Financing the Global Sharing Economy

A report by Share The World’s Resources demonstrates how governments could mobilise over $2.8 trillion each year to bolster the global sharing economy and prevent life-threatening deprivation, reverse austerity measures and mitigate the human impacts of climate change. 

To read the entire report, please visit the Share the World's Resources web site here.

Kosmos Digest

Kudos to Stanimirka Milovanovich! She has published the first Kosmos Digest in Serbia. 

This edition will be used in Salons that Stana has initiated in the area and for further study of the new consciousness and civilization arising. She is already preparing for the next newsletter with five transcribed articles from Kosmos selected for a Serbian audience. The people in Serbia are hungering for more knowledge about the new paradigm thinking worldwide as they are in many parts of the world.

To view Kosmos Digest in PDF form, please click here.

If you would like to initiate a Kosmos Digest in your country please contact us at

Overview of the Economics of the Commons Conference


One of the most significant impediments to change is the entrenched power of the neoliberal economic and political paradigm. The prevailing economic dogma is that individual self-interest, expansive private property rights and globalized free trade can solve most social and environmental problems. Many challenge this view, of course, and continue to decry the dysfunctionalities of the market economy, the inadequacies of the welfare state and threats to the biosphere from climate change and resource depletion. But despite the important work of many heterodox schools of economic thought in addressing these issues, few political thinkers and players seem interested in or capable of developing a new political/economic philosophy based on practical alternatives. We are stuck at an impasse. 
“The Commons: From Seed Form to Real Provisioning System,” seeks to open up some new vistas in in political and economic discourse by exploring the economics of the commons as an alternative provisioning system, worldview and vision for the future. Commons-based principles and models have the potential to build a rich array of stable, equitable and ecological alternatives to conventional markets while strengthening communities and networks. Indeed, the proliferation of commons-based models – for natural resources, digital spaces, civic life and many other arenas – suggests the feasibility of a new Commons Sector. This conference seeks to expand and empower this work by helping crystallize the economics of the commons as a coherent field of inquiry and action. The conference will showcase key actors and initiatives, discuss theoretical analyses, identify conflicting schools of thought, and visualize new action-plans for moving forward. 

Any inquiry into this topic is challenging because the very idea of the commons demands that we expand standard economic definitions of “value” especially at they apply to land and nature, culture and knowledge, labor, money, infrastructure, and everyday human life. To understand the commons in these areas, we must understand how different types of social exchange and cooperation create different forms of wealth, much of it non-quantifiable social and ecological in nature. The commons also requires that we address structures of power and control in a political economy, and develop better understandings of how collective governance regimes work. 
Building on the work of those who criticize the mechanistic models of conventional economics, we must consider the complexities of human agency, collective organization, and human relationships with nature. We must move beyond the standard definition of economics as the allocation of scarce resources because this category assumes a priori scarcity, and confuses quantitative and qualitative value and meaning. In a sense, commons-based provisioning implies a profound redefinition of “the economy.” The commons helps us re-connect with the original meaning of “economy,” which derives from the ancient Greek word, oikos, for “household,” the most basic unit of social, economic and governmental action. 
This conference will explore the foundations of a commons-based economics: What makes a commons so generative? What core principles of commoning can be identified across different resource domains? In what circumstances can commons-based provisioning models substitute for conventional markets, or interact constructively with markets? 
To probe these and other questions, the Heinrich Böll Foundation (HBF) in cooperation with the Commons Strategies Group will organize and host a major international Economics of the Commons Conference (ECC) to be held from May 22 to 24, 2013. The event will be preceded several months earlier by three two-day workshops supported by the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation (FPH), each held on different continents in the fall and winter of 2012-2013: for Europe in Paris, in cooperation with FPH and Vecam; for Latin America in Mexico City, in cooperation with the regional office for central America and Mexico of the Heinrich Böll Foundation; and for Asia in Bangkok, Thailand, in cooperation with the Böll Foundation’s South-East Asia office.                                                                                                 
The Organizers 
The Commons Strategies Group and Heinrich Böll Foundation are the joint organizers of this conference, which is an outgrowth of the landmark International Commons Conference in Berlin in November 2010. That event brought together about 180 commons activists, academics and project leaders from 34 countries, and for the first time started a cross-disciplinary political and policy dialogue about the commons in diverse international settings. 
Building on the energy from that conference, CSG has just completed a major book anthology of 73 essays on the commons that has been published in German and English. CSG has also participated in strategic planning for the Rio+20 environmental conference in Brazil in June 2012, and its principals have made dozens of presentations about the commons at various conferences, universities and public events. This Economics of the Commons Conference (ECC) is a logical next step for the CSG in working with networks of commoners around the world to advance the commons paradigm. 
The Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation has supported the attendance of some partners to the International Commons Conference that took place in November 2010 in Berlin and wishes now to continue its support by co-funding the ECC regional consultation process together with Heinrich Böll Foundation. Both FPH and HBF consider the commons a key element for the transition toward commons-based economics and cultures. Both foundations focus their strategic support toward this end, either in cooperation with partners or through their own initiatives. This “cross-granting” partnership between two European foundations seeks to advance a new culture of collaboration among like-minded political actors and funders. Both foundations believe that a culture of dialogue, sharing and common programmatic approaches among grant makers is a necessity. 
We need to formulate a plausible and compelling vision for the future by showing the breadth and feasibility of commons-based provisioning and by forging a coherent public narrative and analysis about it. This conference aspires to speak to the need by: 

  • Convening key researchers, practitioners and advocates from around the world to discuss shared concerns; 
  • Consolidating their knowledge into a common field of inquiry; 
  • Reconceiving our economy as a constellation of commons-friendly provisioning systems; 
  • Developing practical plans for moving a commons provisioning agenda forward; and 
  • Deepening and broadening relationships among key individuals and institutions, including after the conference itself. 

Substantive discussion at the conference will focus on several key themes: 

  • The commons as a way to move beyond economics 
  • Alternative economic/provisioning models 
  • Macro-economic transformations: making the transition to a new type of economy 

A number of specific sub-themes will also be emphasized: 

  • Economics of physical commons: What can we learn from the governance and economics of local physical-resource commons? 
  • Economics of digital and cognitive commons: What can we learn from the economics of digital and knowledge commons? 
  • Financial and credit commons: from local credit commons to transnational monetary reform. 
  • Natural resource commons: How can they help solve the biospheric crisis? 
  • Justice and equity in commons: How does a commons re-conceive the role of labor and its entitlements and responsibilities? 
  • Spiritual (traditional and religious) commons 
  • Issues of governance and power 

The Six Topical Streams 
Land and Nature 
Responsible for stream: Saki Bailey (Italy) 
Money & Value 
Responsible for stream: Ludwig Schuster (Germany) 
Responsible for stream: Heike Löschmann (Germany) 
Culture, Science & Knowledge 
Responsible for stream: Mike Linksvayer (US) 
Responsible for stream: Miguel Said Vieira (Brazil) 
By Miguel Said Vieira: 
One of the main challenges in advancing commons as a solid alternative paradigm is the issue of the infrastructures needed for commons-based projects. How can we, for instance, avoid competition and inequality between different commons in the use and access to this kind of infrastructure, and turn this competition into cooperation? In other words, is it possible to build and manage the infrastructure itself also as commons? We also have to consider the possibility that, while some aspects of infrastructure issues might be tackled in P2P fashion or at the local, community level, others might not: car pooling and distributed power generation help in dealing with transportation and energy dillemmas, but they often depend on roads and power grids, which are typically built by states; 3D printing helps in localizing industrial production, but does not avoid the need for basic industry -- typically provided by markets (and sometimes subsidized by states). In which cases this dependence on states and markets poses problems, and in which cases there are better alternatives available? In which cases it is possible to forgo states --arguably the strongest actor in the provisioning of infrastructure during the last century-- without reinforcing the economic and social inequalities that underpin our society, and how can it be done? Finally, what lessons can we learn from already existing instances of commons-based infrastructure? One case in hand is the logical layer of the internet (its protocols). On the one hand, it is clearly an example of infrastructure that has strengthened other commons-based projects (not necessarily related to the internet); on the other hand, the commons- character of this layer hasn't stopped the arisal of extreme cases of private concentration and state abuse (or state dependence) on the internet itself, in its physical and content layers. How does that translate to other areas of infrastructure? What commons-based infrastructure solutions currently emerging around that realm (mesh networking, decentralized P2P "clouds" etc.) could be adapted to other areas? 
Life, Meaning & Spirituality Responsible for stream: 
Andreas Weber (Germany) 

The Plan for the Conference 
More than fostering an exchange of information, the conference is intended to help build new working relationships, personal commitments, and a group ethic of listening to each other and caring for each other. Active participation by everyone and commoning will be vital. This will be facilitated by an online wiki and listserv, which will include a bibliography of resources, profiles of participants, and other resources to be determined. 
Day One: 
What Does the Economics of the Commons Mean? 
9:00 am – 10:30 am Keynote remarks + two short talks 
Special care will be taken to avoid a “sectoralization” of commons discussion. CSG believes it is important to develop a “general narrative” of the commons that applies cross-sectorally. Even with differences in the rivalrous/nonrivalrous nature of resources, certain principles and ethics of commoning can be seen in each case. 
Rest of day: details to follow 

Day Two: 
From Stocks to Flows, and from Market Assets to Commoning 
9:00 am – 10:00 Recap the principles of commons and core design principles. 
10:15 am – 1:00 Begin two sets of sectoral discussions focused on these resource domains: 

  • Land & Nature 
  • Money & Value 
  • Labor 
  • Culture, Science & Knowledge 
  • Infrastructure 
  • Life, Meaning & Spirituality 

Task force hosts will facilitate breakout groups to discuss specific action steps for synthesizing knowledge, convening key players, publishing strategic documents, organizing institutions and/or the public, etc. 
Self-organized Break 
11:45 am – 1:00 pm 
1:00 – 2:15 Lunch 
2:15 – 4:30 Reconsidering Provisioning Systems 
An un-conference format where participants divide up into specific commons sectors of their own choosing. A key question for each group: What does it mean to reconceptualize that domain (labor, knowledge etc.) as commons? How exactly does needs-based production work? 
4:30 – 5:15 Groups report back to plenary session with five minute reports. 
Day Three 
(for task force leaders and participants who choose to stay) 
How Do We Get There from Here? 
 9:00 am – 1 pm

Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century


Scholars of religion point to “the Axial Age” (roughly the first millennium bce) as the period of the dawn of the great classical religions that we know today. These days, it’s often suggested that we have entered a second great “turning on the religious axis,” a Second Axial Age. If the first brought the individual to the fore, the latter shifts our focus to the global dimension of ethical, religious, and spiritual awareness and action. 

 The great theologian Ewert Cousins believed that the 21st century marked a new evolutionary turning that will reshape religion and spirituality in extraordinary ways. 

If we shift our gaze from the first millennium bce to the eve of the twenty-first century, we can discern another transformation of consciousness. It is so profound and far-reaching that I call it the Second Axial Period. Like the first it is happening simultaneously around the earth, and like the first it will shape the horizon of consciousness for future centuries. Not surprisingly, too, it will have great significance for world religions, which were constituted in the First Axial Period. However, the new form of consciousness is different from that of the First Axial Period. Then it was individual consciousness, now it is global consciousness. 

The “Awakened World 2012” conference will center on the evolution of religion and spirituality in the 21st century. In that process, the Charter for Engaged Spirituality in the 21st Century can serve as an inspiration and a guide as we take up a number of vital questions. What are the most dramatic changes that might be on the horizon for religion and spirituality in the years ahead? What is the promise of our evolutionary age? What are the dangers, the challenges, and the opportunities? What does it mean to be at the threshold of a “Second Axial Age?” What commitments to action can we offer?

To read the entire charter, please download the PDF here.

The End of the Classroom

From LeMonde, November 14, 2012, article by Maryline Baumard
"And the window panes return to sand/The ink returns to water/The desks return to trees...": pictured as a schoolboy's daydream by French poet Jacques Prévert in Page of Writing, in 1945, this process of physical breakdown is now becoming a reality. The disintegration of what seemed to be the very heart of the school–the classroom– is underway. Assaulted from all sides, its walls are collapsing. 

The attacks take the form sometimes of technology, sometimes lack of funding, sometimes the urgent need for individual attention. In days past, the classroom was four walls and a teacher addressing a group. Knowledge confined in an enclosed space and authoritatively delivered. But the model that once seemed eternal is now being shaken to its foundations.

To read the rest of this article, please download the PDF here.

The Oneness Declaration: Sixteen Hallmarks of the New Consciousness

1. I am part of the world. The world is not outside of me, and I am not outside of the world. The world is in me, and I am in the world.  

2. I am part of nature, and nature is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with all living things. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the web of life on the planet.  

3. I am part of society, and society is part of me. I am what I am in my communication and communion with my fellow humans. I am an irreducible and coherent whole with the community of humans on the planet.  

Gyorgyi: With the consciousness that arose in me, my life has taken on new meaning. I will never be lonely again, never feel alone. Because I am not alone and disconnected, I am an essential part of everybody and everything around me. I am one with the world, and have always been, even if with my earlier, and now discarded duality-consciousness I did not know it.  

4. I am more than a skin-and-bone material organism: my body, and its cells and organs are manifestations of what is truly me: a self-sustaining, self-evolving dynamic system arising, persisting and evolving in interaction with everything around me.  

5. I am one of the highest, most evolved manifestations of the drive toward coherence and wholeness in the universe. All systems drive toward coherence and wholeness in interaction with all other systems, and my essence is this cosmic drive. It is the same essence, the same spirit that is inherent in all the things that arise and evolve in nature, whether on this planet or elsewhere in the infinite reaches of space and time.  

Gyorgyi: I evolve and I am master of my evolution. But this is not a separate, me-only evolution: it is a co-evolution with everyone and everything around me.  How I evolve is part of how they evolve, and how they evolve is part of my evolution.  I co-evolve with people and with all life on the planet. I co-evolve with the universe, and the universe co-evolves with me. In this wholeness I am a small but not insignificant part—I am a master of the co-evolution of the whole planet.  

6. There are no absolute boundaries and divisions in this world, only transition points where one set of relations yields prevalence to another. In me, in this self-maintaining and self-evolving coherence- and wholeness-oriented system, the relations that integrate the cells and organs of my body are prevalent.  Beyond my body other relations gain prevalence: those that drive toward coherence and wholeness in society and in nature.  

7. The separate identity I attach to other humans and other things is but a convenient convention that facilitates my interaction with them. My family and my community are just as much “me” as the organs of my body. My body and mind, my family and my community, are interacting and interpenetrating, variously prevalent elements in the network of relations that encompasses all things in nature and the human world.  

8. The whole gamut of concepts and ideas that separates my identity, or the identity of any person or community, from the identity of other persons and communities are manifestations of this convenient but arbitrary convention. There are only gradients distinguishing individuals from each other and from their environment and no real divisions and boundaries. There are no “others” in the world: we are all living systems and we are all part of each other.  

Gyorgyi: With my wholeness-consciousness I realize that not only am I not separate from the world around me, I know that nobody is. The entire concept of separation is a false, illusory concept. When we act with that concept in mind we divide the unity of the world, segment its wholeness into bits and pieces. Our ego divides us, but our body does not follow suit – it acts in coherence with the whole Earth. I am part of the Earth, part of the larger whole that is the world in its totality—an almost invisible but real and inseparable part of it.  

9. Attempting to maintain the system I know as “me” through ruthless competition with the system I know as “you” is a grave mistake: it could damage the integrity of the embracing whole that frames both your life and mine. I cannot preserve my own life and wholeness by damaging that whole, even if damaging a part of it seems to bring me short-term advantage. When I harm you, or anyone else around me, I harm myself.  

10. Collaboration, not competition, is the royal road to the wholeness that hallmarks healthy systems in the world. Collaboration calls for empathy and solidarity, and ultimately for love. I do not and cannot love myself if I do not love you and others around me: we are part of the same whole and so are part of each other.  

11. The idea of “self-defense” even of “national defense,” needs to be rethought. Patriotism if it aims to eliminate adversaries by force, and heroism even in the well-meaning execution of that aim, are mistaken aspirations. A patriot and a hero who brandishes a sword or a gun is an enemy also to himself. Every weapon intended to hurt or kill is a danger to all. Comprehension, conciliation and forgiveness are not signs of weakness; they are signs of courage.  

Gyorgyi: I am part of a community called humanity, and my country is the Earth. My immediate and real family is everybody in my community and in my country. Everything I do reflects not just on me, but on everybody in this community, whether they live next to me or far away. I reflect consciously on how I live and what I do, because everything I think and do affects all the others. Hurting anybody no matter for what reason hurts me, and healing and making anybody whole heals me and makes me whole.  

12. “The good” for me and for every person in the world is not the possession and accumulation of personal wealth. Wealth, in money or in any material resource, is but a means for maintaining myself in my environment. As exclusively mine, it commandeers part of the resources that all things need to share if they are to live and to thrive. Exclusive wealth is a threat to all people in the human community. And because I am a part of this community, in the final count it is a threat also to me, and to all who hold it.  

13. Beyond the sacred whole we recognize as the world in its totality, only life and its development have what philosophers call intrinsic value; all other things have merely instrumental value: value insofar as they add to or enhance intrinsic value. Material things in the world, and the energies and substances they harbor or generate, have value only if and insofar they contribute to life and wellbeing in the web of life on this Earth.  

Gyorgyi: My life, and the life of everyone in my community and my country, is the highest value, far higher than any other kind of wealth counted in money and material possessions. My possessions do not bring me pleasure or benefit if they harm others, make them unhappy, or diminish their chance for wholeness and fulfillment. The value of all things depends on what they do to my life, and since my life is part of everybody else’s life, on what they do to all other people’s lives.  

14. Every healthy person has pleasure in giving: it is a higher pleasure than having. I am healthy and whole when I value giving over having. The true measure of my accomplishment and excellence is my readiness to give. Not the amount of what I give is the measure of my accomplishment and excellence, but the relation between what I give, and what my family and I need to live and to thrive.  

 15. A community that values giving over having is a community of healthy people, oriented toward thriving through empathy, solidarity, and love among its members. Sharing enhances the community of life, while possessing and accumulating creates demarcation, invites competition, and fuels envy. The share-society is the norm for all the communities of life on the planet; the have-society is typical only of modern-day humanity, and it is an aberration.  

A life dedicated to hoarding and collecting what others or nature can give me is not a life worth living. The pleasure it gives is short-lived and paltry, compared to the satisfaction I feel when I can give to others something that comes genuinely from me. Only when I give do I feel myself happy and fulfilled, part of the wholeness I form in my community and my country.   

16. I acknowledge my role and responsibility in evolving a planetary consciousness in me, and by example in others around me. I have been part of the aberration of human consciousness in the modern age, and now wish to become part of the evolution that overcomes the aberration and heals the wounds inflicted by it. This is my right as well as my duty, as a conscious member of a conscious species on a precious and now critically endangered planet.  

I now realize that I am an integral part of the world, a member of the human and the Earth community. I live my life, but the life I live is not only my life: it is the life of the entire human and Earth community. I live it the best way I can. This is not a choice for me; it is a duty. Even more than a duty, it is simply the way I am, a human being endowed with a consciousness of oneness and belonging.  

IN ONENESS from Gyorgyi & Ervin 
For more articles by Ervin Laszlo, please see the Fall | Winter 2009 and Spring | Summer 2006 issues of Kosmos Journal.

Occupy Your Victories: Occupy Wall Street's First Anniversary

by Rebecca Solnit 

This article can be found on 

Occupy is now a year old.  A year is an almost ridiculous
measure of time for much of what matters: at one year old, Georgia
O’Keeffe was not a great painter, and Bessie Smith wasn’t much of a
singer. One year into the Civil Rights Movement, the Montgomery Bus Boycott
was still in progress, catalyzed by the unknown secretary of the local
NAACP chapter and a preacher from Atlanta -- by, that is, Rosa Parks
and Martin Luther King, Jr. Occupy, our bouncing baby, was born with
such struggle and joy a year ago, and here we are, 12 long months

Occupy didn’t seem remarkable on September 17, 2011, and not a lot of
people were looking at it when it was mostly young people heading for
Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park. But its most remarkable aspect turned out to
be its staying power: it didn’t declare victory or defeat and go home.
It decided it was home and settled in for two catalytic months.  

Tents and general assemblies and the acts, tools, and ideas of Occupy
exploded across the nation and the western world from Alaska to New
Zealand, and some parts of the eastern world -- Occupy Hong Kong was
going strong until last week.
For a while, it was easy to see that this baby was something big, but
then most, though not all, of the urban encampments were busted, and the
movement became something subtler. But don’t let them tell you it went

The most startling question anyone asked me last year was, “What is Occupy’s 10-year plan?”  

Who takes the long view? Americans have a tendency to think of
activism like a slot machine, and if it doesn’t come up three jailed
bankers or three clear victories fast, you’ve wasted your quarters. And
yet hardly any activists ever define what victory would really look
like, so who knows if we’ll ever get there?  

Sometimes we do get three clear victories, but because it took a
while or because no one was sure what victory consisted of, hardly
anyone realizes a celebration is in order, or sometimes even notices. We
get more victories than anyone imagines, but they are usually indirect,
incomplete, slow to arrive, and situations where our influence can be
assumed but not proven -- and yet each of them is worth counting.    

More Than a Handful of Victories  
For the first anniversary of Occupy, large demonstrations have been planned in New York and San Francisco and a host of smaller actions around the country,
but some of the people who came together under the Occupy banner have
been working steadily in quiet ways all along, largely unnoticed. From
Occupy Chattanooga to Occupy London, people are meeting weekly,
sometimes just to have a forum, sometimes to plan foreclosure defenses,
public demonstrations, or engage in other forms of organizing. On August
22nd, for instance, a foreclosure on Kim Mitchell’s house in a
low-income part of San Francisco was prevented by a coalition made up of Occupy Bernal and Occupy Noe Valley (two San Francisco neighborhoods) along with ACCE, the group that succeeded the Republican-destroyed ACORN.  

was a little victory in itself -- and another that such an economically
and ethnically diverse group was working together so beautifully.
Demonstrations and victories like it are happening regularly across the
country, including in Minnesota, thanks to Occupy Homes. Earlier this month, Occupy Wall Street helped Manhattan restaurant workers defeat a lousy boss and a worker lock-out to unionize
a restaurant in the Hot and Crusty chain. (While shut out, the
employees occupied the sidewalk and ran the Worker Justice Café there.)  

In Providence, Rhode Island, the Occupy encampment
broke up late last January, but only on the condition that the city
open a daytime shelter for homeless people. At Princeton University, big
banks are no longer invited to recruit on campus, most likely thanks to
Occupy Princeton.  

There have been thousands of little victories like these and some big ones as well: the impact of the Move Your Money initiative, the growing revolt against student-loan-debt peonage, and more indirectly the passing of a California law protecting homeowners
from the abuse of the foreclosure process (undoubtedly due in part to
Occupy’s highlighting of the brutality and corruption of that process).  

But don’t get bogged down in the tangible achievements, except as a
foundation. The less tangible spirit of Occupy and the new associations
it sparked are what matters for whatever comes next, for that
10-year-plan. Occupy was first of all a great meeting ground. People who
live too much in the virtual world with its talent for segregation and
isolation suddenly met each other face-to-face in public space. There,
they found common ground in a passion for economic justice and real
democracy and a recognition of the widespread suffering capitalism has

Bonds were formed across the usual divides of age and race and class,
between the housed and the homeless as well as the employed and
jobless, and some of those bonds still exist. There was tremendous
emotion around it -- the joy of finding you were not alone, the shame
that was shed as the prisoners of debt stepped out of the shadows, the
ferocity of solidarity when so many of us were attacked by the police,
the dizzying hope that everything could be different, and the
exhilaration in those moments when it already was.  

People learned how direct democracy works; they tasted power; they
found something in common with strangers; they lived in public.  All
those things mattered and matter still. They are a great foundation for
the future; they are a great way to live in the present.  

Maybe Occupy was too successful a brand in that it sometimes
disguised how much this movement was part of popular surges going on
around the world: the Arab Spring
(including the three successful revolutions, the ongoing Syrian civil
war, uprisings in Yemen, and more); the student uprisings in Montreal,
Mexico, and Chile that have continued to develop and broaden; the
economic revolts in Spain, Greece, and Britain; the ongoing
demonstrations and insurrections around Africa; even various acts of
resistance in India, Japan, China, and Tibet, some large and powerful.
Because, in case you hadn’t noticed, these days a lot of the world is in
some form of rebellion, insurrection, or protest.  

And the family resemblances matter.  If you add them all up, you see a
similar fury at greed, political corruption, economic inequality,
environmental devastation, and a dimming, shrinking future.   

The Heroic Age  
Nevertheless, the one-year anniversary is likely to produce a lot of
mainstream media stories that will assure you Occupy was only a bunch of
tents that came down last year, that it was naïve, and that’s that.
Don’t buy it. Don’t be reasonable, don’t be realistic, and don’t be
defeated.  A year is nothing and the mainstream media is oblivious to
where power lies and how change works, but that doesn’t mean you need to

That same media will tell you 99 ways from Tuesday how powerless you
are and how all power is made by men in suits who won or bought
elections, but don’t buy that either. Instead, notice how terrified Vladimir Putin was of three young performers in bright-colored balaclavas, and how equally frightened
Wall Street is of us. They remember something we tend to forget:
together we are capable of being remarkably powerful. We can make
history, and we have, and we will, but only when we keep our eyes on the
prize, pitch a big tent, and don’t stop until we get there.  

We live in the heroic age itself, the age of Aung San Suu Kyi in
Burma, of the Zapatistas in Mexico, of the Civil Rights Movement’s key
organizers, including John Lewis and Reverend Joseph Lowery, and of so many nameless heroines and heroes from Argentina to Iceland.
Their praises are often sung, and the kinds of courage, integrity,
generosity of spirit, and vision they exhibited all matter, but I want
to talk about another virtue we don’t think about much: it’s the one we
call patience when we like it or it appears to be gentle, and
stubbornness when we don’t or it doesn’t.  

After all, Suu Kyi was steadfast during many years of house arrest
and intimidation after a military junta stole the 1990 election she had
won and only this year did the situation shift
a little. The goals of the stubborn often seem impossible at inception,
as did some of the goals of the Civil Rights Movement, or for that
matter the early nineteenth century abolitionist movement in
the United States, which set out to eradicate the atrocity of slavery
more than 30 years before victory -- a lot faster than the
contemporaneous women’s movement got basic rights like the vote. Change
happens, but it can take decades; and it takes people who remain
steadfast, patient (or stubborn) for those same decades, along with
infusions of new energy.     

I suspect the steadfastness of the heroes of the great movements of
our time came not only from facts but from faith. They had faith that
their cause was just, that this was the right way to live on Earth, that
what they did mattered, and they had those things decades before the
results were in. You had to be unrealistic about the odds to go up
against the Burmese generals or the Apartheid regime in South Africa or
Jim Crow or 5,000 years of patriarchy or centuries of homophobia, and
the unrealistic among us drew on their faith and did just that, with
tremendous consequences.  

Realism is overrated, but the fact is that the Occupy movement has
already had extraordinary results. We changed the national debate early
on and brought into the open what was previously hiding in plain sight:
both the violence of Wall Street and the yearning for community,
justice, truth, power, and hope that possesses most of the rest of us.
We found out something that mattered about who we are: we found out just
how many of us are furious about the debt peonage settled onto millions
of “underwater” homeowners, people destroyed by medical debts, and
students shackled by subprime educations that no future salaries will
ever dig them out of.  

And here was Occupy’s other signal achievement: we articulated,
clearly, loudly, incontrovertably, how appalling and destructive the
current economic system is. To name something is a powerful action. To
speak the truth changes reality, and this has everything to do with why
electoral politics runs the spectrum from euphemism and
parallel-universe formulations to astonishing lies and complete
evasions. Wily Occupy brought a Trojan horse loaded with truth to the
citadel of Wall Street. Even the bronze bull couldn’t face that down.  

Meeting the Possibilities Down the Road  
A 10-year plan would function like a map: we could see where we had
been, where we are, and where we want to go. In San Francisco,
participants in the one-year anniversary events will burn student loan
and mortgage contracts to symbolically free the prisoners of debt. In
New York, Occupy Wall Street itself is focusing on debtor's assemblies
and debt burnings for the one-year anniversary. This September 17th, practical goals will be announced, a Debt Resistors' Operations Manual will debut -- and who knows, in 10 years' time some of those goals could even be fully realized.  

This will require unwavering determination, even when there are no
results.  It means not being sour about interim and incomplete
victories, as well as actual defeats along the way. In 10 years, we
could see some exciting things: the reversal of the harsh new bankruptcy
laws, the transformation of educational financing, and maybe even a debt jubilee, along with major changes in banking and mortgage laws.  

The victories, when they come, won’t be perfect.  They might not even
look like victories or like anything we ever expected, and there will
be lots of steps along the way that purists will deplore as
“compromise.” Just as anything you make from a cake to a book never
quite resembles the Platonic ideal in your head, victories may not look
like their templates, but you should celebrate them, however imperfect
they may be, as further steps along the road and never believe that the
road ends or that you should stop walking.  

Still, if you’re talking about results, I’m convinced that pressure
from Occupy and the student activists around it was what put student
debt in the Democratic platform and has made it a major talking point of
the Obama campaign. I worry that if, 10 years from now, the landscape
of educational finance has been transformed for the better, no one will
remember why or how it happened, or who started it all, so no one will
celebrate or feel how powerful we really can be.  

It will be taken for granted the way, say, voting rights are for
those of us so long disenfranchised. Most people will forget the world
was ever different, just as most people will never know that more than
100 coal-fired plants were not built in this country thanks to climate and environmental activists and few note that the Keystone XL pipeline would have been finished by now, were it not for and the rest of the opposition. This is why stories matter, especially the stories of our power, our victories, and our history.  

Looking Back with Gratitude, Looking Forward With Fierceness  
Once there was a great antinuclear movement in this country, first focusing on the dangers and follies
of “peaceful” nuclear power, then on the evil of nuclear weapons, and
it won many forgotten victories. Ever notice that we haven’t actually
built a reactor since the 1970s, partly because safety standards got so
much higher?  Who now remembers the Great Basin MX
missile installations that were never built, the nuclear waste dumps --
at Sierra Blanca, Ward Valley, and Yucca Mountain, among other places
-- that never opened?   

Who still even thinks about some of the arms-reduction treaties? And
yet little of this would have happened if those antinuclear movements
hadn’t existed.  So thank an activist, and thank specifically the
visionaries who showed up early and the stubborn ones who stayed to work
on the issue long after the millions involved in the early 1980s
nuclear-freeze movement had given up and gone home. Some of them are still at work, and we’re all beneficiaries.  

One of the first groups in the round of antinuclear activism that began in the 1970s was the Clamshell Alliance
created in 1976 to oppose New Hampshire’s proposed Seabrook Nuclear
Power Plant. One reactor was built and is still operating at Seabrook;
one was cancelled due to opposition.  Building the first reactor cost
five times the initial estimate and led its owner, Public Service of New
Hampshire, to what was then the fourth largest bankruptcy in U.S.
history when it was unable to make ratepayers pick up the bill. You can
read that as a partial victory, but Clamshell did so much more.  

Their spirit and their creative new approach inspired activists
around the country and helped generate a movement. Sixty-six nuclear
power plants were cancelled in the wake of Clamshell. Keep in mind as
well that the Clamshell Alliance and many of the antinuclear groups that
followed developed non-hierarchical, direct-democracy methods of
organizing since used by activists and movements throughout the U.S. and
beyond, including Occupy Wall Street, whose consensus-based general
assemblies owed a lot to a bunch of hippies no one remembers.  

Activist Bill Moyer met with Clamshell Alliance members in 1978, when
he thought they were beginning to be victorious in inspiring a national
movement and they thought they were failing. What he said is still worth quoting:  

“That Friday night, I
expected to meet a spirited, upbeat group that was proud of its
accomplishments. I was shocked when the Clamshell activists arrived with
heads bowed, dispirited, and depressed, saying their efforts had been
in vain. The Clamshell experience of discouragement and collapse is far
from unusual. Within a few years after achieving the goals of
‘take-off,’ every major social movement of the past 20 years has
undergone a significant collapse, in which activists believed that their
movements had failed, the powerful institutions were too powerful, and
their own efforts were futile. This has happened even when movements
were actually progressing reasonably well along the normal path taken by
past successful movements!”  

With Occupy, remarkable things have already happened, and more
remarkable systemic change could be ahead. Don’t forget that this was a
movement that spread to thousands of cities, towns, and even rural
outposts across the country and overseas, from Occupy Tucson to Occupy
Bangor. Remember that many of the effects of what has already happened
are incalculable, and more of what is being accomplished will only be
clear further down the road.  

Go out into the streets and celebrate the one-year anniversary and
start dreaming and planning for 2021, when we could -- if we are
steadfast, if we are inclusive, if we keep our eyes on the prize, if we
define that prize and recognize progress toward it and remember where we
started -- be celebrating something much bigger. It’s a long road to
travel, but we can get there from here.  

Rebecca Solnit was an antinuclear activist in the 1980s and 1990s, as her 1994 book Savage Dreams recounts. The author of A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, she is currently speaking about disaster, civil society, and utopia in programs with the Free University of New York, the San Francisco Public Library’s One City One Book program, and Cal Humanities.  

Copyright 2012 Rebecca Solnit

Pioneering Spiritual Activism

You are about to experience the guidance of an inspired and practical visionary. Nina Meyerhof is one of those people who does so much good – so much effective peace building and leadership development – that it is impossible to measure her impact. Her legacy is in her work and in the countless emerging young leaders she has guided.  

What you will find in this handbook is distilled wisdom. It is full of ways to hone evolved leadership, which have been drawn from extensive on the ground work. You will find that great attention has been paid to embracing cultural differences and welcoming diversity. 

Nina’s approach to integrating all the levels of our being clearly comes through. The physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual are woven together with skillful practices and exercises. We can no longer preach peace without also being peace; we cannot transform others if we are not committed to doing our own inner transformation work. We are called to balance the rational and the intuitive. Integration of the kind repeatedly outlined in this handbook leads us to becoming effective and strategic idealists.   

Balancing the inner and the outer is a dynamic process: we never complete our learning because people and situations around us are always changing. What is in store for you if you master the practices in this handbook is a life committed to deep listening and deep dialogue. Dialogue is not just helping others tell their story and speak their truth, it is about you opening up to share your own most essential truth and qualities of being.  

While many of us are inspired to be a part of visionary peace work, the reality is that we all need to learn how to prevent our own triggers and judgments when we are in charged and conflicted situations. We need each other to be mirrors. We need to understand our own patterns of wounding and hurt. We need to tap into the power of release, forgiveness, and reconciliation.  

This work is for the bold and courageous as well as for the insightful and compassionate, but most of all it is for those who are committed enough to gain the skills needed to guide our planet towards peace, healing, justice, and sustainability. I can think of no better way to start developing those skills that to with this classic handbook for emerging leaders of every kind.  

—James O’Dea Author, Human Rights and Social Healing Peace Activist 

To download the Handbook in PDF form, please click here. For more information about Nina Meyerhof and Children of the Earth, please visit

Empowering Public Wisdom: An Excerpt

The following is the first installment of Empowering Public Wisdom: A Practical Vision of Citizen-Led Politics, available from EVOLVER EDITIONS/North Atlantic Books. 

You can visit the Empowering Public Wisdom homepage here. 
Part ONE: A Wiser Democracy — Taking It Seriously 

Democracy Is about Power — and the People Democracy—all politics—is about power: who has it and how they use it. Do people try to dominate each other and the world? Do they work together for the common good? Do they have the freedom to develop and use their own personal and collective power? If we want to preserve and expand democracy, we need to understand some important facts about power.

To read Chapter 1, please download the PDF here.

Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea: An Excerpt

Worldview” is a popular term these days, and for good reason. The word comes from the German Weltanschauung, and is used in common parlance to signify the framework we use to interpret the world around us. In our postmodern world, we have come to recognize just how important these interpretive frameworks are in shaping our perspectives and the perspectives of others. Some of this is a natural result of globalization and our increasing proximity to peoples and cultures that see the world through dramatically different eyes. “Why do they hate us?” asked President Bush in the week following 9/11— a question echoed on numerous magazine covers and newspaper headlines around the country and on the lips of stunned Americans who had never even considered such a thing as a worldview before. America was forced to come to terms with the fact that there were other  people who see the world through a completely different lens— a lens so different that what to us was unthinkable, to them became horribly necessary. Even within our own diverse country, it is becoming increasingly clear that the differences between us are not just surface political or religious affili-ations, they are more fundamental differences in how we interpret and experience the world around us and within us.

To read more, download the PDF here.