There is little question that the world is in the midst of a profound process of cultural change. In the past five years, with the end of the Cold War, all the old international certainties seem to have come unglued as humanity gropes for new ways to be with itself and with the Earth. The pressure for change is intense. Consider:
* The human species is close to reaching the Earth’s ecological limits.
* The massive arms build-up of the Cold War is still spread across the globe; we have hardly begun to deal with its side-effects – bankrupt economies, a poisoned environment, and fear.
* Population pressures, economic disparities, environmental degradation, and ill-conceived development policies are disrupting communities and whole societies, and drive migration both within and between countries and regions.
* Global communication is spreading the cultural influences of the West, eroding ancient cultural traditions. But the same technologies are making possible a planet-wide response that draws on the wisdom of cultures worldwide.
In a situation this dynamic, there is no question that there will be change; the question is what direction that change will take. If there is to be any hope of a humane and sustainable future emerging from this caldron, we’ll need to envision and develop fundamental alternatives to many major worldwide institutions. We’ll need realistic answers to questions such as:
* What types of exchanges and trade foster self-reliance and cultural integrity, while building on the synergy found when we cross borders?
* What economic forms can reconnect us to the natural environment and to community, and meet our material needs? * How can we democratically manage those issues that must be addressed at a global scale? What is the right distribution of governance among local, regional, and global scales?
* How do we prevent the escalation of conflict into violence? How do we keep small groups from using force to impose their will on others?
This issue is an early exploration of this vital territory. We hope it will inspire you to join in that exploration. It’s becoming increasingly clear that our visible "leaders" are actually followers, and it’s up to all of us to envision and to experiment with the institutional changes that will make a better world possible.