Friday, November 26, 2010

Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Asia-Pacific Region: Effective Responses in a Resource Constrained World

The Institute for Global Environmental Strategies (IGES), Hayama, Japan, is pleased to announce the publication of its third White Paper entitled “Sustainable Consumption and Production in the Asia-Pacific Region: Effective Responses in a Resource Constrained World”.

The Third IGES White Paper was launched on 30 June 2010, and was presented at the second International Forum for Sustainable Asia and the Pacific (ISAP2010).


IGES White Paper III
(PDF, 3.9MB)

Sustainable business model


Sustainable business models are the next big thing for organisations. Why? For the simple reason that business as usual won’t allow us to meet the huge environmental and social challenges we currently face. 

From food security to energy security to social inequality, business as usual isn’t the answer. Business models driven purely by profit, with no consideration of environmental impact and no recognition of the social value of goods and services, will not prosper in a sustainable future. 

But, what is a sustainable business model?  In “business model speak” it describes how an organisation creates, delivers and captures value in a truly sustainable way. It is the way to deliver commercial success, within environmental limits, while delivering products and services that improve people’s quality of life.
What a sustainable business model is not is creeping incrementalism – tweaks here and a spot of product innovation there. Transitioning to a sustainable business model requires wholescale transformation of how a business does business. 

The good news is that a sustainable business model can exist in an unsustainable world. It is the model for the business, not the overall economy. However, transitioning to a sustainable business model will identify ways that the wider political and economic system needs to change – and is therefore a good route to broader system innovation. 

Last night we held our second Business Network event at our new office in New York. The purpose was to explore what the transition to sustainable business models looks like in practice. We heard from two of our leading business partners, Richard Gillies, Director of Plan A at Marks and Spencer, and Dan Bena, Director of Sustainable Development at PepsiCo. 

Both speakers gave brilliant insights into their companies’ journeys towards sustainability. But, despite fantastic progress in both companies, it was clear that the truly sustainable business model was still a little way off. 

However, based on the conversation we had last night, I’d like to propose seven ways that organisations can begin the transition towards a sustainable business model.   

  1. Experiment with new financing mechanisms. These could include forward purchase agreements for suppliers to allow them to experiment with new production methods, match funding arrangements with government bodies, and the really effective concept of a sustainable innovation or investment fund – a pot of money held centrally which effectively seed funds new ideas, or provides top-up funding to make something happen which is outside current operating budgets. PepsiCo has a sustainable investment fund, M&S a sustainable innovation fund, and both companies are using these central pots of cash to successfully kick-start sustainable innovations across their businesses.
  2. Aim to profit from sustainability. Don't view the sustainability programme as a cost; view it as an investment that will yield financial benefits to the business.  A great example here is Marks and Spencer's Plan A. In year one of the plan this was framed as a £200 million investment, in Year two the plan was cost-neutral, in Year three it generated £50 million net profit from a mixture of resource efficiencies and creation of new products.
  3. Integrate sustainability thinking into the DNA of the business. From incorporating sustainability performance into cash bonus schemes to embarking on full-blown change management programmes, both approaches will bring sustainability into the heart of the business. This will shift perceptions of sustainability from being just 'another thing to do'. Fundamentally, this integration means redefining your organisation's view of what internal success looks like. Reward and recognise your staff for making sustainability a success.
  4. Recognise the need to change the value proposition. In our current consumption-driven society, value is often associated with volume. But buying lots and lots of 'stuff', which maybe we don't need, and we end up throwing away after one use, isn't the path towards sustainability. Businesses need to harness the power of their brand and marketers to help consumers equate quality with attributes other than volume. Quality should also be about where and how something was made (ethically), how it can be used (efficiently) and what happens when we've finished with it (recyclable). Ultimately, sustainability needs to be an attractive value proposition for everyone.
  5. Start to shift your product portfolio. Either through choice editing (taking the sustainability villains off the shelves) or actively promoting the more sustainable choice (healthier, greener); start to ensure that the product portfolio begins to reflect your sustainability policy aspirations, not business as usual.
  6. Be clear what the journey towards a truly sustainable business model looks like.  Identify the transformational changes that the business needs to make. By having a clear road map towards sustainability, a business is less likely to shuffle forwards with just small incremental tweaks. The goal is transformational jumps, not incremental chunks.
  7. Innovate, innovate, innovate. Everywhere. From product design to service delivery, to internal and external communication, to business strategy planning, innovation is key to delivering the holy grail of a sustainable business model.
Both M&S and PepsiCo are well down the road towards a sustainable business model. We urgently need other businesses to join them on the journey.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Promising Practices in Adaptation & Resilience: A Resource Guide for Local Leaders

Sarah McKearnan, Steve Nicholas, Joyce Peters, George Sarrinikolaou, Elaine Wang, Betty Weiss, Tom Wilson, and Josh Foster

This Resource Guide represents a synthesis of the best available information we were able to find about the ways in which experts and practitioners across the country are working to meet the challenges outlined above. The Resource Guide is intended to help practitioners in cities and metropolitan regions resolve local issues, by showcasing promising practices in climate adaptation and resilience, and by providing efficient access to some of the very best information and resources that are available.

The Resource Guide is not an exhaustive compilation of available information—a near-impossible task given the growing volume of international studies, reports, websites, books and blogs on the topic of climate resilience. Still, this document reflects an intensive effort by the CLA team, including dozens of phone consultations with leading experts and practitioners and a great deal of web-based research, to identify, compile, vet and synthesize useful information on innovative policies, programs and practices being deployed throughout the country.

The Resource Guide includes:

-Case Studies that discuss how various local government practitioners have made progress on climate adaptation planning, including risk assessment, integration of climate concerns in planning, getting and keeping commitment to adaptation, and cross-jurisdictional collaboration.

-Resource lists by topic that direct practitioners toward the topic-specific sources of information—studies, reports, articles, and websites—that we believe are most likely to help them improve, expand and accelerate their adaptation and resilience efforts.

Finally, this Resource Guide is and will continue to be a work in progress. While the CLA team produced it initially for those practitioners who were attending the first Climate Leadership Academy on Adaptation and Resilience, the team intends to update and expand it on a regular basis, and make it available to local practitioners everywhere.

Series Title

Climate Leadership Academy on Adaptation and Resilience

Sponsoring Organization

Center for Clean Air Policy

Number of Pages


Volume/Publication Number


Location Focus

North America

DESIGNING a world that works for all

Designing a World That Works for All

Global Solutions Lab and supported by the UN

DESIGNING a world that works for all

How the Youth of the World are Creating Real-World Solutions for the UN Millenium Development Goals and Beyond

“This book documents the explorations of many young people as they sought to understand our world and to figure out and design ways of making it work better for everyone. What is missing from the individual chapters or strategies are the interactions and resulting synergies of these parts as they combine into a whole that is exciting in its possibilities.

These strategies for transforming the world are suffused with a sense of values and vision that is bold, inclusive and caring— and which is for the entire world, not just a part of it. In some cases, the strategies are revolutionary and transformative, in others, “merely” dealing with critical problems. Taken together, all the strategies add up to a synergetic whole that is revolutionary, transformative and regenerative.
The whole, the parts and the interactions of the parts, creates a world where the most egregious forms of brutal poverty are eliminated, hunger and malnutrition eradicated, health, longevity and the quality of life are improved and the environment is allowed to regenerate. Where, in short, basic human needs are met, basic human rights fulfilled, and our environmental life-support systems are strengthened.

The global and local strategies described in this book help illustrate the creativity, values, vision, and commitment of the youth and concerned citizens of the world. They also represent what an interdisciplinary, multigenerational group of non-experts can do when provided an opportunity and methodology for tackling the critical and complex problems facing the world.

Your feedback is most welcome—as is your ongoing participation in this evolving work. One way to do this is to send us your comments and suggestions by emailing us at
Those wishing to take part in upcoming Labs are urged to contact BigPictureSmallWorld at, or check in at”

Monday, November 22, 2010

Climate Booklet for Urban Development

Indications for Urban Land-use Planning




1. Climate as a Public Interest in Planning and Zoning

2. Characteristics and Forms of the Urban Climate

3. Energy-Conscious Planning and Zoning

4. Methods of Information Acquisition for Planning

5. Climatic and Air Hygiene Maps as Aids for Planning and Zoning

6. Recommendations for Planning

7. Literature

8. Links



Download Climate Booklet for Urban Development
General sides
(Introduction, Foreword, Sitemap,  Imprint, Download)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 1 CB-Chapter_1.pdf (46 KB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 2
(with figures)
CB-Chapter_2.pdf (3,7 MB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 3
(with figures)
CB-Chapter_3.pdf (4,5 MB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 4
(with figures)
CB-Chapter_4.pdf (8,6 MB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 5
(with figures)
CB-Chapter_5.pdf (4,6 MB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 6
(with figures)
CB-Chapter_6.pdf (5,6 MB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 7 Literature.pdf (55 KB)
Climate Booklet - Chapter 8 Links.pdf (88 KB)
Climate Booklet - Complete
(Chapter 1 - 8)
CB-Complete.pdf (27 MB !)
German Federal Building Law - 1997
German Federal Building Law - 2004
German Federal Building Law - adjustment 2006
Adjustment of the German Federal Building Law
to EU-guidelines (EAGBau) (2004)
EAGBau.pdf (216 KB)
Federal Emission Protection Law
(BImSchG 2002)
Building Use Regulation
(BauNVO 1993)
First Regulation 1.BImSchV
for small and middle combustion plants)
Sixteens Regulation 16. BImSchV
(Traffic noise protection regulation)
Twenty-second Regulation 22. BImSchV (2002)
(Regulation about immission values for air pollutants)
Thirty-three Regulation 33. BImSchV (2004)
(Regulation about immission values for air pollutants and annulment the 23. BImSchV)
33-BImSchV.pdf (135 KB)
Energy savings regulation EnEV 2007
EnEV-2007.pdf (790 KB)
Screening-Manual of the EU
screening.pdf (242 KB)
Green Roof - however how?
Climaticfair building in Europe
Technical guidance for the air pollution control (TA-Luft 2002)
Environmental data Germany 2002
UD-D-2002.pdf (1,0 MB)
Law over environmental compatibility test
(UVPG 2002)
UVPG-2002.pdf (229 KB)
World Meteorological Organisation
(WMO 2003, Our future climate)
WMO-2003.pdf (1,2 MB)
Middle annual solar irradiation in Baden-Wuerttemberg (LfU)
Degree Disertation (Christine Fenn): "Die Bedeutung
der Hanglagen für das Stadtklima in Stuttgart" (2005)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Cities and Biodiversity Case Studies

Full Case Study Series (EN) (High Res - 13MB) (Low Res - 3MB)
Full Case Study Series (FR) (High Res - 13MB) (Low Res - 3MB)

Individual Sections

Setting the Context (EN) (FR)

City of Calgary (EN) (FR) - Creating a Biodiversity Strategy Based on Past Experiences

Dehcho First Nations (EN) (FR) - Local Native Community Works to Protect National Treasure

City of Edmonton (EN) (FR) - Mainstreaming Biodiversity through Urban Design and Community Engagement

City of Greater Sudbury (EN) (FR) - Steady Approach to Biodiversity Recovery

City of Guelph (EN) (FR) - Planning Canada’s First Pollination Park

City of Kelowna (EN) (FR) - Protecting Sensitive Ecosystems and Habitats

City of Montréal (EN) (FR) - Biodiversity as a Key Function of the Municipality

City of Toronto (EN) (FR) - Community Driven Urban Biodiversity Protection

City of Trois-Rivières (EN) (FR) - Integration of Biodiversity with Urban Development

City of Winnipeg (EN) (FR) - An Urban Forest: Valuable to both Ecosystem and Community

Town of Wolfville (EN) (FR) - Transforming a Town into a Community Arboretum

Changing Climate, Changing Communities: Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation

Changing Climate, Changing Communities can be accessed below as either the full versions or as individual chapters.

Full Guide
Full Workbook
Full Annexes

Main Guide
The main guide outlines the five milestones for climate adaptation and outlines how to implement each one. The guide can be used on its own or in coordination with the workbook and annexes which provide additional tools to assist in moving through the Milestone process.

Guide: Cover, Table of Contents, and Preface
Guide: About this Guide and A Climate Change Primer
Guide: Milesone One
Guide: Milesone Two
Guide: Milesone Three
Guide: Milestone Four
Guide: Milestone Five
Guide: Final Thoughts

The worksheets are an optional component of the guide that are meant to assist communities who would like additional resources at particular stages of the planning process. Note: Though the main Guide can stand alone and be used without the workbooks, in order to complete the worksheets the guide must be used and will likely require repeated referencing.

Workbook: Worksheet 1 - Stakeholder Identification
Workbook: Worksheet 2 - Building an Adaptation Team
Workbook: Worksheet 3 - Taking a First Look
Workbook: Worksheet 4 - Using Issue Briefs
Workbook: Worksheet 5 - Sample Council Resolution
Workbook: Worksheet 6a - Recording Climatic Changes
Workbook: Worksheet 6b - Refining Impact Statements and Service Areas
Workbook: Worksheet 7 - Conducting a Vulnerability Assessment
Workbook: Worksheet 8 - Conducting a Risk Assessment
Workbook: Worksheet 9 - Establishing a Vision and Setting Goals & Objectives
Workbook: Worksheet 10 - Identifying Adaptation Options
Workbook: Worksheet 11 - Identifying Dirvers and Constraints
Workbook: Worksheet 12 - Using Indicators and Creating a Baseline
Workbook: Worksheet 13 - Drafting an Adaptation Plan
Workbook: Worksheet 14 - Press Release Template
Workbook: Worksheet 15 - Using and Allocating Implementation Tools
Workbook: Worksheet 16 - Updating your Adaptation Plan
Workbook: Worksheet 17 - Communicating Accomplishments

Information Annexes
The third component of the Guide are the information annexes which supplement the main guide and include information on regional climatic changes, driveres & constraints, and a synthesis of other resources, organized by topic, that can assist communities in planning for climate change.

Annex One - Resource Checklists

Annex Two - Regional Climatic Changes

Annex Three - Drivers and Constraints

Annex Four - Tips for Facilitators

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Notes To The World Series

by Joseph Bernard

This series is about you and all of us and I have a request. I would appreciate your help. If you like or get value from what I write please share my posts with others you think will benefit from the ideas and insights. It is my hope that these Notes To The World will actually be read by people all over the world. The more readers asking questions, starting to awaken, becoming more aware, are moving towards insights and actions, the better. Your feedback and questions would also be helpful.

Today I wanted in this first N2W post is to put things as simple as possible. It is my hope to supercharge you to be you as fully and completely as possible. My intention is to empower you to become a person who feels good about self and others and who can make a real difference in his or her community, state, nation or across the planet. With your highest expression in mind here is the first and most important consideration to be mindful of: You and I shape all of our experience by what lenses we look through. If we look through the lens of criticism, finding fault and judging, we are guaranteed to find lots of things that are wrong. If we look through the lens of appreciation, of compassion and a desire to understand, we will see much to appreciate and we will be wise with understand.

Make it your intention each day to see the goodness and beauty in everyone including you, to have compassion for their struggles and yours, and celebrate the success and joys of life with as many as you can. Be willing to be genuine in who you are with an optimistic flair. Let yourself appreciate you and each moment throughout your day. Please watch your thoughts and put to rest the nagging inner critic because it only causes you to be less happy.

Looking at the world through a positive perspective will let you see what can be done to make it better and what part you can uniquely play that will create even greater results. A thoughtful, in touch person, seeing what is working and what is possible can be a powerful agent for consciousness and peace.

Peace is my passion, what is yours?

by Joseph Bernard 

Friday, November 12, 2010

Digital Toolkits: Strengthen your adaptation skills

sm_tookit_cba_homeThe CARE CBA Projects Toolkit offers a practical "how-to" guide for practitioners as they go through the project cycle. It includes step-by-step guidance and recommended tools for all stages of the project cycle, along with links to useful resources and checklists for key project documents. It also includes CBA Project Standards to support high-quality analysis, design, implementation and knowledge management (including monitoring & evaluation).

Portuguese: Coming soon.

sm_integration_screenThe CARE Toolkit for Integrating Climate Change into Development Projects provides practical assistance for adapting design, implementation, monitoring & evaluation to the challenges posed by climate change. Its step-by-step structure helps users design climate-resilient interventions with sustainable impacts. The Toolkit also includes simple checklists to ensure that activities don't inadvertently increase people's vulnerability to climate change. It provides guidelines and recommended tools for all stages of the project cycle, as well as practical examples. Water resource management and agricultural projects are specifically highlighted, as they were prioritised for field testing by beta-versions of the Toolkit.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Learning from Leonardo

When it comes to connecting art, science, and design, there can be no better inspiration than Leonardo da Vinci.

He was the great genius of the Renaissance, who not only connected these three disciplines but fused them into a seamless whole in a unique synthesis that has not been equaled before, nor afterwards. I have studied Leonardo's synthesis for many years. I published a book, The Science of Leonardo, in 2007; and I have now written about three quarters of a second book, in which I go deeper into the various branches of his science.

Most authors who have discussed Leonardo's scientific work have looked at it through Newtonian lenses. This has often prevented them from understanding its essential nature, which is that of a science of organic forms, of qualities, that is radically different from the mechanistic science of Galileo, Descartes, and Newton. And this is precisely why Leonardo's science is so relevant today, especially for education, as we are trying to see the world as an integrated whole, making a perceptual shift from the parts to the whole, objects to relationships, quantities to qualities.

The Empirical Method

In Western intellectual history, the Renaissance marks the period of transition from the Middle Ages to the modern world. In the 1460s, when the young Leonardo received his training as painter, sculptor, and engineer in Florence, the worldview of his contemporaries was still entangled in medieval thinking.

Science in the modern sense, as a systematic empirical method for gaining knowledge about the natural world, did not exist. Knowledge about natural phenomena had been handed down by Aristotle and other philosophers of antiquity, and was fused with Christian doctrine by the Scholastic theologians who presented it as the officially authorized creed and condemned scientific experiments as subversive. Leonardo da Vinci broke with this tradition:

"First I shall do some experiments before I proceed farther, because my intention is to cite experience first and then with reasoning show why such experience is bound to operate in such a way. And this is the true rule by which those who speculate about the effects of nature must proceed."

One hundred years before Galileo and Bacon, Leonardo single-handedly developed a new empirical approach, involving the systematic observation of nature, reasoning, and mathematics — in other words, the main characteristics of what is known today as the scientific method.

Leonardo's approach to scientific knowledge was visual; it was the approach of a painter. "Painting," he declares, "embraces within itself all the forms of nature." I believe that this statement is the key to understanding Leonardo's science. He asserts repeatedly that painting involves the study of natural forms, and he emphasizes the intimate connection between the artistic representation of those forms and the intellectual understanding of their intrinsic nature and underlying principles. For example, we read in a collection of his notes on painting, known as the "Treatise on Painting":

"[Painting] with philosophic and subtle speculation considers all the qualities of forms…. Truly this is science, the legitimate daughter of nature, because painting is born of nature."

Nature as a whole was alive for Leonardo, and he saw the patterns and processes in the microcosm as being similar to those in the macrocosm. In particular, he frequently drew analogies between human anatomy and the structure of the Earth, as in the following beautiful passage:

"We may say that the Earth has a vital force of growth, and that its flesh is the soil; its bones are the successive strata of the rocks which form the mountains; its cartilage is the porous rock, its blood the veins of the waters. The lake of blood that lies around the heart is the ocean. Its breathing is the increase and decrease of the blood in the pulses, just as in the Earth it is the ebb and flow of the sea."

Systemic Thinker

Leonardo was what we would call, in today's scientific parlance, a systemic thinker. Understanding a phenomenon, for him, meant connecting it with other phenomena through a similarity of patterns. When he studied the proportions of the human body, he compared them to the proportions of buildings in Renaissance architecture; his investigations of muscles and bones led him to study and draw gears and levers, thus interlinking animal physiology and engineering; patterns of turbulence in water led him to observe similar patterns in the flow of air; and from there he went on to explore the nature of sound, the theory of music, and the design of musical instruments.

This exceptional ability to interconnect observations and ideas from different disciplines lies at the very heart of Leonardo's approach to learning and research, and this is something that is very much needed today, as the problems of our world become ever more interconnected and can only be understood and solved if we learn how to think systemically — in terms of relationships, patterns, and context.

While Leonardo's manuscripts gathered dust in ancient European libraries, Galileo was celebrated as the "father of modern science." One cannot help but wonder how Western scientific thought might have developed had Leonardo's notebooks been known and widely studied soon after his death.

Leonardo's Legacy

Leonardo did not pursue science and engineering to dominate nature, as Francis Bacon would advocate a century later. He abhorred violence and had a special compassion for animals. He was a vegetarian because he did not want to cause animals pain by killing them for food. He would buy caged birds in the marketplace and set them free, and would observe their flight not only with a sharp observational eye but also with great empathy.

Instead of trying to dominate nature, Leonardo's intent was to learn from her as much as possible. He was in awe of the beauty he saw in the complexity of natural forms, patterns, and processes, and aware that nature's ingenuity was far superior to human design. "Though human ingenuity in various inventions uses different instruments for the same end," he declared, "it will never discover an invention more beautiful, easier, or more economical than nature's, because in her inventions nothing is wanting and nothing is superfluous."

This attitude of seeing nature as a model and mentor is now being rediscovered in the practices of ecological design and biomimicry. Like Leonardo, ecodesigners today study the patterns and flows in the natural world and try to incorporate the underlying principles into their design processes. This attitude of appreciation and respect of nature is based on a philosophical stance that does not view humans as standing apart from the rest of the living world but rather as being fundamentally embedded in, and dependent upon, the entire community of life in the biosphere.

Today, this philosophical stance is promoted by the school of thought known as "deep ecology." Shallow ecology views humans as above or outside the natural world, as the source of all value, and ascribes only instrumental, or "use," value to nature. Deep ecology, by contrast, does not separate humans — or anything else — from the natural environment. It sees the living world as being fundamentally interconnected and interdependent and recognizes the intrinsic value of all living beings. Amazingly, Leonardo's notebooks contain an explicit articulation of that view:

"The virtues of grasses, stones, and trees do not exist because humans know them.… Grasses are noble in themselves without the aid of human languages or letters."

In view of this deep ecological awareness and of Leonardo's systemic way of thinking, it is not surprising that he spoke with great disdain of the so-called "abbreviators," the reductionists of his time:

"The abbreviators do harm to knowledge and to love.... Of what use is he who, in order to abridge the part of the things of which he professes to give complete knowledge, leaves out the greater part of the things of which the whole is composed?… Oh human stupidity!... Don't you see that you fall into the same error as he who strips a tree of its adornment of branches laden with leaves, intermingled with fragrant flowers or fruit, in order to demonstrate the suitability of the tree for making planks?"

This statement is not only revealing testimony of Leonardo's way of thinking, but is also ominously prophetic. Reducing the beauty of life to mechanical parts and valuing trees only for making planks is an eerily accurate characterization of the mindset that dominates our world today. This, in my view, is the main reason why Leonardo's legacy is immensely relevant to our time.

As we recognize that our sciences and technologies have become increasingly narrow in their focus, unable to understand our multi-faceted problems from an interdisciplinary perspective, and dominated by corporations more interested in financial rewards than in the well-being of humanity, we urgently need a science that honors and respects the unity of all life, recognizes the fundamental interdependence of all natural phenomena, and reconnects us with the living Earth. What we need today is exactly the kind of science Leonardo da Vinci anticipated and outlined 500 years ago.

This essay is adapted from lectures delivered by Fritjof Capra at the Center for Ecoliteracy's seminar "Sustainability Education: Connecting Art, Science, and Design," August 16–18, 2010.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Educational Experiences with the Earth Charter


This section aims to collect stories about how different people and institutions are using the Earth Charter as a tool in their education settings. 

These stories have several commonalities, for example, they are values-driven experiences, promoting values for sustainability using the Earth Charter as a framework.  They are context-specific, most of them are action-oriented and use participatory methodologies.

These stories are examples of education for sustainable development in action.

We have done this effort previously, but publishing these stories as hard-copy books.  Now, we are bringing this stories in digital form, which allow us to save paper, but also to to continually update the information and include new stories.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Changing the World

by Casey Kochmer

The global society continues down a negative spiral.

It feels overwhelmingly disastrous as a destination. Lets face it many people are wanting to leap off this crazy out of control industrial train.

How do we change this? Not by changing the world but by accepting and living our own life kindly now.

Does one person's actions change the full world? Yes your own actions changes your own world fully and completely.

You see the mistake is to think you are on the train heading full tilt into disaster.

Once living a life in projection (any projection) you assist and aid that projection into staying real.

OK I wrote this this morning since I felt depressed: Like any other kind man: I am tired at seeing the news, the pettiness, the human cruelty, the negative ways so many people live and for 10 minutes I allowed myself to feel the doom of our culture and, I simply wanted to walk away.

Then I took a deep breath in, open my eyes, saw past the news and projections: I saw transformation and life.

I will live my life in kindness and continue to let my kindness define a wonderful world.

I don't know where everything will be tomorrow. I know I have touched and helped hundreds of people, I know I live well and in kindness. My world is already heavenly and expanding.
You see the choice isn't about how to save the world.

The choice is how to LIVE IN THE WORLD.

I do so in kindness and that is it...
Each day I improve, each day I simplify and enjoy ever more my life. The guiding principles are kindness, compassion and grace. Once you have that down, you can't help but experience a positive cycle of living life.

If I repeat this message it's only because, people don't believe it can be this simple.

It is.


A Circle of Gifts

Charles, Eisenstein

Wherever I go and ask people what is missing from their lives, the most common answer (if they are not impoverished or seriously ill) is "community." What happened to community, and why don't we have it any more? There are many reasons – the layout of suburbia, the disappearance of public space, the automobile and the television, the high mobility of people and jobs – and, if you trace the "why's" a few levels down, they all implicate the money system.

More directly posed: community is nearly impossible in a highly monetized society like our own. That is because community is woven from gifts, which is ultimately why poor people often have stronger communities than rich people. If you are financially independent, then you really don't depend on your neighbors – or indeed on any specific person – for anything. You can just pay someone to do it, or pay someone else to do it.

In former times, people depended for all of life's necessities and pleasures on people they knew personally. If you alienated the local blacksmith, brewer, or doctor, there was no replacement. Your quality of life would be much lower. If you alienated your neighbors then you might not have help if you sprained your ankle during harvest season, or if your barn burnt down. Community was not an add-on to life, it was a way of life. Today, with only slight exaggeration, we could say we don't need anyone. I don't need the farmer who grew my food – I can pay someone else to do it. I don't need the mechanic who fixed my car. I don't need the trucker who brought my shoes to the store. I don't need any of the people who produced any of the things I use. I need someone to do their jobs, but not the unique individual people. They are replaceable and, by the same token, so am I.

That is one reason for the universally recognized superficiality of most social gatherings. How authentic can it be, when the unconscious knowledge, "I don't need you," lurks under the surface? When we get together to consume – food, drink, or entertainment – do we really draw on the gifts of anyone present? Anyone can consume. Intimacy comes from co-creation, not co-consumption, as anyone in a band can tell you, and it is different from liking or disliking someone. But in a monetized society, our creativity happens in specialized domains, for money.

(photo via American Jewish Historical Society)

To forge community then, we must do more than simply get people together. While that is a start, soon we get tired of just talking, and we want to do something, to create something. It is a very tepid community indeed, when the only need being met is the need to air opinions and feel that we are right, that we get it, and isn't it too bad that other people don't ... hey, I know! Let's collect each others' email addresses and start a listserv!
Community is woven from gifts. Unlike today's market system, whose built-in scarcity compels competition in which more for me is less for you, in a gift economy the opposite holds. Because people in gift culture pass on their surplus rather than accumulating it, your good fortune is my good fortune: more for you is more for me. Wealth circulates, gravitating toward the greatest need. In a gift community, people know that their gifts will eventually come back to them, albeit often in a new form. Such a community might be called a "circle of the gift."

Fortunately, the monetization of life has reached its peak in our time, and is beginning a long and permanent receding (of which economic "recession" is an aspect). Both out of desire and necessity, we are poised at a critical moment of opportunity to reclaim gift culture, and therefore to build true community. The reclamation is part of a larger shift of human consciousness, a larger reunion with nature, earth, each other, and lost parts of ourselves. Our alienation from gift culture is an aberration and our independence an illusion. We are not actually independent or "financially secure" – we are just as dependent as before, only on strangers and impersonal institutions, and, as we are likely to soon discover, these institutions are quite fragile.

Given the circular nature of gift flow, I was excited to learn that one of the most promising social inventions that I've come across for building community is called the Gift Circle. Developed by Alpha Lo, co-author of The Open Collaboration Encyclopedia, and his friends in Marin County, California, it exemplifies the dynamics of gift systems and illuminates the broad ramifications that gift economies portend for our economy, psychology, and civilization.

The ideal number of participants in a gift circle is 10-20. Everyone sits in a circle, and takes turns saying one or two needs they have. In the last circle I facilitated, some of the needs shared were: "a ride to the airport next week," "someone to help remove a fence," "used lumber to build a garden," "a ladder to clean my gutter," "a bike," and "office furniture for a community center." As each person shares, others in the circle can break in to offer to meet the stated need, or with suggestions of how to meet it.

When everyone has had their turn, we go around the circle again, each person stating something he or she would like to give. Some examples last week were "Graphic design skills," "the use of my power tools," "contacts in local government to get things done," and "a bike," but it could be anything: time, skills, material things; the gift of something outright, or the gift of the use of something (borrowing). Again, as each person shares, anyone can speak up and say, "I'd like that," or "I know someone who could use one of those."
During both these rounds, it is useful to have someone write everything down and send the notes out the next day to everyone via email, or on a web page, blog, etc. Otherwise it is quite easy to forget who needs and offers what. Also, I suggest writing down, on the spot, the name and phone number of someone who wants to give or receive something to/from you. It is essential to follow up, or the gift circle will end up feeding cynicism rather than community.

(photo via George Eastman House Collection)

Finally, the circle can do a third round in which people express gratitude for the things they received since the last meeting. This round is extremely important because in community, the witnessing of others' generosity inspires generosity in those who witness it. It confirms that this group is giving to each other, that gifts are recognized, and that my own gifts will be recognized, appreciated, and reciprocated as well.

It is just that simple: needs, gifts, and gratitude. But the effects can be profound.

First, gift circles (and any gift economy, in fact) can reduce our dependence on the traditional market. If people give us things we need, then we needn't buy them. I won't need to take a taxi to the airport tomorrow, and Rachel won't have to buy lumber for her garden. The less we use money, the less time we need to spend earning it, and the more time we have to contribute to the gift economy, and then receive from it. It is a virtuous circle.

Secondly, a gift circle reduces our production of waste. It is ridiculous to pump oil, mine metal, manufacture a table and ship it across the ocean when half the people in town have old tables in their basements. It is ridiculous as well for each household on my block to own a lawnmower, which they use two hours a month, a leaf blower they use twice a year, power tools they use for an occasional project, and so on. If we shared these things, we would suffer no loss of quality of life. Our material lives would be just as rich, yet would require less money and less waste.

In economic terms, a gift circle reduces gross domestic product, defined as the sum total of all goods and services exchanged for money. By getting a gift ride from someone instead of paying a taxi, I am reducing GDP by $20. When my friend drops off her son at my house instead of paying for day care, GDP falls by another $30. The same is true when someone borrows a bike from another person's basement instead of buying a new one. (Of course, GDP won't fall if the money saved is then spent on something else. Standard economics, drawing on a deep assumption about the infinite upward elasticity of human wants, assumes this is nearly always the case. A critique of this deeply flawed assumption is beyond the scope of the present essay.)
Standard economic discourse views shrinking GDP as a big problem. When the economy doesn't grow, capital investment and employment shrink, reducing consumer demand andcausing further drops in investment and employment. For the last seventy years, the solution to such crises has been (1) to lower interest rates to spur lending so that businesses have access to funds for capital investment and consumers have money to spend and create demand; (2) to increase government spending to replace stalled growth in consumer demand. These are known, respectively, as monetary stimulus and fiscal stimulus. In both cases, the goal is to "stimulate" the economy, to get it growing again. Government policy in the present economic crisis has been the same. Liberals and conservatives may disagree on the amount and type of stimulus required, but rarely does anyone – not Barack Obama, not even the most liberal member of Congress – question the desirability of growing the economy. That is because, in the current debt-based, interest-bearing money system, the absence of growth leads to rapid concentration of wealth and economic depression.

Today, however, on the fringes of political and environmental movements, the recognition is growing that society and the planet can no longer sustain further growth. For growth – which in GDP terms means the expansion in the realm of monetized goods and services – ultimately comes from the conversion of nature into commodities and the conversion of social relationships into professional services. Consider again the social gathering I described. Why don't we need each other? It is because all the gift relationships upon which we once depended are now paid services. They have been converted into service work which the market converts into cash. What is there left to convert? Whether fossil fuels, topsoil, aquifers, the atmosphere's capacity to absorb waste; whether it is food, clothing, shelter, medicine, music, or our collective cultural bequest of stories and ideas, nearly all have become commodities. Unless we can find yet new realms of nature to convert into good, unless we can find even more functions of human life to commoditize, our days of economic growth are numbered. What room for growth remains – for example in today's anemic economic recovery – comes only at an increasing cost to nature and society.

(photo via Smithsonian Institute)

From this perspective, a third consequence of the gift circle and other forms of gift economy becomes apparent. Not only does gift-based circulation subtract from GDP, it also hastens the demise of the present economic system. Any bit of nature or human relationship that we preserve or reclaim from the commodity world is one bit less that is available to sell, or to use as the basis for new interest-bearing loans. Without constant creation of new debt, existing debt cannot be repaid. Lending opportunities only occur in a context of economic growth, in which the marginal return on capital investment exceeds the interest rate. To simplify: no growth, less lending; less lending, more transfer of assets to creditors; more transfer of assets, more concentration of wealth; more concentration of wealth, less consumer spending; less consumer spending, less growth. This is the vicious circle described by economists going back to Karl Marx. It has been deferred for two centuries by the ceaseless opening up, through technology and colonization, of new realms of nature and relationship to the market. Today, not only are these realms nearly exhausted, but a shift of conscious motivates growing efforts to reclaim them for the commons and for the gift. Today, we direct huge efforts toward protecting the forests, whereas the most brilliant minds of two generations ago devoted themselves to their more efficient clearcutting. Similarly, so many of us today seek to limit pollution not expand production, to protect the waters not increase the fish catch, to preserve the wetlands -not build larger housing developments. These efforts, while not always successful, put a brake on economic growth beyond the natural limit the environment poses. From the gift perspective, what is happening is that we no longer seek merely to take from the planet, but to give back as well. This corresponds to the coming of age of humanity, transitioning from a mother-child relationship to earth, to a co-creative partnership in which giving and receiving find balance.

The same transition to the gift is underway in the social realm. Many of us no longer aspire to financial independence, the state in which we have so much money we needn't depend on anyone for anything. Today, increasingly, we yearn instead for community. We don't want to live in a commodity world, where everything we have exists for the primary goal of profit. We want things created for love and beauty, things that connect us more deeply to the people around us. We desire to be interdependent, not independent. The gift circle, and the many new forms of gift economy that are emerging on the Internet, are ways of reclaiming human relationships from the market.
Whether natural or social, the reclamation of the gift-based commonwealth not only hastens the collapse of a growth-dependent money system, it also mitigates its severity. At the present moment, the market faces a crisis, merely one of a multiplicity of crises (ecological, social) that are converging upon us. Through the turbulent time that is upon us, the survival of humanity, and our capacity to build a new kind of civilization embodying a new relationship to earth and a new, more connected, human identity, depends on these scraps of the commonwealth that we are able to preserve or reclaim. Although we have done grievous damage to earth, vast wealth still remains. There is still richness in the soil, water, cultures and biomes of this planet. The longer we persist under the status quo, the less of that richness will remain and the more calamitous the transition will be.

On a less tangible level, any gifts we give contribute to another kind of common wealth – a reservoir of gratitude that will see us through times of turmoil, when the conventions and stories that hold civic society together fall apart. Gifts inspire gratitude and generosity is infectious. Increasingly, I read and hear stories of generosity, selflessness, even magnanimity that take my breath away. When I witness generosity, I want to be generous too. In the coming times, we will need the generosity, the selflessness, and the magnanimity of many people. If everyone seeks merely their own survival, then there is no hope for a new kind of civilization. We need each others' gifts as we need each others' generosity to invite us into the realm of the gift ourselves. In contrast to the age of money where we can pay for anything and need no gifts, soon it will be abundantly clear: we need each other.