Planetary phase of civilization

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The planetary phase of civilization is a concept defined by the Global Scenario Group (GSG), an environmental organization that specializes in scenario analysis and forecasting. Proponents state that it refers to a current historical transition from a world of capitalist states and consumerist societies to a world of increased global connectivity with new global institutions (like the United Nations and the World Trade Organization), new information technologies, environmental change in the biosphere, economic globalization, and shifts in culture and consciousness. Others[who?] give little credence to the theory and assert that current global economic interconnectedness is a function of advanced technology rather than the emergence of anything new in cultural or sociological terms.


The notion of the planetary phase of civilization rests on extensive sociological and anthropological study done by the GSG. Convened in 1995 by Paul Raskin, President of the Stockholm Environment Institute and Tellus Institute, the GSG examines alternative plausible futures by observing trends in societal change in various domains. Their scenarios, published in a series of essays, have been used in numerous regional, local, and global studies including the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP)’s Global Environment Outlook Series (GEO). The Global Scenario Group synthesized its findings for a non-technical audience in their essay entitled Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead. An October 2005 article in the Monthly Review entitled “Organizing Ecological Revolution” described the current “global environmental crisis” and the GSG’s efforts as “the most ambitious attempt thus far to carry out such a broad assessment” of our current and future ecological situation.[1]

Historical transitions[edit]

In a historical perspective, the planetary phase of civilization is viewed by its proponents as the third significant transition in civilization. Though history is complex and difficult to distinguish, they argue that changes from the stone age to early civilization and then to the Modern Era are the first two macro-shifts in human society and culture. These transitions can be differentiated based on social organization, economy, and communications. The Stone Age consisted of the least complex versions – tribes and villages, hunting and gathering, and spoken language as the only means of communication. The shift into Early Civilization brought more structured city-states and kingdoms, settled agriculture, and writing. Society became more complex in the Modern Era with nation-states, industrial systems and printing, which enhanced communication and further increased the complexity of society. Proponents argue that unlike prior transitions, the planetary phase marks a new geologic era, the Anthropocene, in which human activity fundamentally alters ecosystems and the climate.

In Great Transition: The Promise and Lure of the Times Ahead, the GSG argues that historical transitions appear to be accelerating as each successive period lasts for a shorter amount of time than the previous one. It speculates that the current Planetary Phase will last for about 100 years, during which there will be a clear progression in science and technology toward a more complex and environmentally interdependent society. The GSG uses this assumption to create scenarios which lead to varying futures ranging from Breakdown to policy reform to eco-communalism. The GSG contends that the most desirable scenario is a "Great Transition" to an environmentally and socially sustainable global civilization. This scenario, however, depends on the emergence of a global citizens movement as a potential actor to contest the power of transnational corporations and state governments.


The concept of the planetary phase of civilization has become popular in the academic field of environmental science. In "Building a Global Culture of Peace"[2] Steven C. Rockefeller states that "...we have entered a planetary phase in the development of civilization – what the historians call an era of global history." In his article entitled "Paths to Planetary Civilization,"[3] Ervin László describes this planetary civilization as one in which "The consensually created and globally coordinated ecosocial market system begins to function" and "The natural resources required for health and vitality become available to all the peoples and countries of the human community."

This kind of scenario analysis helps analysts think in an organized fashion about future alternatives, key decision points, and possible obstacles to global development. It then becomes possible to determine how to avoid the less-favorable directions and encourage changes to nurture a more beneficial one.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Organizing Ecological Revolution
  2. ^ "Rockefeller" date?. Orion Society
  3. ^ "Ervin László Biography" date?.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ankerl, Guy* Coexisting Contemporary Civilizations: Arabo-Muslim, Bharati, Chinese, and Western. INUPRESS, Geneva, 2000 ISBN 2-8815-004-5

External links[edit]