A year of transition involving completion of two book projects, personal downsizing, and movement upscaling.
This has been a significant year of accomplishment and transition for the New Economy movement and for the Living Economies Forum (LEF). Each day, the urgency of the transformational transition to a New Economy based on living system principles becomes more evident and the social movement propelling it builds momentum.
The first half of this year centered on launching the two defining books. The second half was devoted primarily to restoring my personal health and settling into a one-floor condominium apartment.
January thru June: Book Launch
Change the Story, Change the Future
The framing message of Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth is short and simple. We humans live by stories. When we get our story wrong, we get our future wrong. We are currently experiencing potentially terminal institutional failure because we organize as a global society around a Sacred Money and Markets story that denies our true nature as living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth itself born of a living universe. The story of our true nature changes everything.
The book launched on January 24, 2015 at Pasadena All Saints Episcopal Church via two major live streamed presentations and discussions. This was followed by a public event at Grace Cathedral in SF on the morning of Sunday February 8 in dialogue with Matthew Fox and a Matt Fox Cosmic Mass that evening in Oakland.
The Pachamama Alliance is featuring the book’s framing message in a new curriculum it offers globally to tens of thousands of people. YES! Magazine featured the Living with Earth theme in its spring 2015 issue, offered the book as a premium for its supporters, and is promoting sales through its bookstore. The Club of Rome accepted the book as a Report to the Club of Rome and is promoting national editions and translations.
When Corporations Rule the World, 20th Anniversary Edition
We launched the 20th anniversary edition of When Corporations Rule the World in June at the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) conference in Phoenix and the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly in Portland, OR. This new edition updates the Prologue and Epilogue and features an all-new Introduction documenting the further concentration of wealth and corporate power since 1995 under the control of a self-directing robotic system of corporate rule ever more autonomous from and resistant to human direction and oversight.
The all-new Conclusion outlines high-level opportunities for breakthrough change focused building four pillars of a new economy: A Sacred Life and Living Earth story, Living Earth Economics, Living Earth Law, and Living Earth Ownership.
July thru December: Personal Transition
For the past six months, I have focused on issues of personal health and Fran and I have transitioned to a new home more appropriate to our advancing age. Both were unplanned and unanticipated at the time of our 2014 annual meeting.
On July 1, just after an intense series of conferences, major presentations, and interviews related to the launch of the two books, I experienced a stroke that put me in the hospital for more than a week. It has been an important encounter with the realities of aging and the preciousness of life that prompted me to give much more attention to my health and to engage the help of a naturopath. It has been a life changing encounter with the capacity of the brain cells to rally in response to a threat, create other pathways to get blood to affected cells and compensate for the initial impairments. It is an inspiring example of the body’s capacity for self-organization and healing—a central theme of Change the Story, Change the Future.
During these past six months, I have been on a temporary sabbatical from most of my professional work and relied even more than usual on Kat Gjovik to maintain LEF’s public presence. I look forward to returning to full-time professional engagement beginning the first of the year.
In addition to personal renewal, the six-month sabbatical has been an opportunity to step back and gain perspective on what appear to be leading edge breakthroughs in human consciousness and the new economy movement.
I sense a deep shift in public awareness and commitment to deep change just over the past six months. For rapidly growing numbers of people, climate change and other manifestations of the destruction of Earth’s capacity to support life have become too immediate, personal, powerful, and terrifying to deny. Meanwhile, Wall Street has become so dysfunctional and removed from reality that even sophisticated analysts, investors, and Wall Street veterans are admitting they no longer understand what Wall Street does or what constructive purpose it serves.
It is evident to most people that some form of action is essential. And people are recognizing the connections between environmental, social, and governance failures.
The political choice between turning for solutions to demagogues or to one another is becoming clear. The tension between these two choices plays out in much of the world as a global test of humanity’s spiritual and mental health—and of the worthiness of our species to survive. In the United States, the choice presents in the contrast between presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.
The consciousness shift is also evident in an historical breakthrough in relations between spiritual and scientific communities—leaders from both acknowledging the contributions of the other. The most dramatic marker is the reach and influence of Pope Francis.
The Paris Climate conference is unlikely to produce an adequate enforceable international agreement. But I sense it will have a significant and enduring impact on human consciousness as awareness builds of the role of climate change in human displacement and the forced immigrations that are a current focus of public attention.
Civil society is now mobilized around the issue on a global scale. This mobilization will be the most important product of the Paris meeting and the basis of an unstoppable political shift.
Underlying the consciousness shift is a growing awareness of life’s capacity for intelligent, conscious, and purposeful self-organization. This awareness cuts across traditional faith traditions and scientific disciplines and affirms the wisdom of a choice to turn to one another within a frame that recognizes we are all part of a larger Earth community that self-organizes to maintain the conditions essential to the existence and well-being of the whole.
We are reawakening to the deep truth that life exists—can exist only as a living community that creates and maintains the conditions essential to its own existence. From there, it is a short and obvious step to recognition of the need to redesign and restructure our institutions to work in partnership with, rather than in opposition to, Earth’s community of life.
Reconnecting with Living Earth
I see an emerging expansion and interconnection of practical action initiatives related to our connection with Living Earth that range from personal to global system levels.
The most significant and personal center on health, food, and agriculture. These touch on our most intimate and personal connections to living Earth’s community of life. They seek to restore the healthy function of the natural processes that self-organize to maintain the health of our bodies and the lands, waters, and climatic systems on which healthy bodies depend.
A closely related and supporting thrust centers in initiatives related to technology and the built environment. These initiatives center on our organization and management of physical space, energy, water, and nutrients in ways that work with natural systems. These include the rapid proliferation of renewable energy initiatives.
Perhaps the most telling indicator of a consciousness shift comes from the world of corporate rule. A decline in the fortunes of established junk food brands owned by global food giants is pushing them to buy up brands that have established credibility with health conscious consumers—which with time will likely diminish the credibility of the health conscious brands. Another is the rush by fossil energy companies at the Paris Conference to position themselves as leaders in renewable energy—even as they continue funding political campaigns aimed at blocking a legally binding climate agreement. The public message is a powerful signal that the public mood is changing. The contrary actions are a reminder that the leadership must continue to come from civil society.
The growing momentum of the civil society movement demanding divestment from fossil energy by endowment and retirement funds is one of our most important lead indicators of the consciousness shift and a powerful driver of system change. The divestments in turn create pressure to find alternative investments consistent with system transformation.
New Economy Movement Gaining Autonomous Momentum
The New Economy movement in the United States has experienced an extraordinary burst of growth and energy over the past few months in tandem with the shifting consciousness and proliferation of initiatives noted above. In response, our lead New Economy partner institutions are each stepping up their game in significant ways in a movement dynamic that is increasingly diverse and self-organizing beyond any central control or coordination.
The New Economy Coalition now has a strong permanent executive director who is bringing clarity and coherence to its role as a movement building organization.
YES! is itself now in a process of significantly stepping up its reach and influence at the leading edge of both the New Economy movement and the emergent and rapidly expanding new field of solutions journalism. YES! is distinctive in the solutions journalism field for pioneering a journalism grounded in a strong non-ideological system frame. It is systematically building that frame into its own organizational culture in preparation for extending its reach into the broader culture. As YES! grows its reach and influence in the media world, we hope to make this frame the standard for solutions journalism more broadly.
The Next System Project headed by Gar Alperovitz and Gus Speth under the organizational umbrella of the Democracy Collaborative has obtained funding to initiate a variety of new educational outreach efforts and a system design initiative. The latter brings together the work and thinking of a much larger circle of theorists and activists to strengthen and advance the underlying system frame and build an expanded inventory of ideas and approaches with potential to advance deep system transformation. They are positioned to reach into establishment circles in ways previous initiatives have not.
The Institute for Policy Studies is developing new initiatives intended to help grassroots activist organizations working to connect environmental and justice issues, a now defining theme within the progressive community.
These advances are prompting us to rethink the distinctive role of the informal alliance we call the New Economy Working Group (NEWGroup) that John Cavanagh and I chair. We intend to continue to serve as an informal forum for exchange among the movement’s lead organizations and to sponsor invitational webinars bringing together leading-edge thinkers and activists to share insights into system design and change strategy issues.
Living Economies Forum in the Year Ahead
This breakthrough moment is a time for rethinking the roles and strategies of the various organizations at the forefront of the New Economy movement. During my “sabbatical” I have been more observer than actor in the breakthrough burst of movement energy noted above.
As I step back into action, my continuing priority will be to contribute to framing and building support for the story and design of the new system. Recognition of the foundational distinctions between new and old economy system frames is becoming embedded in the movement culture. Consequently, there is a declining need for my Border Collie role to keep the focus on system change—in contrast to marginal and inevitably ineffectual reform at the edges of the failed system.
The Next System project is now bringing together the movement’s leading system thinkers and activists in an initiative to further define and promote foundational design principles of the next system and advance identification of action campaigns consistent with those principles. I will give high priority to supporting this effort, beginning with completing the paper I was invited to contribute to the Next System project series.
My contribution will focus on the interdependence of the three essential system outcomes: Earth Balance, Shared Prosperity, and Living Democracy and on identifying criteria for assessing the extent to which proposed initiatives support the necessary system transformation.
These will be key themes of the Forum’s work during the next year and will likely provide the frame for our next book, which will summarize the system frame and set out criteria for assessing New Economy initiative proposals by their potential to advance system transformation. I anticipate the book will have a short, accessible format in the style of Change the Story, Change the Future. This work may also be the basis for a series of YES! web publications.
With regard to larger institutional commitments, my top priorities continue to be YES! Magazine and the New Economy Working Group.
YES! has developed an exceptionally capable staff and is functioning currently at the highest level of effectiveness since its founding. With this foundation in place, we are in the midst of stepping up our game and significantly extending our reach and influence consistent with the needs and opportunities of the breakthrough moment at hand.
This sets the stage for the upcoming YES! leadership transition. I am now 78 and my term as YES! Magazine Board Chair runs to early 2017. By that time, I will be 79 and expect to step down from the board chair role. Fran, who is presently 74, has announced her intention to step down as executive director in February 2018. [Update note: Fran retired as YES! ED on March 1, 2017 and as of June 2017 I remain board chair]
In addition to playing an active role in the YES! Magazine stepping up process, I expect to get back to publishing regularly on the YES! website.
I will also continue to co-chair NEWGroup, which will continue in its role as an informal invitational circle for mutual exchange and learning among a small group of New Economy movement leaders at the forefront of defining and popularizing the living systems New Economy frame.
Internal to the Living Economies Forum, we are long overdue on updating our website. Kat is exploring technical options and thinking through the format. Externally, I will be looking for new opportunities to contribute to a growing dialogue between spiritual and scientific communities around the themes of Change the Story, Change the Future.
I hope to continue my international engagement through the Club of Rome, which since its 1968 founding has focused on the conflict between exponential growth and the reality of a finite Earth. It has only recently begun a serious examination of institutional drivers of mindless growth and the articulation of institutional alternatives. I intend to continue my contribution to this shift.