Creating Contexts of Meaning for Transformative Learning

Learning as Context

Learning as Context raises awareness about the root causes, necessity, evolutionary direction, and opportunities of our personal and collective transformation for regeneration and thrivability. By applying the Learning as Context perspectives in education, learning becomes more transformative and relevant, while inspiring hope that we can and must co-create a regenerative and thrivable world together. The Learning as Contextperspectives serve as essential conditions and attractors for transformative learning, and inspire our personal and societal development towards regeneration and thrivability.

  • The Anthropocene — Carrying capacities and threshold boundaries offer contexts for sustainability, regeneration, and thrivability.
  • The Noosphere — Global consciousness and unity offer contexts for the new cosmologies and our evolutionary development.
  • A New Renaissance — Rebirth and the emergence of new futures offer contexts for our transformations and future becoming.

1. The Anthropocene as Context

A growing body of research confirms that at the species level, humanity has effectively changed the planet’s geological era, which has shifted us out of the Holocene that began about 11,700 years ago. This new era that is humanly caused is called the Anthropocene.

Harmful Growth and Developmental Disorders

The Anthropocene as context raises serious questions about our learning capacities for regeneration and thrivability, especially where this concerns the Western mechanistic models of growth and development. In fact, one could argue that this reveals serious developmental disorders (Thurm, 2021). Here are some of the key reasons for this bold statement:

  • Our societies grow unsustainably — Our species continues to exceed and harm the critical carrying capacities of our planet by growing exponentially without breaks. We push development at the expense of vital sustainability thresholds (environmental ceilings and social foundations) and ecosystemic boundaries.
  • Our development tends to inhibit healthy self-regulation, adaptation, and autonomy — By driving exponential quantitative growth at the cost of qualitative development, humanity has created artificial growth archetypes that are completely out of sync with our natural world. This generates addictive behaviours, divisions, polarization, and systemic entrapments.
  • Our measures for success and progress are deceptive — As a species we broadcast deceptive self-images with poor self-reflection, and little responsibility for the harm we cause.
  • We lack future wise leadership — We fail to take adequate actions for addressing and stopping our worsening sustainability crisis, despite knowing better and being well informed of all the implications.
  • The belief that our universe is a mechanistic system composed of separate parts and particles that can each be manipulated, dissected, and engineered to best serve humanity’s growing needs.
  • Political doctrines of world and cultural domination, through policies of rapid extractive economic expansion, empire-building, and systems of winners and losers.

Going beyond sustainability

The Anthropocene is the ultimate consequence of our dualistic models of progress through unsustainable growth models and archetypes. When the Anthropocene becomes a context principle for learning we need to be careful not to overfocus on problems and issues. This is also where sustainability (with or without context) can become restrictive as a sole narrative and may actually hinder the necessary engagement for our personal and societal transformations (Smitsman, 2019). The following questions may support a deeper exploration for the Anthropocene as a learning context:

  1. What are some of the main drivers that led to the Anthropocene, and how do those drivers exist today in your life and community?
  2. What could we have done differently to avoid the Anthropocene? What did we fail to learn despite feedback and warnings?
  3. How can the contexts of thresholds and allocations become embedded in learning for regeneration and thrivability?
  4. How can the Anthropocene, rather than it being the hallmark of a destructive species, become the hallmark of a responsible and maturring species?

2. The Noosphere as Context

The Global Consciousness Project

Scientist Roger Nelson, after meeting with Teilhard de Chardin, built on this idea of the noosphere and developed an elaborate research project over 17 years at Princeton University. This project became the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) and served to investigate whether there is indeed such a thing as a Global Mind or Global Consciousness.

A radical new understanding of human learning and development

This fascinating perspective of the Noosphere coupled with the evidence from the Global Consciousness Project (GCP) indicates how our human thoughts and feelings are part of, impacting, and impacted by a larger field of consciousness that fractals out within us as we fractal out within it. The whole notion that our mind is isolated to and originating solely from the human brain, and as if operating separate from our environment, cannot hold in view of this research and the consistent evidence of GCP.

3. A New Renaissance as Context

The word “renaissance” comes from the Latin “renasci”, which means to be born again. From a Western historical perspective, the previous Renaissance period took place from the 14th to the 17th century. It was celebrated as a time of major change and innovation for Europe — a cultural, artistic, scientific, political, and economic rebirth that followed the many hardships of the Middle Ages. A time of ingenious discoveries across the whole spectrum of creative invention. This same Renaissance period also brought untold hardships for indigenous nations around the world while colonization and slavery spread, and nation-states developed their military regimes.

  • The Anthropocene as a context for understanding sustainability, regeneration, and thrivability;
  • The Noosphere as a context for understanding the direction of our evolutionary development, and;
  • The Renaissance as a context for understanding our transformations as a process of rebirth and future becoming.

Imaginal Learning

Humanity, as well as our planet, is going through a deep rebirth, mutation, and transformation, and not just death and collapse. In many ways, this is only the beginning. Learning for regeneration and thrivability also requires an understanding of imaginal states of consciousness and how the imaginal is not just imaginative.


Teilhard de Chardin, P. (1959). The Phenomenon of Man. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.



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