Book review: Journey to Earthland: The Great Transition to Planetary Civilization

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 14. January 2017 - 18:38

Journey to Earthland: The Great Transition to Planetary Civilization

by Paul Raskin
Boston: Tellus Institute, 2016. 127 p.
free download at

Book review by Arthur Dahl

Paul Raskin, one of the pioneers of planetary perspectives and global scenarios, has updated his thinking from his 2002 essay, "Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead" in his new book "Journey to Earthland: The Great Transition to Planetary Civilization".

With the wide vision of a systems thinker, the book starts with a rapid and comprehensive overview of the past and present in all its contradictions, with great potential for good while teetering on the verge of catastrophe. It then systematically lays out the options for imagining alternative futures, both positive and negative. It reviews the potential actors driving different scenarios, and suggests that the best hope for the future is in some kind of global citizens movement.

Intellectually, Paul Raskin has covered all the aspects of the challenge. He places his hope in a positive vision of the society that can emerge from the great transition. He acknowledges the need for "fundamental changes in both human consciousness and the social model: the inner 'normative realm' and the outer 'institutional realm.'" (p. 47). The necessary values include individual well-being and fulfilment, collective solidarity and equity, and an ecocentric concern for the biosphere and environmental sustainability, all reflecting a longing for wholeness and a growing awareness of global citizenship.

The challenges of building a global citizens movement with unity in diversity are reviewed realistically. The level of trust within the movement needs to be strong enough to overcome proximate differences to sustain the ultimate basis for unity. Parts of the book are written as the view looking back from 2084 on what has been accomplished in the great transition and what remains to be done. It includes detailed discussions of options for governance, the economy, world trade and environmental restoration. On the human side, it explores the use of time, education, spirituality and social justice. The perspective of this journey is that of a pragmatic visionary, of which Raskin is a perfect example.

From a Bahá'í perspective, what is missing in the book is the spiritual dimension of reality. The book provides strong intellectual arguments for ethical values, and acknowledges spirituality as one dimension of human experience, but does not consider the potential of religion to provide the motivating force for the great transition that it argues for so earnestly. Indeed, this may be the missing ingredient that could power the great transition to a planetary civilization laid out in the UN 2030 Agenda and in this well-reasoned vision of the possible futures before us.

Last updated 14 January 2017