Change the World: A Message of Realism and Hope

By Vaughn Lovejoy

Revisiting Irvin Laszlo's "You Can Change the World," plus the 10 commandments of responsible living.
changetheworld“You Can Change The World: The Global Citizen’s Handbook for Living on Planet Earth,” Select Books: 2003 (144 pp.)

Every once in a while a real jewel of a book goes unnoticed. “You Can Change The World: The Global Citizen’s Handbook for Living on Planet Earth” is just such a book.

It comes from the little-known Club of Budapest, an informal association of creative world leaders in art, literature, and the spiritual domains of culture founded in 1993. Dedicated to the proposition that only by changing ourselves will we be able to change the world, the report holds that to change ourselves we will need the insights and perceptions that art, literature, and the domains of the spirit can best provide.

The members of the Club of Budapest use their artistic creativity and spiritual insight to enhance awareness of global problems and human opportunities. Their names are assurance of insight, and their membership in the club is a testimony of their dedication to our common future. The club’s honorary members include Thomas Berry, Sir Arthur C. Clarke, the Dalai Lama, Peter Gabriel, Jane Goodall, Mikhail Gorbachev, Vaclav Havel, Edgar Mitchell, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Liv Ullmann, Sir Peter Ustinov and Elie Wiesel, to name a few.

The introduction, written by Mikhail Gorbachev, begins: “Dear Reader—this global handbook for living on planet Earth speaks to you in person. Indeed, this is a message that is addressed to you and to all of us.” He invites: “Read this book. It helps us to understand the current situation of our planet and to find the path we must take. The relationship between man und nature has become more and more complex and strained; the air has become poisoned, the rivers polluted and the forests decimated. Society is beginning to show the symptoms of sickness. ‘You Can Change The World’ helps us to determine what we must do and how we must do it to ensure our common well-being. The future that confronts us is an open future and all of us can do our bit to decide it.”

Ervin Laszlo, founder and president of the Club of Budapest and author of 45 books that have been translated into 20 languages, begins the first chapter: “The message of this book is simple. We must not wait for fundamental change to come from ‘above,’ from the elected or appointed leaders of contemporary society; meaningful change must come from ‘below,’ from the people who live in those societies. This is a realistic objective…Change will come, because humankind cannot go on as before. War and terrorism are only the tip of the iceberg. The submerged but now increasing body of the iceberg is the growing stress, frustration and hate generated by the impoverishment of our life-sustaining environment and the imbalance resulting from the workings of the world’s economic and social system.”

Laszlo lays out what is happening in the global village by condensing it to a village of 1,000 members and describing conditions for the various members of the village. After explaining the ecological footprints of citizens from different countries on the planet, he concludes: “The bottom line is that our global village is inequitable, full of frustration and hate, and is neither economically or ecologically sustainable. This condition cannot be prolonged indefinitely. We either achieve peace and a higher level of sustainability or risk a global holocaust.
    ”This book shows how to prevent global breakdown and create a global breakthrough. It challenges us to change our way of thinking by challenging what he labels “the five nearly-lethal beliefs. He then offers what he calls “the 10 commandments of responsible living” (see sidebars).

These apparently simple lists are embedded within carefully elucidated explanations shaped by a profound worldview embodying the insights from systems theory, complexity science and general evolutionary theory. Laszlo offers a brief explanation of the new sciences in the appendix; it also contains The Club of Budapest’s Manifesto on Planetary Consciousness and their Statements on War and Violence. A chapter titled “You Can Change Yourself” written by Masami Saionji, chair of the Goi Peace Foundation and The World Peace Prayer Society. The postscript is written by the author of the international best-seller “The Alchemist,” Paolo Coelho.

You must read this book to understand and appreciate that if enough of us take this message to heart we can change the world. Still, even at this late date. And that is a message of realism and profound hope. It is up to us.

Vaughn Lovejoy has been a volunteer and ecological restoration coordinator for TreeUtah since 1990. He has served on the advisory board of the Lowell Bennion Community Service Center since 1997.

This article was originally published on January 31, 2007.