The psychologist Erik Erikson wrote about psychosocial stages of development during the life course of an individual. According to Erikson, a person’s life is characterized by periods of stability that are predictably interrupted by a developmental crisis, which can be either successfully or unsuccessfully challenged. If successful, the individual will experience personal growth and move towards the next stage of development. Erikson’s theory was highly individualistic and he did not seem to develop a compatible model for group or societal development. This same criticism may also be leveled at many psychological models during this time, including Maslow’s famous pyramid of individual needs.
But let us look one major social crisis of our time, a global crisis that is due to our collective development: climate change. Can we view climate change as a crisis that can either be successfully or unsuccessfully challenged? What are the possibilities of societal growth–or stagnation–that are at stake here? Of course, there are several big-picture concepts at play here: environmental rights, consumerism, property and land rights, national and corporate responsibility. In many ways, the ideas and concepts formed during the age of imperialism and settler-colonialism have exhausted their utility. As we strive to move beyond the problems in our atmosphere, can we take the lessons learned into the planetary bodies that are out there, within reach of our visitation and settlements? As popular fiction foretells, our ability to avoid the disappointments of the past may depend on new growth and development–not just technological, but social and cultural.