Creating social change,  What We Can Do series

The Third Great Revolution

Eco philosopher Joanna Macy declares we are in the midst of the Third Great Revolution in the history of mankind (“Joanna Macy on the Great Turning,” 2007).

In Macy’s view, the “First Great Revolution” was the Agricultural Revolution, when mankind shifted from being hunter-gatherers and nomads, moving around in small bands or tribes, to an agricultural existence. Not only did this mean shifts in how we derived our food, but also changes in our social structures. Suddenly we were settled in one place, no longer moving about the landscape. At that point systems of government began to form. Cultural stories changed to reflect humanities new reality. Humanity began to view the human role in relationship to the Earth quite differently.

Macy calls the Industrial Revolution the “Second Great Revolution” in the history of mankind. At that point in human history, great numbers of people left the land and came to settle in cities. People began to derive our food through commerce and economics, rather than growing for ourselves and our family. Again, there were shifts in ideas about governmental systems. Suddenly there were larger numbers of people concentrated in one place which required changes in governmental systems. And there were shifts in our social stories our cultural stories. As we as humans left the land and settled into the cities, our ideas about human relationship with the land shifted yet again.

Macy tells us we are currently in the midst of the Third Great Revolution in the history of mankind. it’s happening all around us. Some people call it the Sustainability revolution, other people call it the Green revolution, and of course there is the name we’ve been using in this series, The Great Turning. It’s unfolding all around us.

Macy points out the timeline: The first great revolution took a considerable amount of time, perhaps thousands of years. The second great revolution took place over a much shorter time frame, a few hundred years. This third great revolution is happening very, very quickly.

Macy’s work, and the work of others we’ve presented in this course, help us to understand that, again, there will be shifts in everything from basic lifestyle habits, to philosophy and assistance of government and. Our cultural stories are likely to shift, in fact we are already seeing a shift in literature and film that reflects new ideas. And Macy points out that were overdue for redefining the human understanding of our relationship with the earth.

Reflection – Third Great Revolution

Realizing that we’re in the midst of this third great revolution, this Great Turning, can get overwhelming. Joanna Macy’s organization, The Work that Reconnects, helps people cope.

As a first step, Macy urges us to start from gratitude. What are you grateful for, in the life you’ve lived thus far? What are you grateful for, in the elements of the “life sustaining society” that might be becoming apparent around you?

Recommended video – Sherri Mitchell

Our blood memory tells us – Rowen White

As Indigenous peoples, living already in a post apocalyptic reality, our blood memory tells us there are other ways to live on this earth in an economy of abundance that doesn’t destroy that which we love and are intimately and actively in a mutually reciprocal relationship with.

I think a lot about my role in the circle of care in these times. In the geoanatomy of the movement towards liberation, I like to think I am circled up with those who help tend the heart, while we work in concert and cooperation and mutual reciprocity with our other relatives who tend, dream, imagine and conjure up solutions in other forms.

– Rowen White, Mohawk/Kanienkeha:ka seed steward (White December 19, 2020)

Let me know what you think.

This post is part of the What We Can Do series — see the full project.