by Paul Niquette
Copyright ©1996 Resource Books All rights reserved.

paradigm n. 

    A list of all the inflectional forms of a word taken as an illustrative example of the conjugation to which it belongs. 
    Any example or model.
Today's problems include...
  • those of the sky (ozone layer and greenhouse effect),
  • those of the air (smog and fission products),
  • those of the sea (spills and sewage),
  • those of the land (demolished forests and endangered fauna), and
  • those of the waters (toxic effluvia and nuclear waste);
problems at the level of...
  • nations (armed conflicts and famine),
  • cities (urban decay and homelessness),
  • neighborhoods (crime and overcrowding),
  • families (infant mortality and child abuse), and
  • individuals (addictions and ignorance).
Where should we look to find a paradigm for our time?

However dominant, ours is a novice species.  The problems are new to us.  Rachel Carson's landmark book Silent Spring, you will recall, became popular in the mid-1960s; the first Earth Day did not take place until 1970.  Limits to Growth appeared about then, triggering paroxysms of scorn for its conclusions more than thoughtful consideration of the paradigms on which they were based.  Computer modelling illuminated global complexities and wishful thinkers were blinded in its light.

The late Thomas Kuhn appropriated a nifty word for the expression "paradigm shift" in his 1962 essay entitled "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," a radical manifesto bent on liberating science from the cold language of logic.  Don't get me started.

The fun has gone out of the problems, now that they are so widely recognized.  Whether it qualifies as a relevant mind, the one I own has suffered a chronic preoccupation with environmental matters.  My feeble voice could be heard giving speeches about non-replenishable natural resources at UCLA in the early 1950s and later in management seminars.  Audiences smirked.  The word "ecology" lived only in dictionaries.  And the word "paradigm" was used only by people who knew what it meant.

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