A Wholistic Paradigm for Sustainability A new way of thinking is emerging that may help solve some of the serious environmental, economic, and social problems that must be engaged to create a sustainable world.
The scientific, reductionist, individualist modern paradigm, with social workers in the expert role, has led to many benefits and costs in today world. The emerging wholistic paradigm is based on interdependence, partnership, cooperation, and respect for the earth and all beings. Social workers in the role of partners are using approaches like systems theory, client strengths, partnership, and empowerment that reflect the wholistic ray ban cockpit paradigm. These wholistic social workers may also make use of other theories and methods such as chaos theory, fractal geometry, intuitive thinking, and practice wisdom to fulfill the profession responsibility to help create a sustainable world. The environmental, social, and economic problems facing our world are legion: global climate change, economic crises, worldwide poverty, unemployment, foreclosures, wide disparities in wealth, toxic pollution, loss of indigenous cultures, species loss, soils poisoned and lost, diabetes and obesity, exploitation of immigrant and other low wage workers, to name but a few (Goleman, 2009). One of the most critical problems is the changes in global climate resulting from the burning of fossil fuels that threaten civilization and may make the earth unliveable for humans by the end of this century (Meta et al., 2007). Problems like these have developed under the modern reductionist paradigm way of thinking that has guided industrial development for hundreds of years. These problems are so complex, interrelated, and systemic that the traditional tools of the modern paradigm, such as scientific analysis through specialized academic disciplines, are no longer sufficient by themselves to meet the challenge of finding workable solutions. Einstein familiar statement, can solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them, (Senge, 2006, p. 10) suggests the need for altered ways of thinking, a shift in paradigm, and new tools of analysis. A paradigm is more comprehensive than a theory. It is a worldview, a way of thinking about problems, a way of conceptualizing the world based on values and assumptions that shape ideas and actions (Mary, 2008). Sustainability means, in the classic United Nations Brundtland Commission (Bruntland, 1987) definition, the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs (EPA, 2009, p. 1). For this paper, sustainability is defined broadly to include not only environmental concerns but also economic and social justice issues triple bottom line now being adopted in the business community. Sustainability is creating and maintaining institutions, communities, economies, and societies that can coexist in harmony with the natural world and with each other far into the future. In addition to the shift in paradigm, some new rediscovered and tools of analysis are needed to move toward understanding and creating a sustainable and just world. For example, Euclidean geometry and modern organizational theory are inadequate to describe large, complex natural and organizational systems. Fractal geometry and complex systems theory, also called chaos theory, provide better and more accurate models to describe systems such as these, which follow an organic change process (Hudson, 2000). This paper will describe the modern paradigm and its outcomes, then consider what the alternative wholistic paradigm looks like and how it can support sustainability and social justice initiatives. The implications of using the wholistic paradigm for social work and other change efforts will also be explored. This shift in paradigms also implies a shift in the social worker role from that of expert engaged in evidence based practice to the role of a partner working with clients to mutually create solutions so that clients also gain skills and power. Notice several caveats: 1) that this analysis uses the tools of the traditional modern paradigm such as linear prose, rational analysis, and dualistic thinking because they are useful and they are the tools of the academic world; 2) there are, of course, other paradigms than ray ban 2012 the two described here, but these two are characteristic of western civilization and useful for this paper; 3) the shift in paradigms goes back to antimodernism in the early 20th Century (Jackson Lears, 1981), and many in social work and other change oriented areas have already adopted elements of the wholistic paradigm; 4) and any attempt to describe an emerging paradigm is necessarily incomplete since the paradigm is still evolving in different minds, in diverse cultures, and in different living situations all over the globe. It is the task of the reader to critique, refine, and move this discussion forward in new directions and in new realms; each in their own unique place, dealing with their own problems, crafting their own solutions, in partnership with others who are also contributing to the process. To begin, just what is the modern paradigm and how has it shaped social work practice? Historically, during the medieval period and the earlier pre historical period, people lived in small communities and nomadic bands so they were in intimate contact with nature most of the time. The material and spiritual worlds were interdependent and these realms tended to overlap in daily life. Knowledge was commonly derived from direct experience, trial and error, historical lessons, intuition, and spiritual revelation. This period embodied a paradigm that was based on ideas about nature, community, and spirituality that were quite different from the modern paradigm that was to follow. A new paradigm came into being with the enlightenment and then with the scientific and industrial revolutions. This paradigm was characterized by the belief that nature and society could be conceptualized as machines with interchangeable parts, including concepts of differentiation and specialization of roles (Schriver, 2003), for example, the idea that children at risk can be removed from their own family, placed in any qualified surrogate family, and thrive. Pink (2006) describes how even the human brain is being analyzed as if it were a machine. It is, of course, culture bound and therefore applies most clearly to western industrial society, although it has pervaded much of the world. First, reductionism involves understanding the whole by analyzing its constituent parts. Second, and related, dualism is a habit of thought that tends to see things as discrete opposites such as male/female, good/bad, for us/against us, either/or. This way of thinking tends to separate people from each other and from the natural world (Coates, 2005). Third, individualism or separatism, related to dualism, leads people to prioritize individual needs over group or family needs and private property over the commons or community property (Bourne, 2008; Donahue, 2001). Fourth, there is a human centered or self centered quality in contemporary Western society that values human needs above those of the natural world and above those of groups other than one own. When humans see themselves as separate its easier to justify exploiting nature (Coates, 2003). Fifth, economic progress and consumption of material goods are widely associated with human well being and personal happiness, in spite of solid research data to the contrary (Lapp 2006). Sixth, science, rational problem solving, and quantitative research constitute the primary methods of generating knowledge in modern times. Scientific knowledge is verified by repeating experiments. This scientific methodology has generated remarkable knowledge about the world. Seventh, Wiebe (2009) argues that efficiency, low cost, and the profit motive are driving definitions of value in a race to the bottom, where large food producers and other corporations drive smaller, local, higher cost, and higher quality producers out of the market. What has this paradigm brought us? Outcomes and Costs of the Modern Paradigm The modern paradigm has led to great progress through the application of technology and the human capacity, and sense of entitlement, to consume natural resources. It has created prosperity, a rising standard of living, and access to material goods for many privileged people. This prosperity has increased human levels of comfort, and has reduced poverty worldwide. Thus materialism has become associated with happiness. Advances in knowledge and technology have led to medical care that has increased life span, decreased infant mortality, and controlled many infectious diseases. New technologies in areas like agriculture, genetics, nanotechnology, and electronics have benefited humans in many ways. For example, advances in fossil fueled distribution systems allow consumers access to inexpensive clothing and out of season foods. The modern, scientific, individualistic, human centered paradigm also has some costs associated with it. Less privileged people are disproportionately vulnerable to some outcomes of industrial society including toxic pollution and its related health costs, escalating energy costs, and global climate change, as exemplified by low income people suffering disproportionately from the effects of hurricane Katrina. Industrial societies have exploited the earth resources and its peoples with practices such as mountain top removal coal mining, pollution of soil and water by industrial agriculture, and utilizing a low wage work force in dangerous occupations (Coates, 2005; Korten, 2006). Individualism, separatism, and domination from power differences and the relatively unregulated profit driven economy resulted in a modern society marked by violence, warfare, economic crises, loss of living wage jobs, an inequitable and costly health care system, great disparities in wealth, and inequality of access to the necessities of life (Eisler, 1995; Mary, 2008; McKibben, 2007). People complain about the stress of modern life. Wheatley and Kellner Rogers (1999) suggest that belief in the Darwinian notion of the survival of the fittest leads to competition and a fear of taking risks since evolutionary adaptations that fail will die. Kingsolver (20009) compares our society to the story of Jules Verne character, Phileas Fogg, who, while trying to travel around the world in eighty days, orders his wooden steamship torn apart to fuel the boiler that has run out of coal as he races across the Atlantic on the seventy ninth day. These seven values and theories define and drive the traditional modern paradigm and today industrial society. How has this paradigm shaped the profession of social work and the role that social workers play? Mary (2008) describes a number of elements of social work that are rooted in the modern, scientific paradigm. The medical model is widely used, particularly in psychiatric social work, and suggests that professionals can fix the problem with expert diagnosis and treatment. This model puts the social worker in the powerful role of expert in relation to what is often called a patient thereby disempowering the consumer of services. Many social workers operate on an individual change model with the focus on solving problems by changing the individual (Coates, 2003; Zapf, 2009). Even licensure categories, such as the Licensed Independent Social Worker (LISW), embrace the individual change model as exemplified by an exam that contains many questions on psychiatric diagnosis and treatment. Evidence based practice aims to create treatment regimes based on logical analysis and scientific research evidence (McNeill, 2006). While it is clearly desirable for social workers to know whether the interventions they use are effective, there are limits to the ability of scientific, usually quantitative, research methods to deal adequately with the multi faceted complexity of human behavior at different systems levels. Reliance on scientific evidence in published journals also casts the social worker in the role of expert and encourages the client to be compliant with the professional prescribed treatment methods. This process generally empowers the social worker more than the client. Since Flexner (1915) called for a more scientific social work, social workers have come to believe they can gain professional status and legitimacy by adopting a modern scientific approach to practice (Coates, 2003). Scientific methodology also can result in a necessarily narrow focus for research questions and methods so that the larger context and complexity of the environment surrounding the person may not be adequately considered (Mary, 2008). So what, then, does the alternative wholistic paradigm look like and how does it affect social work practice? Along with creating remarkable progress and wealth, the modern paradigm has inflicted considerable harm on people, other species, and the Earth. Kingsolver (2009) says, paradigm has met its match (p. 1). Brown (2001) argues for a shift in worldview, similar to the shift that occurred when Copernicus asserted that the earth revolved around the sun and transformed thinking about the place of humankind in the universe. There is another paradigm: the emerging, wholistic paradigm is based on interdependence, partnership, cooperation, sharing of power, use of strengths, respect for nature, and a belief in the unity of all things. Coates (2000) suggests some of the elements of a wholistic, sustainability paradigm when he says that to move toward a more sustainable world, we need a, ideological foundation (that) focuses on interdependence and collectivity rather than individualism, on connectedness rather than dualism, and on holism rather than reductionism (p. 1). Some, using the dialectical approach, would argue that this critique (antithesis) of modernism (thesis) leads to a wholistic synthesis, which is not yet a new paradigm. This paradigm is not new. Social workers and others have been using many of its elements for some time. Many people and organizations already operate under a wholistic paradigm, as they work to build a more just and sustainable society. Actually, the roots of the wholistic paradigm go back to a variety of sources including indigenous peoples, prehistoric cultures (Eisler, 1995), early environmentalists who established America national parks, the antimodernism movement of the early 20th Century mentioned earlier (Jackson Lears, 1981), Carson (1962) seminal book, Silent Spring, which criticized corporations for putting toxic chemicals in the environment, the bioregionalist movement in the 1970s that focused attention on watersheds and spawned the Green Party (Berg Dasmann, 1977), and Pope John Paul II (1990) World Day of Peace message on caring for creation. This wholistic paradigm, like the modern one, is also culture bound and, as such, is most clearly applicable to Western cultures, although it embodies many concepts from other cultures (Mary, 2008). In addition, the two paradigms are not as unique and distinct as this dualistic presentation suggests. They overlap in many situations, as the old ways transition into the new (Fish, personal communication, May 8, 2009). For example, a social worker might give a client with a serious mental illness a DSM diagnosis and support use of medication, while also assisting their extended family in the creation of a multi faceted support system using natural helpers. Both approaches can be used simultaneously to good effect. The values and theories underlying and defining the wholistic paradigm include the following: a commitment to (a) long term sustainability, with a global perspective that sees the Earth as a balanced system, and requires humans to be as intentional about maintaining the conditions for life as they have been about exploiting the Earth resources (Coates, 2000). This approach will require finding a sustainable balance among peoples economic needs, social needs, and the survival of the eco systems that support life. The Great Law of the Iroquois states, "In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation," thus instilling long term thinking (Iroquois, 2009, p. 1). Social workers advocating for such a long term perspective could assist young people in making decisions that consider future consequences. The belief in (b) the unity of all, that is, the belief that the entire planet and universe can be considered one unified system (some would say living system), supports a wholistic way of thinking (Macy, 2009). Elgin (2009) presents evidence that the entire universe is alive. Canda and Furman (2010) describe how the unity of all is a basic concept found in many religions around the globe. The unity of all is often sensed in personal experience such as seeing the photos of Earth taken by Apollo 11 astronauts from the moon. John Seed, a rainforest activist, reported standing between an oncoming bulldozer and a huge tree and realizing that he no longer thought of himself as John protecting the rainforest but as the rainforest protecting itself (Seed, Macy, Fleming, 2007). Social workers who hold this inclusive perception of spiritual awareness may find it easier to work with clients from diverse cultural and religious backgrounds. ray ban This includes both human and non human beings, as well as the idea that humans can be aware of and connected to all these where to buy ray ban eyeglasses levels of being via transpersonal experience (Bache, 2000; Naess, 1989). Progoff (1953) explains how the psychologist Carl Jung viewed humans as deeply connected to the larger world. Deep ecology is broader than the person in environment idea, that has been so important in social work theory, but which tends to be limited to the immediate psycho social environment of the person. Faldet (2009) story of the natural and human history of the Upper Iowa River watershed helps people in that area to feel connected to their place, their bioregion. A therapist might find that people suffering from alienation and loneliness could benefit by becoming more connected to their home community through studying the history and experiencing the natural beauty of the area. (d) There is an important spiritual and moral dimension to the wholistic paradigm.
The concept of the unity of all described above stems from spiritual beliefs common to many religions. People search for meaning and happiness may lead to a shift in values are often religious from materialism, individualism, and wanting for themselves, and toward equalitarianism and involvement with one family and community (Elgin, 1998). This shift represents an opportunity for social workers to strengthen family and community life.
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