1967, The Summer of Love, The Club of Rome and Now
A half-century ago, the hippie movement reached a milestone when roughly 100,000 people converged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighborhood for the Summer of Love. The cultural movement of the “flower power people” promoted peace, love, sharing, caring, meditation, anti-consumerism, suspicion of government, “dropping out,” the use of mind-altering drugs and Vietnam War protests. The creative works developed during that period — songs, poetry, art, fashion — are instantly recognizable and still reverb to this day. The greeting “peace” and the peace sign — holding up the index and middle fingers in a V — have been passed on to the next generations. The peace symbol, adopted from Britain’s Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament in the 1950s and ’60s, has become one of the most globally recognizable marks. Ultimately, the outpouring of resistance against the war in Vietnam helped turn the tide and end the direct involvement of U.S. troops in that conflict.
While eclectic youngsters converged in San Francisco, a different type of crowd gathered in Rome in: businessmen, scientists and politicians, who formed the Club of Rome. Their main concern was that diminishing resources couldn’t keep up with the world’s exploding population. In other words, the world was on an unsustainable path that would ultimately lead to an unsolvable crisis. Members of the club did not trust the common thinking at the time: Capitalists relied on the market system and the Communists on technology to solve all problems. Their report “Limits to Growth,” published in1972, sold 30 million copies and became the world’s best-selling environmental book. The thought that growth is not limitless contradicted all common assumptions at the time. Unfortunately, the acceptance of a continuously growing U.S. federal debt is still based on the fallacy that we can afford to take on more debt because the overall economic output will continuously grow, with no limits in sight.
So now, 50 years later, where are we?
- We’re still at war. The occupation of Afghanistan will be our nation’s longest, and, combined with our involvement in Iraq, our costliest intervention overseas with no clear solution in sight.
- Twenty-nine states have legalized to some degree the use of marijuana, in part thanks to the legacy of that decade.
- The nuclear arsenal has not been disarmed. Russia, the U.S., the United Kingdom, France, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea — and possibly Israel — all have active nuclear warheads.
- Capitalism versus Communism: Both systems have proven to be inadequate.
- The Club of Rome was right after all. The population explosion continues and natural resources are becoming scarce. To make things worse, global warming is becoming the existential crisis of the century.
In a world where we are oversaturated with hate and violence and the earth is literally burning underneath our feet, a global peace and sustainability movement is just what we need.
But one summer of love is not going to do it. We need a decade of total commitment to humanity, a time when we can freely share ideas and resources across ideological, religious, gender, race and geographic boundaries toward a less violent, less cruel, just and more human world. Imagine if we were free from political aspirations, government red tape and corporate greed and could put all our efforts and resources toward that goal. Peace, as simple and idealistic as it may sound, will prove to be an essential condition if we want to start forging a path toward saving our civilization.