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Berlin represents hope in the unseen. It is a city that never gave up on the idea of a rebirth into a united city transcending the politics of hate and division. Berlin stands as a monument to the leadership of a man who was not a radical left-wing politician, but a courageous leader. Chancellor Helmut Kohl understood that too great a degree of inequality makes human community impossible.  

The reunification of Germany would not have been the success it is today without Helmut Kohl's insistence on solidarity taxes payable by those in West Germany, who had benefitted from post-WWII reconstruction and development. Solidarity taxes enabled favourable investments in East Germany to create opportunities for equality and greater equity.  The solidarity approach to closing the socio-economic gap between East and West Germany contradicted traditional capitalist economic development approaches of trickle-down economics. Berlin is a beacon of hope and affirmation that human solidarity is essential for the wellbeing of all on a thriving healthy planet. 

I stand here today as a messenger of hope.  We must lift up our eyes beyond the doom and gloom that is everywhere in evidence. The planetary emergencies triggered by our own acts of commission and omission, are an opportunity for us to lift up our eyes. An opportunity to come to terms with the urgent need to take bold steps to liberate our mindsets from being prisoners of destructive extractive economic systems. Humanity is destined to come back to the essence of its being - an interconnected interdependent species within the web of life. 

What is required of us today is nothing less than a civilisational shift. Changing towards a reconciliation of our wellbeing within a healthy biosphere is not a technical adaptation, nor a transition to a variant of existing systems. Acivilisational shift should be understood as a whole reconfiguration of our cultural, economic, political, and social practices. This shift will take different shapes, at different levels, and in different contexts. It is a metamorphosis or rather a multitude of metamorphoses.  It is this civilisational shift that will pave the way to living the vision of global equity for a healthy planet.

Let us be clear. There is only One Human Race on One Liveable Planet – Mother Earth. There are no other options available to us as a human race. Overcoming the "us versus them" trap, requires engaging in multiple processes of mutual learning across the existing chasms of social status, geography, worldviews, knowledge disciplines and sectors, and generations. 

In my work at the Club of Rome, at the Global Compassion Coalition, within the Planetary Guardians Movement, at the Global Commission on the Economics of Water, I am acutely aware of, and encouraged by the many organisations and individuals who are already working for the emergence and consolidation of regenerative patterns. Most often these shifts to regenerative patterns are being forged in local contexts. The diffusion of these patterns is urgently needed. Butthe process must be different from the conventional "scaling up" of some recipes that have been successful in one place. 

Life has its own dissemination practices that we could designate collectively as "pollination" - a multitude of mechanisms adapted to local contexts. Universal application of responses in varied contexts across the globe has often led to failures that leave those on the receiving end worse off than before. The recognition of pluriversality is essential to open spaces of possibility for mutual learning and the exchange of viewpoints towards a shared vision of the future. It is in such spaces that experiences can be shared, and lead to fruitful resonance across contexts to set off widespread pollination. While all conditions (material and psychological) are important, in human systems the dissemination of new meanings is often the catalyst for change. New meanings are powerful triggers to changing perspectives that lead to sustainable behavioural change.

Robert Costanza, an economist and member of the Club of Rome, in his latest book: Addicted to Growth - Societal Therapy for a Sustainable Wellbeing Future, challenges us as a global society to acknowledge that we are hopelessly addicted to a particular vision of the world and a future that has clearly become unsustainable and undesirable. Costanza urges us to learn the lessons from addiction therapy and behavioural change in general. The key lesson is that we need to engage in conversations and activities to build an alternative shared vision of a sustainable equitable global future essential for a healthy planet. Embracing such a future requires each of us to do the inner work that Aurelio Peccei, the CoR founder, defined as a Human Revolution. Inner work is essential to liberate ourselves from the addiction to unlimited economic growth on a planet that has diminishing limited resources essential for sustaining life on Earth.

My attention has recently been drawn to the work of Marjorie Kelly and her recent book: Wealth Supremacy: How the Extractive Economy and the Biased Rules of Capitalism Drive Today's Crises. She opens the book with Arthur Miller's quote: 'An era can be said to end when its basic illusions are exhausted.' One could hardly imagine a better way to say that: 'The Emperor has no Clothes'. The era of capitalism is being unmasked.

We cannot fix a problem we cannot name. Marjorie Kelly names the unnamed to lay bare the illusions that have kept capitalism alive: "The hidden force driving many crises of our day is wealth supremacy – the bias that institutionalizes infinite extraction of wealth for the wealthy, even as this means stagnation or losses for many. Wealth supremacy in operation is capital bias – the root bias at the heart of the system of capitalism. This system functions as a modern-day colonizing force. Today's empires are portfolios of assets. Their first myth is that they must limitlessly expand."

Marjorie Kelly pierces the veil of "conventional norms" that dignify capital's operating system that promotes wealth accumulation for a few at the expense of the many. This operating system that has already breached six of the nine Planetary Boundaries, is putting at risk the sustainability of our Mother Earth. She ‘names the unnamed’ to enable new meanings to be attached to capitalism's operating system of profit maximisation at all costs as cultural pathology. This naming of the unnamed opens the space for humanity to embrace more life-affirming democratic equitable behavioural patterns of a civilisation that creates livelihoods for humanity in harmony with nature. 


What are the Practical Examples of Effecting Civilisational Shifts?

1.The Earth-Humanity Coalition

How do we reframe research and innovation to catalyse the requisite Shifts? 

The Club of Rome's Fifth Element work-stream in partnership with the International Year of Basic Sciences for Sustainability, has successfully advocated for the declaration of the UN Decade of Sciences for Sustainable Development 2024-2033 (IDSSD). 

The Club of Rome, in collaboration with UNESCO and other partners, is promoting a high ambition program, The Earth-Humanity Coalition, aims at transforming the role of sciences and innovation for sustainable futures through:

  • Establishing a global web of Earth-Humanity Sciences, a network of thousands of trans-disciplinary hubs at local, national and global levels, working on mobilising all sciences to address existential challenges in context-grounded spaces for transformation.

  • Supporting the emergence of a new culture of wellbeing, grounded on leading-edge science and traditional and local wisdom in which relationships, collective responsibility, equity and creativity, are central to a healthy humanity and hospitable biosphere.

  • Reframing the agendas and funding instruments used by public and private actors in the domain of research, innovation, human development and peace. 

  • Conceiving a set of credible and practical instruments of orientation to navigate the processes of transformation towards sustainable development.

  • We are mobilising an initial partnership of several dozens of institutions (scientific unions and academies, research networks and councils, networks of trans-disciplinary scientists and practitioners) to collaborate to kickstart a program of activities and trans-disciplinary hubs aimed at a transformative Decade involving thousands of organisations across the globe. 

2. The New Generational Contract

Can intergenerational collaboration help us shift to long-term, regenerative strategies in business and policymaking? 

This initiative, developed in collaboration with the St Gallen's Symposium, aims to foster equity and mutual support between generations. It serves as a platform for diverse generational actors to come together and develop core principles for the mutually supportive relations between generations. Through our ecosystem, we generate knowledge to learn about seed processes actively achieving intergenerational collaboration. We raise awareness in forums to learn with diverse communities and to promote the role of young people where they can make the biggest difference. 

The Planetary Guardians, initiated by the Elders, under the leadership of one of your laureates, President Mary Robinson, is mobilising a Global Movement of Planetary Guardians. A special emphasis is on young people as the leading generation to secure our planet for generations yet to be born. The Intergenerational Contract networks will be critical anchors of a vibrant global movement of Planetary Guardians. 

3.The Afro-Euro Mutual Metamorphosis

Could Africa and Europe that are geographically, historically and socio-culturally inextricably connected, engage in deeper dialogues to learn from each other, and liberate the future from frameworks still inspired by colonialism and a conventional vision of development? 

We are cultivating an ecosystem encompassing individuals, universities, multilateral organisations, businesses, and civil society, to facilitate intra- and inter-continental dialogues. These dialogues are fertile ground for unearthing direct pathways to tackle the most pressing challenges, and to create a long-term process of mutual learning and transformation. Our themes and focus areas include:

  • Empowering young African leaders in governance to lay the foundations for just global cooperation and stewardship of the commons. 

  • Building a future African business landscape by creating accessible learning opportunities to promote systems thinking capacities and pathways to regenerative economies.

  • Engaging with existing Afro-European dialogues and convening new ones, to reframe the conventional "developed-developing" approach into mutual learning and just transformation. 


We have a great opportunity to harvest all the science – ancient and modern – to engage in civilisational shifts across spaces and contexts, to emerge from the multiple planetary emergencies upon us with a vision of global equity for a healthy planet.

Each one of us across the globe has important contributions to bring to the urgently needed civilisational shift. Let us draw courage from, and celebrate the sterling work being done by indigenous peoples and communities all over the world.  They constitute 6% of the global population yet protect 80% of essential biodiversity and ecosystems. We need to champion the redirection of significant investments to support this life-giving work.

The ecosystem services rendered by indigenous communities set the example for us to learn how to work with nature, rather than work against it. This is the civilisational shift needed to secure wellbeing for all, an equitable world, and a healthy planet.


Thank You

Mamphela Ramphele

Member of CoR, Chair of Desmond Tutu IPTRUST/ Chair of Global Compassion Coalition. 



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