UN projections show global population reaching 11 billion—and the world economy growing by 500%—by the end of this century. Can the planet accommodate 4 billion more people when our current ecological footprint already exceeds Earth’s biocapacity by 60%? This question will preoccupy humanity throughout this century. Our mission is daunting: Somehow, we have to support 50% more people and raise billions out of poverty and reduce our ecological footprint to the sustainable level last found in 1976, when we were just 4 billion.
Clearly, humanity has to change direction. Yet every facet of our social-economic-political order—indeed the totality of the dominant global culture—programs us to maintain the status quo: perpetual material growth. Current models cannot generate the level of change that is demanded. Only a dynamic, grassroots capacity-building process, involving individuals, communities, and institutions, in neighborhoods and villages everywhere—linked together on a global scale—can make this transformation succeed. Making the world work for 11 billion people will be humanity’s greatest challenge. That we will unite to meet this ultimate challenge is neither a utopian vision, nor even a matter of choice. It is the next, inescapable stage in human evolution.