Open Center History: Changing Paradigms in Science, Politics and Society

As we continue our series on Open Center history, we recall our extraordinary symposium organized thirty years ago on the emerging holistic and ecological paradigm. Featuring such brilliant speakers as Fritjof Capra, author of The Tao of Physics, Lynn Margulis, co-author of the Gaia Hypothesis, and the clear sighted and visionary Hazel Henderson on economics,  this was a day to remember. We put it on at Bank Street College in partnership with Berkeley’s Elmwood Institute, and we even had a US congresswoman, the very effective Claudine Schneider, to address new paradigm thinking in politics!


As we remarked in last week’s newsletter, The Open Center’s role in the mid-80’s was to introduce new thinking, fresh holistic perspectives, and a hopeful sense of the way forward to our catalogue readers and to our participants. At that time, Fritjof Capra has just published his comprehensive book, The Turning Point, that made a persuasive case for an emerging new paradigm comparable to those described in Thomas Kuhn’s classic The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. Perhaps the holistic paradigm we embraced so fervently in the Eighties is taking a little longer to make its way into the heart of our culture than we hoped at the time, but for those with eyes to see it can be detected in countless places throughout the world. Of course, mainstream politics continues to be caught in all kinds of mires, and our relentless consumerism continues to heat the planet unsustainably. But the Open Center’s pioneering symposium on Changing Paradigms was a classic event that pointed the way forward to the greener, more aware future which we now know more clearly than ever is essential for humanity and the planet’s well-being.