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When the price of oil first hit $70 recently, the sudden spike in prices hit most economists unawares. The previous highs of around $40 a barrel had been considered by many experts to be a ceiling; as recently as five years ago, oil was trading between $10 and $15 per barrel, and the internationally respected journal The Economist forecast prices below $10 for many years to come.

The high price of oil has rippled through the economy, resulting in higher gas prices for consumers, and higher production costs for manufacturers. Both groups have been forced to look hard at how their personal behavior affects the whole picture, from the increased oil consumption that results from unnecessary trips, to the popularity of gas guzzling SUVs.

Our individual actions can make a huge difference in the global picture in every way, according to the authors of a new book, Healing the Heart of the World (Elite Books, hardback, ISBN 0-9710888-5-3, Drawing on recent discoveries in science, psychology, economics, education and medicine, they point out that seeing the links between the planetary ecosystem and our own backyards, according to physicist Fritjof Capra, “involves several shifts of perception that go against the grain of traditional Western science and education.” These shifts counteract what Prince Charles, another contributor, calls “a one-sided approach to economic development which fails to take account of the inter-relatedness of creation.” Best-selling therapist John Gray talks about both facing our problems honestly, and forgiving ourselves; “working through problems in a setting where people don’t have to be perfect, where forgiveness is a part of everyday life.”

Along with forty other contributors, they show that there are many ways in which our daily acts can contribute to the wellbeing of the whole. Coming from one perspective, such a message might sound unrealistic, but when the voices of so many experts from different disciplines are joined together, the composite picture points towards the possibility of a profoundly hopeful future for humankind, as small individual acts of conscience and responsibility—social and ecological—accumulate to produce huge shifts in communities and the environment.

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