With Shared Emotions and Global Empathy, Our Best Days Await
Roger Briggs' "Emerging World" offers simple ways to fix our broken planet.
Posted Apr 07, 2021 | Reviewed by Chloe Williams
A few days ago my longtime friend, Roger Briggs, told me his new book, Emerging World: The Evolution of Consciousness and the Future of Humanity, had been published and he wanted to give me a copy.1,2 I had spoken with Briggs, a retired high school physics teacher with a wide-ranging and deeply inquisitive mind, about his first book, called Journey to Civilization: The Science of How We Got Here, and also this one and I was excited to learn it was now available.
I couldn't wait to read it and my impatience was amply paid off because once I picked it up I couldn't put it down, I had marked up countless pages with scribbles and stickems, and my notes totaled more than 2,000 words. I became reacquainted with many people and also learned about the contributions of many more, some of whom I'd heard about such as Merlin Donald, Arthur Young, and Stephen Jay Gould, and many of whom I'd never previously encountered, such as Jean Gebser, a cultural philosopher and much more (pp. 92ff), who first proposed the integral consciousness (p. 97), and David Korten, a critic of corporate globalization and a member of the Club of Rome (p. 238). I honestly had no idea of how Briggs was going to assemble this daunting puzzle of humans and their ideas, and my learning curve kept rising and still does as I reread various sections of his riveting book.
Following is an annotated review of Emerging World. I hope it encourages you to read this forward-looking and hopeful book, learn why a wide range of people representing numerous disciplines, some of which I never thought of as likely bedfellows, shake hands with one another, and incorporate some of Briggs' suggestions for making the world a place that will spill over with justice for all. Not only is the text a pretty easy read, but so too there are numerous tables and diagrams that I found helpful for explaining principles and ideas I couldn't previously make heads or tails of.
There are two parts to the book: "The Story of Humans" and "The Future of Humanity." The four chapters in Part I are "The Science of Evolution," "Consciousness 101," "Structures of Consciousness," and "The Macro-Stages." The chapters in Part II are "The End of an Era," "Seven Markers," and "Emerging World."
Here are some snippets of Briggs' words of wisdom that demand action, now rather than later on when it might be more convenient to do something to heal our wounded and troubled planet. His suggestions are well-grounded, based on detailed analyses of information from numerous disciplines including evolutionary biology, paleoanthropology, cognitive psychology, philosophy, economics, and sociology — including a much-needed discussion of restorative justice, with which I'm familiar from years of teaching at the Boulder (Colorado) County Jail. (p. 256).
- We live in a big world on a small planet, our current is not sustainable, and we need a new relationship with Earth.
- Consciousness is behind everything humans have done, are now doing, and are capable of in the future.
- Material, reductionist scientistic views cause fragmentation and alienation and objectify everything. (p. 257) They work against wholeness.
- Increasing evidence shows that the heart is an organ of perception, intuition, and feeling—a secondary brain that tries to work coherently with the domineering cranial brain. (p. 85) [I also take this view in Rewilding Our Hearts.]
- The importance of shifting from a material to a planetary perspective. (pp. 180ff) The book lays out the shifts that will be necessary. This includes moving from centralized power to broad-scale empowerment, dominator culture to partnership culture, coercion to cooperation, patriarchy to co-equality plunderers of the earth to caretakers of Earth, national to planetary, man conquers nature to we are nature, and much more.
- We need to soften our egos (pp. 203ff), and transcend ourselves, following up on Abraham Maslow's later work about the importance of self-transcendence. Briggs notes that Victor Frankl had previously written about the limitations of self-actualization and appealed to the importance of self-transcendence. (p. 209)
- The importance of personal humility (p. 209) and planetary identity (p. 211).
- We are a species on a planet, rather than nations pitted against one another or groups against groups or people against other people. (p. 210) [This made me think about John Lennon's song "Imagine," where he sings, "Imagine there's no countries, It isn't hard to do, Nothing to kill or die for, And no religion, too.]
- The heart is the seat of love, not merely a pump in the machine. (p. 215)
- Doughnut Economics, proposed by Kate Raworth, rather than Gross Domestic Product (GDP) needs to lead the way in the future. (pp. 230ff). The doughnut "serves as a compass for an economics that serves people and planet, rather than DNP" (p. 231) and "sets out an optimistic vision of humanity's common future thanks to its distributive and regenerative design." (p. 237)
- We need to evolve out of material culture to embrace a new spirituality called planetary spirituality that "integrates ancient wisdom with modern science." (p. 258) Planetary spirituality "has one core value all people can share: the sacredness of life and the planet" that's lost in material culture. (p. 260)
- The power of personal choice can't be overestimated. We must be careful about all of the information that's coming down the "big electronic pipeline and straight into the cortex: TV, streaming services, radio, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and so on." (p. 264)
- We must use social media responsibly. Facebook has 2.45 billion users, Instagram 1 billion, and others are well into the hundreds of millions (pp. 278-279). Far too much information is unvetted and passed on as if it's fact, when a bit of research and a dose of common sense shows it's not.
The importance of community, emotion, and heart
We don't have to be afraid of opening up our hearts and using compassion and emotion to work collectively as a unified community for a better future for our lovely planet and all of its residents. Shared emotions are the "social glue" that are fundamental to cleaning up the plethora of messes we've made. Some people cringe when they read or hear something like this because of their scientistic and materialistic views, but there are many good reasons to think of emotion as a source of moral understanding and to view compassion as a core value for how we interact with other individuals, nonhuman and human alike.
Briggs' eclectic book truly is a wild ride (p. 2) and a fascinating and thought-provoking journey. I could easily go on and on but I'll let you follow up on these and other ideas. What the above snippets and many others ideas in Briggs' book mean is that we're all in "this" together, "this" meaning creating the messes that are globally rampant and working hand-in-hand and heart-in-heart to make this a better world for all. It is crucial that we recognize a community of humans in an emerging world whose trajectory doesn't look all that promising. He also emphasizes that all individuals matter and can help Earth and all of its residents. His suggestions include: stabilizing Earth's human population, driving less, eating less meat, buying local, exercising your buying power, serving your community, and voting and advocating for candidates and policies that promote justice and well-being for all.
Briggs also writes about the need "for birthing a new civilization that operates within the planetary boundaries and produces well-being for all people and all of life—an ecological civilization. (p. 226) We are fully capable of doing this. We also are responsible for our personal choices. (pp.265ff) Let's hope the choices we make work for generating a newly emergent world in which "we must find each other and, together, help bring it forth." (p. 276)
This isn't asking too much and there are few alternatives. While Briggs offers a lot of inspiration and hope, time isn't on our or on other animals' sides. We've destroyed a staggering amount of our magnificent planet including wrecking the lives of countless residents, human and nonhuman alike, and as time marches on during "the rage of humanity," the situation gets more dire and irreversible.
We owe it to future generations and to ourselves to right the countless wrongs and move on from business as usual. Briggs shows us how to do this in reasonable and practical ways. My humble suggestion is to read his book, read it again, and share it widely.
1) 1) The book's description reads: Why is there so much chaos and suffering in the world today? Are we sliding towards dystopia and perhaps extinction, or is there hope for a better future? What happened in the human lineage over the last three million years that made us into a near-geologic force capable of altering the face of our planet and threatening our own existence? In Emerging World, Roger Briggs explores the evolution of consciousness and shows that this is behind everything humans have done, are now doing, and are capable of in the future. By bringing together the best knowledge from paleoanthropology, cultural philosophy, cognitive psychology, and evolutionary theory, Briggs makes the case that humanity is now on the verge of a major transformation, a monumental turning point in our story. Foreseen by many sages and scholars, this anticipated leap promises a new era of history and culture, and a new civilization on Earth in which the needs of all people are met and we become stewards of our living planet. Yet this is by no means guaranteed. Emerging World offers a new understanding of our crisis today and points the way to a bright future for humanity and life on our planet
2) Roger Briggs has spent a lifetime in the mountains of Colorado and from a young age had a love of nature and science. After studying physics and classics at the University of Colorado, he jumped into the world of public-school teaching at age 22. For the next thirty-two years he was a team builder, program developer, curriculum writer, and a beloved teacher wearing many hats. During this time, he established himself as one of the pioneering rock climbers of his generation. Since retiring from the public schools in 2005, he wrote the book Journey to Civilization: The Science of How We Got Here, a seven-year project, and he founded and grew a local non-profit for public lands stewardship. Emerging World is the culmination of his lifetime of seeking and research that brings both a cautionary and optimistic vision of the future of humanity. Roger lives in Boulder Canyon with his wife MaryAnn and two lovable dogs, Luna and Jasmine.
Batavia, Chelsea et al. Emotion as a source of moral understanding in conservation. Conservation Biology, 2021.
Bekoff, Marc. Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence. New World Library, 2014.
_____. Art Behind Bars: Animals, Compassion, Freedom, and Hope. (A class at the Boulder County Jail inspires students to make positive changes. For More information on this class click here.)