A Personal Overview and Report by Roger Doudna, Coordinator
Roger Doudna is a longtime resident of the Community and chair of the Findhorn Foundation Fellows. He recently completed a project to poll the Fellows on their views on climate change ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference scheduled for December in Paris. Here he introduces some of the fellows and shares the results of his poll, as well as his own views.
The Findhorn Foundation Fellowship is currently comprised of 142 individuals throughout the world who we, the Findhorn Foundation, perceive as activists in their respective domains for personal and planetary transformation, for a multi-dimensional ‘new story’ wherein they work individually and together, with nature and with spirit, to co-create a better and more sustainable world.
In response to the planetary challenge posed by anthropogenic climate change, I have been in touch with many of the Fellows over the past year with a view to eliciting their views and concerns on the issue, and assessing the effects of their activities upon it. I have done so in anticipation of the impending United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) summit that will be convened in Paris in early December.
The Current State of Play with UNFCCC
Recent pieces in both the New York Times and the Guardian indicate that 150 countries (of 193) have now submitted their voluntary pledges to reduce their carbon emissions by 2030, including the five largest emitters – China, USA, the EU, Brazil and, most recently, India. Even assuming these pledges are fulfilled, scientists now calculate that global temperatures will rise during this century by more than two degrees Celsius, beyond which, according to the NY Times, “the world’s natural systems could be in deep trouble, with widespread droughts, steadily rising sea levels, species loss and catastrophic storms”.
According to the Guardian, it is unlikely that these commitments will change significantly either before or during the Paris summit. It’s also unlikely that the $100 billion fund required to facilitate new technology transfers from developed nations to developing ones will now be achieved. Finally, there is no serious discussion of a carbon price, a carbon tax, a ‘cap and trade’ system or any other market mechanism in the negotiation process to date, though China and other places will be implementing such measures on a national or more localised basis. Nor is there any current plan in the current text to end the fossil fuel subsidies that assure the continued dominance of fossil fuel companies and unsustainable growth of the world economy.
The upside of this same equation is that countries’ pledges are significantly more ambitious than was predicted even a year ago. The rise in the quality and viability of renewable energy systems and their commensurate drop in price now make them increasingly competitive with fossil fuels, the primary cause of temperature rises. The accelerating divestment movement from fossil fuels and accompanying rise in ‘political will’ before the summit itself means that it’s now possible to envision a carbon neutral, and therefore more sustainable, world by 2050, maybe even 2030. Finally, the acid test of the summit will be the extent to which it achieves agreement on a post Paris mechanism to assure the momentum towards such a world is itself sustained.
So, where does this leave us?
The short answer, of course, has to be with mixed emotions.
It’s hugely encouraging to witness a developing global awareness of the significance of climate change. The UN raising the issue in the first place at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 and sustaining it as it has for the past 23 years, the Guardian’s ongoing divestment campaign, now reinforced by the mainstream progressive press globally, the welcome and much heralded intervention by Pope Francis, backed up by the Church of England and other progressive churches worldwide together with spiritual leaders of all stripes, the determination of Barack Obama to carve out a ‘climate legacy’ and deploy the political and diplomatic tools of the US government to achieve it, Naomi Klein’s hugely influential book This Changes Everything and her ongoing campaigning with 350.org for a holistic and ‘movement of movements’ response to climate change, the mobilisation of the NGO community across the board – all of this is simply wonderful.
At the same time, though, all of this activity has been insufficient to date to do the business required to assure the future we need as a species to make this world sustainable, or even habitable, in the long term. The fossil fuel companies and their political lackeys, especially in the United States, are resisting the changes required with all the tools at their command. All that stuff can be equally depressing.
But what else can we expect of the process of planetary transformation? At the moment, of course, it’s a battle royal, but it’s definitely happening.
The Foundation recently presented an event called We Do Not Die, featuring a host of folks who had had near death experiences and returned therefrom to assure us that “all is very well” on both sides of the Great Divide. One of them in particular, a remarkable academic neurosurgeon from Harvard Medical School called Eben Alexander, shared his firm belief that we wouldn’t have been given challenges like climate change unless the collective WE were up to dealing with it. That was sort of like a moment of revelation to me. It’s spiritual stuff, of course, but it resonates. (Eben develops this theme of cultural transformation in his new book The Map Of Heaven, successor to his ground-breaking work Proof Of Heaven.)
It’s also consistent with the idea of a ‘new story’ emerging. Those of us who gathered here a year ago felt like we were undergoing a kind of planetary initiation. Though some (including me) felt the content may have been subservient to the process, it definitely felt like the birth pangs of something genuinely new emerging, even if it had resonance with age old indigenous wisdoms that have guided us for aeons. And it was the Fellowship, in association with the Foundation, which produced and guided that event from its inception throughout the process which unfolded here.
Findhorn Foundation Fellows and Climate Change
Virtually all the Fellows were chosen because they are perceived by the Foundation as participating notably in and contributing to this ‘new story’ in some form or other. Many are dealing directly with climate change.
Jonathan Porritt has spent most of his life writing powerfully about green issues, including climate change, and his current work at the Forum For The Future advises businesses on ways to reduce their carbon footprints.
Richard Olivier and Andrew White are likewise active in pioneering new forms of leadership in the corporate sector, highlighting their emerging responsibility to the planet as a whole.
Will Raap chairs the New Economics Foundation in the USA whose mission is to pioneer a sustainable economy.
Jonathan Dawson, head of the Economics Department at Schumacher College in Devon, likewise lectures and campaigns for a new economy.
Jakob von Uexkull heads the World Future Council in London that promotes the Global Policy Action Plan, a holistic programme for progressive legislation to secure the sustainable world we seek. Jakob also continues to give Right Livelihood Awards annually to individuals advancing the cause.
Herbie Girardet is a co-founder of the World Future Council who has written 10 books and produced more than 50 TV documentaries on sustainability themes. He has received the UN Global 500 Award “for outstanding environmental achievements”. He is a consultant to cities wishing to cut their carbon footprints.
Vance Martin heads the World Wilderness Foundation in Colorado, USA, that campaigns for the conservation of wilderness areas that nourish the ecosystems which sustain us and currently absorb half the carbon emissions we create.
Guy Dauncey and his wife Carolyn Herriot live the ‘green life’ near Vancouver, Canada, from whence they lecture and write on all aspects of the cultural shift required.
May East heads both CIFAL Scotland and Gaia Education and has pioneered a global network of educational programmes for sustainability.
John Clausen, Francis Edwards and May East have diligently served as Findhorn Foundation representatives to the NGO community at the United Nations for many years, where they are now joined by Rob wheeler in his capacity as representative of the Global Ecovillage Network as well.
Michael Shaw, former chair of Findhorn Foundation Trustees and co-creator of BioMatrix Water Ltd, is an engineer who applies his skills to a raft of ecological initiatives globally.
Amanda Haworth is Senior Adviser to the Carbon Disclosure Project and collaborator with Paul Dickinson, Foundation Trustee, in this multinational initiative that invites corporations to both measure and reduce their emissions.
Ed Posey and Liz Hoskins head the Gaia Trust in London where they campaign for a more ecological approach to mining.
Aubrey Meyer is Director of the Global Commons Institute in London and instigator/purveyor of the Contraction & Convergence model for responding to global climate change.
Satish Kumar has been editing and/or superintending Resurgence magazine and Schumacher College for years, both of which have covered and developed the parameters of the holistic movement.
John and Nancy Todd are long time eco-innovators in Falmouth, Massachusetts, imitating nature on a variety of fronts, including Living Machines for the biological and solar aquatic treatment of sewage.
Belden and Lisa Paulson created the Plymouth Institute in Wisconsin that advances new ecological and political perspectives in response to climate change and related issues.
John Clausen and Francis Edwards have diligently served as Foundation representatives to the NGO community at the United Nations for many years, where they are now joined by Rob wheeler in his capacity as representative of the Global Ecovillage Network as well.
Rob Hopkins pioneered the Transition Towns movement from his home in Totnes, Devon. The Transition Network now has global reach in myriad towns and even cities all over the world.
Paul Allen and Peter Harper are collaborators at the Centre For Alternative Technology in Wales from whence they have published Zero Carbon Britain and a recent comparative study of global scenarios for achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, all of which agree that we now possess all the technology we need to achieve carbon neutrality in the near future. All that’s missing is the political will and commitment to do so.
Elisabet Sahtouris is an evolutionary biologist who frames climate change in her work as an opportunity for humanity to ‘achieve maturity’, moving from competition to cooperation in the ongoing quest for sustainability.
Drew Dellinger is a poet, writer, lecturer and cosmological activist who travels globally in the interest of ‘planetising the movement’ for a ‘new story’.
Hazel Henderson and Barbara Marx Hubbard are evolutionary futurists who have long predicted and worked towards the coming Solar Age.
Peter Russell is a philosopher and consultant who worries the current pace of evolution is accelerating beyond the human capacity to cope with the changes it has already wrought.
More than a dozen other Fellows have either created, lived in or supported ecovillages – grass roots collective initiatives seeking to live their lives in harmony with the needs of the planet as a whole. Over the past 50 years they have discovered one another and, in 1995, co-created the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). GEN currently includes several thousand communities all over the world that collectively comprise the kind of holistic response to climate change that resonates with Naomi Klein’s call. They are also sending a delegation to Paris where they intend to do a presentation called Ecovillages: 1001 Ways to Cool the Planet, including a collective commitment to achieve carbon neutrality in their respective settlements by 2020.
Albert Bates, visionary lawyer and permaculturalist at The Farm ecovillage in Tennessee has enumerated some of the many ways that permaculture, as practised by ecovillages, mitigate against climate change.
In launching this project, I asked Fellows to respond to three questions:
- What do you think about climate change?
- What are you doing about climate change?
- What more do you think we as a group can do about climate change?
I also invited those who were willing to send me a calculation of their carbon footprints.
I received replies from about 40 Fellows, indicating varying degrees of concern and engagement with the issue. Most, however, regard climate change as I do, namely as one of the most serious challenges facing us as a species, AND as a driver towards a substantial transformation and reconfiguration of the cultures informing our lives on the planet, co-creating a ‘new story’ for all.
Their individual carbon footprints (not including business travel) were marginally lower than the UK average of 10 tonnes of carbon emissions per person per year. All who replied indicate that they have taken a variety of steps to live as ecologically as possible. Those living in ecovillages usually had lower footprints than those with more conventional lifestyles. Russ Purvis, in Kakwa Ecovillage in Canada, reckons that he and his six full time residents together emit about 3.6 tonnes per year, far and away the winner of this non-competition!
Paul Allen, initiator of the Zero Carbon Britain project at CAT, perhaps gave my queries the most concentrated attention. He reminds us that climate change is no longer a serious challenge from a technological point of view. We now know how to achieve carbon neutrality both in the UK and globally. It really comes down, in the end, to how we live, and vote. And this in turn is directly related to our ‘inner work’.
In the spiritual world there is much talk about an evolutionary shift happening at the moment, and a vital part of that process can serve to strengthen our capacity to face not only the distress, the anxiety and the letting go of the fossil-fuelled consumer dream, but also to embrace the wider deeper truths that will guide us in the necessary action. This is where I see the essential role of spirituality – it offers practices and perspectives that build the inner connections and strength which can enable us to deal with the deeper truths about the true obligations entailed in being one with all of life, but to be truly effective it must embrace and work in harmony with these other two key elements (i.e. developing sustainable energy systems, together with frontline campaigning and protest work).
The complete text of Paul’s missive can be read here.
Though the Findhorn Community has taken significant steps towards reducing our collective footprint, we’re not terribly big on campaigning or protesting (in part because we’re legally constrained by our charitable status). As a spiritual community, what we’re perhaps best known for is our emphasis upon ‘inner work’, which we define as both ‘meditation in action’ and ‘love in action’, or alternatively the work entailed in the clearing of addictions.
More recently, David Spangler, Freya Secrest, Mary Inglis and others added another dimension to our inner work – subtle activism – the process of invoking the assistance of the subtle worlds that manifested originally in the Findhorn gardens and early days in the community, and sending healing energy to troubled areas around the globe.
Given that the larger human community engaged in curbing climate change has thus far failed to get the required job done, it’s perhaps time to re-invoke the assistance of those subtle worlds that can assist us in this regard. At this point, we certainly need all the help we can get!
The Findhorn Community was invited by a group in Paris, 24earth, to set the scene for the summit by participating in a global day of meditation on 1st November. In the Christian calendar, that just happens to be All Saints Day. Be that as it may, we organised a series of events, including a special Taizé service, a choral contribution and a community meditation in hopes of preparing the field for the summit itself a month later.
We invited Fellows and all our world-wide family of supporters to join us and to expect the kind of miracles that just might make the difference required for the summit to meet and exceed expectations. Synchronistically speaking, it’s perhaps no accident that we received notice from Freya Secrest that the Lorian group are currently preparing a new class on subtle activism which she introduces thus:
“Our imagination for a planetary future cannot exclude any levels of the planet’s intelligence. Einstein said that problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them. Thinking on behalf of a planet requires we participate in an interconnected field of thought and action that humanity cannot create on its own. Our planet’s future requires the creative collaboration of many consciousnesses, human and non-human, physical and non-physical.”
Thanks, Freya, for setting the scene for the global meditation! That said, however, I was also struck recently by a message from Andrew Harvey in a lovely new film on subtle activism that’s currently making the rounds. “Remember”, he says, “that it’s about ‘love in action’, and action means not just sitting in meditation and/or prayer and envisioning a better world, but taking the necessary steps to actually create it”. Peter Caddy couldn’t have said it better himself, and he frequently did.
Finally, I want to express my sincere thanks to Christopher Layton for his kind support in making this foray possible. Thanks too for making it possible for me to join the GEN delegation in Paris where I intend, in addition to supporting GEN, to join the many thousands who will be putting their bums on the streets to encourage the summiteers to exceed current expectations in finalising a programme for concerted action on climate change. I’ll keep you posted on what comes down!
In the Spirit of Fellowship.