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Our featured author this week is Elisabet Sahtouris, an eloquent teacher of evolution biology and also a futurist. Like many of us, she senses that global transformation is underway in our hearts and minds, our communities, and slowly in our social institutions. In Ecosophy: Nature’s Guide to a Better World, in the current issue of Kosmos Journal, she suggests that greed is in decline:
“We know there is something obsolete, something hopelessly immature, about the competing and fighting and grabbing going on at the highest levels of human society. After all, those are the very things we teach our children not to do to each other. /Love and other values lost to consumerism are pouring back into our lives like fresh water. /Caring and sharing are replacing competing and grabbing, in no small measure due to the increasing empowerment of women, who have always held these values.”
But recently there has been alarm expressed in the global transformation movement that our principles of caring and sharing are being increasingly co-opted in service of exploitative business practices and that our grassroots efforts are being obscured by capitalism. Certainly we have seen this relative to “green economy”, as James Quilligan reminds us:
“There are a lot of people out there saying ‘all we need to do is put money into creating green energy and that will create jobs for people and will ultimately clean the environment and ultimately do everything we want – so what is the hang-up? /This is why sustainable development is failing – because it has been translated into market-based terms.”
In When Sharing Isn’t Caring, Nathan Schneider looks at the infusion of corporate business models into the sharing movement. Looking at examples such as Zipcar and Airbnb, he asks who is benefiting from these models.
“Sharing could lead the way to a more just and sustainable society, one in which we consume less and collaborate more. But it could also be a means for Big Business to creep even more fully into our lives, exploiting our relationships with one another and turning every attempt at generosity into an act of consumption.”
Can values really be co-opted that easily? The principles of sharing and service to humanity are ones we hold personal and dear. We have seen these kinds of concerns arise in the recent past around the wholesaling of mindfulness and meditation practices to corporate America. Not to mention the multitudes of training programs, seminars, courses, and self-help guides all promising to put us in touch with our personal power – at a price. In an article on New Monasticism, V.K. Harber says:
“Inner Peace is the product and people are buying. Trite slogans abound, serving the purpose of making a person feel as though they are on the path to some form of enlightenment, without asking anything of them.”
And yet, would we prefer not to see some of these practices enter the mainstream at all? Are we being commodified to the point of irrelevance? Or is it also possible that these are unavoidable ripples in the process of change? After all, no one owns the concepts of “sharing” or “interbeing” and each of us must decide for ourselves whether we are embracing these values authentically.
Living authentically is a theme of Europe in Transition: Local Communities Leading the Way to a Low Carbon Society, a comprehensive report by the European Association for Information on Local Development (AEIDL). The report examines transition as an intentional community practice.
In the spirit of true sharing, we send you greetings, blessings and gratitude.
By Elizabeth Sahtouris
The most exciting and beneficial things I believe happened to humanity in the past century were physicists’ recognition that “the universe is more like a great thought than like a great machine”1 and astronauts lifting far enough from Earth to see, feel and show us how very much alive our planet is. Those events led to a wonderful sea change from the older—and rather depressing—scientific story of a non-living material universe accidentally giving rise to all within it, devoid of meaning or purpose.
The new view, revealing a conscious universe and a living Earth in which we are co-creators, takes us out of fatalistic victimhood to becoming consciously active agents of our destiny! It lifts the fog of our self-image as consumers of stuff, giving us awesome rights and responsibilities to live out our full co-creative humanity.
We humans always have been and probably always will be storytellers. Whether we create our stories from the revelations of religions or the researches of science, or the inspirations of great artists and writers or the experiences of our own lives, we live by the stories we believe and tell to ourselves and others.
Story, in the modern world, lost its importance as we assumed that science could tell us the truth, while story never did. But science was long based on the assumption of a reality independent of humans—a material universe that could be studied without interfering in it in any way. When physicists discovered that all the universe was composed of energy waves and that every instance of our human reality was a wave function collapsed from sheer probability by a conscious observer, everything changed.
By Rob Hopkins, Post Carbon Institute
One of the most fascinating recent studies into the impact of Transition was Local Communities Leading the Way to a Low Carbon Society, a report published by AEIDL (Association Européenne pour l’Information sur le Développement Local. It looks at Transition, permaculture and ecovillage networks, what it calls the “Silent Revolution”, “a potentially powerful driver of pro-environmental behaviour change”. The Post-Carbon Institute caught up with Eamon O’Hara, who created the report, to find out more about it, and about his conclusions.
How did you create this report, and what research did you do for it?
I have been working at European level on programmes and initiatives dealing with local development for almost 20 years now and around 2008/2009. I started to become more aware of Transition and other similar movements that were developing around Europe. It struck me at the time that not much was known about these grassroots movements at European level, at least in Brussels, where I was based at the time.
There was some really great work being done, some great examples of local projects and communities that were transforming themselves, but it was off the radar for many people. Of course there was nothing abnormal about this. These were grassroots movements, developing organically at their own pace and normally this would be fine. But climate change and the drive for sustainability are issues that need urgent responses, so it seemed to me to be important to try to promote awareness and a wider replication of these initiatives in communities across Europe.
From other programmes I worked on I knew there was considerable experience, and tools and methodologies, that could be drawn on to facilitate the exchange of good practice and ideas, but a necessary first step would be to build awareness around this movement and its potential. Over the next couple of years I began to make contacts within Transition, the Global Ecovillage Network and within other community-based initiatives focusing on climate change and sustainability. Then, in 2012, I received support from AEIDL, a Brussels-based association that I have worked closely with for many years, to carry out a preliminary study.
This study was a combination of desk research and interviews with key people in the countries targeted. I focused mainly on 13 countries where I knew there were community-led initiatives focusing on climate change and sustainability. The study was essentially a mapping exercise, focusing on, firstly, identifying initiatives where they existed, and then trying to better understand the scope and scale of their activities. I had a limited budget, so this study was by no means exhaustive but I think it was an important first step in terms of developing an understanding and awareness of this fledgling movement.
By Nathan Schneider
In the beginning, there was sharing. That, at least, is the story according to Dominik Wind, a German environmental activist with a genial smile and a cycling cap whom I met in Paris while attending a conference earlier this month about the sharing economy. Years ago, out of curiosity, Wind visited Samoa for half a year; he found that people shared tools, provisions and even sexual partners with their neighbors. Less encumbered by industrial civilization, they appeared to share with an ease and forthrightness long forgotten in the world Wind knew back home.
Wind and I got to know each other while splitting a stranger’s apartment that we found through Airbnb. Thanks to platforms like this, sharing is on the rise in urban centers. Capitalism’s creative destruction may have ravaged our communities over the centuries with salvos of individualism, competition and mistrust, but now it wants to sell a sense of community back to us.
By V.K. Harber
I am many things: a woman, a yogi, a mother, a spouse, a writer. I am also a contemplative. Before you begin imagining me serene and peaceful, clothed in flowing robes and residing on a mountaintop, allow me to tell you straight away: I’m not that kind of contemplative. No, I am elbow-deep in the business of life and all the mess and beauty that it entails: family, children, sex, love, relationships, and work. I am a new monastic.
Central to my interpretation of new monasticism is the acknowledgment that we cannot effect change in the world unless we are deeply and wholly engaged with it, embracing it at every turn. The goal of the new monastic movement is not only personal transformation for the individual, but radical social change. From where I sit, personal transformation that does not motivate one to become actively engaged in the work of healing and rebuilding our broken systems is not what the world needs right now. This feels especially true both as I reflect on my own experiences and those of other women within these systems, as well as when I consider the futures of my children. I cannot help but see the urgency, the necessity, of engagement. Even if my spiritual practice led me to a place of personal contentment, how could I be content with the state of the world?
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