Climbing the Ladder of Awareness

Climbing the Ladder of Awareness, time for alarmReflection is common at the end of the year. Reviewing the Green Living columns for 2014 led me to take stock of almost nine years of consecutive biweekly publication. This is column number 232. Their purpose is to plant seeds of awareness that will grow into positive change in our community. The fruit of those seeds will nourish future generations. It is part of my green dream.

One World, Our World

Writing is a learning process for me. I am grateful to many who continue to illuminate with their knowledge and wisdom. One such person is Rudy Sovinee, founder of the One World, Our World School Program for teaching children about conflict resolution and leadership skills.

One World, Our WorldHis insights into our planetary predicament are thoroughly researched and well-articulated. His program and writings can be found at Teachers are encouraged to take a close look at his program, generously offered at no cost. The videos of his school trainings are wonderful.

Through Rudy, I came across the writings of Paul Chefurka who has written much about our current state of affairs. His Ladder of Awareness defines the stages of people’s understanding and acceptance of our planetary predicament. He offers it freely in the public domain so with gratitude I am sharing it here. There is much more to learn about Approaching the Limits to Growth on Paul’s site:

Climbing the Ladder of Awareness

When it comes to our understanding of the unfolding global crisis, each of us seems to fit somewhere along a continuum of awareness that can be roughly divided into five stages.

#1 – Dead asleep

At this stage there seem to be no fundamental problems, just some shortcomings in human organization, behavior and morality that can be fixed with the proper attention to rule-making. People at this stage tend to live their lives happily, with occasional outbursts of annoyance around election times or the quarterly corporate earnings seasons.

#2 – Awareness of one fundamental problem.

Whether it’s Climate Change, overpopulation, Peak Oil, chemical pollution, oceanic over-fishing, biodiversity loss, corporatism, economic instability or socio-political injustice, one problem seems to engage the attention completely. People at this stage tend to become ardent activists for their chosen cause. They tend to be very vocal about their personal issue, and blind to any others.

#3 – Awareness of many problems.

As people let in more evidence from different domains, the awareness of complexity begins to grow. At this point a person worries about the prioritization of problems in terms of their immediacy and degree of impact. People at this stage may become reluctant to acknowledge new problems – for example, someone who is committed to fighting for social justice and against climate change may not recognize the problem of resource depletion. They may feel that the problem space is already complex enough, and the addition of any new concerns will only dilute the effort that needs to be focused on solving the “highest priority” problem.

#4 – Awareness of the interconnections between the many problems.

The realization that a solution in one domain may worsen a problem in another marks the beginning of large-scale system-level thinking. It also marks the transition from thinking of the situation in terms of a set of problems to thinking of it in terms of a predicament. At this point the possibility that there may not be a solution begins to raise its head.

People who arrive at this stage tend to withdraw into tight circles of like-minded individuals in order to trade insights and deepen their understanding of what’s going on. These circles are necessarily small, both because personal dialog is essential for this depth of exploration, and because there just aren’t very many people who have arrived at this level of understanding.

#5 – Awareness that the predicament encompasses all aspects of life.

This includes everything we do, how we do it, our relationships with each other, as well as our treatment of the rest of the biosphere and the physical planet. With this realization, the floodgates open, and no problem is exempt from consideration or acceptance. The very concept of a “Solution” is seen through, and cast aside as a waste of effort.

My review of 231 past columns reveals a mixture of awareness that includes elements of every level. I plan to make 2015 a year of increasing awareness, sprinkled with lots of love and respect for life. May it be so for you as well.

Additional Information

I think climbing the ladder of awareness is a worthwhile endeavor. One only needs to look around to understand why. Here are links to some of the news I came across recently:

New Study Finds Arctic Experiencing Hottest Temps in Nearly 120,000 Years

It’s amazing to think that humans have already set in effect levels of warmth unsurpassed in 44,000 years and, possibly, 120,000 years. This new information, in itself, is unprecedented. But don’t make the mistake of falling into the false and relative comfort of thinking we only need to worry about the climates of 120,000 years ago. We’re already passing that marker now. As mentioned above, we’ve already released enough greenhouse gasses to at least return Earth to climates not seen in 3.6 million years.”


Greenland 2014: Follow the Water

In Greenland, scientists who wish to understand ice loss will follow the water. Greenland mass loss is rising exponentially and leading to higher sea level rise.

Ice is our planet’s thermal regulation system. Without it, life will be very different, if it can survive at all. Are you climbing the ladder of awareness?


  1. Marsala Rypka says

    Steven, you must feel some sense of satisfaction knowing that for almost 9 years you have written 232 columns in hopes of educating people and inspiring them to make changes in their lives. You are someone who walks his talk and you should feel very proud that about your contribution to the Las Vegas/Henderson community.

    • Thank you for your kind words Marsala. I can always count on your completely unbiased opinion!

      The satisfaction is tempered with the reality that our progress is far less than what is necessary to thrive over the long term, and perhaps even the short term. If ever there was a time to shift into high-gear-as-if-nothing-else-was-more-important mode, it is now.

      As the well-known environmental advocate Lester Brown says, “The planet’s scarcest resource is time.”

  2. This is so true, thanks for the post Steve. And it is at the top where one starts seeing the connections, the patterns and how so many of “our” manmade systems appear to be in opposition to healthy outcomes. As an actualizing species i totally realize how we all have to tell the wake up story, whenever, however, with who ever you can.

    We are so on the tipping point of a greater, healthier, kinder possibility than ever before.

    We can ride through this if we still the fear that has chained us to the very systems now failing “life” itself… and like that is just too dumb!

    • Deborah, my concern is that the tipping point can go either way and that much of what we’ve already put in place (CO2 for example) has yet to manifest in terms of planetary change.

      I love your vision. It is one I once shared. It is not time to give up, but awareness of the gravity of our situation can drive people in that direction. I cannot think of a more serious issue and yet the messages of our mainstream media are still overwhelmingly about trivial things.

      Keep telling your story!!

      • Hi,
        Thanks Steve, the tipping point i was trying to reference is when humans realize that our our connection to the whole of nature and who we are as beings of energy and sensation with the power to actualize beliefs\; when that kicks in that will be a huge change in narrative.
        That you are experiencing synergistic power at the community level in Vegas is that accelerating wake up, like you are the cool kids in the hood!
        Besides the enviro pain, the new narrative is about freeing ourselves from the old lore of “shame and blame, fear as in classic “loss of jobs” to throw people off the trail- don’t let it go to your head, bite the bullet, you can’t fight city hall, money is king this xmas (Western Union”et al” and other propaganda memes, ads that influence our thoughts despite our adult filters.
        I am working it combo style and it is quite amazing what is “showing” up. The experiment is a rush!
        Cheers for a great 2015