Eight Stimuli for New Thinking Ecologically
Monday, June 29, 2015 at 3:55PM
Lee Van Ham in Center for Process Studies, Herman Daly, John Cobb, Sandra Lubarsky, Wes Jackson, ecological justice, motivators of change

It seemed that every hour I heard something new at the conference entitled, “Seizing an Alternative,” held June 4-7, in Claremont, CA. So many people there seeking ecological living.

The main answer to “Why?” this conference went like this. We know we need different policies; but policy-makers aren’t currently acting for Earth’s inhabitable future. Science has been speaking out prophetically in recent years; but too few institutions are moving at the rate science urges. The causes of the crises are accelerating, not diminishing. So the conference said: We need to change our thinking. 

Scholars, consultants, activists, artists, and authors from many countries divided into 82 different tracks in quest of approaches that change minds. Everyone searched for the strongest language and ideas—ones able to redirect us into what the conference called an “ecological civilization.”

I was there as part of the OneEarth Project film production team. It was my first experience putting together cameras, sound, interviewees, en route to a future film. Producer-director Michael Johnson led the team; Bob Sly, Adam Englund, Corey Waters, and Colin Richard played technical and logistical roles during a four-day fury of interviewing guests. 

Here’s a smidgeon of the mind-changing entrees at the conference:

1. Have you thought of agriculture using perennial grains, not just annuals? Wes Jackson is working on that at the Land Institute in Salina, Kansas. Pilot plots are underway on 21 sites in eight countries. 

2. Have you thought of “beauty” as the fullness of life’s evolutionary purpose and possibility? Sharon Lubarsky, Appalachian State University, teaches her students that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. She pointed out that if we do an online search using the word “beauty,” we are pointed to cosmetics, botox, fashion, and corporation definitions. All seek to improve on Nature. But ecologically, beauty stirs when life moves into its fullest evolutionary purposes.

3. How could the story we tell of the cosmos, and how we humans got to where we are today, help harmonize diverse cultures? Brian Swimme, evolutionary cosmologist, narrates the Emmy-award winning film, “Journey of the Universe.” He’s joined by Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, in a book with the same title. Both were at the conference. Their work provides a scientific, cosmological myth for the 21st century that stirs awe as they trace how the cosmos and our consciousness continually evolve. Journey of the Universe is a 21st century Genesis story. Watch it online.

4. Have you thought of how the story you are living may or may not be a OneEarth story? David Korten’s most recent book says, Change the Story, Change the Future. Today’s dominant story is the Sacred Money and Markets story, Korten says. He outlines the Sacred Life and Living Earth story as one for us to live and change the future.

And a few more tantalizers:

5. Herman Daly, former World Bank economist and father of ecological economics said: Though growth economics may have been beneficial in the past, it is now making us poorer, not richer.

6. All the world’s major religions had a track working intently on how their tradition can scale up their contribution to en ecologically inhabitable world.

7. Several tracks re-imagining education aimed to shift the education of youth from being successful in the current financialized and industrialized world to being fulfilled in an ecological civilization. 

8. John Cobb: China might. Cobb, the intellectual architect of the conference, speaking of the many Chinese people present at the conference through the Institute for Postmodern Development in China said: The Communist Party in China has written “ecological civilization” into their constitution as a goal. It is unlikely that the U.S. can lead the world to an ecological civilization. But China might.

Follow-ups to the conference can best be followed at the Seizing an Alternative website.

Article originally appeared on OneEarth sustainability amid climate change (http://theoneearthproject.com/).
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