“The greatest revolution of our time is in the way we see the world. The mechanistic paradigm underlying the Industrial Growth Society gives way to the realization that we belong to a living, self-organizing cosmos. General systems theory, emerging from the life sciences, brings fresh evidence to confirm ancient, indigenous teachings: the Earth is alive, mind is pervasive, all beings are our relations. This realization changes everything. It changes our perceptions of who we are and what we need, and how we can trustfully act together for a decent, noble future.
Each system, from atom to galaxy, is a whole. That means that it is not reducible to its components. Its distinctive nature and capacities derive from the interactive relationships between its parts. This interplay is synergistic, generating “emergent properties” and new possibilities, which are not predictable from the character of the separate parts–just as the wetness of water could not be predicted from oxygen and hydrogen before they combined, or just as the tensile strength of steel far exceeds the combined strengths of iron and nickel.
Every system is a “holon”– that is, it is both a whole in its own right, comprised of subsystems, and simultaneously an integral part of a larger system. Thus holons form “nested hierarchies,” systems within systems, circuits within circuits, fields within fields. Each new holonic level– say from atom to molecule, cell to organ, person to family– generates emergent properties that are nonreducible to the capacities of the separate components…”
~ Joanna Macy
Joanna Macy (born May 2, 1929), is an environmental activist, author, scholar of Buddhism,general systems theory, and deep ecology. She is the author of eight books.