Nurturing Connected Consciousness in the Anthropocene: Addressing Calls for Cultural and Spiritual Transformation as a Path to Personal, Collective, and Planetary Health

A special issue of Challenges (ISSN 2078-1547).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 October 2024 | Viewed by 3975

Special Issue Editors

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Guest Editor
Health Sciences Center, UNM College of Nursing, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001, USA
Interests: climate change and health; equity and justice; nature connection; wellbeing; planetary health

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Guest Editor
1. Founder and director of the Narrative Medicine and Planetary Health course at the Integrated Program of Kasr Al-Ainy (IPKA); Cairo University, Cairo 12613, Egypt
2. Medical Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, Cairo University, Cairo 12613, Egypt
3. NOVA Institute for Health of People, Places and Planet, 1407 Fleet Street, Baltimore, MD 21231, USA
Interests: medicine and humanities; arts and culture; with an emphasis on promoting holistic health; well-being; planetary health education

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Guest Editor
Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
Interests: nature-based interventions; forest therapy; human health and wellbeing; effects of integrative therapies; complex interventions; holistic retreats in natural settings; fostering the role of expressive arts in development of personal, interpersonal, and planetary health

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Guest Editor Assistant
1. CEO and Founder of AHAM Education Inc., Tamarac, FL 33321, USA
2. Chair of the Mind Body Resiliency Coalition of Broward, Committee of the Broward Children's Strategic Plan, Children Service Council of Broward, Lauderhill, FL 33319, USA
3. Adjunct Professor of Social Sciences, Ana G. Mendez University, South Florida Campus, Orlando, FL 32822, USA
Interests: healing peoplethe planet; the role of spirituality; indigenous practice and secular contemplative; mind-body/mindfulness practice; mindful climate justice activism; youth empowerment leadership; advocacy for social, emotional, and planetary well-being; women and girls well-being

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Guest Editor Assistant
Intern, Planetary Health Alliance, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston, MA, USA
Interests: urban planning and public health; medical humanities and environmental humanities; mental health and well-being; reflective practice; race, migration, and diaspora

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

We are pleased to announce this Challenges Special Issue: “Nurturing Connected Consciousness in the Anthropocene: Addressing Calls for Cultural and Spiritual Transformation as a Path to Personal, Collective, and Planetary Health.”

This Special Issue addresses the need for deeper exploration of the human condition in addressing the mounting global challenges of the Anthropocene. At this critical moment in human history, it is important to promote and reimagine more intentional spiritual relationships with ourselves, others, and the natural world—recognizing that so many interconnected threats to “people, places, and planet” ultimately stem from erosion of these emotional connections.

The top environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation” James (Gus) Speth, environmental lawyer and advocate.

In most societies there has been a progressive shift towards value systems that promote material wealth, power, fame, and status, at the expense of more meaningful life goals such as personal growth, learning, loving, giving, and caring for others. This is associated with major social trends towards greed, narcissism, anti-social behavior, fragmented communities, growing inequalities, unhappiness, physical and mental ill-health, disconnection from nature, with increasing exploitive and extractive attitudes to the environment.

Tackling large scale destruction and despair requires a spiritual and cultural transformation—a paradigm shift towards more mutualistic worldviews and a higher level of planetary consciousness which recognizes and celebrates connectivity, interdependence, and co-creation. Empowering emotional connections that speak to the heart of shared humanity, may inspire change in more powerful ways than with logic alone. This requires more collaborative spaces to overcome the academic apartheid that separates the sciences, the arts and humanities, culture, and spirituality. It also calls for open-minded, heart-centered activities that elevate “reverence for life” alongside more academic analyses to formulate more holistic perspectives.

It is our hope that this Challenges Special Issue will help contribute to cultural and social changes needed to support flourishing of people, places, and planet. We invite contributions that explore efforts to promote awareness of our interconnectedness, and nurture love, kindness, empathy, resilience, wisdom, restraint, and hope grounded in action. This may include examples of the ways in which enhancing personal growth, emotional intelligence, and spirituality may build more pro-social communities inspired towards collaborative action in the interests of people, places, and planet. It may also include examples of efforts to promote cultural change through creativity, imagination, mindfulness, deep listening, community circles, art projects, storytelling, earth-based spirituality, and other spiritual practices. We welcome efforts to assess qualitative, quantitative, or other experiential measures of personal or collective impact. We also welcome more philosophical explorations, creative contributions, and associated reflections into these issues, including a wide variety of cultural perspectives.

Dr. Heidi Honegger Rogers
Dr. Mona S. El-Sherbini
Dr. Sara L. Warber
Guest Editors

Knellee Bisram
Cindy Xie
Guest Editor Assistants

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All submissions that pass pre-check are peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Challenges is an international peer-reviewed open access quarterly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. Please note that all papers in this special issue will be published free of charge. Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • value systems, worldviews, attitudes, mindsets, materialism, indigenous knowledges, traditional cultures, grassroots initiatives, belief systems, cultural change, co-creation, social change, behavioral changes, tipping points, collaborative emergence
  • spirituality, emotion, imagination, creativity, inspiration, empowerment, self-awareness, connected consciousness, mindfulness, wisdom
  • connections between individual and collective well-being, planetary health, connectivity of systems on all scales, ecology, interdependence, connections between mental and physical health
  • efforts to promote fundamental positive elements of humanity, such as love, hope, kindness, compassion, respect
  • efforts to promote positive actions and caring for others and the world, reciprocity, mutualism, connectedness, appreciation, humility, empathy, mindfulness and compassion, connection to nature, nature-relatedness
  • strategies to promote community cohesion, art, creativity, community initiatives, community circles, narrative medicine, deep listening, spiritual practices, change narratives, reciprocity, mutualism, storytelling
  • evaluating strategies for potential benefits for individuals, communities, and environments

Published Papers (1 paper)

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17 pages, 630 KiB  
Cultivating Pearls of Wisdom: Creating Protected Niche Spaces for Inner Transformations amidst the Metacrisis
by Kira Jade Cooper, Don G. McIntyre and Dan McCarthy
Challenges 2024, 15(1), 10; - 22 Feb 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 2050
The impetus for this paper emerges from the growing interest in leveraging inner transformations to support a global shift in ways of seeing and being. We caution that without sufficient individual and systemic maturity, inner transformations will be unable to hold the whole [...] Read more.
The impetus for this paper emerges from the growing interest in leveraging inner transformations to support a global shift in ways of seeing and being. We caution that without sufficient individual and systemic maturity, inner transformations will be unable to hold the whole story and that attempts to drive paradigmatic shifts in ill-prepared systems will lead to insidious harms. As such, interventions for inner change will not have sufficient protected niche space to move beyond the boundaries of best practices towards wise practices. Drawing on Indigenous trans-systemics, we offer the metaphor of pearls as an invitation to recontextualize how inner transformations are conceived and approached in the metacrisis. To further develop this notion, we share a story of Wendigo and Moloch as a precautionary tale for the blind pursuit of inner and outer development. Weaving together metaphor, story, and scientific inquiry, we bring together Anishinaabe and Western knowledge systems for the purposes of healing and transformation. We hope that this paper will create space for wise practices—gifts from Creator to help sustain both Self and the World—to emerge, establish, and flourish. We invite readers on an exploration into the whole system of systems that are endemic to Anishinaabe cosmology, and a journey of reimagining new stories for collective flourishing amidst the metacrisis. Full article
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