tax havens instead created thriving economies based on high-tech, web bartering businesses and eco-tourist attractions.

Today, technological and social innovations are better aligned with global values, goals and polices. These now promote human development, social justice, health, well-managed economies within ecologically-sustainable parameters. These values were enshrined in global treaties, agreement standards, codes of corporate conduct and civic principles, and have created the better lives for all humanity we enjoy now in 2050.

Humans slowly learned, via all their communications tools and networks, what was needed to achieve this vision. A much larger, planetary context was needed for all our decision-making - from personal and local, to national, international and global. We all possess this mental tool-kit - a "zoom lens", and a wide-shot. We needed systems thinking and ethics (The Golden Rule). The Earth Charter, the grassroots, multicultural set of 16 principles of human responsibilities launched at the Peace Palace in The Hague in 2000 became the counterpart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We also needed science, knowledge and faith (in life) as well as imagination and creativity. After the September 11, 2001 onset of globally-organized terrorism, a new awareness grew of the importance of dialogues between cultures, civilizations and religions. Many pioneers helped bring all the religious traditions into a broad, ecumenical agreement to protect the planet and all life forms. Today, all church groups invest 100% of their portfolios in clean, green, ethical businesses. All business schools are now required to teach ethics.

Now, in 2050, our planet is ecologically rehabilitating. Its climate is stabilizing and its ozone shield almost restored. Action to change our ways was accelerated by the tragic floods caused by the mega hurricanes and typhoons in 2031 and 2032. It was the insurance companies that insisted on these laws to limit carbon emissions. They had begun shifting their asset portfolios to renewable energy as early as 1993. Much range land is reforested since most people shifted gradually to healthier, vegetarian diets. Biodynamic agriculture replaced industrial, fossil-fueled mega farming in the early part of our century. This restored soil fertility, together with the worldwide return to organic food and fiber production.

University departments of Urban Planning began to teach how cities would develop sustainably and many have grown by infilling wasted urban brown fields and parking lots. Mass public transit had finally replaced many freeways and unclogged downtown streets by 2025. Small, lightweight zero-emission "hyper-cars" now tool between our cities powered by hydrogen fuel cells. A global hydrogen economy replaced oil and gas by 2010, flowing in converted pipelines (See Henderson, Politics of the Solar Age 1981)

China has leapfrogged many stages of industrial development and the roller-coaster monetary turbulence of the turn of the century. The Chinese yuan is convertible, but protected from speculators by ingenious software in their screen-based currency trading systems. Widespread use of high tech barter is a further stabilizer. For example, Internet-based energy bartering ventures smooth supply bottlenecks, allowing developing countries to exchange their undervalued commodities directly for oil from OPEC members. The Shanghai stock exchange became the world's largest in 2023. Shanghai now has clear skies and fish back in the Huang Po and Suzhou rivers. The Shanghai Municipal government's environmental bond issue of 1999 was spent well - on "state-of-the-art" green technologies. China became a leader in energy-efficiency - surpassing Japan in 2021.

The need for energy has been halved worldwide, even in industrial areas. The widespread use of communications, computers, TV and the Internet made this possible, together with vastly increased energy-efficiency and ecological design principles. OPEC announced in 2001, that it would no longer feed the world's oil addiction and exacerbate global climate change. Oil was too valuable to burn and should be kept for plastics and higher-value uses.

The higher oil prices kicked the solar and renewable energy sectors into high gear. The high gas prices in 2000-2001 began to accelerate cars' increased mileage. Toyota and Honda beat Detroit by marketing the first hybrid electric cars in 2001. At last, the internal combustion engine was retired to the Smithsonian Institution where it belonged in 2015. OPEC countries changed course in 2005 and became major investors in the hydrogen economy. The oil cartel had already de-dollarized their oil in favor of the euro and electronic bartering with poorer nations. Most countries learned that if money systems were badly managed, electronic, money-free barter trading could clear markets and improve well-being - as Argentines had pioneered in 2002.

The human family stabilized at 8 billion in 2025, largely because the gap between rich and poor has been narrowed, and universal access to health care and education has been achieved. Women in every country advanced politically and economically, due to universal availability of education, health care, family-planning and birth control. This was achieved in the face of much patriarchal opposition. As women's economic and political empowerment progressed during the early 21st century, they now own or manage 50% of the businesses and nonprofit organizations. They hold a similar share of seats in parliaments, local governments, and judicial bodies. Micro-credit had expanded to allow millions of women to own their own small businesses. Women's influence in all societies has vastly increased. No political decisions are considered legitimate unless legislative bodies are composed equally of both sexes.

National budgets for education, health, social services and ecological restoration gradually increased relative to military weapons procurement, as more women and their male supporters lobbied and organized for such new priorities. The 1990s post-cold war rethink of what constituted a country's sovereignty and "national security "had continued well into 2010 and accelerated after the 2001 onset of global terrorism. These paradigm shifts in public debates and policies led to a redefinition of threats, particularly those posed by 20th century proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. They came to be seen as too dangerous to manufacture, stockpile, or transport -- let alone use. Indeed, major sectors of our early 21st century economy were based on cleaning up nuclear stockpiles, radioactive and other toxic wastes. Public health was another growth sector of most countries' economies after the anthrax scares of 2001 and the bioterrorism incidents of 2003. People soon realized that big, industrial-style weapons and wars were made obsolete by global terrorist methods. In our interdependent world, only cooperative, win-win strategies could make societies secure.

Many futurists, scholars and activists in the late 20th century identified other new domestic and international threats. The bad news of globalization proved to be terrorism, small arms trading and local conflicts, the explosive gap between rich and poor, the spreading of new and old infectious diseases, drug trafficking, money-laundering and speculation in the global currency markets. The new emphasis on domestic security in the USA after September 11, 2001 poured billions of new public investments into infrastructure: railroads, schools, public health clinics, and to beef up academic curricula on global issues, multicultural studies and languages. The threat of global environmental deterioration: spreading deserts, climate change, loss of species and biodiversity -- due to primitive industrial technologies driving narrowly-measured economic growth, has been reduced but is still with us.

All these threats to humanity's future were global and beyond the reach of any one country. After the USA's unilateralism of the George W. Bush administration proved unworkable came the lessons of the "War" on Terrorism. After many isolationists, rearguard movements, which often scape-goated immigrants or various ethnic groups, it became obvious that such politics were too divisive. National sovereignty was cooperatively pooled into global agreements to lessen these threats. The United Nations Security Insurance Agency (UNSIA) was finally implemented (see Henderson, Building a Win-Win World, 1996). T

he Security Council was expanded to include India, Brazil, Japan, Germany and South Africa as permanent members, and the veto was abolished. Then several small Central American countries followed the earlier path of Costa Rica back in 1949 - and abolished their armies. Instead, they redeployed their military budgets away from buying old US F-16s (which didn't provide deterrence anyway, in the domestic conflict and terrorism period of the 2010s). These funds flowed instead into retraining soldiers, investing in education, health, infrastructure and building home grown economies linked via communications. Their military strategies shifted toward buying peacekeeping insurance policies through UNSIA.

By 2010, forty other smaller UN member nations joined in the UNSIA insurance pool. Their premiums now fund a properly-trained contingent of peace-keepers from many countries and a grassroots network of local civic volunteer organizations in humanitarian and, conflict resolution truth and reconciliation hearings and deep listening. The UN Secretary General had first requested this "standing humanitarian force" in the late 1990s.

The world "court of public opinion" on TV, radio and the Internet has grown enormously providing instant feedback, judgments and sanctions on any overaggressive "leader". The USA and the few other holdout countries at last ratified the International Criminal Court supported in the Rome Agreement of 1999 in 2005. INTERPOL swiftly arrests tyrants and brings them to publicly televised trials. By 2010, this rethink of true human security has slowly shifted national budgets onto longer-term accounting.

Policymakers and university courses alike focus on prevention, futures research, technology assessment, scientific research and new multidisciplinary statistics measuring overall quality-of-life to steer their decision-making (see for example, the Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, The Internet has allowed public review of policies since the turn of the century. The US Department of Defense and Peacekeeping's budget now allocates 50% to diplomacy and peacekeeping.

The huge increases in allocations for conflict prevention, diplomacy, treaties, agreements, global standards and international law, as well as funds allocated to education, health and public infrastructure were hotly contested by older sectors of the economy. Today, these social expenditures are treated as investments in future assets with huge intergenerational payoffs. Many of our idealistic, brightest students chose among the many new careers in global problem-solving and public service.

Accounting and economics have expanded to include multidimensional valuations of knowledge, software, human and social capital and ecological assets. Likewise, social and environmental costs of all public and private policies and decision-making had to be deducted to allow full cost pricing and accurate national indicators. The accounting and statistics sectors boomed, as we learned that we needed to measure what we treasure and monitor unhealthy trends.

Enhanced information tools have facilitated broader democratic decision-making, such as today's electronic town meetings, referenda and public-interest polling on major issues. The curse of money no longer taints elections now that all media, even in the USA (the last holdout), apportion free air time to all candidates, as a license requirement. The public, all of us who own the airwaves finally completed their reassertion of right of access to media. This took a long struggle with media owners over violent, degrading, distorting, and mind-numbing programming. Public interest groups police all advertising for accuracy. "Truth-in-advertising" tax set-aside funds are available to all such qualified groups for counter-advertising. When first introduced in 2009, companies in the Old Economy fought hard to keep their tax deduction for such advertising. The counter-ads had proved successful as early as 1999 in cutting tobacco use - since teenagers themselves had created the ads.

Today, we enjoy a truly information-rich, multi-access, TV, radio, Internet and wireless "global village" - designed with nature, for long-term sustainability. The civic society in every country has come of age after the teach-ins on humanizing globalization initiated by Porto Alegre's local officials in Brazil in 2000. Powerful voluntary, civic sectors kept both private businesses and governments accountable. The Information Age has morphed into an Age of Truth, where corporate or political, or any institutional or government malfeasance is instantly reported on the Internet. Global public-access "C-Span" TV reports daily on all the successful problem-solving efforts underway --whether in villages in Africa and other ecologically-rich but money-short regions, or other social innovations that were replicable. Civic society organizations are aligned with the new TV, radio and Internet media, advising on programming, spreading their audience reach and earning stock-options for their efforts. For example, Planned Parenthood had been a pioneer in delivery of education, health and family-planning information via culturally-sensitive TV dramas, and documentaries. These successfully by-passed patriarchal institutions and those opposed to women's empowerment.

Technological innovation is now steered democratically to meet pressing, widespread needs (not expressed in 20th century markets due to inadequate access to credit and money). However, verifiable information on these needs was ubiquitous and in the late 20th century became issues in politics. Information, now interchangeable with money, via high tech electronic barter soon came to substitute for ill-managed monetary systems. Where distorted financial and money-flows and cronyism in credit-creation create inequities, high-tech barter from local to global -- matches trades electronically. The IMF had been abolished in 2005 after another meltdown of the old money system and debacles in Argentina in 2001 due their bad advice. The World Bank's lending was focused on education and health delivery in partnership with civic society. All information on the activities of such international agencies - as well as those at national and local levels was posted daily on their websites by 2004.

Corporations, which had become global by the late 20th century, had escaped national taxes and regulation. After the famous Microsoft monopoly decision of the US Courts in 2000, antitrust laws were extended globally - by international agreements. The new global information -networked markets were prone to monopolization. Corporate chartering also came under internationalized laws. Companies could no longer incorporate in tax and regulatory havens, which allowed the old scams of less-than full disclosure, insider-trading and annual reports that concealed the social and environmental costs incurred by their business operations. After the defeat of the notorious Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) in 1998, and the WTO after the "Battle of Seattle" in 1999, corporations were re-chartered in 2007 to optimize the interests of all stakeholders (investors, consumers, employees, local communities and the environment) and had to be re-earned every 5 years.

Many companies chose employee stock ownership plans, which proved successful in thousands of companies since the latter part of the 20th century. Employees were more motivated, as shareholders in the enterprise. Besides, knowledge was at last recognized as a basic factor of production - along with natural resources and social capital. Capitalism had changed accordingly - as employees carried a company's intellectual capital in their heads - and could walk out anytime. The scandalous collapse of the ENRON Corporation in the USA in 2002, where 5000 employees who held stock in the company, in their retirement accounts could not sell it (while their bosses sold out, making millions) caused a public outcry as these employees lost their pensions as well as their jobs. This resulted in new laws to prevent such tragedies.

Even by the year 2000, inventors in many thousand garages and small startups had created the "new economies" of information, electronic trading, exchange and barter, preventive health care, education and services. Millions of formerly disabled people were absorbed into jobs with the enabling technologies of computerized interfaces. By 2009, biotech companies had perfected artificial eyes, muscles, and other organs and stem cells were used to help re-grow damaged tissues, organs and bones. All these were supported by technologies of the post-fossil-fueled, solar-based economies of today's Age of Light. Not all of these 21st century technologies were developed in response to traditional money-based price signals and marketplaces, which had been distorted, by subsidies, lobbying and politics. Prices are always history, and we learned to stop looking into the future through such rearview mirrors!

Indeed, most of these startups in solar and renewable energy, biotech, the Internet and human services were unprofitable. They required billions in front-loaded capital by visionary investors and venture capitalists who believed that the world's economies and societies could be redesigned to work for 100% of humanity. In risk-taking cultures like the USA, millions of day traders bought these stocks by borrowing, as in the gold rush era. Millions were made and lost - as in all periods of rapid technological change. Many voluntary, nonprofit groups and leaders in environmental and human rights spurred on the visionary entrepreneurs and investors. Together, they led the great transition to the knowledge-rich, ecologically based, sustainable economies, which was well-underway by 2025.

These pioneers operated in the non-money half of all societies, where visions, ideas, entrepreneurship and faith in the future come before money. They championed the real needs that the traditional price system did not detect or serve. These pioneers of the unpaid cooperative, voluntary sectors the "Love Economy" (Henderson, 1981) organized at local, state and national levels. They served people directly, educating the public, politicians and government officials, using all the new public-access media and the web. They reshaped academic curricula and helped enshrine into laws the enhanced rights, public investments and social innovations we now enjoy. The old media conglomerates, which controlled access and led to the "mediocracies" of the last century, gradually lost audiences with their endless repeats of boring game shows. Their violent "shoot-em ups" were finally so ostracized by their shareholders, that media giants began to pull them off the air "voluntarily" - leading to the Global Media Code of Conduct, signed in 2006.

As these social innovations became part of the institutional framework of societies, the new "caring sectors" were at last fully capitalized. Women led the change in this wave of social innovation. Just as Bismarck had invented social security in 19th century Germany and President Franklin D. Roosevelt helped initiate it in the USA in the 20th century, women spearheaded both the capitalization of the caring sectors and the ecological remediation sectors. Women, as grassroots activists and volunteers, had started thousands of environmental organizations since the mid-20th century. These two sectors are now pillars of our global economy - along with the information, communications and knowledge sectors in our postindustrial societies.

The economy slowly dematerialized as use of energy and materials became super-efficient. Companies, pushed by laws at the turn of the century, soon reaped profits in reclaiming their cars, computers and other products for reconditioning and resale. More people turned away from consumer goods to self-development and services in the human potential movement and the caring economy. For millions, their time had become more valuable than goods or money. These new "Attention Economy" sectors in (Henderson, Building a Win-Win World 1995). They grew first in industrial societies, with a myriad of new businesses in overlooked needs, delivering home-based services, health care, fitness, enabling the disabled, elderly, and in a variety of essential maintenance activities. They offered community education, social services, drug counseling, youth rehabilitation, recycling, garbage composting, thrift-stores, barter clubs, local-contract organic food-growing, solar and renewable energy companies.

The old Gross National Product (GNP) based on goods and money transactions, began tanking in Japan in the 1990s and by 2003 in Europe and North America. No longer mere "consumers," millions of citizens simply no longer found the time spent shopping as satisfying as family and community activities. The many Quality-of-Life Indicators began to soar! (See for example, Calvert-Henderson Quality of Life Indicators, 2000, and online at

Today in 2050, these multiple activities, geared to improving quality of life, are all multi-billion dollar sectors and provide some 50% of jobs and livelihoods - just as weapons-contracting and other heavy industries did at the end of the last century. By 2010, the sustainability boom had led to virtually zero unemployment. Prison populations in the USA fell from 2 million in 2000 to 1 million in 2010 as the health, education and caring sectors grew and poverty decreased.

The curse of racism in the USA diminished too, in a media-rich, multicultural, interdependent-world. It was cheaper to educate all our young people at Harvard than send them to prison. And indigenous peoples in the USA and worldwide were at last recognized as the keepers of ancient wisdom on sustainability. Their tribal lands reverted to their sovereign control and the bio-pirates who had "patented" the genetic resources these native peoples had protected for millennia, were stripped of these "phony patents" and "intellectual property."

A smaller, chastened WTO no longer promotes "intellectual property rights," and the new economics of full-cost pricing and quality-of-life indictors of national progress govern all world trade. This corrected accounting properly values local production and exchange, while world trade is now mostly in services, license agreements and software - not goods or hardware. It made more sense to ship the recipes than the cakes and biscuits! At last, economists recognized that thermodynamicists' models of efficiency were correct and economics texts were changed accordingly.

The resource-rich developing countries, exploited under colonialism had fallen further behind in the last century during the Cold War. In 2000, after the global civic campaign, Jubilee 2000, the so-called G-7 industrial countries (rich in money terms) agreed to write-off the unrepayable debt of these heavily-indebted countries, mostly in Africa. In 2001, British Chancellor of the Exchequer, Gordon Brown had proposed a $50 billion "Marshall Plan" at the G-7 meeting - but this took a decade longer to implement. Many developing countries had been bypassed by the Industrial Age, but began to flourish as Solar Age, information technologies enable them to "leapfrog" the earlier wasteful industrial models and avoid the huge infrastructure costs of highways and electric grids.

By 2000, on-site, cheap solar power started lighting village homes and schoolhouses from Mongolia and Vietnam to Africa and the remote towns of Russia, Australia and the Americas. Off-grid electricity powered Internet access, together with handheld personal digital assisters. Millions of villagers started small communications businesses as Internet Service Providers - following the example of Bangladeshi women partners in the Grameen Phone Company. Short-wave, human-powered wind-up radios, cell phones and pagers became virtually free. In this new "Attention Economy", peoples' time and attention ("eyeballs") were more valuable than money. As Moore's Law had lowered chip prices, so Metcalfe's Law required huge networks and increased in value with ever more users.

By 2025, we had certainly learned that globalization brought irreversible change! A globalized economy demands as much cooperation as competition, requiring global human and employee rights, environmental protection, and global standards, corporate codes of conduct, and ethical politics and markets. Finally, the evidence was sufficient to replace the old economic text books, which had focused on competition and self-interest. Humanity has made that great, transition from the 300-year fossil-fueled Industrial Age to the Age of Light. We learned too in the first decade of the 21st century that money and information are interchangeable, through our experiences with the many bartering enterprises that now compete successfully with the money-based, bank-mediated global economy.

Certainly, a paradigm shift to map these changes was required and the curricula of all schools and universities have changed accordingly. The new global context allowed people to see the policies and private changes needed. They led to the world of 2050 we are proud of today. Things are not perfect, of course. Life would be boring! Each successive human generation will make further contributions to the evolution of our species and societies in this Third Millennium.

Signs of this Future Today:
· Post-Cartesian Scientific Principles now widely-acknowledged
· GNP as a measure of progress
· Now challenged by new indicators of Quality-of-Life
· Two Ways of Transacting
· A Systems View of Total Productivity (the 3 layer cake)
· Rise of the Attention Economy
· Global standards game (Playing the Global Standards Game)
· New Markets and New Commons (Exploring the Global Playing Field)
· Globalization can be Shared and Democratized

About the Author

Hazel Henderson is a global futurist, evolutionary economist and author of Beyond Globalization: Shaping a Sustainable Global Economy (1999) and seven other books on sustainable development. She serves on many editorial boards, including FUTURES, Elsevier Scientific, UK; FORESIGHT, Cambridge UK and World Affairs, New Delhi, India. She is fellow of the World Business Academy and the World Futures Studies Federation, and advisor to the Calvert Social Investment Fund (Washington, DC) with whom she is cocreating the Calvert-Henderson Quality-of-Life Indicators. She held the Horace Albright Chair at the University of California, Berkeley, and has served on Committees of the National Academy of Engineering, the National Science Foundation, and the US Office of Technology Assessment.

All the author's books and articles are available on her website at

Search New Horizons


New Horizons Links

New Horizons home

About Us (NHFL)

Current Journal

Submission Guidelines


Facebook Icon Twitter Icon

New Horizons Shop

Featured Item: Research-Based Strategies to Ignite Student Learning: Insights from a Neurologist and Classroom Teacher

By Judy Willis | Purchase

Visit the New Horizons store on for more selections

New Horizons store on