Saturday, October 23, 2010

AUG. 2010

A Gaian Paradigm: Speculation on the Future

William N. Ellis

Chapter 1                                About Gaia
Chapter 2                                Governance
Chapter 3                                Lifelong Learning
Chapter 4                                Gaian Religion
Chapter 5                               Gaian Creed
Chapter 6                                Other Paths to a Gaian Paradigm


Chapter 7                                Gaian Ecology
Chapter 8                                Gaian Energy
Chapter 9                                Corporate Economics
Chapter 10                              Alternatives to Economics
Chapter 11                              Gaian Food System
Chapter 12                              Gaian Habitat
Chapter 13                              Gaian Health


Chapter 14                              Social Revolutions
Chapter 15                              People
Chapter 16                              Community Global Governance
Chapter 17                              Lifelong Learning
Chapter 18                              Gaian Learning
Chapter 19                              Alternatives to Education
Chapter 20                              Learning Alternatives
Chapter 21                              Esoteric Paths to the Gaian Future

Doing Something




The core of this book is about Gaia (Earth and all of its life-forms, including all humans). Gaia is a unity and evolves as a unit. Each component of Gaia, including each human, is tightly linked and is interdependent with every other component. This unity of Gaia replaces the autonomy and independence of each unit of Gaia that is the basis of our current cultures. There are some basic themes in this book that may not be obvious on the surface, so I’ll outline them here.

The first and most basic theme is that all humans are shaped more by nurture (their culture) than by nature (their genes); see the review of Mary Clark’s book in chapter 14. Each of us absorbs as true and immutable values and concepts—whatever comes from our families, friends, schools, and society. That is called a paradigm or a worldview. We seldom challenge the paradigm but live within its totems and taboos without thinking.

A second basic tenet of this book is that life is good. It is an optimistic understanding that there is no evil. No person sets out to harm others or damage the world without cause. We have no enemies but only people we don’t understand. Our purpose in life, like the purpose of the system in which we belong, should be to try to understand the motives of even those who seem most evil in their understanding or paradigm. Their goal, like our own, is to improve themselves by improving the other members of groups to which they belong. We need to search and create a common ground in which all humans can live in mutual support and harmony.

The third theme is democracy. The concept of Gaia gives a whole new foundation for the future. The Earth and a life on Earth, including every human being, are closely linked and interdependent. Relevant to this concept of Gaia are the new technologies that connect us in real time in all parts of the world. These make possible a new direct democracy in which all people have the ability to have a voice in every decision that has an effect on their lives.

It is not important for the reader to accept these themes. It is far less important that the reader accept any of the proposed solutions, ideas, or speculations that are in this book. I do hope that this book will stretch your mind to recognize that there are different ways to view the world, to have the courage to express your own views, and to take action to bring them to fruition.
This first section will introduce the basic concepts of social change based on the hard sciences. Section II will go into more details and speculations on positive Gaian cultures. And Section III will emphasize some of the social innovations now in place that empower people at the grass roots and promote local community self-reliance—Gaia.


For some two thousand years or more, civilization has been ruled by a social paradigm on which all aspects of the Euro American cultures are based—the dominator paradigm. In the past two decades, a new social paradigm has been emerging that could have the most deep fundamental impact on human civilization since hominids first came down from the trees. The old paradigm placed humans in a purposeful universe created by some supernatural power for the domination and use of man (and I do mean “man”). The new paradigm we’ll call a Gaian paradigm suggests a spontaneously self-organizing universe in which humanity is but one of the created interdependent webs of being.

The dominator paradigm has had a long evolution. It grew from the Jewish creation myth that holds that Earth was created for the use of and domination of man. It was strengthened by Greek philosophy with its postulate that “Man is the measure of all things.” The early Christian church held that a “great chain of being” puts man at the top of a hierarchy with only a few celestial beings above. Below man, on descending rungs, were women, children, other races, animals, plants, and Earth. Each is there to serve and be dominated by those on the rungs above. This dominator paradigm was stamped in the minds of Europe by the thousand-year Inquisition that burned some one million people, mostly women, at the stake for believing in Earth or nature as our creator. It was spread east by the Crusades that destroyed “infidel” humans, cities, and nations. It was spread globally by the Age of Colonization and Discovery. It was perpetuated and made worldwide by the sword (technology), the cross (Christianity), and the flag (nationalism). Newton’s clockwork concept of the cosmos and Darwin’s theory of evolution were interpreted to “prove” the validity of the dominator paradigm. It was fixed in our moral secular system with the acceptance of Adam Smith’s economic theory that claims that human self-interest, competition, and materialism should, and do, dictate all human actions. This abomination as the essence of humanity now rules the world. It was the fundamental cause of the 2008–09 economic breakdown.

The new Gaian paradigm not only has many roots but can be, and is becoming, the underpinning of a new global network of cultures replacing the now dominant and domineering man-centered industrial cultures. The new cultures will, like all cultures, be a holistic unified coherence of interdependent components—religion, economics, social, art, and others. The emergence of a Gaian paradigm is resulting in a deep fundamental transition of our worldview, our social institutions, and our lifestyles. The need for this transition is being made obvious by the growing number of dangers inherent in industrialism. And the transition is happening, and being made real, with the introduction of many positive and creative social innovations. President Obama’s cry for change hit on a very responsive audience, but it is not only in politics that change is needed.

This millennium is being looked upon as a time of radical, deep, and fundamental economic and social transitions. Minds are opening to new ideas. People at the grass roots are looking for new ideas and taking new actions. It is in this spirit of a hopeful, deep, fundamental social transformation that this book was written. These are the concepts we’ll explore in the next few chapters.

Many basic scientific observations led to this new scientific/social paradigm. The advancement of the Gaia theory, the establishment of chaos and complexity theories, and new concepts of evolution are among them.

Science has come to understand that biological evolution did not progress as Darwin suggested by a series of minute changes that led over time to the emergence of new species. Rather, evolution usually happens in quantum leaps. Major biological changes and new species are created in relatively short periods of time after long periods of stability. This observation was designated by Stephen Jay Gould as “punctuated equilibrium.”

In another thread, James Lovelock, a scientist working for NASA, and Lynn Margulis, a microbiologist, published, in 1974 a paper, Atmospheric Homeostasis By and For the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis.’ It observed that the biosphere of Earth was radically different from all other planets. Lovelock noted that the atmosphere and other properties of planet Earth stays amazingly constant and within ranges that supported life. Lynn Margulis at the same time, was studying the evolution of microorganisms over the billions of years before animals appeared on the face of the Earth. She observed that life-forms are interdependent. Life was able to exist on Earth because of a symbiosis among all life-forms. Everything was interdependent with everything else. Life creates its own biome. Lovelock and Margulis proposed that the whole Earth is a single self-organized, self-supporting ecological system. At the suggestion of a neighbor of Lovelace, William Golding, author of Lord of the Flies, they termed this living Earth system Gaia, after the Greek Earth goddess.

A theoretical understanding of how Gaia, or in fact any system, might spontaneously self-organize, came from other fields of science including mathematics, physics, and, particularly, computer science. Chaos and complexity theories made possible by computer modeling have moved science beyond the limits imposed by linear mathematics, algebra, and calculus. The study of the transition from order into chaos or chaos into order and the formation of complex systems from simpler ones have opened a whole new area for science. Two particular breakthroughs in the field are relevant to the Gaia concepts.

Self-organizing criticality is an idea proposed by Brookhaven National Laboratory physicist Per Bak in How Nature Works (1996). His first computer model representing self-organizing criticality was of a pile of sand. If grains of sand are poured on a spot, they slowly build into a stable inverted cone. As pouring continues, the cone becomes unstable until sand slides and avalanches restore a new larger stable cone. Bak showed that biological evolution occurred in such bursts. Simple entities formed more complex systems, which remain stable until internal pressures build up and cause a rapid reorganization. There seems to be a law of nature, self-organizing criticality, by which new forms come into being.

Autocatalysis, developed by Stuart Kauffman at the Santa Fe Institute, a multidiscipline think tank of scholars in New Mexico, is another concept that provides a theoretical base for the evolution of Gaia. Autocatalysis holds that systems of biological entities may promote their own rapid transition into different forms. Kauffman uses the simple example of the slippery-footed fly and sticky-tongued frog. The mutation of slippery-footedness gave no environmental advantage to the fly until the mutation of the sticky-tongued frog. Only then did Darwin’s survival of the fittest come into play. Networks of potential mutations may develop and remain dormant until triggered by an environmental change or other phenomenon that brings on the avalanche of transition. Autocatalysis, linked with survival of the fittest, explains how complex organs like the eye, or new species, emerge.

Self-organizing criticality and autocatalysis are among the scientific concepts that show how biological entities self-organize in quantumlike leaps from simple cells to linked complex networks of cells, organs, plants, and animals. More than that, physicists like Lee Smolin, the theoretical physicist who wrote The Life of the Cosmos in 1997, and Murray Gell-Mann who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1969 in The Quark and the Jaguar extended self-organizing back to the beginning of time at the big bang, suggesting that the same principle may apply to the self-organizing of quarks into fundamental particles; particles into atoms; atoms into molecules; and molecules into galaxies, solar systems, planets, and life.

At the same time, at the Santa Fe Institute, economists like Nobel laureate Kenneth Arrow, Brian Arthur, and John Holland have extended the new paradigm in the other direction to include economics, social organization, and human consciousness.

This new scientific/social paradigm suggests that people need no superior divine mandate within a universe created for them. They are not independent of, above, or beyond the natural world in which they are embedded. They do have the unique ability to understand, through science, the laws that govern them; to envision future worlds; and to cocreate those future worlds within the laws of science.

“Everything is connected to everything else” is one way of stating a Gaian paradigm. It is a fact of science, and it is a social mindset. But it is more than those: it is a fact of technology. Networking was identified in 1982 by John Naisbitt in his best seller book Megatrends as one of the twelve major new trends of the century. As he saw it, it was a social and political trend. It was made possible by the railroad, the automobile, the telegraph, the telephone, and the computer. Each of these technologies made the Earth smaller and put people in more rapid and reliable touch with one another. The real quantum jump in networking is only now before us. Computers and the Internet are providing a challenge that has hardly been explored. Cyberspace is a global phenomenon providing humanity the opportunity to work globally in real time. This takes networking well beyond the concept about which Naisbitt wrote only a few years ago or the concept of transnational networking which was the root of the formation of TRANET, the organization with which I’ve been working since 1976.

The Gaia hypothesis, the theories of chaos and complexity, the Gaian concepts, and the computer technologies that now face us grew independently of one another. But they form a unit. They, in themselves, give an example of the self-organizing principle that shapes all of cosmic evolution. Together they make up a Gaian paradigm. They challenge us to prepare ourselves for an avalanche of social, political, and economic changes in the years ahead. This millennium is evolving radically differently from the man-centered paradigm that has dominated the past two thousand years.


The new scientific theories explain many phenomena of cosmic evolution. They also suggest a new worldview or mindset by which humans can examine current phenomena with respect to their long-range future. Futurists are no longer dependent on examining history and technological trends. In fact, punctuated evolution and self-organizing criticality suggest that new social, as well as physical and biological, phenomena spontaneously self-organize, like an avalanche, unpredictably. We may not be able to foretell the emergence of new phenomena with accuracy, but we can examine groups of related social phenomena that are close to chaos. And we can foresee possible future happenings of social importance. This is not unlike the mountaineer’s warnings of avalanches, the meteorologist’s prediction of weather, or the geologist’s foresight of earthquakes. The mathematical accuracy of physics, the model science of the past, applies only to a very limited range of phenomena. Even those, as quantum theory says, are only very highly probable. Nature is nonlinear and unpredictable.

Punctuated evolution applies as well to social and cultural evolution as it does to biological evolution. As long as a society is adapted competently to the values and needs of the people it serves, it will tend to preserve those values and practices that have sustained it. It will resist change. But again, when things deteriorate (economic downturns, street violence, family disintegration, warfare, religious uncertainty, famine, ecological collapse, or whatever), deeply rooted cultural premises are quickly abandoned. A period of uncertainty and chaos sets in. If new knowledge reveals a profoundly different view of the world, a new cultural and social structure replaces the old. Society today is in its most profound period of chaos and change ever.

In the coming years, it is most probable that every social institution that has been developing for the past two thousand or more years will be deeply, fundamentally, and radically reexamined in the light of the new scientific/social paradigm. The new mindset gives humanity a new powerful tool to recognize and prepare for the uncertain future. There could be a flood of self-organizing social phenomena replacing the old. In the following pages of this section, we look at three: the burgeoning civil society and the possibility that it could emerge into a new mode of global governance; the growth of homeschooling that could be the forerunner of a radically different, community-based, lifelong learning system; and the convergence of science and religion that portends a unified search for knowledge.

In 1982, for a European journal on communications, I wrote an article on transnational networks and world order. John Briggs and F. David Peat in Turbulent Mirror, one of the early books popularizing “the new science of chaos,” quoted it as an example of the application of the new science to social and political structure. It was pretty primitive thinking but may perhaps suggest the direction that more thought should be applied as we move further under a new Gaian paradigm. The quote suggested that
A future world government can be pictured as a multidimensional network of networks which provide each individual with many optional paths through which s/he can provide for his or her own well-being and can participate in controlling world affairs. . . . [It will be] composed of links between nodes. [It] will have no center. Each member of the network [will be] autonomous. Unlike a hierarchy, no part or member will be controlled by any other. Various members may draw together for special projects or on different issue, but there [will be] no bureaucracy demanding action or conformity.

This was not meant to be the prediction of a classical anarchistic state, but rather a conceivable fruition of a participatory democracy made possible by new knowledge, new technologies, and new worldviews.

That the current social/economic/political system is on the edge of chaos is made too obvious by daily newspaper headlines to require much confirmation here. The economic crash; unnecessary wars; depletion of the ozone layer; teen suicides; world hunger; global warming; Washington gridlock; racial strife in Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Ceylon, and the Middle East; the widening rich-poor gap; the inability to solve or even confront global pollution problems; child labor; street crime and sweatshops; wanton waste of natural resources; collapse of industries; breakdown of the families, are merely symptoms. The basic characteristics of civil society are lost in the current market/government orientation that fosters competition, free trade, self-centeredness, profit over people, globalization, and widespread alienation. Deep systemic problems give a clear picture of a civilization on the edge of chaos. An alternative system is spontaneously self-organizing.

In the past two decades there has been a rapid rise of citizen-organized grassroots organizations (Gross), a subset of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. It has been initiated by the failure and near chaos brought on by the industrial countries’ intrusion into cultures they did not understand. This subversion of other cultures to the Western way started with Columbus who enslaved all non-European cultures he met. The subjugation of people around the world during the periods of “discovery” and colonizing that followed is well-known. It is enough, here, to say that indigenous cultures have been overwhelmed or subjugated by the dominant and domineering industrial cultures.

Springing from the land, uninvited and often resisted by outside developers, and even their own governments. Village people are now recreating their own coalitions and communities with new and indigenous technologies and taking over where governments and industries have failed. Often stimulated by a special unique local need, these local Gross grow to become more broadly socially and politically active, linking up with other Gross to form networks for participatory democracy and mutual aid. Outside aid to Gross is provided by grassroots support organizations (GSOs), formed most often by middle-class professionals and technicians who recognize the inequities engendered by the current economic-political system. Gross reach out to give in-kind assistance and to legitimize the actions of the peasants and disenfranchised in their bids for empowerment and local self-reliance. Techniques, technologies, information, and service from the industrial countries are supplied through links created by international nongovernmental organizations (Ingots).

NGOs are also becoming a greater force and are better recognized in the industrial countries. The problems facing humankind cannot be solved by governments or markets alone. Nor can governments or corporations create a people-centered democracy. But we—the people—are solving our problems worldwide by the third leg of governance—civil society—that is, by citizen participation on a local community scale. New citizen-initiated social innovations are sweeping North America, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and, to a lesser extent, Japan. These social innovations are being borrowed and exchanged among nearly every country around the world.

From England came the cooperative movement started in Rochelle, England, in 1844 by some disenfranchised weavers. It spread to the United States with producer co-ops during World War I and with a plethora of consumer co-ops during the 1960s. The Mondragón network of co-ops in the Basque area of Spain added the concept of creating secondary co-ops to serve the primary co-ops. Banks, insurance companies, management services, and other businesses owned by the primary co-op serve the member co-ops. The Siekatsu Club of some ten thousand Japanese housewives organized by hans, local co-ops, create their own businesses when the market does not meet their social, ecological, or economic demands.

From Bangladesh came the Grameen Banks that introduced a new credit technique by lending money through groups of borrowers who guaranteed one another’s loans. From Canada came local exchange and trading systems (LETS), a local citizen-owned computerized exchange system. Local scripts, such as Ithaca Hours, help local businesses and individuals create local jobs and exchange goods and services regardless of the inflow of federal dollars. Time Dollars systems promote babysitting pools, senior citizen services, and other forms of local service based on hours worked not dollars spent.

From Denmark came CoHousing—in which families build their own homes but with common ground and common space including child-care facilities and community dining rooms bringing a new sense of community solidarity. This, of course, adds to the array of communes, community land trusts, intentional communities, and ecovillages in which citizens provide the planning and development so lacking in government and corporate housing developments.

Switzerland produced community-supported agriculture (CSA), bringing farmers and citizens together to produce local food with local resources. The consumers sometimes own the land, share the produce, and participate in the work, paying a professional gardener to manage the growing. Other innovations in the food and agriculture area include farmers’ markets, homesteading, and the rapidly growing development of home gardening.

Gandhi’s India produced the concept of community land trusts (CLT), a concept of communal ownership of land and nonviolence. it has spread worldwide and transformed social protest and citizen action as well as preserving vast areas of land for future generations.

Many other social innovations such as citizen patrols, homeschooling, community learning centers, community loan funds, peace brigades, homesteading, and community bulletin boards are building community solidarity, empowering citizens at the grass roots, and promoting local community self-reliance without relying on governments or “the market.”

It is all here. A living body of networking organizations is emerging to fill the niche produced by dysfunctional postcolonial governments and too large corporations with a single bottom line of profits and corporate greed. A plethora of unique interdependent social cells have developed assuming specialized functions that serve the whole. They have almost magically become the social/political body that promises better life for the people in developing countries and the whole Earth. The natural laws of self-organizing criticality and autocatalysis are working on the social level.

Through the revelations of science, an understanding of the cosmic process is slowly emerging. Perhaps with this new understanding, humanity can participate in the cocreation of a sustainable and lasting civilization based on citizen participation in local community organizations—a Gaian global governance.

Like any step in cosmic evolution, this network of social innovations comprising a Gaian revolution is a unique happening. But like any step in cosmic evolution, it is subject to the natural evolutionary laws. It was 250 years ago that the first phase of democratic governance was introduced on the planet. The times then, like the times now, were chaotic. The ruling powers, and the ruling system, had outlived its usefulness. Masses of people recognized that they were missing out on many of the benefits that their toil had created. The divine right of kings and the element of Christianity’s “great chain of being” had been left behind. It was the best of times and the worst of times. In 1775, the American and in (1789) the French revolutions happened.

The first phase of democracy was a foolish idea to the leaders of the day. Monarchs held their power by divine right. Neither the churches nor the governments were friendly to the idea that the people could rule themselves or even participate in government. The ideas of voting, representation, legislation, human rights, politics, constitutions, or social contracts were little more than hazy academic notions played with by abstruse philosophers. The Magna Carta had given large landowners a degree of power over their lands and their serfs, but these powers were subject to the king’s will. It took the Voltaires, the Franklins, the Pains, and the Jeffersons to bring the ideas of every man’s rights to the public. And it took the Boston Tea Party, the Bread Riots, and the revolutionary wars, to bring down the old regimes and make possible the self-organization of the new.

Self-organization is the right word. The avalanche of change hit an unprepared society. No one had predicted the rise of national democracy. There were no plans, no designs, or no instruction books for the first phase of democracy. There were few constitutions, no concept of checks and balances, no rules for voting, no loyal opposition, no political parties, no civil society, no GROs.

The American colonies had assumed a degree of self-control under the British crown. Direct democracy was practiced in the forerunners of the New England town meeting and in some colonies. Voting rights were usually denied to women, blacks, Catholics, and Jews. Suffrage was extended to only landholders of some substance, often as much as 50£ (a goodly sum in those days). Probably no more than one-third of the adult free men could vote. Office-holding was even more restricted. Often in order to hold elected office, a man had to own at least five hundred acres and ten slaves, or thousands of pounds sterling in other property. Like with today’s GROs, ideas and actions were separate and disparate. No associations were ready to exercise political control of society. The task was daunting. But it did happen. In spite of the later failure in France and earlier failures in Athens and Rome, the first phase of democracy was born to last in America.

I have used “the first phase of democracy” to describe the political innovation of 1776 because, as we know today, it was not fully successful. It was only partially successful for many reasons—primarily because it arrived on the world stage without preparation. The technologies of the times made participatory democracy impossible beyond the town meeting. Communication was measured in days or weeks, not as today in nanoseconds. Because of that, we—the people—could only be “represented” in the halls of power. Franklin and Jefferson, following the Native American model of the Iroquois Nation in which in 1677, Iroquois, Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, and Cayugas joined together to cooperate and to end conflicts between them. In 1715, the Tuscaroras were accepted into the Iroquois Nation. Jefferson and Franklin advocated that a new nation be formed in North America modeled on the Iroquois Nation. All decisions of the united colonies would be made by consensus at the local level. Representatives of the colonies in a Colonial Assembly would be limited to arguing cases as developed in their communities. But Madison and others, following the concept of British parliamentarian Edmond Burke, argued that representatives should be empowered to make decisions in the name of the people. Burkian representation was accepted by most colonies and by the Constitutional Assembly. This has made the government dominant, limiting the voice of the people.

In spite of extending suffrage, the voice of the people has been steadily eroded as government has grown in size and power. People’s control of corporations was taken away in 1844 by the Supreme Court’s decision that corporations had the same rights as flesh-and-blood citizens. Earlier, communities or states could revoke corporate charters if a corporation was deemed to not be in the public interest. The rise of corporate power over the people increased with the opening of free trade with no restrictions on the outflow of capital or jobs and no global standards for safety, health, or protection of the environment. The high cost of getting elected and the free flow of money into politics from the wealthy elite, banks, and businesses, has made even the first phase of democracy far less a people’s government than was envisioned by America’s Founding Fathers.

The rise of civil society, modern technology, new scientific understanding of how evolution works, and the concept of Gaia as the unity of humans and nature has made possible the emergence of a second phase of democracy. We—the people—now have a voice in our civil society. We have the technology to communicate around the globe, and we have a new understanding of social evolution.

The complexity theory shows that ordered complexity is the natural state of the universe. Biological evolution is the most obvious example of the tendency toward the ordering of simple entities into more complex systems. Every step of cosmic evolution since the big bang has been a step toward increasing ordered complexity. Creation occurs on the borderline between rigid order and random chaos—at the edge of chaos. If an entity is too rigidly ordered, it cannot change to meet the contingencies of a change in its environment. Flexibility is one of the cardinal biological principles of evolution. Without flexibility, a life-form is not sustainable; it cannot change to meet new conditions. Without flexibility, progress is impossible.

Nevertheless, governments, like corporations, have been organized on the concept that good management means rigid order directed from the top. In the first phase of democracy, the people elected their governmental representatives, but all power resided in the government. Humans have been locked into the worldview in which rigid order was highly respected. Rigid order was the goal of organization. Humans are taught to be afraid of chaos and to avoid complexity. Yet the new science/social paradigm shows us that the edge of chaos is where progress happens with the self-organizing of complexity. If society is to meet the challenges that face it, it needs to live closer to the edge of chaos. It must welcome a degree of disorder.

Since its modern inception, democracy has suffered from its self-guilt of being inefficient. Critics and supporters alike have held that democracy is too chaotic. They have searched for ways to move democracy toward more controlled management without surrendering the human rights they saw as the great strength of this form of government.

A Gaian paradigm sees democracy in a very different light. The seeming weaknesses of democracy are its strengths. The theories of Gaia, chaos, and complexity suggest that spontaneous self-organizing on the edge of chaos is natural law. It requires the messy flexibility inherent in democracy and absent in more efficient forms of government. People are only beginning to realize that no form of government, except democracy, provides the freedom and potential of complex ordering to meet the changing demands of modern times.

The rise of civil society [and] the growth of social innovation, community involvement in meeting their own needs are all parts of the progressive agenda provided by nature. We may not see clearly today the final organization that will emerge if we continue to build the decentralized autonomous communities linked together in worldwide mutual aid. But that is the way of cosmic evolution as it is seen from the new worldview. It purports the emergence of a second phase of democracy, one in which people in community at the grass roots have a direct input into all decisions that affect their lives: a new form of global governance.


The potential for a new global governance rooted in civil society is only one example of the emergence of spontaneously self-organized complex networks within the unity of Gaia. Another interesting example of self-organization on the edge of chaos is the emergence of cooperative community lifelonglearning centers (CCL-LLCs) as the drive for a Gaian culture.

Early American schools were strict disciplinary centers in which students sat stiffly at their desks in abject obedience while stern teachers taught them the three R’s by rote memory. Its purpose, at least during this century, had been to prepare workers for an industrial culture. It worked well. Laborers in American mills and factories surpassed all others in bringing wealth to our nation.

An increasing number of educational critics, like 1991 New York teacher of the year John Taylor Gatto in Dumbing Us Down, have decried the schooling system. They contend that it is the form of schooling that is teaching the wrong lessons. The monopoly state schools restrict the individual’s natural curiosity and desire to learn. They teach authoritarianism, self-repression, and strict obedience to the clock. The teacher, under controls set by the state and now the national government, determines what is to be learned. The clock and the calendar determine when and how long a child can learn it. Much of this criticism of schooling has been reflected in a report to the president in 1983, “A Nation at Risk.”

This report set of a flurry of mostly misdirected local and state efforts to fix the schools. They culminated in President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. This effort to fix schools from the top down has been soundly criticized. A major concern is that it reduces student, family, and local control. It forces teachers to teach to the tests eliminating personal learning.

Well before the current attacks on schooling and educating, John Dewey (1859–1952) and other philosophers assailed this concept of education with their creeds of “learning by doing” and “child-centered education.” Although the philosophy of education changed, the form didn’t. Twenty or more children are still gathered in one schoolroom, each one trying to do his or her own thing. The result is that neither teaching nor learning is possible. Many schoolrooms become centers of confusion. Education is now at the edge of chaos, ripe for a radical transformation and the recognition of a Gaian paradigm and the natural learning inherent in human nature.

The organization of the new learning system will be somewhat different from the self-organization of local Gross into a global civil society. For the example we examined above, organization came from moving from chaos, a disordered conglomeration of disjointed new organizational cells through the borderland of the edge of chaos into order. Global civil society, like democracy before it, is self-organizing itself where nothing, or little, existed before. For the learning system, reorganization is happening, in part at least, from the failure and disintegration of a too rigidly ordered system.

One element of the reorganization of learning started four decades ago when some families started taking corrective actions one family at a time. It was called homeschooling. These actions grew in concert with society and education, Paul Goodman’s Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars (1962) urging that schools make more use of community facilities and issues, Ivan Illich’s seminal book Deschooling Society in (1970), and with John Holt’s Instead of Education (1976) and Growing Without Schooling (1977) on how children learn.

In the beginning, only a couple of decades ago, home schools were only a few autonomous family units, each one setting its own curriculum and providing its own supplies and services. As homeschooling grew in the 1970s and 1980s, practitioners began forming associations primarily to exchange information and to confront state laws that limited their rights. There are now some seven hundred homeschooling associations in the United States. About fifty of these have a nationwide constituency.

Most of the services provided to homeschoolers, like Growing Without Schooling or Home Education Press, are primarily publications emphasizing exchanges among homeschoolers. Others, like the Clonal School Home-Based Education Center provide a by-mail service curricula, tests, and diplomas for homeschoolers. Still others are newsletters written and exchanged by homeschoolers themselves. A few, like HSLDA (Home School Legal Defense Association), help Christian homeschoolers with legal and legislative matters. Some, like AHA (American Homeschool Association), network and provide services to homeschoolers of all types. Others, such as Aerogramme, are publications condemning the authoritarian, monopolistic state school systems and supporting the broad range of alternative educational systems with meetings and conferences.

Closely associated with the homeschooling movement are broad varieties of alternative schools that are moving in the direction of child-centered education. Educational consultant Jerry Mintz, the founder of AREO (Alternative Education Resource Organization), publishes the newsletter Aerogramme and many books such as The Handbook of Alternative Education (1994), National Directory of Alternative Schools (1987), and The Handbook of Alternative Education that lists two thousand five hundred Montessori schools, one hundred Weldor schools, and sixty Quaker schools as well as the seven hundred home school programs.

In addition to these is a growing number of folk schools patterned after the folk schools of Denmark, schools without walls, open universities, and learning centers that do not fall within the province of being substitutes for the K-12 governmental schools. It is this later group of learning facilities with which this paper is interested.

In the last two or three years, local homeschooling networks have created a new form of learning institution. They don’t yet even have a universal name. I call them CCL-LLCs. These community centers are cooperatively owned and controlled by the member families they serve. They provide counseling, mentoring, supplies, facilities, workshops, and classes. They serve everyone in the community regardless of age or past learning. They use all aspects of the community as learning facilities. Libraries, YMCAs, churches, museums, local businesses, farms, government offices, streets, and parks are all part of the learning system.

As education critic Gene Lehman put it in one of his Luno broadsheets, lifelong learning relies heavily on daily life activities, deep and varied interactions among people, contact with nature, and a popular culture that is abundant, diverse, profound, and cheaply accessible to all. Most importantly, a holistic approach to lifelong learning relies on developing some kind of face-to-face community of friends and neighbors who cooperate in order to share the essential burdens and delights of life. This sounds like a definition of a Gaian paradigm learning cooperatively through the unity of self and nature.

In 1998 community learning centers became of governmental interest when the Elementary and Secondary Education Act dedicated $40 million to expand after-school programs. But this program was limited to school districts and administered by United States Department of Education. Its goal was primarily to get the kids off the streets rather than to stimulate lifelong or community learning. It was thus directed more at saving a decaying schooling system than experimenting with a new futuristic way of learning.

CCL-LLCs may be one of the most seminal innovations of the past decade or so. They may be the seed for a deep fundamental change in the education/learning system of the future. CCL-LLCs are, to a large extent, an outgrowth of the rapidly growing, unstopping movement that gives students full, 100 percent responsibility and control of what to learn. It is conceivable that CCL-LLCs could completely replace the state-controlled schools.

The transition to a CCL-LLC system is much more than a change in educational practices. It is a transformation of the whole mindset of the value of knowledge and the value of the person. “Teaching,” “educating,” and “schooling” imply that society, or government, is acting on, controlling, indoctrinating, and forming some amorphous lesser beings. It is a hierarchical system of control from the top down. It is inherent in the first phase of democracy, which accepted the dominator paradigm with its many tenets of rule from above, the divine right of kings and its transition to the divine right of government. It is in harmony with the fading worldview that the cosmos, and the Earth, are parts of the chain of being in which man is a semigod controlling the Earth from above and that the Earth’s natural resources are but resources for the use of man.

Every single word in “cooperative,” “community,” “lifelong,” “learning,” and “center” carries a different important connotation. Learning is not something a superior being does to a lesser one. Learning is an act of self-volition with a community and within nature. It is a self-actuated process of creating skills, discovering knowledge, and satisfying one’s own natural curiosity. It is built on, and teaches, the inherent right and responsibility of every individual to set her or his own standards in cooperation with others. It honors the diversity of evolution. It is in harmony with the new Gaian worldview that everything is interdependent with everything else. It respects the new understanding that each person “belongs” equally to Gaia.

“Belonging” in this sense is much more than merely “being a member of.” Belonging is the scientific fact that we are all interdependent systems within systems, or holness within hileness if you wish to use the system’s jargon. Each of us is a whole made up of smaller wholes and embedded in larger wholes. Gaia and the cosmos are among the larger wholes of which each human is a smaller whole. Belonging implies not only being a whole within wholes but that we are subject to natural laws. Belonging to Gaia means belonging to the Earth and to one another. Belonging is an ethical proto-value inherent in the new Gaia paradigm. It says that each individual is an integral part of and responsible for the health and well-being of the family, the community, Gaia, and each of the larger systems of high he or she is a part. Inherent in this scientific concept of belonging is much of the perennial wisdom of the sages, that emphasizes our responsibility to and for one another.

This transition from educating to learning is being recognized by a wide variety of scholars. Management guru Peter Drucker in his Post-Capitalist Society writes of a society based on knowledge. A society in which all society is an open lifelong learning system in which every person can enter any level at any time. From the other end of the spectrum, peace scholar Elise Boulding reports that a common feature of the many “Imagine a World Without Weapons” workshops she has held with people of all walks of life and all ages was the vision of a localist society: “Communities in which self-reliance and learning appears integrated into other community activities. . . . Everyone is a learner, and education is lifelong.” This theme of the learning community is fully integrated into the growth of civil society and all other aspects of the emerging Gaian cultures. The dependence on lifelong learning for the transition from the dominator paradigm to a Gaian paradigm will be the topic of section III.
TRANETGrameenGrameen Chapter 4: GAIAN RELIGION

The third aspect of the Gaian paradigm is more amorphous and far more sensitive than the two I’ve suggested so far. It is the melding of science and religion.

While Lovelock recognizes the implication of the Gaia theory to religion, his coauthor Margulis is disturbed by the use of the word “Gaia” in some of the New Age spirituality and pseudoscience cults. Both are right. I couldn’t agree more that Gaia has often been used, as have other scientific theories including relativity, quantum mechanics, and Tesler electronics, to “prove” spiritual or other pseudoscience concepts.
Perhaps in no time since Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church at Wittenburg (1517) or Calvin published his Institutes (1536) have religions been in such spiritual chaos. No one set out the serious concern of this age of religious chaos better than Fritz Schumacher did in Guide for the Perplexed, a sequel to his Small Is Beautiful. Other scholars of the times, like Gregory Bateson, Buckminster Fuller, and Margaret Mead, had a clear but unproclaimed spiritual character to their works. Schumacher’s was the first, most profound, and most open declaration of the age of spiritual turmoil.

The religious chaos of the 1960s and 1970s was most clearly and dramatically proclaimed by the beads, incense, granny dresses, long hair, wire-rimmed glasses, and music of the hippies. It was also declared by movements such as TM, est, Hare Krishna, the search for Eastern religions, and the return of Paganism, Shamanism, and Wiccan. It was expressed in the Broadway musicals Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar and in the attempt to escape from social ills with psychedelic drugs. The concept of New Age started out to be more like Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful, a critique and correction of the excesses of the Industrial Age. It ended up being identified, particularly by its critics and the press, as being an offbeat and occult religious movement more likely to end up with the Johnstown and the more recent UFO-induced suicides or other strange behaviors than in any serious revival of a deeper sense of spirituality.

Schumacher in A Guide for the Perplexed took the high road and recognized that the meandering search for meaning of the hippie generation was a deeper and more profound expression of the age than was being recognized by mainstream society. In Small Is Beautiful Schumacher had been concerned with what we do. In Guide to the Perplexed he was concerned with why we do it. He recognized two kinds of science. One was knowledge for manipulation, the other knowledge for understanding. The former led to techniques and technologies for the satisfaction of the lower visible level of human wants. The latter led to the higher values, meaning, and purpose of life. As he said, “It may conceivably be possible to live without churches but it is not possible to live without religion, that is, without systematic work to keep in contact with, and develop toward, higher levels than those of ordinary life. . . . Everywhere in the modern world there are experiments In new lifestyles . . . and it is sometimes tolerated even in polite society to mention God.”

Belief in powers beyond the human level has been with us since humans first became conscious of themselves and the world into which they were born. Stories of creation and speculation on higher powers have filled the human mind since the powers of nature were first realized. Creation stories were the rocks on which early cultures were built in every part of the world.

Throughout history, humanity’s understanding of that great power that created and controls the universe has grown through many transitions, with the increasing understanding of the physical cosmos and of its biological life. The evolution of our understanding of the Christian god is the one most familiar to us.

The first god of the Bible was a fierce and vengeful god to be feared. He was one of many gods (or baals), each of whom ruled over a limited people in a limited territory. The god of Abraham could command human sacrifice. Jacob wrestled all night face to face with his god. By the time of Isaiah, the Jewish god had grown to be the creator of the world, the greatest among all gods. Jeremiah taught that his god was not in the temples but in the hearts of humans and that his god had created the world for human use. The god of Moses was on a mountain in the Sinai Desert from which he handed down the ethical rules for his chosen people, the Jews. With the teachings of Jesus, God took off his demeanor of wrath and punishment to become an all-loving god promising eternal life for his people who were free of sin. With Saint Paul of Tarsus, there was one all-powerful Christian god for all people. To Saint Augustine, the universe was a chain of being with man near the top. Above man sat God, with numerous angels and other demigods. For Saint Thomas Aquinas, his one god was a omnipresent spiritual form more than a humanlike being. God’s existence was as discernible through reason as through revelation.

The view of a singular god as creator of the universe that was to be ruled by man was amplified by the Greek philosophers who first conceived of the idea that the universe was an ordered unity and that man had the capability to understand it. To Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle, the ordered and purposeful universe was obviously for human use. All plants and animals were in a natural hierarchy with man at the top. The Roman empire, medieval church, and European monarchs, continued and expanded the idea that humans (more correctly “man”) was the caretaker of all creation.

This view of man’s dominion over the Earth prevailed until the time of Bacon and Descartes, who had little respect for the nonhuman world. They divided human life into two realms, the physical and the spiritual. They did not challenge the concept that the purpose of the universe was the use of humans. However, they did contend that humans were created with the power to understand and dominate that universe. With the founding of economic theory on the principles of self-interest and survival of the fittest, the material side of life became dominant. In the past two hundred years, mastery of the external world has become the single most powerful driving force of humanity. A belief in God has remained as separate from the material world as the two thousand plus years as the evolution of God has reached to the edge of chaos.

This dichotomy between science and religion was established when the medieval Christian clerics refused to look through Galileo’s telescope. For them, the scriptures had revealed that there could be no moons around Jupiter. It was not fear of knowledge that held their hands. It was fear of social dissolution. The moral certainty of the medieval church was based on man being at the center of the spiritual universe. This, in turn, implies that man’s home, Earth, must be center of the physical universe that was created for him. It was justifiably feared that if the Earth were shown to not be at the center of the universe, the whole fabric of spiritual, social, and moral adherence would disintegrate.

The Galileo compromise, later modified somewhat by Descartes’ dualism, was that scientific knowledge should be developed to aid man in his understanding and domination of the Earth—that is, in creating technology. Religion should dominate the realm of the deeper meaning of life and the moral codes that create harmony among the people of the Earth. Science would not be recognized as a process for enlightening humans as to their place in the universe.

This spiritual/physical bifurcation was operable as long as the development of technologies was beneficial to humanity; before the challenge of the excessive use of natural resources; the pollution of air, water and soil; the threat of global warming; the discovery of the thinning of the protective ozone layer; increased health risks due to toxic chemicals; the loss of jobs brought on by labor-saving automation and foreign trade; the threat of biotechnology to privatize all life; the separation of citizens from one another because of automobiles and highways; and, in general, technology became our master rather than our slave. These unanticipated consequences of technology have spurred the creation of technology and environmental assessment programs by the government. They also initiated a deep reassessment of the value and use of science as well as technology.

Part of the reassessment of science has been in concert with the reassessment of religion in a holistic reevaluation of the place of knowledge in society. A new search for meaning and spirituality emerged from the peace, human rights, feminist, and ecological movements of the 1960s. The search for meaning was intensified by the bold adventures into New Age cults and fancies, the deep searches through Eastern religions, and the unfettered acceptance of questionable pseudosciences. However, it was brought to fruition with some deep scholarly theological redefinitions of religious and scientific tenets.

Pope John Paul II, in a 1992 statement, “Some Considerations Concerning the Catholic Response to Legislative Proposals on the Non-Discrimination of Homosexual Persons,” and other papers, acknowledged that homosexuality is a phenomenon of nature, apologized for the church’s condemnation of Galileo, accepted of evolution as a valid scientific theory, and admitted the church’s error in failing to oppose to the Holocaust. This change in attitude made the Catholic Church seem to recognize its own fallibility and see science as a joint venture in the search for knowledge of the cosmos and humanity’s place in it.

Fr. Thomas Berry has been one of the leaders of this movement. He holds that our modern society’s creation myth is the scientific story of cosmic evolution. No creation myth could produce more awe, wonder, and mystery than the scientific revelation of how the universe, the planets, and life emerged from the big bang. Other theologians like Bernard Lonergan SJ and Laurent Leduc have gone a step further. They suggest that religion, like science, is a search for the truth, not the last immutable word. Theologians like those in the Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology (ITEST), see theology as accepting the scientific view of nature but acting as a sort of watchdog for recognizing that there is a bigger picture that we cannot completely understand nor appreciate from a natural viewpoint.

From the scientific end, there is also a growing humility. Science accepts justifiable condemnation for the detrimental effect on society and the environment of technologies derived from science. In addition, the certainty that surrounded Newtonian mechanics and Darwinian evolution was taken to extremes by many disciplines and by some scientists. As Alfred Whitehead warned, the success of physics in explaining and predicting one set of phenomena led many so-called scholars to apply the methods of physics beyond their sphere of relevance in what he called “misplaced concreteness,” that is, building mathematical structures on uncertain premises. Both the limits of and the uncertainty of science are now emphasized, giving more room for a rational religious speculation.

At the same time, with the advent of quantum and relativity theories, and even more in the new sciences of Gaia, chaos, and complexity, it is being recognized that science is relevant, to use Schumacher’s words, as “knowledge for understanding.” Today, science is not just a base for new technologies; it also reveals what little reasonably certain factual knowledge we know about the cosmos and cosmic evolution. This limited knowledge is relevant to humanity’s place in the universe. It implies rules to live by if humanity is to continue to exist. A new age of science is dawning.
Gregory Bateson points out in Steps to an Ecology of Mind, a living organism can continue to exist only if it meets three biological principles: (1) health, the ability to exist within its environment; (2) competence, the ability to draw sustenance from its environment; and (3) adaptive flexibility, the ability to change as its environment changes. These principles are as applicable to social systems as they are to biological systems. They instruct us as to how we must live if humanity is to sustain itself. Dr. Thomas I. Ellis, associate professor of English at Tidewater Community College in Virginia and founder of GAIA (Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance) International states the ethical implication of the Gaian theory in an e-mail in a new categorical imperative: “Make all decisions based on whatever promotes the health, competence, and adaptive flexibility of oneself and of all the larger system of which one is a part.”

Science joins with religion in uncovering the code of conduct necessary for human existence. This melding of science and religion follows Spinoza’s belief that God is nature and Einstein’s concept that a religion is a feeling of cosmic awe, wonder, and mystery which comes with the deep concentrated study of what is—science. It surpasses human understanding. It is feeling the ultimate reality. God, in this sense, cannot be reduced to human characteristics. God, so defined, is pure spirit invisible to humans. God is beyond the materialism and foibles of human frailties. For humans to quibble over his attributes is to diminish his grandeur. You just can’t use the word god and describe it. It is a state of being rather than a conscious attribute. It transcends definition.

The new sciences of chaos, complexity, and Gaia provide a new worldview that humanity is an integral and equal part of a self-organizing cosmos. Each part of or the cosmos as a whole is equally sacred and to be revered. The Gaian paradigm—that all there is are webs of being—suggests a new concept of God as cosmos and science as revelation.

Humanity may well be on the verge of a new age of science and a new age of religion: a unified search for fundamental knowledge that may save it from the apocalypse with which it is threatened.

These three brief examinations of governance, learning, and religion are only to exemplify and reify a Gaian paradigm. They only hint of the holistic and comprehensive cultural transition in the offing. They were not meant to be accurate predictions of the future. A central theme of chaos and complexity theories is that spontaneous self-organization cannot be guided by human intervention. The best we can do is to examine possible options and prepare for any of them to happen. The emerging Gaian paradigm radically changes the way we will look at all aspects of our culture in this millennium. The future of economics, health, transportation, habitat, education, and all other social institutions could as well be taken as examples. Or we might examine the lifestyles we will live when this Gaian paradigm becomes universal. In the decades ahead, Earth citizens may well look back at the society in which we now live as not far removed from our cave-dwelling ancestors. Technophobes can point out a myriad of technological possibilities now on the shelf, awaiting development and exploitation. Highly respected scientists, like Freeman Dyson in Imagined Worlds, speak of radio telepathy, designed biomechanical intelligent beings, bioengineered biomes in space, and other wonders we now read of in science fiction.

This millennium will first have to solve the social, economic, health, food, ecological, and other problems that beset today’s world. Without solutions, the current world problematique dooms humanity to a degraded existence reminiscent of H. G. Wells’s The War of the Worlds.

In Gaia, complexity, and chaos theories, we see the opening of an opportunity to choose between a number of possible scenarios. In section II, “Gaian Cultures,” we will explore a few cultural norms and cultural subsets in a bit more detail.

Chapter 5: GAIAN CREED
To Be or Not To Be: Morality, Mortality, and Immortality

The Gaian paradigm has implications on our belief systems that go beyond a view of the cosmos, even beyond our lifestyles and cultural norms. They include implications on our ideas of morality, mortality, immortality, as well as our system of human values. Some people have taken these implications into the sphere of religion. Some see the formation of a new Gaia religion. To others, an understanding of Gaia supports the values that have governed humanity for eons past. Without taking positions on such speculations, we should at least open the dialogue on the degree to which these scientific notions might influence our pragmatic view of our lives.

For most of the 13.7 billion years that the cosmos has been in existence, there was no one to ponder the question of to be or not to be. While quarks evolved into atoms, atoms into molecules, and molecules into cells, consciousness of being did not exist. Each new step of evolution brought new entities and new properties. Only in the evolutionary phase when brain cells had evolved and created the human mind did being—the property of thought, memory, and consciousness—emerge. Only in this brief miniscule submoment of cosmic evolution has the sense of being existed. Only in this small window of time have humans been the source of conscious being and recognized, as Descartes put it, that “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am).

It is safe to say that for most of the past billions of cosmic years, I (as an individual) did not exist. It is also reasonable to believe that in billions of future cosmic years after my physical death, I (as an individual) will not exist. Only in a brief, transient flash do individual people exist. Certainly, I did not exist before a zygote was formed by the union of cells from my two parents. And certainly, the development, by chemical and biological means of an embryo from that zygote, did not have the property of independent action and conscious thought. It is also clear that when I drew my first breath on being born, I was not the evolved being that I was to become. The question “To be or not to be?” was not in my mind. My process of becoming a human being was still ahead of me.

It is clearly impossible to identify any single movement when we become a human being, all of the experiences in one’s life that contribute to one’s development into a unique being. Today I am not the human I was at birth. Everyone is learning every moment from birth to death, from waking to sleeping. Each moment is a step in becoming. Our bodies, brains, and minds slowly evolve from the nothingness of our prebirths through to tour final passage back into dust. If there is no heaven or nirvana into which to pass, it is reasonable to think we, as human bodies and minds, come to an end.

So far, I have written about only two aspects of being—the body and the mind. There is a third aspect. It is more the essence of who we are than the other two. It is more ethereal and more everlasting. I’m not sure what I should call it. But, for lack of a better word, I’ll call it “soul.” By soul, I don’t mean anything mysterious, mystical, magical, divine, supernatural, or otherworldly. The soul is the essence, the unique core of our being, of who we are. It’s who we are more than either our minds or our bodies.

This soul, the true center of one’s being, is not easy to circumscribe. It, like the mind and body, evolves. Its evolution occurs over all time. Not that the past will be embodied in one’s physical and mental being, but from the beginning of time to the end of time, what we become involves the whole cosmos. We have a birth date and a death date. But who we become is already, in part, predetermined by the world around us. The essence of our being—our soul—is absorbed over time from the preexisting world of ideas and actions, nature and technologies, awe and wonder, and the beauty and mystery that exist in, and is, the cosmos. It is similar to the noosphere of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the collective unconscious of Carl Jung, the ideosphere of others. It is the totality of the physical, biological, technological, and cultural worlds and more. It is the knowledge, the beliefs, the feelings, as well as the written words and the passed on memories of everyone who has ever lived. It is inherited from our ancestors and from the evolving physical, biological, mental, technological, and social spheres. It is a cosmic memory. It is the universal cosmic soul.

This cosmic soul has been evolving since the big bang. Each step in cosmic evolution has created a new part of the cosmic soul. It includes Mount Fuji, the Johnston flood, the ice ages, the Crusades, the invention of the computer, and all other happenings. Each individual at birth is enmeshed in the cosmic soul of the time.

A simple example of this idea of soul is that of a flock of birds. The soul of the flock evolves as a unit. It includes migration patterns, eating resources, nesting places, and other characteristics. The flock follows certain patterns for centuries. Each individual bird lives for only a short time. But the memory, essence, or soul of the flock is passed to new birds as they hatch, join the flock, participate, and learn by doing. The soul of the flock as a whole evolves as it continually finds new opportunities and faces new challenges. Each bird gains its individual soul and passes its know-how on to other new birds that join. The soul of the flock is passed from individual souls to individual souls, as the flock evolves to meet contingencies of the time.

Humans likewise are born into the cosmic soul. They are embedded in the essence of all that exist. Who they are to become depends on what they absorb into themselves from all that is. Each soul is immortal. It is part of the cosmic soul. Everything anyone makes, writes, says, or does becomes part of the cosmic soul and is everlasting. Shakespeare, Edison, Einstein, Buddha, Jesus, Marx, Smith, and others are still with us. So is Joe Blow, Anna Finklestein, and other common people. All have left their marks for eternity.

Each act or expressed idea is like a stone dropped in a millpond. The stone may sink to the bottom never to be seen again. But its ripples spread out and may join other ripples to produce an overwhelming wave of social transformation. The origins of any act of social change may be lost in the myriad of its sources. Once this is recognized, people are driven to live a creative life of positive values—to be one of the sources of what will become the cosmic soul. Whether anyone remembers the name of any one of us or not, everything anyone has, does, says, thinks, or writes is part of the evolving cosmic soul.

Each person’s soul is formed by every experience and every thought they ever had. It is passed on in the same way. Each unexpected act of kindness or senseless act of beauty makes a ripple like a grain of sand dropped in the cosmic millpond. Every kind or angry word one utters forms a pebble’s ripples that will be passed on. More telling in the cosmic soul, will be some of the memos, papers, and posts that are written. They are rocks that make a bit bigger splash or at least have a guaranteed longer life. Most important are the interactions among people close to one another—families, friends, and communities. In a person’s children, friends, and colleagues, there is a continual riling of the waters (particularly of the act of beauty, kindness, and understanding). It is passed into the cosmic soul that remains real in the future and assures the immortality of everyone who ever lived.

Recognizing the immortality of our souls suggests a new emphasis on morality. Every act, thought, or word we utter should be in the context of its impact on the cosmic soul. They change the cosmic soul as they happen. They will be remembered and they will affect cosmic evolution for ages into the future. They provide us with reasons for living. To repeat Tom Ellis’s mantra, “Make all decisions based on whatever promotes the health, competence, and adaptive flexibility of oneself and of all the larger system of which one is a part.” Whether we accept this view of the human or the cosmic soul, the Gaian paradigm suggests the creed below:

[This prose/poem might be set in a script type]


All That Is Are Webs of Being

We belong to the webs of being, to the cosmos, to Earth, to Gaia.
Belonging is the protovalue from which all other values derive.
We belong to the physiosphere, to the biosphere, to the ideosphere.
We belong to Gaia.
As the aborigines said it, “We are the ownees of the land, not the owners of the land.”
As Chief Seattle said it, “We cannot own the land, we are part of the land.”
We belong to and are inseparable from our culture, from one another, from Earth, from Gaia.
We are interdependent with all that is.

Belonging is scientific fact, and belonging is more than scientific fact.
Belonging is not merely “being a member of,” but it is being subject to, being in partnership with, being responsible for.
We belong to—are responsible for the webs of being, the universe, the Earth, Gaia.
Belonging to Gaia means recognizing that we are enmeshed in the webs of being and that our well-being is dependent on the well-being of Gaia.
If we destroy Gaia, we destroy ourselves.

Belonging implies cooperation—working with what is with Gaia, the webs of being.
Belonging implies community. In our face-to-face relationships with people we form community—we belong to community.
Belonging implies responsibility. We are responsible for Gaia.
We are responsible for one another.
Belonging implies love.
We cannot separate love (agape) from the fact that we belong to Gaia.
We love because we must love to preserve Gaia, to preserve ourselves, to preserve the webs of being.

Cultures built on values other than belonging are doomed to self-destruct. A culture built on domination of the Earth and all the animals therein is doomed to disappear. A culture based on self-interest is doomed to disintegrate.
A culture based on “survival of the fittest” will not survive.
A culture based on competition will destroy itself.

To be stable and sustainable, a culture must be based on cooperation, community, responsibility, love, honesty, caregiving, and the other values which are implied by and intertwined with one another and with belonging.

We can no more separate ourselves from belonging—from Gaia—and remain a viable culture than an oxygen atom can separate itself from hydrogen atoms and retain the qualities of water.


The hard sciences are not the only nor the primary origins of a Gaian paradigm. Wisdom, common sense, many cultures, and social research have all reached toward a similar worldview. Let’s look at Prof. Mary Clark’s In Search of Human Nature that finds that the most basic human needs are attachment and autonomy; Hart and Sussman who in Man the Hunted show that human progress is possible because of the evolution of a larger brain and cooperation; Alfie Kohn in No Contest: The Case Against Competition that shows that learning and action in concert with one another is not only nature’s way but also provides a win-win, more satisfying life for everyone; Matthew Fox in A Spirituality Named Compassion calls for a common linking and bonding in which each individual supports himself or herself by supporting all others in a unified melding of the world soul; Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society holds that our education system perpetuates the Euro American cultures of self-interest, competition, and materialism; and Roger Sperry introduced the concepts of evolutionary emergence and downward causation initiating a whole new way of seeing evolution and the future of humanity.

Mary Clark has been professor of biology and conflict resolution in a number of universities. Her most recent book In Search of Human Nature opens with a reminder that what we often think of as human nature is in fact human nurture. We are all born into families, communities, nations, economic systems, social systems, educational systems, religions, and other characteristics of cultures that shape our worldview. We too often accept what we are taught by our culture as the only way life can be. We seldom recognize that our cultural norms are not the only “truths.” Our genes create a proclivity within which our culture creates our human nature.
There are in fact thousands of different cultures and thousands of very different “truths” in which to believe. The introduction in Clark’s book contrasts two to make this point. One is the Western world’s atomic or “billiard ball world.” In Clark’s words, “The Billiard Ball gestalt depicts the universe as made up of isolated objects moving independently and colliding randomly with each other. . . . The 'Self' is discrete and separate from the whole.”

One contrasting worldview is “Indra's Net,” common in the East. “The Indra’s Net gestalt depicts a jeweled net in which each jewel is connected to and reflects all others. No one is a discrete. autonomous form unconnected from the unified and interconnected whole of reality.”

Each culture has its own creation myths, stories, values, lifestyles, totems, and taboos. They shape us within the dictates of nature.

Underlying these cultural norms are, says Clark, three basic human needs: bonding, autonomy, and meaning. Bonding, like belonging (see chapter 5), is the need for being respected and for respecting a family, community, or group of colleagues. Autonomy is the individual’s freedom to think and act, with others of choice, to improve the well-being of one’s self and one’s group. Meaning is probably the only characteristic unique to humans. It is the ability to think, to create and choose worldviews, to form bonds, to communicate, and to cooperate in promoting them. For humans, these three—bonding, autonomy, and meaning—are more basic than, and above, the animal needs of food, housing, and security. Dangers, even death, are willingly faced for one’s family, one’s ethnic group, one’s religious group, or one’s fatherland.

This search for human nature not only reveals why and how humans form communities and cultures but how their importance in human evolution also develops conflict as each individual and each grouping of individuals defends the created culture in which they exist. It is the understanding of different cultures and their inherent conflicts both within each culture and among cultures that is the base of conflict resolution. The rest of Clark’s book is an in-depth analysis of the knowledge needed to create a less conflicted world.

Anthropologists Donna Hart and Robert Sussman shocked the world of human evolution studies with the publication of Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution. Hominid fossils showed that the first prehuman primates came down from the trees some five to seven million years ago. They were small, weak, and without tools or fire. Their teeth were suited for living on fruits and nuts, not eating meat. They had neither tools nor fire for their use for millions of years. They were not hunters. They were the prey for giant hyenas, saber-toothed tigers, and even other primates. Their bones were found in the caves of giant cats with the cats’ teeth marks. Our hominid ancestors’ only defenses against their predators were (1) their larger brains, which gave them the power to outwit many of the animals hunting them, and (2) their cooperating in large groups; cooperating in defense of one another provided their security.

This well-researched theory has initiated a radically different, new line of study on the evolution story of humanity. The story of human evolution based on the myth of the domination of mankind since its beginning was one of man as superior animal with dominion over Earth and all life on Earth. Much research has been done on other modern-day primates in an attempt to understand the social organization and human nature of early humans. The picture too often drawn is of large powerful human hunters living in caves hunting small, and even some very large, animals for food with well-developed spears, clubs, and later bows and arrows. In this mistaken view, humans were by nature competitive and evolved competitive and warlike natures. They were, this myth says, man the hunter, man the dominator from the beginning.

The new man-the-hunted view of human evolution tells a very different story. Human nature evolved in necessity by avoiding confrontation. The niche in which humans survived was one of cooperation and mutual aid. We might better picture a group of small timid primates huddled in caves or returning to the trees as their superior cooperative minds built primitive defenses with ever larger bands of other cooperators.

Alfie Kohn is perhaps best known for his ten books and many lectures on education. But these are all produced within a wider concern for society that is most clearly expressed in his first book in 1986, No Contest: The Case Against Competition. Kohn points out that every aspect of our American culture is about competition. Our homes, our schools, our play, our work, our recreation, our legal system, our politics, our government, and our economics all promote and exist in competition. Our goal in life is to see everything as a contest, to defeat one another, and to win. Winning is thrilling and uplifting for the winners. But in every competition there are many, many more losers than winners. There is only one gold medal. And defeat is a loss—a loss of prestige, of self-worth, of friendship, and of self-respect. Competition creates losers. Fear of losing suppresses creativity and innovation. For Kohn, competition not only degrades the winners as well as the losers, it also degrades the system in which it exists. It promotes the economics of self-interest and materialism.

Individuals and families exist for material consumption and the hoarding of material wealth. Consumerism leads to unnecessary waste and pollution, as well as to lording over one’s neighbors by having more stuff.

In a chapter titled “Women and Competition,” Kohn bemoans the fact that the feminist movement has passed through three stages: (1)avoiding competition, (2)competing guiltily, and (3) competing openly and wholeheartedly. Males, on the other hand, have always touted their ability to compete, even when it was limited. Winning is all on the sports field, in the school, on the streets. While girls and women are making friends and expressing a collective interest, boys and men are showing off the independent and personal prowess and individual survival skills by defeating all others. Kohn understands that people who have systematically been denied the opportunity to earn a decent wage, to lead a life with dignity, to make decisions about what affects them may think it peculiar to be told that competition is destructive. But mimicking the ills of men in selfish individualism is giving in to a sick society. Kohn urges men as well as women to rethink the benefits of cooperation.

In two separate and separated chapters, “The Rewards of Working Together” and “Learning Together,” Kohn provides endless facts to show that cooperation in both learning and life is more productive, as well as more satisfying. Kohn backs his conclusion with facts showing cooperation promoted high production in 108 studies, while only 6 found the reverse and 43 found no difference.

In the end, Kohn concludes that every one loses in competition and gains in cooperation. For a healthy future society needs a shift in perspective from what benefits one’s self interest than what benefits one’s group. This sees the Western political, social, and economic systems as misconceived. The individualistic ethic, being based on the well-being of individuals instead of the well-being of the group, is a faulty assumption. A shift to the holism of a Gaian culture is needed to escape from the ills of competition.

Matthew Fox was a Dominican and a Catholic priest with a PhD in spirituality from the Institut Catholique de Paris. He is an ecologist who teaches that the cosmic God is in the creativity that happens between chaos and rigid order. The cosmic God is that creativity and is in all things created. The Vatican took his teaching to be outside of the Catholic church and requested that he leave. He became an episcopal priest and founded the Institute for Creation Centered Spirituality in Chicago where he writes and lectures about the unity of all things.

In his book Compassion, Fox says that compassion is about a spiritual energy that is in us all and all other created entities. He says that compassion is about the spiritual energy we give and take from all creatures, not just from human beings. It is not only an experience between people but among people and trees, among people and animals, people and music, and painting and the arts. Compassion is not about feeling sorry for people; it is about being one with the cosmos. It is a way of life. It is not what we think or what we feel. It is what we do.

This view of the world is in keeping with our view of Gaia as linking all of creation with all of creation, erasing all lines between our individual selves and nature and all lines between nature and society. Fox goes on showing the relationships between compassion and economics, between compassion and psychology, between compassion and sexuality, between compassion and creativity, between compassion and politics, between compassion and healing, between compassion and survival, as well as between science and nature. He paints a picture of a tightly interlinked and wholly interdependent world.

Ivan Illich has been an oft-sighted resource for homeschoolers since the 1970s. But many homeschoolers, and even many Illich fans, miss the message he was trying to deliver in Deschooling Society. Perhaps my own interpretation is enhanced by the numerous opportunities I had to talk with him, hear his lectures, and visit with his “traveling crap game” that met in various universities around the globe. Or it may be that his way of developing an idea was to stimulate the listener’s own thought rather than to lay out an idea so clearly that every one captures exactly the same message.
Deschooling Society is more about society than about schools. Society needs deschooling because society is a mimic of the school system. It engenders it as it is engendered by it. In our current society, individuals are expected to work in dull and stultifying jobs for future rewards. This they are trained to do in schools. They go to school so that they can get a job in the future to work for rewards they may get in the future.

By deschooling Illich did not mean taking schooling into the home, nor did he mean free schools in which curricula are set by the students. Schooling of any kind that limits a person’s capacity and desire to self-learn is detrimental to a person living a full life.

All life, according to Illich, should be convivial. That is, it should be lived in joyous collaboration with friends and colleagues. Learning and work alike should be enjoyable and fulfilling. They should be entered into as, and not differentiated from, play and recreation. A society that does not create that kind of convivial learning and living is not living up to, nor fulfilling the potential of, humanity.

In later works, like Tools for Conviviality and Shadow Work, Illich developed further the theme of what he meant by living the good life. He took the word “good” in both of its connotations—good as moral and good as pleasing. “Vernacular” was the word Illich used to express the good life. The vernacular is simple, local, communal. Every human and every community has its own natural concept of the vernacular. It is wrapped up in being a human. It is what a person can do themselves in the place they are at the time; it is without dependence or external assistance.

The bicycle was the hardware example Illich often used to exemplify the vernacular. The bicycle extends one’s own capability and efforts for transportation. It needs no massive outside system beyond its operator’s. The automobile, on the other hand, is not only a complex apparatus requiring a complex outside system, but it also requires more work and effort than it produces in transportation. If you take into account all the hours you spend to buy a car, to purchase gas and tires, to pay taxes for the road, to insure and license it, to clean up its pollution, and pay for all of the other costs, your rate of travel is less than that of a bicycle, and that doesn’t count either the hours, the costs, or the frustration spent in traffic jams and accidents.
In Medical Nemesis, Illich took the same concept to the medical system showing that not only did the medical not cure ills but it created them. In every aspect of our lives, conviviality and the vernacular have been overwhelmed and diminished by what Illich called the “disabling professions.” The law profession has increased crime, the professional economists have created scarcity and poverty, the teaching profession has dumbed us down, the farming profession has brought hunger. With this loss of the vernacular has come the loss of the family and the community. The single goal of humans has become to “make it” in a materialistic global economy. There is perhaps now better proof that the 2008–2010 recession created by the very people and organization made to stave the downturn off. It may be time to reconsider. Would living, learning, and working convivially for the general good create a more equitable life for all?

In his later essays, Illich brought his concepts to a fitting climax. An essay “The Cultivation of Conspiracy” in The Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, a 2002 book of a collection of essays by many of his colleagues edited by Lee Honacki and Carl Mitcham. This essay discusses friendship. The friendship Illich wrote of is not just that of being kind and cooperative to your neighbors. It is a deeper conspiriatio. As in much of his writing, Illich went to great length to explore the original meaning and related ideas and actions related to the Latin words. “Conspiriatio” means breathing together. But breathing is not merely expelling air. It is about the breath of life—the soul. Conspiriatio is the melding of one’s inner being with others. It is best exemplified by the wedding kiss that symbolizes, or more exactly is, the combining of two souls. It is more than the ceremony or the license of marriage. It is above physical love. It is the unifying of two beings. This conspiratio, or welding of souls, (although Illich, a former priest, doesn’t use the word “soul”) is the root of the vernacular and of the convivial.

This brief extension of Illich’s concepts is meant only to put his book and the idea of deschooling society into context. Homeschooling grew from the ideas of Illich, Holt, and others. During the 1970s, a few scattered families broke away from government schools and started homeschooling. By 1980 there were some ten thousand to twenty thousand such families homeschooling alone. As the numbers grew, these scattered home schools started linking up, establishing organizations to provide resources and taking on special tasks like the legal defense of homeschooling. By 1990 the cells of homeschoolers had become a melange and ad hoc linking became normal. Home school support groups spontaneously self-organized in many communities and on the Internet. By 2000 there was almost no American community that did not have a home school support group.

But in the practical day-to-day struggle to homeschool their own children, many, if not most, homeschoolers left behind the social idealism of Illich and Holt. Parents who were imbued with the concept of schooling could not really let their children be free to learn whatever the community and nature offered them. They had been guided by their schools and parents and they believed it only natural to be the guides and authorities for their children. They looked to “experts” to provide school texts and curricula. And exchanged information with other parents on how to keep their children’s noses to the books. Their universal cry is for government to just leave them alone. They argued that they have parental rights to raise their children as they wish.

If society is to move beyond the corporate/factory/industrial mentality, it will need to move beyond schools and beyond homeschooling. It will need to reinvent the way future citizens are introduced into society and how they, and we all, learn. That was the message of Ivan Illich: restructuring society by creating new learning communities.

Perhaps the most startling and creative alternative path to a Gaian paradigm came from Roger Sperry who was awarded the Nobel Prize for his research on the right brain/left brain dichotomy. In spite of this honor, perhaps Sperry’s most seminal work was his theory of mind/brain duality simililar to the software/hardware dichotomy of the computer. Neither the relevance of his research to Gaia theory nor the computer was recognized in his writing nor in that of others. Sperry saw that the brain is a physical entity. Its neurons are its physical parts. The mind is the subjective property that emerges from the network of neurons. But the mind has a degree of control over the firing of the neurons of the brain. Thinking, remembering, imagining, feelling, and other subjective properties of the mind that are created by physical neural networks in the brain. The two—mind and brain—are inseparably linked but not the same. His new worldview was anchored in two new concepts, emergence and downward causation.

Emergence is the concept that every step of physical evolution is accompanied by the creation of new qualities that cannot be predicted from its physical parts. A simple example is the subjective quality of “wetness” of water that emerges with the combining atoms of hydrogen and oxygen into entity physical—water. The flight of an airplane is another. The parts of a plane have no qualities that predict the emerging property of flight. It is the organization of the whole that produces the result. The organization of quark into atom, the atoms into molecules, the molecules into life, and life into society, those are all new entities that have new qualities. The computer industry recognizes this difference in the use of hardware and software in their evolution. The two are different realms of thought. The hardware is about physical organization, wiring, and chips. The software is about computation, communication, and gaming. Sperry conceived the mind to be like software and the brain to be the hardware.

Downward causation is the concept that any newly evolved physical entity has a degree of control over its parts. Sperry’s simple example was the spokes of a wheel and atoms within them. They are controlled in their motion to the path of the turning wheel. Sperry expanded on this idea from the suggestions of Karl Popper and others. They held that truth did not have to have a physical basis and criticized science as being too dependent on the physical universe for it proofs.

Sperry’s concepts of emergence and downward causation are the foundation of a new worldview that he called “the cognitive revolution.” It redefines evolution to be more than an upward path of physical creation. To use his words, “This view is mentalistic in holding that behavior is mentally and subjectively driven. [It] does not mean that the position is dualistic. In the new synthesis mental states, as dynamic emergent properties of brain activity become inseparably infused with, and tied to the brain activity of which they are an emergent property.” Evolution is a causal system that is driven by both upward causation and downward causation.

The Darwinian view of evolution followed the Newtonian view of causation. It relied on an upward hierarchy of physical changes all based on physical and chemical laws. In this view, understanding any evolutionary step required only understanding all the steps below.

Downward causation suggests that each step in evolution starts with the existing physical forms and their surrounding environment including the existing status of emergent properties. The cognitive revolution tells us that the lower level properties are already fixed and included in the parts of any entity. The parts are not changed by any emerging property. Nor is it necessary to understand all of the lower levels already entities or properties. They were merged into and included in the new entity. But they are superseded by new higher level properties. . In Sperry’s view of evolution, the lower level qualities do not changed,but they are subsumed and ruled by each higher level qualities.

Free will gives us an issue that may clarify Sperry’s view. In the existing paradigm, all causes are at the lowest level. The chain of causes reaches up to the [ STRIKE free] will of humans. All human actions and decisions are dictated by one’s past. Parents, family history, an individual’s history, and the history of the world are all in the hierarchy of causes that make our decisions. One’s fate is imprisoned in the past. There is no free will. It is all upward causation.

Downward causation suggests that at any and every moment in one’s life, every mind. has the power to make decisions. We are each at every moment faced with an infinite number of choices. I can choose right now what letter will be next. I can also choose to stop typing and go skiing, buy a ticket to London, or do any of millions of different things. That’s just common sense. But upward causation contends that hidden behind each decision lies a hidden causal hierarchy that determines my decision. Sperry does not deny the existence of upward causes but suggests they can be overridden downward causes.

Sperry further suggests that the concept of free will exists beyond the mind. Every tree, flower, rock, or star is embedded in a hierarchy of upward causations. Its past is prologue. But the future has many options. Every tree may be felled or not by the wind, fire, or the ax. Every star may be hit by another, explode, or fall into a black hole. Certainly, an upward hierarchy of causes has the largest degree of control. But as with the weather, unknown original conditions may have the well-known butterfly wing effect. The future of any entity or spot in the universe is uncertain, not only uncertain by Heisenberg’s principle at the quantum level but uncertain in its emergent level. We and every new evolutionary entity have high degrees of freedom in the downward causation that overrides without changing the causes from below.

For Sperry this view is mentalistic in holding that behavior is mentally and subjectively driven. It does not mean that the position is dualistic. In the new synthesis mental states, as dynamic emergent properties of mind’s activity. become inseparably infused with, and tied to the brain activity of which they are an emergent property.

Sperry’s books and papers on the emerging consciousness revolution affirm that the world we live in is driven not solely by mindless physical forces but, much more crucially, by subjective human values. The mission of this book is to carry on with the analysis and exemplification of those human values.

Separately and together, the above new paths of thinking and thought suggest that the Descartian and Newtonian reliance on reductionism as the base of all science is seriously challenged with the introduction of systems theory in the 1940s by Ludwig von Bertalanffy, Ross Ashby, and other biologists was the first mainstream breakthrough. They recognized that a complex system could not be fully understood by a reductionist analysis of its elements. A whole is more than the sum of its parts. They recognized that a new complex physical entity gains new qualities in the organization of the system. Information theory was developed by a network of mathematicians, computer modelers, ecologists, and other scientists.

This antireductionism stance was taken to a new level by Donald Campbell in 1974. Campbell suggested that the new properties found in systems might have an impact on the system as a whole. He was first to use the term “downward causation” which he formulated as a poperty of the lower levels of a hierarchy being restrained by and to act in conformity to the laws of a higher level. Some ecologists saw this as the reason why ecology had control over evolution. (And some theologians joined in saying “We’ve been preaching downward causation for a long time.” ) But a broader scientific interpretation came with Sperry’s suggestion that every evolutionary emergence of a new physical entity also included a subjective quality that has a degree of physical control over the lower level physical entity.

The door Sperry opened for theoretical psychology has been largely ignored in his field. It has deeper roots in biology, physics, and philosophy. But its most universal impact may come from an analysis of the evolution of mind itself. Where and when did mind first appear in the evolutionary tree?

Of course the earliest steps in cosmic evolution are with the big bang. Physicists like Paul Davies have duly examined the concept in connection with the quantum theory. In his words, “The committed reductionist believes such inadequacies are mere technicalities and that the fundamental core of explanation is captured completely by the reductionist theory."

A minority of physicists and system theorists challenge this account of nature. Whilst conceding the power of reductionism as a methodology, they nevertheless refute that the putative final theory would yield a complete explanation of the world. They see that in the world of life and other complex systems, new qualities emerge that may not be relevant to the simpler entities that are their parts.

If we look at the very earliest signs of life, the long organic particles of the nanobacteria, we are in a realm in which the lifelike replication of the physical form emerges. Scientists still don’t agree whether these nanobcacteria are a form of life or merely a chemical reaction. In higher levels, but simple one-celled animals there is life that seems somewhat mind like. The amoeba, for example, does surround and absorb organic particles for its survival and reproduction. This is certainly not mind as we think of it. Perhaps we need a lower level term for our search.

Richard Dawkins in his Ancestor’s Tale does an encyclopedic job of tracing our ancestors from the homo sapiens back through our common ancestor with the chimpanzees some 6 million years ago, through the marsupials 140 million years ago, into the lampreys 530 million years ago, and on through fungi, amoeba, plants, eukaryotes, prokaryotes, bacteria, and the chemical origin of life. This fascinating journey in physical evolution is done without attention to the subjective evolution. On a few issues, like the reason for the human’s larger brain/body mass ratio, a downward causation explanation in Sperry’s terms might have been called for. Without it, the evolution of the objective physical system misses the evolution of the subjective mindlike system.

The evolution of mind in the subjective sense has received little, if any, attention. Some work is being done on comparing the chimpanzees’ and lower monkeys’ brains to the human brain. But little has gone much further and even what has been done is mostly on the physical attributes of the brains and not the operation of the minds and downward causation.

There are a number of steps in evolution that might benefit from a closer look at downward causation. The transition from prokaryotes to single-celled eukaryotes initiated the introduction of oxygen-dependent life increasing the energy efficiency of new life-forms living in a distinct advantage to the animal form of life. The emergence of the mammal brain, in the age of the dinosaurs, is another red-letter age in the evolution of humans. There are, no doubt, many steps in evolution in which a closer analysis of causation might provide and keener understanding on how we came here.

But I have already gone well past my own understanding of theoretical psychology to be of help. One book I did read on the topic was a pre-year-2000 review of theoretical psychology. It was a set of essays by leading theoretical psychologists; Sperry had one article in the book. But not a single reference by others touched on it. They were all multidegreed psychologists from Yale, Harvard, Princeton, and other prestigious universities chosen, in my view, more for their degrees than their creativity. Most of them seemed caught, like most theoretical economists, by Whitehead’s “misplaced concreteness.” They were more interested in mimicking physics and applying advanced mathematics to their field than in finding anything really new. My fear is that their progress(?) will lead us into a psychological quagmire to match the economic quagmire the government is now trying to save.

These quick reviews of some of the concepts of leading thinkers in no way covers all of their ideas nor of the relevant ideas of many other scientists, scholars, and futurists. The idea—of Gaia as the Earth and all of its life-forms as being a tightly linked unit evolving as one—is far from new. In the Bible, Ezekiel saw the cosmos as wheels within wheels. All tightly interlinked and interdependent. Many cultures, as we will see in chapter 8 below, are rooted in cooperation and reciprocity rather than competition, self-interest, and materialism.

The purpose of this chapter is to show only the beginning of a few of the paths that lead toward a cooperative, kinder, and gentler society. The following chapters are not a linear development of a single Gaian paradigm but, rather, a smattering glance at some of the ways along some of these paths.


The social paradigms that form the foundation of cultures determine the mode of the many elements included in a culture—the economics, the religion, the music, the learning, the food, the health system, the communication, and all other elements of culture. In section II, we will explore some of the cultural modes that seem in concert with a Gaian paradigm.

Darwin’s theory of evolution, and of most evolutionists following him, has been concerned with physical change—the biological emergence of new species of plants and animals. Nobel winner for brain research Roger Sperry added new dimensions to evolution when he proposed that each step of physical evolution was accompanied by new qualities or qualia unknown before. And that those qualia had downward causation: a degree of control in the parts. The mind was a new quale that emerged as the brain emerged.

The evolution of qualia has not, in my understanding, been studied systematically. Rather, many individual qualia are noted and studied in detail. The emergence of properties of oxygen-demanding eukaryotic cells that we mentioned in chapter 1 was explored by Lynn Margulis as a major underpinning of Gaia theory.

There are two basic types of biological cells, prokaryotic and eukaryotic. Prokaryotic cells, as the name implies, are environmentally earlier and simpler. They are single celled. They have been evolving for some 3.5 billion years. They are single celled; in general, they do not need oxygen. Some produce oxygen that is a very reactive chemical and is toxic to many other cells. Eukaryotic cells are multicellular and more complex. They emerged some one billion years ago, and some use oxygen to survive. This property makes them uniquely efficient at turning matter into energy and joining together to form even more complex and more efficient organizations. This quale is the property that makes them the foundation for all animal life. All other steps in physical evolution bring with them similar qualia.

As we’ll see in chapter 6, brain researcher Roger Sperry shows that the mind is an independent quale that emerged with the physical brain. It has a downward causation, a level of control over the firing of the neural networks. Like all general qualia, the capacity to think, remember, and imagine is made real only when it is used by the mind. The quale associated with any newly emerged physical entity is an ability of all members of that entity and has a different effect with each.

Each organization or individual evolves just as species do. Each step in their evolution brings with it new qualia. As one’s body or brain evolves so does one’s essence or soul. We all take on new attributes as we grow and evolve. These qualia combine to create the soul that is more who we are than any other attribute.

As we noted in discussing the soul of a flock of birds in chapter 5, the soul of a flock of birds, a quale, creates as it is created by the souls (or qualia) of its members. The evolution of humans is in part the evolution of the species and in detail is the unique evolution of each person. All people absorb and take for granted the attributes of the people and nature that surround them and the organizations in which they are embedded. This is what is called culture and civilization.

The key quale that made human evolution possible was probably the cooperative social organization of the first hominids. Only a cooperative social structure made it possible for “man the hunted” to survive in the vicious and unfriendly world in which he found himself.

Social cooperation has since taken many forms. These are broadly called cultures. Each culture includes its unique patterns of human activity including language, religion, economics, governance, security, literature, arts, technologies, lifestyles, organization, traditions, beliefs, and others. UNESCO defines it by saying, “Culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs.”

Perhaps the most important qualia in creating different cultures are myth, religion, and belief systems. These are usually passed on in a culture by memories and stories of the elders in the culture. Many, if not most, of the guiding principles of a culture are invisible to the people who accept them without thinking. Most civilized cultures abhor cannibalism without reason. Many accept one or another specific definition of a power beyond nature and human thought as controlling life. In the past generation or so, science, our understanding of natural law, has had some effect on shaping culture. Galileo’s heliocentric theory, Newton’s law of universal gravitation, and Darwin’s theory of evolution created new worldviews and changed all cultures. The theme of this book is that the concept of Gaia is providing the source for the most radical change of our worldview and its social paradigm. In section II of this book, we will open speculation of some possible cultural changes implied by a Gaian paradigm.


Ecology, in the dominator paradigm, is not considered as an element of a culture. Ecology, like nature, is something in which all cultures are contained. The concept of Gaia sees the Earth and all life-forms as one. Gaia evolves as a unit. Gaia challenges the separation of ecology and culture. Not only does the concept of Gaia blurs the line of separation by showing that culture shapes the ecology as it also recognizes that ecologies shape the culture. Global warming, smog-polluted cities, polluted water, holes in the ozone shield exemplify that we cannot think of a culture without thinking of its ecology just as we think of economics, education, religion, art, sports, agriculture, transportation, and governance as elements of culture.

Gaia theory reveals that life on planet Earth is dependent upon life on planet Earth, as we showed in section I of the book. But even without that theory, the intertwining of human life and ecology has become of ever-increasing importance. Its state now is not unlike the state of the food system at the advent of agriculture. Before agriculture was invented, food too was a part of nature. Hunters and gatherers had not invented growing food as a part of their cultures. That social invention is one of the most profound transitions in human history, or prehistory. Since agriculture’s first innovation, the food system has evolved to the globally privatized one that now creates the gap between the posh elite and the starving masses. As we go further along the food for money system and as the shortage of oil drives global food universally higher, we can expect a global food crisis to take precedence in human activities. The threat demands a radical transformation of the food system.

The concept of ecology as an element of culture is only at the beginning of its evolution. It is being made evident by our increasing knowledge of global warming, acid rain, holes in the ozone shield, urban pollution, poisoned rivers, and many other phenomena. Actions being taken on these ecological problems are signs that ecology is becoming part of our culture.

Perhaps the most startling opening salvo for a fundamental change in our concept of ecology came with the failure of the WTO (World Trade Organization) to come to an agreement at the July 2008 World Trade Summit. The deciding stalemate was the disagreement on the agricultural sector. On one side, the developing nations took the position that the low-cost, subsidized food shipped to their nations competed unfairly with local growers and put local farmers out of business. Yet even the low-cost Euro American standards were too high for poor local consumers. The result is the increasing poverty of many countries. This demonstrates that what may be needed is more respect for nature and recognizing ecology as major elemont of human culture. Ecology is just entering into that realm.

There is probably no characteristic of humanity that Gaia is more important than in creating cultures of peace. The emergence of a Gaian paradigm implies the emergence of cultures of peace. Early anthropologists like Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead brought to public attention the wholeness within the different cultures they studied as well as the radical diversity among different cultures.

Anthropologists study the interlocking of cultural norms within each culture. They find that many acts that we would overlook as unimportant are important clues to a culture. Margaret Mead in books like Growing Up in New Guinea, Coming of Age in Samoa, and even Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America noted that cultural norms were initiated in infants and reflected in almost all human actions.

In some cultures, mothers would tease babies by removing them from their breasts while feeding. Teasing was continued by other family members and peers outside. This teasing grew into more violent actions as youth became teens and grew into adulthood. This grew into more violent and warlike performance as in the Apache in the Midwest who lived largely by attacks on the more gentle native Americans of the Pueblos.

A few native American games, like lacrosse played since the 1600s and condemned by the Catholic church, were violent games but often had the goal of settling a dispute between tribes and preventing a more violent killing war. Most other games were methods of learning, animal tracking, basket making; snowcross, for example, taught the skills of tracking. One member zigzagged across a snow-covered, heavily tracked courtyard. Other members cooperated in following the track.

In most cultures, children are loved, taught, and protected by all members of the clan or tribe. Elder members of the tribe are the babysitters and gather the young around to recite stories of clan history, emphasizing the parables that teach the culture of the group and to impart skills and learning. Mead studied many tribes like the Arapesh people on the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea, She noted that they, like many other cultures she observed, were pacifists. They shared the egalitarian emphasis in child-rearing and had peaceful relations with other groups. Some cultures on the Pacific Islands provided free goods and services to other villages, which, in reciprocity, gifted their surplus to others. For example, gardeners in the highlands gave vegetable produce to the fishermen of the coast. There was no form of money and no word for exchange. Each tried to outdo the other in their generosity. These were, and many still are, cultures of cooperation and reciprocity.

The culture of cooperation was a theme my wife, Margaret, and I covered in a front-page story for the Futurist magazine of March–April 1989 titled “Non-Western Cultures and the Future”; we noted one example of a case in Papua New Guinea where, at the urging of tribal elders, some entrepreneurs had been put to death by the tribal shaman for abandoning the tribe’s cultural norm of doing all work for the public good. Instead, they had become personally rich by selling what they produced and hoarding their material wealth. In other cultures we visited through out the Pacific we noted many that the people worked cooperatively giving the profit to the elders to spend on the well-being of the community. Dancing for tourists in Tahiti, harvesting, drying, and exporting sea cucumber to Japan supported another village. Roads in a section of Papua New Guinea were maintained by a club of teens without cost to the community. The iKung of Africa recognize the scarcity of their resources but assume that by cooperative use they can go further. The message we tried to impart in this article was that Europeans and Americans could remove their own cultural blinders by studying and adopting a more cooperative lifestyle.

One does not have to go too far afield to find examples of the primacy of public interest. The Amish culture in the USA does not teach its children to say “please” or “thank you.” Such words are an affront to their cultural norm of doing good for others. Such acts are not special. They are normal and expected. This form of reciprocity is expressed in the bumper sticker “Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty.” There are also the extensive networks of NGOs in which citizens put peace and social well-being ahead of personal gain. The transition being urged here is only an extension of some things that are already happening and the elimination of others. It suggests that the values of self-interest, competition, and materialism—greed—be replaced by the values of public interest, cooperation, and the health of Gaia. This seems to be what comes from the modern science that suggests that the Earth and all life on Earth are tightly linked as an interdependent whole. Each of us is responsible for each other. This peace is not just the absence of war or violence; it is the harmony of reaching outward and living in partnership with all the rest of Gaia. It is a way of thinking.

The 2000 conflict in Gaza has brought a deeper concept of peace to the forefront. The WWII genocidal holocaust adds an important new dimension to thoughts of peace. The inhuman brutality against Jews of the holocaust raised a global understanding and sympathy for the plight of Jewish populations. The establishment of a home for Jews in Israel was hailed universally a justified settlement for their long-endured suffering. Monuments around the globe, including the Holocaust Museum in Washington DC, were established to be constant reminders of “never again.”

Tanks with the militarily might of Israel rolling across and overpowering the poor and weak Palestine nationals in Gaza have initiated a worldwide rethinking of the lessons of the Holocaust. It has made it clear that a culture of peace does not grow out of years of violence and suppression. It will take much more than national pledges, flag waving, and antiwar resolutions to bring lasting peace to the world.

UNESCO was founded on the theme that “since war begins in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that peace must be constructed.” Toward this end, UNESCO considers learning, science, social science, arts, and communication as the means to achieve peace. The wholeness of the UNESCO charter shows how comprehensive is the pursuit of peace. The statements of national leaders show us how far we are from universal peace. Statements like “If you are not with us, you are against us,” “We must crush the enemy,” “Winning is the only thing,” “Get out there and fight” are all part of cultures based on competition. They not only exemplify our current culture but also are instilled in each of us from infancy by family, school, and society. We are taught to believe that competition and winning is good and that violence and war is human nature.

Bringing peace to the war-torn world starts with bringing peace to ourselves and our neighborhood. Peace must be inherent in our learning system, our play system, our work system, and in our mindset. It must spread from us to others around the world. Peace will only come when it is part of our worldview. A culture of peace must be built on the principle of Gaia. Each of us is an integral part of and responsible for all of the Earth and its life-forms including each other person on the planet.

There are many factors other than ecology that are overlooked by our American culture. This was brought to my mind one evening while haveing a Japanese traditional meal in a remote village in Japan. We were gathered around a family kotatsu, a low table over a pit with a heater in it and a table covering that covered our legs, keeping them in the warmth below. Each of us had a thimble-sized sake cup. Porcelain containers of sake were distributed around the table. After one shot of sake, I decided I should not take more. My neighbor at the table kept asking me if I wouldn’t like another portion. I demurred until my interpreter from my other side pointed out that the culture forbids anyone from filling his own glass or for asking for a refill. The custom was for each person to offer and to fill the glass of others. It was rude for me not to offer to fill my neighbor’s glass. Who was hinting?

In other cultures we visited throughout the Pacific, we noted many in which the people worked cooperatively, giving the profits to the elders to spend on the well-being of the community. Dancing for tourists in Tahiti gained no pay for the dancers. It all went to the community. Cooperative harvesting, drying, and exporting sea cucumbers to Japan supported another village. Roads in a section of Papua New Guinea were maintained by a club of village teens without payment. The iKung of Africa recognize the scarcity of their resources but assume that by cooperative use they can go further. The message we tried to impart in this article was that Europeans and Americans could remove their own cultural blinders by studying and adopting more cooperative lifestyles—living within the concept of Gaia.

Other different cultural norms are so taken for granted that locals are shocked or disgusted when they are ignored. I recall and incident in Japanese apartment. Our first entry into Japan was late at night but a local resident had planned a traditional welcoming party. I broke the standard precident by entering the apartment with my shoes on. I would not have shocked the local Japanese more if I hadwalked in nude. In many Japanese homes there were sandals at the door to use on entering. And a change of sandals to use when you used the bathroom. A more sensitive norm I learned in Nepal when I put my left arm around a teenager's shoulder. He shuddered as if I were a leper. I was told by an American friend that the left hand is reserved for wiping one's bottom or other unhealthy practices. One never made contact with a local with the left hand including passing money.


No element of American culture is more important to the well-being of humans nor exemplifies more clearly the concept of Gaia than energy. The interrelationships of humans and the Earth’s resources are clearly evident in the human-energy synergy. The current dominator paradigm claims that the Earth was made for the use of man. The resulting ethical code tells us that self-interest is the only motivation of humans. The result has led to the misuse and overuse of all resource particularly energy. Under the dominator paradigm, corporate ownership of the oil under the Earth has contributed to the gluttonous use of energy and the rich getting even richer. Continuing thinking and living along these lines will lead to the transfer of the world’s oil supplies into supreme wealth of a few oil barons. The end of the oil era is well recognized by nearly everyone now. There is no agreement among experts whether the end will come in 2015, 2050, or 2500. But there is no one who does not recognize that it will come to an end. Still many believe that the dominator paradigm—God, or science, or “they”—will find a new solution. And we continue this march to folly, leaving it to the future to solve our oil crisis.

Gaia sees energy in a very different light. Gaia is an open system. That is, it has a flow of energy from outside the system. That energy is primarily a flow from the sun in solar energy, a very limited amount coming from the moon’s pull in the tides. All of the oil, as well as coal and other stores of energy, are only stored solar energy. In ages past, photosynthesis of the sun’s energy grew lush forests and other plants that we carbonized to become the lifeblood of our current society. To continue thinking and acting in terms of an endless planet will only lead toward the annihilation of our species.

To contemplate on the depth of Gaia, we have to remove from our minds the Newtonian clockwork mode of the atomic material cosmos. Descartes’ dictum “I think therefore I am” implies that only what we think in our minds is real. The material world is not to be trusted. There is something more fundamental than economics as the purpose of life. Gaia is it.

This view of Gaia as a spiritual being, or at least a living one, puts the flow of energy through Gaia as our most crucial life force. If that energy were to stop flowing, life would immediately cease to exist. The ancients who worshipped the sun were more right than they could know. That solar energy flow is evident in everything we see or do. The flow of traffic, the lights of Broadway, the electrical appliances in our homes, the electrical generators that run our industries are all part of the flow of energy. So are personal activities of work and play. The food we eat turns into energy to keep our bodies healthy and is the source of the energy we use in everything we do. If there is any element of Gaia that might be called divine, it is energy.

We see energy as coming from many sources. There is the flow of water, wind power, direct solar power, energy from wood, energy from food, energy from explosions as in engines, and energy from the electric grid. All of these come ultimately from the sun with only a small part from tides caused by the moon. This is the energy that is part of Gaia. The flow and transformation of this energy should be the central concern of every individual and as well as of our governments.

It should be obvious that I have neglected both the energy stored under the ground in coal, oil, gas, and the energy obtainable for nuclear reactors. The first I ignore because it cannot be in our long-range planning. The second I ignore because it should not be in our long-range planning. Nuclear energy comes from plutonium and other large-sized atoms that decay, providing large amounts of energy that can be transformed into the grid on which we live. The catch is that there is no known way to store the spent nuclear fuel safely. Already there are small nonhabitable islands of spent nuclear energy scattered around the world. If we consider such waste from all of the energy flow needed and now used by humans, we end up with staggering amounts of spent fuel. Those few islands of inhabitable land that now exist would become a pockmarked planet. As these islands of waste spread, it would create a deadly rash, leaving only pockets of gated communities for those few investors on whom the money had landed and a chaos of suffering humanity with poverty spread to the streets and lower classes to add to the hunger they now share.

This foreboding forecast is not original here. It is common among the pundits locked in the dominator paradigm with its values of self-interest, competition, and materialism. They see civilization remaining on its march to folly and being swallowed up in its corporate greed.

Contemplation of energy as a force within Gaia paints a very different picture. A few bold innovators have challenged this whole scenario and are taking actions to change it. One example is the work of Amory Lovins at the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI).

Lovins is an American with physics degrees from Harvard and Oxford. In 1973, he became notable in the environmental community with an article in Foreign Affairs titled “Energy Strategies: The Path Not Taken.” It noted that energy was wasted. Most designs could be more energy efficient. The message did not go over well with those promoting energy use and making their fortunes in energy sales. But it led many environmental advocates into a new realm, that of energy conservation.

In 1982, Lovins moved back to the States and founded RMI. During their first year, Amory, with his first wife Hunter, designed and built their home and RMI offices in Snowmass, Colorado. Their four-thousand-square-foot super-insulated building is largely glass on sun facing south with its north side built into a hill. It is completely solar heated by a central solar greenhouse. The sixteen-inch-thick well-insulated masonry walls and the four-inch-thick cement floor act as the thermal mass, storing the heat from the greenhouse, windows, and skylights. For looks and cloudy day insurance, there are wood burning fireplaces in the main rooms. The energy-efficient establishment caught the interest of a wider audience and assured the success of RMI. In 1993, Lovins and members of RMI followed their housing design with the Hypercar. The Hypercar invention was a hybrid-electric vehicle that had tripled the gas mileage of other cars on the road. It was also safer and cheaper.

Such energy-saving technologies have been the core of RMI’s work. Over the years, it grew to a staff of fifty and a host of books on energy saving. At the twenty-fifth anniversary of RMI, President Clinton remarked, “The work of RMI over the next five to ten years, in my opinion, may be cumulatively more important than all the work that’s been done in the last twenty-five years because they have finally gotten a consensus for their essential mission. The crying need is for our nation and, indeed, the whole world to adopt what they already do best: getting organized and proving this is good economics in very practical, specific ways.”

While RMI continues to win high praise for its contributions, both the Lovins have moved to new fields. Hunter is president and founder of Natural Capitalism Solutions (NCS) based on the concept of natural capitalism developed in the book by that name authored by Paul Hawken and the two Lovinses. Natural capitalism reminds us that capitalism is not money. It is natural and human resources that produce goods and services. NCS works with corporate leaders and other decision makers to enhance natural capital while making a profit.

Amory has turned his full attention to winning the oil endgame. Toward this end, he adapts the concepts of E. Schumacher’s Small Is Beautiful and George McRobie’s Small Is Possible to show also that small is profitable with the enhancement of the natural capital.

Winning the oil endgame is, of course, now a central concern of much of the nation. Still many of the players are still enmeshed in the dominator paradigm and look to moneymaking as their basic driving force. They see the end of the oil game as a source for creating more billionaires. As it is already proving to be. A few are looking for a more Gaian future and foresee a radically different energy future. “A Positive Future” by Ken Zweibel, James Mason, Vasilis Fthenakis in The Scientific American, projects that by 2050, solar power could replace foreign oil. The two hundred fifty acres of wasteland in the Southwest, if covered with solar collectors, can convert the four thousand five hundred quadrillion BTU of solar energy to usable power. Only 2.5 percent of that would equal the total energy used in the USA in 2006. The technology is here and improving rapidly. That, or any other transformation, will not be easy. Their scenario would require some $429 billion in investment and a concerted government effort like the Nuclear Bomb Effort during WWII or the later Man to the Moon Program of President Kennedy. Not only is direct solar energy available, but wind power, wave energy, thermal energy, hydro dams, and other new technologies could be added to energy conservation to create a sustainable and comfortable life for Gaia including all humans.

None of the positive and optimistic scenarios for the energy future are likely to be brought to fruition by the government alone nor within the dominator paradigm. The transformation of our energy system requires a radical change of our view of the world. We must think and act as if we were all part of Gaia and responsible for its health as much as it is responsible for ours. Technology is important and necessary. But it is not enough. Each of us must accept personal responsibility to Gaia, the systems in which we live. Only when we all reduce our consumption of energy and increase our use of alternative energy can we move to a sustainable future.


There are, as we’ve seen, many paths to a Gaian future. That is, there are many scholars who see the need of such a radical change. But as the saying goes, “It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than to think your way into a new way of acting.” But there are many social innovations that are showing us the way. In the next chapters, we’ll explore a few. There is no more crucial or compelling element of our culture needing radical transformation than economics. And it is happening. Far too much has been written on corporate greed than we could cover here. Nor is it the purpose of this book to dwell on the failure, and sometimes evil, of the dominator paradigm outlined in chapter 1. Nevertheless, it may be well to remind ourselves of the history of economics before reviewing some of the alternatives to economics.

Producing and distributing goods and services within their communities has been the primary human activity since humans first formed bands for self-protection some 5 million years ago. Cooperative hunting and gathering, as well as protection, was a prime human undertaking even before human brains evolved, invented tools, and initiated the use of fire 150 thousand years ago. For most of that time, including much of the past two thousand or so years, humans worked without the thought of ownership or self-interest. For those who lived, their survival and well-being was recognized as being dependent on the survival and well-being of their tribe or community. They were dependent on cooperation. Only in the past two hundred or so years have self-interest, competition, and material accumulation been the overriding human goals. In the current age, the exchange of money for goods and services has come to rule economics. The purpose of human life has become one of getting, spending, accumulating, and conspicuous consumption—having more than one’s friends or neighbors.

Before democracy was initiated in America in the 1775, public ownership was limited to the divine rights of kings. During the age of colonization, the kings of European nations sent their ships around the world to conquer new lands and new people. Their goal and success was measured in the tons of gold or other valued booty brought back to enrich the thrones of Europe. Privateers or pirates were part of the kings’ dominion. To give some royal cover for this looting, the British established the East India Company. The East India Company was an early joint-stock company chartered by Elizabeth I on December 31, 1600. Its purpose was to promote discovery and trade with India. To make money for its owners, the Royal Charter gave the private company a twenty-one-year monopoly on trade in the East Indies. The company took on not only commercial ventures but also assumed the powers of the government in the name of the queen. It assumed the British military might until the Indian Rebellion in 1857 and its dissolution in 1858.
This model of private ownership and corporate power was assumed by other nations as they captured control of all the land around the world. Other royal charters like the Hudson Bay Charter, the Massachusetts Charter, and others rapidly unified control of America. Here the American Revolution almost put an end to the domination of royal charters. The American colonies resented the power the British corporations held over their manufacturing factories. They resented the corporate military domination of their cities. They resented their lack of freedom to control their own lives. In general they resented the power of British corporations and the British government in all aspects of their lives. The American Revolution was a war to rid America not only of the power of the crown but even more to get rid it of the power of corporations. The Declaration of Independence was an effort to free America from not only the divine right of kings but also from the corporate greed of the wealthy. It pitted us—the people—against corporate greed. Among the stated grievances against the crown the Declaration stated, “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.”

“We the people” in the American Declaration of Independence was not primarily a statement of individual freedom and liberty. It was a rejection of the power of the king and of his corporations chartered by him to bring wealth from and to control land and resources beyond European shores. These were cruel and inhuman regimes. In America, they consisted of a few British elites with mass populations brought from the slums, streets, poorhouses, and prisons of England. In England, corporate-owned militia swept the streets for vagabonds, criminals, and children to be indentured servants in the New World. The East India Company, the Virginia Company, the Massachusetts Charter, and other European corporations ran inhuman prisonlike detentions in America. Criticizing or uprising against corporate government was punished by severe lashings, cutting off toes or fingers, or piercing the tongue so that the miscreant starved to death. In one account, of 3,570 indentured colonists sent to join 700 already here, only 900 were alive in 3 years. The Boston Tea Party was only one example of many street-level uprisings objecting to the harsh treatment.

In writing the U.S. Constitution, the power over corporate charters was left to the individual states. It was believed that the strong wording of the Declaration of Independence for we—the people—had ended corporate greed forever.

There was a brief period after the writing of the U.S. Constitution when the corporation was issued and controlled by local communities. The corporation then was limited to performing functions wanted by the local communities. Corporations were restricted in their capital value to usually $50,000 or so. The stockholders were in control and were liable for any crimes or misdemeanors of the corporations. Corporations had to stick to a narrow charter and could not buy out competitors or other corporations. A corporation charter could be canceled by the people if it did not perform for the public good. Slowly but surely, the courts, with the permission of the elite Congress, whittled away the public good and other requirements for corporations. Finally in 1886, the Supreme Court gave full personhood to corporations. The Supreme Court ruling in Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad read the following:

Corporations are persons within the intent of the clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which forbids a State to deny to any “person” within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. That Amendment had been written only to assure the equal rights of freed slaves. The personhood of the corporation has since been extended to give corporations more freedom and rights than is given to actual human blood, flesh, and soul persons.

The war between Corporate Greed and We-the-people has been central to the discussion of government ever since. Even before the personhood of corporations. Abraham Lincoln in 1864 had written: “I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.”

To counter the court’s action, promote competition and lower prices, the Congress in 1980 passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. This act declared it illegal for corporations to form monopolies, to buy stock in competitors, or otherwise reduce competition in the market. Little use was paid to this Act until “trust buster” President Teddy Roosevelt mounted both an administrational and a congressional attack on vested interest with his antimerger campaign. In 1902, Roosevelt shocked financiers on Wall Street with his decision to approve the government’s lawsuit against Northern Securities Co., a large and recently merged western railroad company. This angered J. P. Morgan, the financier who had arranged the merger, and other American plutocrats. The courts again took their side of the banking and oil barons, so the antitrust movement languished again.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted that “we have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics.” And President Eisenhower produced a flurry of interest in his 1990 farewell address to the nation. He warned that
we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. . . . This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. . . . In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.

In his 2003 anticorporation book Gangs of America, Ted Nace, as the book jacket says,

likens the personhood of the corporation to a Frankenstein—an immortal pseudo-person created by human will, but with powers beyond human control. This amoral intelligent being is slowly and surely abrogating human freedom and human rights. Taking over all it means to be human, Even the CEOs who enrich themselves by serving this false god, do not live, as they do, beyond a human lifetime. Nace calls for an uprising to restore humans to their rightful place in Gaia. As one step toward this end he suggests that Isimov’s Three Laws of Robotics, conceived to forestall the possible take over by robots with artificial intelligence from destroying human existence. Nace would substitute “corporations” for “robots.” They would then read:

1) A [corporation] cannot do injury a human being nor through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2) A [corporation] must obey the laws given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with Law 1.
3) A [corporation] must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with Laws 1 or 2.

Before looking at some of the options, we might correct a possible false impression of our tirade on corporate greed. The corporate greed we’ve talked about is not of individuals. We firmly believe that no person is out to be evil. Even the Mafia and street gangs see themselves as doing good within their cultures. Corporate managers are even more restricted by the laws of the land that defines the legal purpose of their corporations. It is to make a profit and grow. The Supreme Court ruling of 1886 changed the face of America and made it the Frankenstein that brought on the 2008 and other economic breakdowns. It will remain to be seen if President Obama can assume the mantle of President Teddy Roosevelt or FDR and return America to the power of the people.

The 2008 bailouts of the corporation, banks, and other organizations that were too big to let fail has been a vicious reminder that change is needed. Whether or not most intelligent leaders can break the hold of the corporate enterprise on the government as well as the production and distribution of goods and services remains to be seen.


Although since 1886 the legal purpose for all corporations has been the bottom line—profit—not all corporations ignore their social responsibility. Some Quaker and other NGOs have refused to support the military since the time of the American Revolution. But in spite of warnings from presidents Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and Eisenhower, banks, Wall Street, and economic theories still hold tightly to their mantra that greed is good. They firmly believe that self-interest alone is responsible for the wealth of America. A couple of actions softened that thinking during the 1980s. One was the university and street demonstrations calling for economic withdrawal and boycotts of corporate investments supporting apartheid in South Africa. It was part of their protests for peace, ecology, and civil rights, a reminder of the Boston Tea Party. The other was the consciousness raising of a few investors and the establishment of SRI (socially responsible investing). At first, the economists and the “market” took SRI as a joke. Publications like Esquire touted socially responsible investing as “feel-good investing.”

By the 1980s, SRI mutual funds were springing up throughout the USA and overseas. Among the early-screened funds were Pax World Funds, Calvert, Dommini, and Parnassus. These investment programs called for not only the screening of corporations for peace, environment, health, civil rights, and worker safety, but also the launching of stockholder initiatives in those and other areas. SRI funds have become mainstream and are now well recognized by most investors.

Between 1995 and 2007, SRI assets grew from $639 billion to $2.71 trillion. That is 324 percent. In the same period, the total market grew by only 260 percent. Now one of every $9 invested is in SRIs. Now a majority of the investors recognize that self-interest was, in fact, bad economics, and that social responsibility is good economics.

This success has brought a new dimension to the SRI world. That is sustainable investment. This innovation moves SRI from just avoiding the ills of the past corporate agenda to supporting a more positive future. Screening for sustainable investing include rejecting alcohol and arms production as well as supporting of gays and lesbians, operation of small farms, third world development, alternative energy, and right livelihood. Stock owner initiatives on these and other social concerns have become a standard part of SRI programs.

SRIs are a positive and constructive variation on the overreach of corporations. But there are many other alternative economic experiments suggesting the possibility of a new corporate world order.
In 1980 during a trip to Bangladesh, I heard a buzz in development quarters about a unique program started in 1976 by an economist/banker Muhammed Yunus with the assistance of banks of the country. Yunus was experimenting with very small loans to poor people without any collateral or credit rating. These impoverished people, most often women, needed ten to one hundred dollars or so to buy tools for cottage businesses, set up a table in a local market, or buy a couple of chickens to start an egg business. Yunus’s plan was to meet with small groups of such women in their villages and to suggest that the small group work together on a small short-term loan to one of them. When that was paid back, another loan would be made to another member of the group.

From 1976 to 1979, the experiment was confined to a small region around the capital of Bangladesh. In October 1983, the project became an independent bank, the Grameen Bank, owned by its borrowers. It was served by “barefoot bankers who traveled from village to village making loans and collecting repayments. Today, Grumman Bank is owned by the rural poor who own 90 percent of its shares while the remaining 10 percent is owned by the government. As of December 2007, it had 7.41 million borrowers, 97 percent of whom are women. With 2,481 branches, GB provides services in 80,678 villages, covering more than 96 percent of the total villages in Bangladesh.

The success of the bank is nearly the opposite of the standard banking system. In the standard system the more you have, the more you get. A loan is dependent on collateral and credit rating. In the Grumman Bank, credit is accepted as a human right. Those who have the least are given the most help. It holds that poverty is a potential waiting to be tapped. This theory holds up. the Grumman Bank has a much higher rate of return and a much lower rate on nonpayment than do most other banks.

My own excitement over this concept of development fell on deaf ears in the World Bank, where I was a consultant, and in other financial institutions. Why make one-hundred-dollar loans when with equal amount of time you could be make million-dollar loans that require no more paperwork and bring in a much larger profit with much less effort?

Although the financial institutions showed little interest, by the 1990s, the nongovernmental development agencies were taking notice. Since 2000, the concept under the new rubrics of microcredit, microloans, peer lending have become standard financial tools from Ghana to Brazil, from Papua New Guinea to India. Even the wealthier nations have joined in. My home county, Franklin County in Maine, has a peer-lending program. In the USA, worldwide Grumman-like program have over a million clients and disbursed more than $472 million in loans.

Their success was finally not missed by the banking institution. In one critical article, an American banker stated, “We have always been a peer lending institution.” What he didn’t mention was that the banks’ peers were the other institutions with a billion dollars or more.

Muhammed Yunus did not suffer such inconspicuousness for long. In 2005 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics for “turning the banking practice upside down.” His fame as well as his ideas has spread. Now he is taking his ideas on poverty to a new level with his new book Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty published in 2008, that explores the economic causes of poverty as well as his social innovation that could solve it.

It would be unfair if I left this microloan topic without giving credit to the "Trickle Up" foundation. Before Yunus started the peer-lending movement, a couple in New York City, Glen and Mildred Robbins, had observed third world poverty. As they traveled the world, particularly Africa, they discovered poor women whose productivity could be increased a thousand times by the purchase of a slightly more appropriate technology. Without the support of any institution, they took one thousand dollars of their own money and made one hundred personal loans to individuals with nothing but their word on repayment. Their small loans never made headline news but hundreds of villages still remember those passing visitors. And many other individuals volunteered and donated to expand the program. Because of their success, they established the Trickle Up Program.

Since its unheralded start, the Trickle Up Program has helped some 150,000 entrepreneurs; the average program now has five participants. TUP makes over 10,000 loans per year. It has representatives around the world: Africa, Asia, and South America. A review of one of the loanees in one year found that for 81 percent, their business is their main source of income; 76 percent provide better, more nutritious food for their families; 69 percent feel more financially secure as they face the future; 55 percent can afford better medical care; 52 percent can afford to send more of their children to school; 52 percent are wearing higher-quality clothing; and 27 percent have improved their housing.

Certainly, all involved in this program deserve high praise. But its success as a people-to-people program without the need for government or corporate help is possibly the most remarkable part of the story. It should move us all to recognize our own potential for changing the world through mutual aid.

A new level of microfinance has been established in the peer-to-peer lending program MicroPlace established by the New America Foundation, e-Bay, and Calvert SRI. This program allows the less affluent, socially minded Americans to invest to bring the working poor out of poverty and make a financial as well as a psychic return with their savings. MicroPlace on e-Bay is a place for the average Americans to maintain their retirement account while helping others move into the working world and to become part of today’s economic system.

I in no way want to belittle the important changes in the milieu of American business. But we cannot forget that the economic system is still bound by the dominator paradigm. For most of America, the purpose of life is still, and is supposed to be, self-interest, competition, and material accumulation. As long as the courts, the press, and Congress hold to the personhood of the corporation and declare that their only legal purpose to make a monetary profit, the Damascus sword, is hanging over the heads of all other ethical values. Programs like those above give us hope that the corporate agenda might be tweaked for the good of all. But we may also see an alternative to corporate economics in the steady growth toward a cooperative commonwealth. We will explore below some examples of the alternatives to monetary economics in which people come before profit.

Early in the days of the concentration of private wealth, the concept of cooperative community economics was forming. As new technologies came online, their cost was putting cottage industries out of business. The new machines were more expensive than the homemade alternatives. The corporate greed solution was for wealthy landowners to buy the machines and rent them to the workers or to gather them in existing buildings and pay the workers a minimal wage for their labor. Charles Dickens paints heart-wrenching portraits of the corporate world in many of his novels. A potential solution came to a group of poor, unemployed spinners and weavers in England. In 1844, they formed the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers.

The driving goal of these pioneers was mutual aid. They would help one another. They would buy food and supplies together, help build houses for their community, set up training and educational programs, and help members obtain the tools needed for employment. Every member who joined the co-op was equal to every other. Sex, race, religion, social position, and politics had no standing among members. Every member had one vote, an equal share of any capital purchased, and an equal share of any profit made by that capital. Their first agreement was to gather whatever money members could donate. In a few meetings, they were able to gather twelve pounds. Their first rent was at 31 Toad Lane. It became their storefront, their meeting space, their office space, their schoolroom, and it soon housed spinning wheels and looms so members could add co-op income to their goods and services. This model grew to compete with other factories in the area. It was also copied by other communal groups to become the worldwide co-op movement we know today.

An outstanding example of the co-op movement today is the Mondragón network of cooperatives in the Basque county in the Pyrenees mountains of Spain. A local priest, Jose Maria Arizmendiarrieta, initiated the idea of the first Mondragón co-op and shepherded its growth to become the largest cooperative network in the world. The MCC network in 2006 accounted for 3.8 percent of all jobs in the Basque autonomous community and for 8.6 percent of employment in industry. Its cooperative bank, CAA Labial-Euskadiko Chute, profit before taxes increases by 24.3 percent over the first nine months of 2007. One of its cooperative factories, Fagor, makes one out of every three pyrolytic ovens sold in Spain. Its co-op supermarket chain, Eroski, continues its rapid rate of growth in 2007, with the opening of 50 new stores.

This amazing growth started with Arizmendi’s recognition that in spite of his teaching in the local traditional schools, his students were unable to find jobs and the local community was unable to supply job opportunities. His approach to the solution was two pronged. One is to provide job training, and two is to provide local jobs. In 1956, using the first letter of the surnames of five of his young graduates, he founded the first cooperative, Ulgor (It is now called Fagor Electrodomésticos). In the following years, other worker co-ops organized in much the same way. In 1959 a new level of service was provided to the workers and to new start-up cooperatives, the CAA Labial Popular (People’s Worker Bank), a credit union. The bank also invited other co-ops to participate in the network and helped failing small business to revive as co-ops. The 150 co-ops in the network in 1980 formed MCC (the Mondragón Cooperative Corporation) and in 1990 extended their education function with the founding of Mondragón University.

As of 2007, MCC had over 83,000 employees in 256 companies with 44 percent in the Basque area, 80 percent of whom were co-op members. Over 65 of their worker cooperative plants were outside of Spain, including plants in Brazil, France, Germany, India, Italy, and 18 other countries, of which the United States is one. Laws that permit the cooperative organization were used so that over half of all employees were co-op members and the goal was to be closer to 100 percent by the end of 1980. Mondragón has proven that cooperatives can compete on a global scale with greed-based corporations while at the same time maintain their values of personal and community well-being.

My own favorite cooperative community experience was with the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative in Japan. My wife, Margaret, and I were part of a small experimental tour of alternatives in Japan. We arrived in Tokyo after a long flight from Maine to be housed in an organic farm in the heart of Tokyo. The farm has been with the O’Hara family for many generations. It now grows organic vegetables for the emperor and for the Seikatsu Club. SC is a club of three hundred thousand Japanese housewives. It started in 1965 when one Tokyo housewife convinced one hundred others to buy milk together directly from the local farmers, cutting out the middlemen and reducing costs to the farmers and the price to the co-op members. Now housewives around the nation are organized into hans of eight families each. Each han elects its own representative who meets in branches of about fifty hans that make their own plans and send representatives to a general assembly that elects SC’s board of directors.

While we were at O’Hara’s, a Tokyo branch of some fifty kimono-clad housewives met with six or so farmers who grew produce for them only. One issue taken up was the need for a larger supply of a specific green vegetable used in one of their traditional Japanese celebrations. In the discussion, the farmers agreed to increase the amount produced on that special day to what the han members called for. This, like other produce, was sold in supermarkets owned by the SC. These supermarkets reduced the number of products on the shelves by selecting only those that met their organic, environmental, health, and price standards.

At another time we met with a farmer at a traditional Japanese high tea ceremony high up on the side of a mountain fruit orchard. The owner had been a Japanese officer during the war. We learned the intricacies of the tea ceremony and examined the superlarge fruit on the well-manicured trees. As we wound our way down the narrow footpath we’d climbed to get there, we passed a group of Japanese women climbing up to inspect the fruit and to bargain with the owner for its purchase by the Seikatsu Club. At their storefront in the town below, we learned that when suppliers could not provide the quality of goods, these housewives wanted to set up their own manufacturing plant. One example was for a chemical-free soap powder for dishwashing.

As well as providing healthy, safe, and environmentally friendly products, the SC promotes recycling, an employment service for women, equality for all, resource conservation, and a democratic society.

Cooperatives had an early introduction in the United States. Benjamin Franklin’s vision of a new nation was one of cooperatives—free citizens on their own, organized for mutual aid. Time after time, Franklin gathered people together to form new voluntary institutions to meet the citizen’s needs. Franklin founded the Library Company (1731); Union Fire Company (1736); American Philosophical Society (1743); University of Pennsylvania (1749); Pennsylvania Hospital (1751); and the Philadelphia Contributionship (1752). When, in 1747, the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania declined to participate in a military action to defend the port of Philadelphia from a British threat to capture it, Franklin raised a volunteer militia. His militia elected its own officers. When the First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in 1774, it was in a hall owned by a cooperative of carpenters, with the cooperative Library Company on the second floor. Samuel Adams and the Continental Congress took advantage of and thanked the library for its service during the Congress. In 1785, when the group gathered to draft the Declaration of Independence, the library again offered its space. Nine signers of the Declaration were also members of the cooperative Library Company. The freedom of the United States of America was thus assured by the concept of cooperatives.
Since those days, the United States cooperative movement has grown immensely. There are now over 40,000 cooperatives providing more than 100 million Americans with $123 billion in goods and services, not to count the millions of housing co-ops, health co-ops, credit unions, and other specialty forms of cooperative business and living.

Most of these are, in one or another, cooperative federations. Many form cooperative bonds with other cooperatives to exchange products and mutual aid. A few live completely within their cooperative network. Some work toward a global cooperative commonwealth—a network of cooperatives with each producing what others need coordinated so that everything anyone needs is produced and distributed to them. They see a future global cooperative commonwealth that could replace the current corporate agenda. A true adoption of a Gaian paradigm

One of our favorite American cooperative services is the Cooperative Fund of New England. Although my family rainy day fund is now being saved for old age, it is productively saved in an SRI. We tithe one-tenth of it for loans to emerging cooperatives through CFNE. CFNE is a joint fund to which individuals or organizations loan, or donate, money for the use of helping co-ops or other democratically controlled local organizations. Loaners to the fund may choose the return they need—from 0 to 4 percent. Loans are made to existing or starting co-ops of all kinds—food co-ops, worker co-ops, collectives, housing co-ops, land trusts, cooperative schools, etc. In 1975, their first year of operation, they had $60,000 in loans. In 1993, they had $1,000,000. In 2007, they had $5,000,000.

In the past, loans have usually been for working capital. In 2007, CFNE initiated an affiliate. The Cooperative Capital Fund Inc. (CCF) of New England is a socially responsible investment fund that will invest in cooperative businesses in the form of patient capital or equitylike financing. CCF seeks to assist the New England cooperative industry to grow and flourish by providing capital that acts like equity without requiring cooperative businesses to give up control over their own management and destiny.

The rapid growth since 1993 reminds one of the rapid growth in the 1980s of SRI and the impact it had on corporate economics. The pool of money in the savings of the millions of middle-class Americans must be close to equal to the few wealthy Americans at the top. But we middle-class citizens are not in the position of starting new foundations or making large grants. We are in the position of loaning a small percent of our savings until the moment of family need. Cooperative community loan funds like CFNE might have a larger impact on transforming society from one of corporate greed to one of community well-being.

There are many other alternatives to economics that have spontaneously self-organized as replacements for the corporate greed, consumerism, and the money agenda: LETS (local exchange trading systems) that creates credit and debit accounts for members based on agreements of individuals supplying goods and services; time dollars systems, like baby sitting groups, that provide hours of service to one another; local scripts that create paper money that can be used only locally or among members; credit unions that loan out local members’ deposits to support only local members’ needs; food cupboards that provide free food to those in need or from local garden surpluses. Cooperatives, collectives, and many other alternatives to economics are already making substitutes for money and changing the way some communities work.


You cannot speak of any human culture, in fact any animal species, without recognizing its food system. Food is our most basic animal need. The food system includes growth, harvest, distribution, eating, and nutrition. The history of our food is almost the history of our culture. The human food system has evolved from its very primitive man-the-hunted days of hunting and gathering when nature and humans were one, through the origin of agriculture, to the current complex and demanding economic system. Currently, the American culture separates food from nature as it separates all aspect of our culture from all others. Every step in our food system now has a single purpose—making a profit. The food for money system exemplifies the distortion caused by economics and the failure to recognize Gaia as a unit.

The current concept of food in America was brought home to me by an eight-year-old who asked where the hamburger he was eating came from. To him it had come from a plastic package bought at the supermarket. When he was told it was cow parts, he stopped eating and has been a vegetarian ever since. Now he is turned off by learning that the cow parts were grown on land that was once a rain forest.

The economization of the food system has done much more than hide the sources of food. It has also put our home food supply in constant jeopardy. That is well proven by the threat of any environmental catastrophe. The mere approach of a hurricane, flood, or snowstorm sends everyone to the nearest supermarket to stock up on food. The shelves are soon emptied.

I recall my experience with a railroad strike when my wife-to-be and I were students at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. The Anchorage to Fairbanks railway supplied all the produce from the south. It went on strike. In less than a week, all food shelves were emptied except for a few exotics like a few cans of caviar. Most of the students lived on pasta with a small bit of meat. Occasionally, a student in our common dining room would raise his or her fork with a small morsel of meat on it and shout, “I got the meat today!” The student dining room was saved by the temporary lifting of a ban on reindeer hamburgers. I was lucky because I had half a moose stored under my nearby cabin. That won me the approbation of the student body including Margaret as my future wife.

In addition to unintentional loss of local food supply is the threat of an intentional stoppage. Foreign mono crops, tankers and cargo ships, centralized storage, trucking, and supermarkets are all good targets for storms and terrorists. If that is not threat enough, there is the threat and the actuality of contamination and its recall from the market. The 2007 recall of 5.7 million pounds of beef contaminated with E. coli is only one example. Salmonella-tainted peanut butter from the Peter Pan and Great Value brands sickened hundreds of people in forty-four states. Others became ill from E. coli after eating at Taco Bell restaurants. Three died, and two hundred-five consumers fell ill from contaminated spinach bagged by Dole. Eight people died, and fifty were poisoned by lettuce before Pilgrim’s Pride recalled over twenty-seven million pounds of frozen and prepared poultry products. If our concerned national food system officials with their government oversight could let these happen, what could an imaginative terrorist do using our centralized corporate food system?

Even without being the target of terrorists (at least identified terrorists), more than 854 million people in the world go hungry every day. In the third world, 16 million children die from preventable causes daily; 60 percent of these die of hunger. Even in the United States, 11.7 million children are forced by poverty to skip meals every day. That means one in ten households in the United States are living with hunger or are at the risk of hunger.

The present world hunger crisis may be only a small blip on the screen in the coming world without oil. The increasing costs of transportation, refrigeration, and fertilization in addition to the biofuel surge, using food crops to make oil, is already increasing food prices. Analysts predict that by 2050, if not before, our whole world economic system will be in shambles. The luxury of shipping not only exotic foods but even the most mundane of staples around the world at prices affordable by even the middle class will be a luxury few will be able to enjoy.

The failure of the Green Revolution to end hunger is a case to study. Hi-tech biosciences have been used to develop high-yield crops. Rice, barley, wheat, and other grains were developed that produced up to nine times that of traditional plants. With this new horticulture, the world now produces enough wheat, rice, and other grains to provide every human being with three thousand two hundred calories a day (one thousand five hundred to two thousand calories is considered an adequate diet). Even with justified use of corn and other grains for biofuels or food for grain-fed cattle, this should be enough to end hunger worldwide.

Again, the devil is in the details. Food costs money. The Green Revolution and the GM (genetically modified) foods now being made available on the market have increased the price and added to the food-for-profit concepts that have ruled the food system for decades. Flooding the world with American surplus crops, patenting even seeds developed in the field and used for generations, and inventing new super GM crops highly dependent on heavy doses of expensive nitrogen fertilizers all multiply the costs of growing. The higher prices create more starvation rather than decrease it. And the privatization of seeds and fertilizer gas made it impossible for local farmers, in America as well as the third world, to stay in business. Exporting excess food grown with government subsidies in the USA adds one more level of competition for putting an end to local farmers around the world.

Decades of development programs have plowed billions of dollars into less-developed nations to improve their infrastructure of highways, dams, and communication systems. They have created hybrid crops that are pest resistant and grow better in other climates. We have exported surplus grains and produce from the North to the starving South. Large-scale technologies, or mono cropping, have been transferred to all parts of the globe. But rather than creating self-reliance, they have offset the potential third world development by forcing them to be part of the corporate money/food system. Our exported technologies have been no replacement for the simple tools used by farmers. Our export of subsidized food has only made it impossible for a local farmer to sell his produce at a profit at the local market. Exporting hi-tech factories to make products for the industrial world has only distorted the local labor market and made it impossible to create internal programs of social or economic improvement. Crops for export have taken land and labor away from production of local food products. A glaring example of this has been the export of giant prawns from Pacific nations. Not only did prawn farms take over land from rice. But they cut down the mangrove forests that protected low-lying villages from high tides and ocean waves. Prawn farms destroyed a long, sustainable lifestyle with no hope of providing anything better for local communities.

There is an easy solution to the failing food system. It was well stated by Colin Tudge in his 2007 book Feeding People Is Easy. In his words, “It should not be difficult to feed everyone to the highest standards of nutrition and gastronomy and do so forever without being cruel to livestock or wrecking communities and landscape.” To do so, Tudge argues, we cannot expect the governments or corporations to change. We must do it ourselves. This is not only a theme of a Gaian paradigm but it is echoed by many social critics and it is happening. If the goal is to improve human diet, we need to transform our thinking about the food system and away from the economic system.

The American food system of less than a generation ago was more Gaian. We lived closer to nature. My village in northwestern Maine was a village center for small family farms. Large areas of farmland had been carved out of the forested hills that surrounded the lakes, mountains, and villages in Maine. Wool and apples were the primary cash crops. They were taken down the narrow, bumpy rock-infested trail forty miles to market. But every household had its own garden, cow, chickens, and orchard. As a youth, my job was to lead our cow to the public pasture on the way to school and lead it home in the evening. The garden, berry bushes, and apple trees provided produce for canning, pickling, drying, and the root cellar. The forty miles to the nearest city of five thousand was closed by snow in the winter (November to April) so we lived off our own preserves, hunting deer and rabbits and whatever we could exchange with others in the community.

Technologies today have made such lifestyles unnecessary if not impossible. But perhaps, they have also made the deep fundamental transformation of society to a Gaian way of life even more possible and more necessary. The tightly interlocked and interdependent food system with economics, transportation, communications, oil supply, ethics, and other cultural aspects of our civilization exemplifies the importance of recognizing the unity of Gaia.

Rudolph Steiner emphasized this unity long before the Gaia theory was enunciated. Steiner was born in Austria in 1961. He was a philosopher, literary scholar, educator, artist, playwright, social thinker, and esotericist. He was the founder of anthroposophy, Weldor education, anthroposophical medicine, a new artistic form of eurythmy, and biodynamic agriculture.

The latter, like all his other concepts, was a holistic and spiritual view of the world. It followed no philosophies of the past and was considered a religious sect more than a set of practical social innovations. The core of all his ideas grew from his inner view of a spiritual world. Biodynamics was a result of questions raised to Steiner by a number of farmers in 1924. He urged that growing food be taken as dictated by nature’s creation. And that it should be practiced as such. Chemicals, technologies, and hybrid plants were not part of creation and should not be parts of agriculture.

The biodynamic farming system saw nature as human’s ally rather than something to be controlled. It used the sun, moon, stars, and planets to determine the times of planting and harvesting and, in general, fitted his biodynamic food system into his broader network of social systems. His central theme was that thinking was the sixth sense of humans that discovered ideas just as the other five senses discovered taste, smell, feeling, sound, and sight. They all came from nature through the soul of the universe and the soul of humans.
The publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson in 1962 brought to light chemical pollution by fertilizers, herbicides, fungicides, and pesticides in addition to the loss of soil by poor farming practices and the deteriation of health due to poor nutrition. As a result, the organic gardening spontaneously self-organized.

The first use of the term “organic” came from J. I. Rodale in 1940. It quickly caught on, so Rodale started the still successful magazine Organic Gardening and established the Rodale Press and the Rodale Institute. The goal is to return horticulture to nature and to promote ecological health by more use of natural materials, composting, manures, crop rotation, and other traditional practices including improved diets for the gardeners/consumers on a local basis. Rodale advocated the return to the use of natural materials such as composts and manures as a better way to feed the garden, and the return to traditional cultural practices such as crop rotation as a better way to prevent and control garden pests.

The organic gardening movement was one of the movements of the 1960s. It was promoted through many food co-ops and health food stores as the core to a new food system that was easy on the environment as well as being better for the health. First looked on as a fad of the hippies, the success of both the food co-op and organic farming soon moved into the mainstream and is now a marketing technique for most supermarkets.

The organic movement also spread worldwide. The International Federation of Organic Movement (IFOAM) in Germany publishes facts showing that today there are some 31 million certified organic hectares being planted on. The global market includes 130 nations with a $38.6 billion market and is still growing rapidly.

A later addition to the organic food movement shortened the field-to-fork gap even more. I first witnessed community-supported agriculture (CSA) in Switzerland in the 1970s. Several biodynamic gardeners independently brought the idea of CSA to North America in the mid-1980s. CSA takes many forms. In one, a group of local citizens purchases the land and hires a professional horticulturist to plan and produce garden products. In another form of CSA, a practicing farmer sells shares to members. Members prepay the planting costs. As produce is harvested, whatever grows is split equally among the members on a weekly basis.

CSA makes consumers part of their own food system. Consumers not only get their food directly from the field in which they may work part time, but they know the growers and have a voice on what is grown and on how it is grown. The Seikatsu Club mentioned in chapter 10 provides one good example. The CSA movement draws consumers and growers into a tighter network and adds a new level of democracy to the food system.

An even more democratic, or might I say Gaian, evolution of the organic food movement is in to the slow food movement. This movement started in Italy in 1989. The Italians love their food and wine and resented the incursion of fast-food and fast-life aspects of dining from America. They wanted to recover the local gourmet food and eating traditions with the more leisurely and life-loving-living that went with it. But its growth did not stop there.

Food is not just what we eat, as we have shown, it is also our lifestyle and our economy. We not only work to earn money for food but also the industrial food system is a multibillion-dollar industry supplying millions of jobs. The SFM is not only about taste, nutrition, service; it is also about the effect our food choices have on other people and other nations. We need to know where our food comes from and how it is processed, packaged, shipped, displayed, and sold. All of these aspects are part of the SFM and are part of the annual conference initiated by the SFM in the USA in September 2008

Books like The New Paradigm for Financial Markets, Dr. Gary Alexander’s eGaia: Growing a Peaceful, Sustainable Earth through Communications, as well as Colin Tudge’s Feeding People Is Easy are coming from very different premises but all arrive at the same conclusion. As Tudge says “We can feed ourselves forever—without cruelty to livestock and without wrecking the rest of the world. . . . [But] It is clear that we cannot leave our affairs to the powers-that-be. And this means that we have to reinvent democracy, or rather to make it work almost for the first time in the history of civilization.”

“It is not the growing of food that is the problem,” as poet, author, farmer, Wendell Berry, put it. “There is another way to live and think: it’s called agrarianism. It is not so much a philosophy as a practice, an attitude, a loyalty, and a passion—all based in close connection with the land. It results in a sound local economy in which producers and consumers are neighbors and in which nature herself becomes the standard for work and production.” Food is tightly interwoven within Gaia as are all other aspects of any culture.

A Gaian food system can be imagined. It is in part already being created. It is divided into two sections. The first separates food from money. It recognizes food as a human right. In the future it will be operated by a worldwide network of nutritionists, agronomists, and local-community organizers. A small team working in each community will (1) determine what minimum diet can be grown in the local area by local citizens, (2) assist every citizen to grow what they can, (3) provide seeds, training, and simple tools on a per-citizen basis, (4) establish CSA, WWOOFs (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), and other cooperative and exchange programs to assure the minimum nutrition reach every local citizen.

WWOOF and IFOAM and other existing NGOs could expand established training centers for training master gardeners and placing them in positions in participating communities. Others like the World Food Programme (WFP), the Red Crescent, the Salvation Army, the Red Cross, and local food cupboards could enlarge their food distribution programs. Other free-food programs could join a global cooperative network to provide information and help to one another as well as to cooperating communities.

The second part of the world food system already exists. It is the money system that will supply anything wanted above the minimum no-cost diet. This will include meat, imported food, and other food products that have a monetary value and provide pleasure as well and the necessary nutrition.

The Association for the Study of Food and Society (ASFS) is a multidisciplinary international organization dedicated to exploring the complex relationships among food, culture, and society. It is currently constructing a list and network of NGOs concerned with food. Community by community, region by region, nation by nation, it is working to bring together a united nongovernmental effort to solve the food problem. Bread for the World, FAA (Food and Agriculture Association), the Heifer Project, and many other organizations are already pushing in the direction of a worldwide Gaian food system. As food security for all is created, other elements of Gaian cultures will spontaneously self-organize.

Brazil is already taking some giant steps toward making food available to low-income neighborhoods and to the rest of the world. It was started with research on how to make the barren lands of Brazil productive. Many processes and many crops were tried on plots throughout the country. The results were surprising. Some crops not known to grow in the tropics, like soybeans, were most productive. In the first ten years, the soybeans thrived and not only became a staple for many poor families but became an export crop passing the former leader, the United States, in export.

Brazil did not stop with a newfound export. As well as exporting food, it started exporting their technology. Successful farmers as well as researchers took their knowledge to poor local communities in Africa and other parts of the world to help them create their own neighborhood food systems.

The Brazil Neighborhood Food Program is similar to the Cuban Neighborhood Health program (see chapter 13). They suggest that community development could replace the failed nation development strategies.


The concept of the unity of Gaia gives a new connotation to housing and habitat. Or at least opens our minds to a broader definition. “Habitat” means more than protection from the elements. It is a place to which we belong—our home. It is the people we respect and who respect us as well as a shelter. This meaning has been in the center of society since primitive hominids first started to cooperate for security. It has been in the wings in alternative communities at least since the Gnostics formed their communes over two thousand years ago. It was the reason that monks formed monasteries and Jews organized kibbutzim and hippies lived in communes and other formed other alternative intentional communities. These and other forms of Gaian habitat bring attention to more than shelter. They emphasize a closeness among members and with nature. The monasteries were centers of health and gardening as well as communion. CoHousing and ecovillages have become models for mainstream housing developments. Specially designed community kitchens are adopted by other NGOs. It can be hoped that the interconnection and interdependence of humanity and nature will become even more central to humanity’s future.

Alternative intentional communities have been established almost since the beginning of civilization. The late poet, cultural visionary, and progressive Kenneth Rexroth, in his book Communalism, a history of millenarian movements and utopian communities, provides a good coverage of the communalist tendencies of early Christianity, the radical millenarian movements of the Middle Ages and Reformation (Anabaptists, Diggers, Brethren of the Free Spirit) and the numerous attempts, successful or otherwise, to set up utopian communities in nineteenth-century America (Brook Farm, Oneida, Fourierists, Hutterites) to the revival of communalist ideas and experiments in the 1960’s counterculture. Our interest starts where he ends. It is concerned with the alternative communities of today and the future.

One intentional community with which I have been sometimes associated is the Farm in Tennessee. The Farm started, of all places, on the street corners of Berkeley, California. Steve Gaskin was a street-corner preacher. His sermons, if you can call them that, were about the evils of modern society and the need to start a new one. Steve and a few disciples bought a number of old school buses and headed across country. They ended up in Tennessee, pooled all their money, and bought a large tract of land. They lived off a common purse by buying and owning jointly whatever they needed—tools, food, seeds, etc. Their numbers soon reached over one thousand members. Their community had large fields of soybeans and other food crops that, with a few purchases, filled a common distribution center in an old barn. Any member could help himself to whatever they needed. A communal health system with ambulances, physicians, assistants, and midwives concentrated on preventive medicine and healthy living.
A commercial-sized soy dairy made soy milk, soy ice cream, and other soy foods. Community trucks were left for the use of anyone with legitimate need. And wireless communication kept them in touch with one another.

It was the wireless communications later that brought me in close contact with the Farm. I was working at the World Bank. The president of the Bank, Robert McNamara, had responded to a common criticism of the Bank and announced a new plan to “help the poorest of the poor.” The Bank soon concentrated on appropriate technology (AT)—small, low-cost, human-scale tools and techniques that could be developed with local skills, local resources—to meet local needs. I was fresh from the establishment of TRANET and the UN Conference on Science and Technology (UNCSTD) where AT had been a major topic. I was asked to act as a part-time consultant. I was to read pending loans and make suggestions on alternative appropriate technologies.

One project brought to my attention was a grant to Bangladesh to develop a countrywide communications system. Their problem was that no sooner had they installed the copper wires than needed that the copper was stolen, melted down, and sold. My suggestion was to examine the Farm’s wireless system. That was in the days before the Internet, cell phones, or other technologies well-known today. The Farm’s options were walkie-talkies linked through ham radio stations. After some hemming and hawing, the Bank officials asked me to invite the Farm to come in for an interview.

I called Tennessee and was told that Steve was with the ambulance that was serving the “longest march,” a protest walk of Native Americans from Washington State to Washington DC. They said, “Hold a minute.” In less than a minute, Steve was on the line. I asked, “How did they find you? I thought you were lost along the route of the march.” He answered, “They contacted our local ham station with a walkie-talkie, that ham station contacted the one in the ambulance, they in turn connected me on my walkie-talkie.” I stated the Bank’s invitation and he said, “Great, we arrive in the district tomorrow and I’ll be glad to come by.”

The next day, a group from the top-level management with one of the vice presidents had gathered in the front office boardroom. With them, I was waiting for the arrival of Steve. Suddenly a member of the Bank security came in and whispered to me, “There is some kind of a demonstration at the front door and they are calling for you.” I rushed down, expecting the worst. There was Steve, his wife Ida-Mae and three or four others standing quietly. Steve was dressed in nothing but overalls and sandals with his long ponytail braided with an American flag. As I recovered, I led the Farm contingent to the boardroom. With little more than a nod at the line of penguinlike Bank personnel in their black suits, white shirts, and ties, Steve and crew set up a slide show describing the Farm communication system. At the end of the slide show, without asking a question, the Bank employees, with little more than an off-hand “thank you,” left the room and the farm team returned to their grassroots march.

As I left the room, my boss stopped me with an angry look, saying, “If ever again you bring a mob like that into the Bank, it will be the last time you come in.” When I got back the office, I found the representatives from Bangladesh and a member of the Bank technical staff waiting in my office. They asked, “Who else can we get who knows what they know?” I demurred, saying I know of none. They then allowed that the Bank could never hire such a rag tag crew. But I wondered if I, through the organization TRANET, might not hire them for a visit to Bangladesh. I agreed.

The Farm and the Bank met with Bangladesh officials in Bangladesh the next month. During the office meeting, one question was asked as to frequencies needed. One of the Farm technicians walked out, and in a minute the walkie-talkie on the table rang, and the outside technician asked, “Can you hear me now?” After an hour of such calls, all agreed that it could be done. A wireless communications system could be set up in Bangladesh. Then the Bank officials were asked to go home and leave the Farm crew there for more discussions.

The upshot was that this successful experiment was reported to Congress and the Bank got high praise. It goes without saying that I ended my consulting there for other reasons.

The Farm and TRANET had many other good relations. Plenty a Farm-run third world service located many grassroots AT centers to which TRANET sent some of the over-one-hundred AT libraries it distributed. The TRANET library project selected the one hundred best AT books from the thousands reviewed in the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook edited by Ken Darrow and Mike Saxenian. It purchased copies, packaged the library, and sent it to the selected AT centers in third world villages. Steve and others at the Farm, familiar with grassroots programs in developing countries, were great sources for the gift.

Steve had always worried that his word had too much authority than was good for the development of a democratic community. So he stepped aside and urged others to be more vocal. Today (2008), the Farm continues with Albert Bates as a principal leader.

Far more typical of the modern intentional community movement is Twin Oaks (TO) in Louisa County, Virginia. Twin Oaks is one of the nine hundred communities listed in the Communities Directory published by the Federation of Intentional Communities (FICA). The number listed is a poor estimate of the real number because many communities do not want to be promoted by the publicity.

TO was founded in 1967 by a small group in the 1960’s counterculture. They wanted out of the competitive, materialistic culture and wanted to live cooperatively in line with Walden Two, B. F. Skinner’s novel. Since then, their social model has broadened to include human-scale solutions to problems of land use, food production, energy conservation, and appropriate use of technology. TO is located on a piece of rolling farmland with woods, streams, and pastures. The members have constructed seven group houses with children’s space, a community center, and a communal kitchen as well as industrial and storage space. They use a time-worked system to assure equal contribution. Some forty-five hours a week are counted and include family time as well gardening, cooking, and financial employment. A major part of their money comes from their manufacturing of rope hammocks, one of which is hanging in my front porch and is a favorite hangout for my five grandchildren. Other TO businesses include soy food production and a book indexing service.

Governance is by a weekly town meeting system in which each member has equal say. The executive power is in three planners with staggering yearly tenures.

Other intentional communities have other forms of governance. One of the more popular is consensus decision making. In this form, there is no “go” or “no go” voting. No proposition that is presented to the community is considered official until everyone is in agreement to collaborate. This often calls for lengthy discussions. Decisions are usually made by three choices—yea, nay, or stand aside. A single “nay” forbids action. A “stand aside” usually means “I don’t fully agree, but I’m willing to try it to make it work.” The goal is to reach a compromise in which everyone sees a gain. This is the way many government cabinets work as in the UK. If consensus is not accepted, a disagreeing member usually resigns from the government. As many did over the Iraq war.

The intentional communities movement took on a new middle-class dimension with the introduction and growth of choosing in America. CoHousing is the concept of the people themselves designing a cooperative community. The idea originated in Denmark in the 1960s. It grew slowly during the 1970s.

But the peace, equity, and harmony of the choosing communities drew public attention. In 1981 Denmark passed the Cooperative Housing Association Law. Since then the banks, developers, and town planners have promoted the system. It not only assures the selling of the houses before they are constructed but also assures a conflict-free neighborhood because the homeowners have already decided on, and taken responsibility for, the neighborhood in which they will live. In most Danish plans, the size of the individual living units has grown smaller. While the size of the public space and facilities has gown larger.

In 1980 Kathryn McCamant and Charles Durrett met in a Denmark university. They returned to the United States to promote the idea. Their 1988 book Cohousing caught the eyes of some TV hosts. Their TV appearances started others thinking in these terms. By 1995 there were eight choosing systems completed in the United States, fifty under way, and one hundred in the planning stage. There are no good statistics on current activity. Nor has the concept stayed strictly at person-to-person planning. Real estate companies have adopted the concept and are building specialized communities in over twenty-three states.

The basic concept is for a cluster of twenty-five or so small houses or condominiums surrounding a public facility. That facility usually includes a kitchen and dining room in which most residents take about half of their meals. Other public space may include playroom, library, self-learning facilities, exercise equipment, teen lounge, sports playing fields, a food co-op, laundry, or anything else the cooperators want. The choosing development may be specialized for young families, a specific faith, gay couples or singles, gardening, senior citizens, ecology, movie fans, the physically handicapped, or any other topic one wishes to pick.

My contact with Denmark community movement was before the advent of CoHousing. In 1975 I was working to help develop an NGO forum in collaboration with the United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development (UNCSTD). We were bringing together local entrepreneurs from around the world to network with one another and to show some of the technology being developed by the local people to solve local problems with local resources and local skills, the so-called appropriate technologies. I had heard of an alternative community in Denmark that was hosting a meeting of European alternative and transformational organizations. So I sent in my application. I arrived in Copenhagen and was given a room in the Blue House of Christiania.

Christiania was a deserted eighty-five-acre military base taken over by the homeless, disenfranchised, and other misfits of Copenhagen in 1971. They were squatters who had blocked the entrances to the base and were living in the many deserted buildings. With the help of a bunch of hippie protesters they had come to terms with the government. The military would not evict them nor would it give them any aid or protection. The semi-legal citizens of Christiania got together and formed a “rainbow nongovernment. Each color of the rainbow stood for a different service—cleaning the streets, maintaining order, running the learning centers, and others. Anyone could join any service and mark themselves with a rainbow armband. Each service would meet together to agree on what they would do. Each individual house would be likewise self-governed. The Blue House was a cooperative of mostly professionals who worked outside of the compound.

The operation of the whole was as chaotic as it sounds. People from outside the community came in daily to smoke and sell pot on “Pusher Street” and to carry on other hippie-liked activities. There was street music, street theater, and, for a while, even stage plays performed by a house of gay actors. The Christianites have made their own set of laws that allow pot selling but not hard drugs (like cocaine, speed, ecstasy, and heroin). They also do not allow cars inside the compound but have special entering places in case of need for medical service, fire, or other emergencies.
Danish governments have never been completely at home in Christiania. Some have tried to close it down without success. Others have tried to work with the Christianites sometimes without success. In 2004 the sale of even pot was forbidden by the government. They seem to have made more progress on that than they have with hard drugs in the city. In 2007 there was a raid by massed police that got stopped by the massive uprising of the people. In 2006 Christiania drafted a new plan for the area that got rave reviews from planning organizations and passing reviews by the government. We await now to see if the now nine hundred Christianites can fulfill their plan.

As to my own project for the UN forum, I found a lot of support, and many of the European groups who met there attended the UN week-long conference and set up their own alternative village in a Vienna Park. I’ve returned a few times to Freetown Christiania and wondered what it might become without the constant bickering with the government.

Christiania, also known as Freetown Christiania, but most commonly known amongst its inhabitants and visitors as Fristaden or simply Staden, is a self-governing neighborhood of about 850 residents covering 34 hectares (85 acres) in the borough of Christianshavn in the Danish capital Copenhagen. Christiania has established semi-legal status as an independent community.

Ecovillages are, as the name implies, another form of intentional communities that give the ecology first attention. On the basis of ecology they are concerned with humanistic economics and social health. They recognize that the current American culture is not sustainable. They usually attract people who personally want to decrease the size of their ecological footprint by living cooperatively off the land, consuming less, recycling more. They often hold that the current mainstream social and economic lifestyles are ecologically unsustainable and want to show that a more fulfilling life can be lived than that of the mainstream culture. They adopt a global view and often have a special link of mutual support with ecovillages around the world.

Ecovillages are intended to be socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable intentional communities. Most aim for a population of 50–150 individuals because this size is considered to be the maximum social network according to findings from sociology and anthropology (Hill and Dunbar 2002). Larger ecovillages of up to 2,000 individuals may, however, exist as networks of smaller ecomunicipalities or subcommunities to create an ecovillage model that allows for social networks within a broader foundation of support.

Ecovillage members are united by shared ecological, social, or spiritual values (see intentional community). An ecovillage is often composed of people who have chosen an alternative to centralized power, water, and sewage systems. Many see the breakdown of traditional forms of community, wasteful consumerist lifestyles, destruction of natural habitat, urban sprawl, factory farming, and over-reliance on fossil fuels as trends that must be changed to avert ecological disaster. They see small-scale communities with minimal ecological impact as an alternative. However, such communities often cooperate with peer villages in networks of their own (see Global Ecovillage Network for an example). This model of collective action is similar to that of Ten Thousand Villages, which supports the fair trade of goods worldwide.

Damanhur is a unique ecovillage or, better, a federation of ecovillages. It was the dream of Oberto Airuda in 1975. His dream was of a new society that rejected the values of self-interest, competition, and materialism. It would be one of mutual aid, cooperation, enlightened spirituality. He saw a spark of divinity and creativity in every person and felt that they could emerge in a society that was based on different principles.

Now his dream is near reality. In the Pyrenees in northern Italy there are twenty communities of around twenty members each in fifty houses on four hundred hectares. Those Damanhurians link with others around the world who want to adopt the Damanhurian philosophy, that is, to develop cooperatively with others, each person’s own socio-spiritual pathway to a better world. It is to be based on science, optimism, spirituality, and a deep understanding of the cosmos and humanity.

Their path is expressed in a multidimensional labyrinth carved in the rock under a nearby mountain. Numerous interconnected rooms and corridors have been hewed out. Each one is to express one concept of the new society—meditation, maleness, feminism, love, etc. Each with its statues, altars, columns, other artwork is elaborately designed and decorated to stimulate the human emotional needs for belonging and creativity. Tiffany glass, gold plating, elaborate painting on walls, ceilings, and floors are reminiscent of the interior of ancient Egyptian pyramids or Gothic temples. Each room, passageway, and grotto is meant to center one’s mind and emotions on the topic of that chamber. This massive construction, created in secret, has been called the eighth wonder of the world. When it was exposed by the Italian government, it became a mecca of its new philosophy of life. Pilgrims from all over the world come here to participate in its wonders and to carry home the feeling of a humanistic reawakening.

Chapter 13: GAIAN HEALTH

Health is one element of life that almost demands a Gaian approach. Like earthquakes, forest fires, hurricanes, security, and floods, it is not completely in the hands of individuals. It requires some form of mutual aid. The recognition of Gaia that we are all linked and interdependent automatically suggests we are in fact a mutual aid system. In many cultures, mutual aid is a norm. Native American whalers of the Northwest coast, for example, have a formal distribution system for whale meat. The tenderest meat, the top fin, goes to the oldest woman of the tribe. Other portions are ritually divided among other tribal members. Only the lesser parts are kept by the whalers who actually did the catching and killing. Their payment comes in the honor they get from feeding the tribe its badly needed fat and protein.

In Christian, Muslim, and Jewish religions, tithing for the less fortunate is a requirement. Health in most societies, excluding America, is likewise considered a function of we-the-people governments. In the past, health service was considered more a public contribution of medical personnel than a moneymaking opportunity.

I recall our local village doctor as a public servant. I remember his service one night in particular about sixty-five years ago. It was before the day of road plows for winter roads. The town roads were rolled to support sleighs and horses and logging roads kept usable by the snow continually packed by horses’ feet and dragged logs. One evening, the local doctor had been called to go about fifteen miles into a logging camp. He hitched up his horse, picked up his black bag, cuddled in thick robes, and took off. His daughter was a member of our teenage group so we all gathered at her house to keep them company until the doctor returned by playing board games on the kitchen table. As midnight approached, we heard the horse and sleigh returning. We went out to greet it only to find the doctor not with it. His family said, “Don’t worry, he probably fell asleep in the sleigh and was tipped out.” We went back to our game. About an hour later, in came the doctor, a bit disgruntled but otherwise no worse for wear. Such were the house calls in those days. But the doctor did not pile up a huge cache of wealth. When this doctor died, he left a huge pile of unpaid bills for his service. His payment had been in the respect, honor, and love from the townspeople and a flood of gifts from the farms and logging camps he served.

Another example of Gaian medical aid came to me when, a few years later, my father was diagnosed with a nearly ruptured appendix. He had to go to the hospital forty miles down the mountain through forests and around lakes in a wind-driven snowstorm. Plows that sometimes kept the roads open were available. One of them took the lead in front of the primitive ambulance. They phoned every house along the road for news and information on their task. And a number of pickup trucks with shovels and shovelers followed the line. The short story is that with only a few pushes, my father made the hospital, had the operation, and lived for a good number of years after that. His life was saved by mutual aid.

This kind of community concern for health has long since disappeared as the center of American health care. Now the bottom line is money. And health care is ruled by the insurance programs, the pharmaceutical corporations, and other professional medical managers. This cost-oriented medical system has not reduced illness in the USA in spite of increasing specialization in the medical profession. In fact, numbers, published Jan 8, 2008, show America in last place in health care among nineteen industrial nations although most European nations had decreased the death prevented by health care by large percents. The United States had made little improvement. For examples, France, lowest on the list of potential saved lives in both 1997 and 2002, lowered its rates between those years from 78 to 65 per 1,000 people. The United States had lowered from 105 in 1997 to 101 in 2002. It was estimated that if America reached the average of European nations, it would have saved between 75,000 and 100,000 American lives. The survival rate for breast cancer in the United States is higher than Switzerland, Britain, and Norway, The rate of death from asthma is higher in the USA than it is in Sweden or Germany. Cervical cancer kills a higher percent of Americans than it does in Italy, Germany, or Ireland.

This poor rating in health care is matched by increasing costs. America spends much more per capita and per GDP than any other nation. Health care costs are rising. In 2007 the United States spent 16 percent of its GDP. That is $2.1 trillion or $7,026 per person. They are rising at 6.7 percent per year and are projected to reach 19.5 percent of GDP by 2017.

In justification, it is often argued that medical care is provided by more superspecialization in America. But research does not bare that out. Nor does my personal use of systems in France, England, and Cuba. While living in England, my wife came down with a serious case of hives. After a week, we visited the out clinic of the nearest hospital expecting, as in America, to wait for hours and then be sent to a specialist. She was almost immediately sent to a doctor who subscribed some medication and we were home in less than an hour. In Cuba we were being entertained at a gathering of locals when one of them had a minor accident that left a badly bleeding cut. A local community doctor was there in minutes. She did emergency work and bundled the patient off to a hospital. They were back, with a number of stitches safely bandaged, before the party broke up. The local doctor was to see her at her home the next day.

We learned from that incident that Cuba has a neighborhood health care system surpassing the health care system of the USA. Each block or small town is assigned a general practitioner whose job is primarily preventive medicine. That local doctor visits every local family about once a month to see if there are any medical questions to be answered. If there were any that the local general practitioner can’t handle, an appointment with a specialist is made on the spot. An example of their efficiency is Cuba’s control of HIV and AIDS. Special houses are set aside for those infected. Those infected receive special medical care and the freedom to continue their working lives as long as they are infected.

Cuba may, or may not, be a worthwhile system to study for its medical care. That depends on one’s fear of political contamination rather than medical contamination. But many third world countries and some others have sent their medical students to Cuba to learn. And many Cuban doctors have gone outside to teach and to learn. Regardless of where they learn, the American medical profession, as well as our political leaders, need to think outside the box and create a new more personalized health system in the USA.

There are, as everyone knows, a lot of medical practices that lie outside the scientific realm on which modern medicine rely. Most of these probably have some degree of medical relevance. But too many of them are taken to extremes by quacks or laymen. Nevertheless, they should not be left outside the realm. Some of these are clearly relevant among them:

1. Homeopathy treats diseases by stimulating the body’s own defense and repair systems with highly diluted doses of medication. Good Explanations.
2. Naturopathy believes in the healing power of nature to help the body heal itself.
3. Acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine believes the body has the potential to cure its own diseases if treated correctly.
4. Ayurvedic medicine is an ancient Indian medical system that deals with a complete approach to life.
5. Hypnotherapy uses a hypnotic trance to modify a subject’s behavior, emotional content, dysfunctional habit, anxiety, stress-related illness, pain, and personal development.
6. Holistic medicine concentrates on the whole person—physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, as well as personal responsibility and participation in one’s own health care
7. Mind/body control that holds that the state of mind can affect physical health.

There are many others that should be, and are being, given due consideration as complementary processes more than alternatives to standard medical practices as prescribed by today’s doctors. There is little doubt in my mind that as practice and science advance, so will the trust in many of the alternative therapies. But the first step in developing a more Gaian or holistic approach to health will be in more mundane practices. Wellness rather than sickness will become the central concern of health professionals. This includes a holistic approach to the body and mind. Like the old family doctor, the whole medical profession will become more focused on the whole person rather than the special illness in which the doctor was trained. Nutrition, exercise, and a healthy lifestyle will become personal goals of the people with the assistance of medical professionals. Preventive medicine will keep patients out of the waiting room and reduce the use of drugs prescribed for every symptom.

As we recognize the unity of Gaia, the walls between its interconnected parts will fade and the health of the person will be more tightly linked in our minds to nature and to the health of the whole.



One of the strongest implications coming from chaos and complexity theories is that the future cannot the predicted, designed, or planned. No newly evolved complex entity or quale can be predicted from the parts that combine to compose it. The butterfly-wing metaphor was the first chaos finding to show it. The finding was that even the smallest initial condition can determine a future event. Like the flap of a butterfly’s wing in Brazil can be the cause of a hurricane in Texas. Computer models show that the change in the fourth or greater decimal place in the original conditions of a weather model radically changes the whole path and intensity. This is, of course, born out in your local weatherman. His models, at best, give only probable paths of storms and weather changes. This may be only the effect of the quantum mechanics in Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. This tells us that in the microworld of very small particles, it is impossible to determine both the position and momentum (speed) of a moving particle. In a quantum mechanical world, we can determine only the probability of any given path for a moving particle. This may extend to the prediction of the weather or of any other future event. The saving grace is that in our world we are usually dealing with many particles at the same time, so the probability in our world can usually be predicted with a reasonable degree of accuracy. But certainty for the future is never assured. It is dependent on the initial condition, which can seldom be known with complete confidence. And the further out one tries to predict, design, or plan the future, the more that prediction may be off the mark.

With that caveat clearly in mind, we need not give up on efforts to create a kinder and gentler future. We may not know exactly which social innovation will be relevant in the far future but we do know that the future will be radically different than the present. It always has. And we do know that unless we create the cultural options we’d like to see in the future now, they will not be there when we need them in times ahead.

That is not to say that there are not many social innovations now in the experimental stage. They are a good beginning. But few of them are embedded in the concept of change. Most of them are mere reflection of the status quo. They are substitutes for specific cultural norms. They are not yet driven by an integrated movement for change.

Gaia provides that centralizing need. It provides the unifying presence that highlights the niche for a new evolution. In the final chapters of this book, I will try to emphasize how the current call for change may become a united movement for change.


Humans evolved from their primate origins because of two unique characteristics—their larger brain/minds and their cooperative communal living. The bigger the group and the more cooperative its lifestyle, the more chances its members had of avoiding the predators by which they were continually threatened. Through time, their technical evolution was accompanied by their social evolution to give them a larger degree of control over their environment.

Social evolution is driven by three major forces—need, opportunity, and knowledge. Need is driven not only by physical need, but also by fear. Fear in the early days of hominids came not only of the animal predators surrounding them but also fear of the ecological forces that threatened them—cold, heat, thunder, lightening, fires, crop failures, and others including the unknown. As different bands evolved into tribes, there became a new threat of hostilities and violence. A balancing force for evolution was an opportunity. Early humans learned to use sticks and stones to get food, to live in caves, to make clothing, and to discover new resources. And they learned to support one another within their tribe and among tribes to improve their well-being. They recognized these forces not only as individuals but even more as social groups.
As the mind developed and knowledge grew, so did opportunity. Opportunity is shaped by what humans know and what they can imagine. In the earliest days of humans, the level of knowledge was low, so imagination ruled opportunity. Thunder and lightening were among major fears that stimulated major imaginings. Lacking true knowledge, such fears suggested a world of superhuman powers associated with every fear and every happening. Elaborate ceremonies, music, and daily practices were invented to appease those powers and to bring their benefits.

For example, take the traditional dances of the Pueblo Indians. The dancers do not dance to honor the gods of nature. They dance to become one with natural forces. In the corn dances, they become the corn; in the buffalo dances, they become one with the buffalo; in the rain dances, they become eagles and soar into to rain clouds to understand and participate with the forces that bring rain. Other indigenous tribes around the world had songs, dances, costumes, and ceremonies to bring themselves into harmony with nature. In some cultures, offerings of food to the gods and even sacrifices of animals and even humans were among their religious practices. Need and opportunity drove, and still drives, social evolution.

Through social and cultural evolution, obeisance to the gods of nature, and later to gods beyond nature, became central to almost all cultures. In some religions, they evolved to become more than acts of esteem, reverence, and veneration for the powers of nature and their gods. They became sources of power of humans over humans. Those who acted as go-betweens for commoners to their gods became honored and later took power to control their tribes and communities then later to control nations and the world.

Social evolution always had a second characteristic and power. It was dependent on the level of human knowledge. In fact, as societies evolved, knowledge of the cosmos slowly replaced the power of imagination of superhuman powers. Also, as human knowledge advanced, social evolution become more and more reliant on opportunities given by knowledge than in the fears of nature. New technologies based on new knowledge came to be a major factor in the well-being of people.
One of the most outstanding examples of knowledge gained through science came with the transformation due to Copernicus and Galileo. Before the telescope of Galileo, the cosmos was believed to be of two realms. Humans lived in the Earth realm of god, created matter, plants, and animals. It was solid Earth obeying its own laws. Outside of that was an ephemeral cosmos, the home of the gods and antigods free of earthly laws. Man was the purpose of the Earth, and the Earth was the center of the universe. The cosmic centrality of man and Earth provides a level of certainty and immutability to the ethical and moral laws of god. The concept that the Earth was not the center of the universe shook the foundations of all that made peace, equity, and divine power, the purpose and core of a human being.

Even when the first spaceships were sent to the moon, there were those who fell on their knees and helped in special church services, begging forgiveness for the human intrusion into God’s world.

Likewise, the Newtonian theory of gravitation showing that the heavenly bodies obeyed the same laws as those on Earth, and the Darwinian theory that the cosmos evolved for fifteen billion years from a simple mass of pure energy to the complex cosmos in which we live brought on social changes that submerged the needs for social change recognized by most humans. The Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin revolutions were not concerned with fixing a dysfunctional economic or social system. They happened because of the revelation by science of a new base for knowledge. Likewise, today, we have the revelation of a new base for knowledge in science.

Today’s step in social revolution is far more fundamental than any previous shift in the social paradigm. It is the most profound and fundamental transition in five million years of human evolution. Most human cultures developed with a concept of each person dependent on belonging to a community and devoting their lives to improving the well-being of the whole community. The health and security of the community assured the health and security of each member of the community. But the Euro American cultures devolved along a different path—our dominator paradigm.

The Gaian paradigm suggests that the transition we all want is not just, or even, to fix the past or the present. It is far more basic, even more basic than the Copernicus, Newton, and Darwin revolutions. Even if there were none of the evils so often witnessed in our current culture, the transition from the dominator paradigm to the Gaian paradigm would be the base for a radical change in our worldviews, our mindsets, and our cultures. The future will be radically different from the past because it will be built on a radically different knowledge base. And it is happening.

The applicable development of a Gaian paradigm is exemplified in the growing interest in creating a social revolution not unlike those brought on by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Darwin. One driving force is based on the failures and evils of today’s Euro American culture with its dominator paradigm. Before we look to those past revolutions as models for a new social revolution, it may be of value to look deeper into exactly what causes social change and what has been the foundation of those and other social revolutions.

Those social revolutions were not primarily the result of the need to fix dysfunctional economic or social systems. They happened because of the revelations from new scientific knowledge. Like them, today, we have the revelation of a new base of knowledge. Galileo demonstrated that the Earth went around the sun. Newton that gravitational forces controlled the heavens as well as the Earth. Darwin that life could evolve from one species to another.
Today’s social revolution is far more fundamental than any previous shift in the social paradigm. It is the most profound and fundamental transition in the five million years of human evolution. Most human cultures developed with a concept of each person dependent on belonging to a community and devoting their lives to improving the well-being of the whole community. But the Euro American cultures devolved along a different path—our dominator paradigm.

The Gaian paradigm suggests that the transition we want, and see coming, is not just to fix the ills of the past or the present. It is far more basic, just as were the previous science-based social revolutions. Even if there were none of the evils so often witnessed in our current cultures, the transition to the Gaian paradigm would be the base for a radical change in our deepest worldviews, our mindsets, and our cultures. The future will be radically different than the past because it will be built on a different knowledge base. And it is happening.

We could go on exploring examples of that happening. Social innovations—e.g., cooperatives, Community-supported agriculture, peer lending (that won the recent Nobel Prize for its founder), intentional communities, homeschooling, homesteading etc.—are giving many of us the change to live outside of the mainstream. The religious—e.g., Fox, Sponge, and others—and the nonreligious—e.g., Harris, Smith, Dawkins, and others—are leading a quite different major transformation of our view of the world. New technologies including computers and the Internet are giving us tools for change. Schools are releasing the hold they had on knowledge and many students are accepting “personal learning” as their mode of fulfillment. Certainly, we are overusing and polluting the world resources. But the solution may not be to put them up on the bulletin board but to do something to help create options.

The goal should be obvious. Rather than railing against what is, critics should work for what is not and what could be (someone else suggested that wording before).

Many of us think that the transition from the dominator paradigm to the Gaian paradigm is such a revolution. In fact the scientific revelation that the cosmos is an interconnected network of holons within holons reveals that we are all interdependent. Any change in any piece of the cosmos causes a change throughout the network of which we are part. Gaia (the Earth and all of its life-forms) is a typical example of the interdependence of holons within both the physical cosmos and the global social network. The golden rule has a scientific base.

But narrowing it to the Copernican/Newton/Darwin revolution brings to mind the “coming out” of the new atheists promoting the rejection of God theories. The books of Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, Smith, and many others promote the rejection of any kind of magic, miracle, god, Bible, divinity, or other speculations on an outside design for the evolution of the cosmos. This is a radical break from the religious tolerance that has been (and is) the social norm of our society.

Most people, including most scientists, have (and do) ignore the religion and simply let anyone believe anything they wish. Now with the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and with the incursion of Christian fundamentalism into American politics, there is a groundswell of repudiation of all unreasoned faiths. There is a recognition that if one gives an inch, they will take a mile. A passive membership in a UU (Unitarian Universalist) Church, or even acceptance of the New Christianity of Bishop John Shelby Spong, is support for those who take reasoned Christianity to its logical, though radical, ends. There is good reason to agree with the new atheists that challenge even the most benign faiths—those that promote the Ten Commandments in courthouses and prayer in schools, forbidding stem cell research, ending gay marriages, teaching creationism, controlling women’s right to abortion, and all sorts of insupportable ideas.

The position we might take in this book is, “What can we do to promote the there-is-no-God movement?” But not, as many of the new atheists do, by denying the fundamental need for religion. But as Huxley did in A Piece of Chalk by clearly showing that scientific discovery can reveal different beginnings for the cosmos, for Gaia, and for humanity, we cannot wait for powers outside ourselves to cure our social ills. We cannot even wait for those in our culture to whom we have surrendered power, religion, or government to do that for us. We—the people—must create, and are creating, a new worldview and new forms of governance.

Just for clarification, the Gaia theory of Lovelock and Margulis is not about the social paradigm. Nor is it antireligion. In fact, Lovelock, partly in jest, suggests that Gaia may be the first religion based on science. Margulis demurs from this interpretation, abhorring the co-optation of Gaia to religious beliefs. It is about feedback loops in the physical Earth and the biological Earth that control the heat, oxygen, moisture, and other qualities that make life possible. This is not the will of man but the property of Gaia (the Earth and all its life-forms)—the laws of nature.

Chaos, complexity, and Gaia theories suggest that these laws are valid for the physical/biological evolution of the cosmos and the Earth. But the mechanisms that are being revealed seem to be valid even beyond that. It may be a bit of a stretch to apply these theories to the social sphere. But they, and unrelated research, do suggest that human nature too, and its evolution, is based on the basic need for belonging and for communal living.

The position we take in this book is not a lack of tolerance for the beliefs of others but a lack of tolerance for those who have a lack of tolerance for the beliefs of others. With the Founding Fathers we support the separation of church and state. We’ll expand on this theme in chapter 21.

This Gaian view of the future is expressed and put into action by many groups. One of the leaders in the social field is the Bioneers. Founded at their first annual gathering in 1990, the Bioneers is now a nonprofit organization that “promotes practical environmental solutions and innovative social strategies for restoring the Earth and communities. Bioneers offers pragmatic solutions that honor the living web of the natural world as the most fertile source of inspiration and models.” Bioneers recognizes that Gaia is alive and intelligent. It teaches us that there are no single issues because it’s one whole that can be addressed only by bringing together all the parts.

Since their 1990 founding, annual meetings and the establishment of an ongoing and very active 501c3 organization and website have promoted deep changes in all aspects of our cultures from education through housing, communications, lifestyles, and governance.

The applicable development of a Gaian paradigm is exemplified in the growing interest in creating a social revolution not unlike those brought on by Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, and Darwin. One riveting force is based on the failures and evil of today’s Euro American culture with its dominator paradigm. Before we look to those past revolutions as models for a new social revolution, it may be of value to look deeper into exactly what causes social change and what has been the foundation of those and other social revolutions.

There are thousands, nay hundreds of thousands, of organization like the Bioneers springing up around the world. In fact, Paul Hawken was so impressed with the numbers that, after fifteen years in the environmental movement, he started counting. He soon found over thirty thousand environmental groups. When he observed that they were closely linked to indigenous people and human rights movements, his list grew to one hundred thousand. His list kept growing as he realized that he was looking at one of the most profound and active movements the world had ever known. But it was hidden and unrecognized to most of the world. It had no name. So he called it merely “the Movement.”

Hawken’s book Blessed Unrest that grew from this study shows that for every evil created by civic, political, and corporate leaders of the existing dominator paradigm, there are millions of grassroots activists protesting. His book is an encyclopedic exposé of the good guys and their nonprofit and nongovernmental organizations. Over half of the three-hundred-page book is an appendix describing in four or five pages the issues of social activism. Each issue gives a number of identified activist organizations. A few examples are agroecology (152), air quality (1,055), fish (590), child labor (1,085), environmental education (11,789), health care access (4,035), sustainable living (5,627), and the list goes on and on.

To help these organizations network with one another to become a more unified social economic and political power, Hawken has started a multifaceted URL

We could go on exploring examples of what is happening. Social innovations—e.g., cooperatives, community-supported agriculture, peer lending (that won the recent Nobel Prize for its founder), intentional communities, choosing, homeschooling, homesteading etc.—are giving many of us the chance to live outside of the mainstream. The religious—e.g., Fox, Sponge, and others—and the nonreligious—e.g., Harris, Smith, Dawkins, Smolin, and others—are leading a quite different major transformation of our view of the world. New technologies including computers and the Internet are giving us tools for change. Schools are releasing the hold they had on knowledge and many students are accepting “personal learning” as their mode of fulfillment. Certainly, we are overusing and polluting the world resources. But the solution may not be to put them up on the bulletin board but to do something to help create options.

The goal should be obvious. Rather than railing against what is, critics should work for what is not and what could be (someone else suggested that wording before).

Many of us think that the transition from the dominator paradigm to the Gaian paradigm is such a revolution. In fact the scientific revelation that the cosmos is an interconnected network of holons within holons reveals that we are all interdependent. Any change in any piece of the cosmos causes a change throughout the network of which we are part. Gaia (the Earth and all of its life-forms) is a typical example of the interdependence of holons within both the physical cosmos and the global social network. The golden rule has a scientific base.


It would be a mistake to fill this book without giving credit to the many people I’ve met and learned from who are creating a Gaian paradigm. On the other hand, it would be impossible to mention them all.

George McRobie is probably my closest colleague among the AT (appropriate technology) renowned. George was a colleague of economist E. F. Schumacher at the coal board before Schumacher visited India and came back with the idea of appropriate technology or AT. When Schumacher left the coal board to write his book Small Is Possible, George followed him and founded the Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG). I met George about that time while I was with UNESCO and attended a conference on AT in London. He was a leading participant at the Habitat NGO forum and proposed that I become the facilitator for a continuing transnational network of AT practitioners, TRUANT. And while I was at the World Bank, he joined me in a nationwide tour to
develop bridges between the autonomous AT centers springing up across the USA and the somewhat similar IT centers in the third world. That tour ended up in a report on United States AT centers for our funders, AID and the Bank, and in a book George published, Small Is Possible.

George had worked mostly with those technologists who worked to develop intermediate technologies simple and low-cost tools for the third world. The standard third world development programs were large, costly attempts to develop the infrastructure with dams, communication systems, roads, and bridges and to bring the third world in line with the developed countries. George recognized that those countries did not need massive structures for development. The problem of the third world was that they had more people and potential workers than they had capital. It was the exact opposite in the industrial world. It had an overabundance of capital but few unemployed workers. Whereas the poorer nation needed work-creating technologies, the industrial world needed to reduce the number of people needed in their factories. They could use capital-intensive technologies. The intermediate technologies developed by ITDG and other organizations concerned with development were useless to the industrial world.

What he found interesting was that for completely different reasons, an almost relevant level of technology was being developed by the hippie counterculture in America. The primary motivations for the American AT movement were radically different from the IT movement for the third world. The American movement grew from three main concerns:

1. Ecological studies like Silent Spring (1962) by Rachel Carson pointed out that herbicides sprayed on crops killed not only the insects that ate the plants but also the birds and animals that ate the insects and, in the long run, the humans that lived on farm produce. Her book showed that all aspects of the Earth were damaged and being unfit for life by chemicals.
2. Economic studies like Limits to Growth (1972) by Donella H. Meadows, Dennis L. Meadows, Jorgen Randers under the auspices of the Club of Rome, showed by a study of the data that overpopulation and the overuse of natural resources put a limit on the time the Earth could support humanity. Follow-up reports like Planet Report 2002 by WWF showed that mankind’s ecological footprint is already 1.2 Earths. Reviving the concern, if not the numbers, is the Meadows’ report.
3. Humanistic concerns expressed by dissatisfied workers, college students, lower school pupils, and people in general that the economic system and its technologies rather than serving humans has made them slaves. Life, as it is today, is not worth living for some and is continually getting more difficult and less convivial for almost everyone.

Such concerns have led to the autonomous organization in many unconnected parts of America. By the 1970s there were some five thousand concerned organizations listed in the directory “Alternative America” that recognized and were working on economic, technical, and social change. Hawken in 2007 showed that social change organizations grew by a factor of 10. Over two hundred AT centers in the United States alone were then working on social and technical innovations that conserved natural resources, reduced waste, and made a more humane society.

With this recognition of the different motivations but similar results, and with support form AID, the World Bank, and OECD (in Paris), George and I took a cross-country tour of the United States to determine if and how the AT centers here could work in closer harmony with the growing number of IT centers worldwide. We didn’t try to cover all two hundred of the AT centers but visited thirty of them with expertise from rooftop gardening in the Bronx to poverty centers in Tennessee, from organic farming in California to small waterwheels in Colorado, and many others.

The result was a published report to our sponsors and a chapter in George’s book Small Is Possible published in 1981.


Building the bridge between IT and AT—the third world and the industrial world—was the Appropriate Technology Sourcebook by Ken Darrow and Mike Saxenian first published in 1975. It was later expanded first in microfiche form and later as DVDs. Early in the development, Ken, a member of the TRANET board, worked with me to develop a library of the one hundred best AT books. We purchased those books at large discounts; it still cost $1,000 per library. Volunteers at TRANT packed and shipped the AT libraries to selected AT centers in villages of the third world. Over time we shipped over one hundred libraries.

Now in DVD format, the library can be bought for $459 in the USA and as low as $195 for third world villages. The library reviews over 1,150 AT books with designs and data in the 100. Want to build a bridge, design a cookstove to save fuel, survey a field for irrigation, replant a forest, install a water system, or pursue any other small-scale technology project? Invaluable, practical resource on small-scale technologies covers 1,150 of the most useful appropriate technology books with design drawings and information on the following:

1. Background reading
2. General references
3. Local self-reliance
4. The workshop
5. Agriculture
6. Agricultural tools and implements
7. Crop drying, preservation, and storage
8. Forestry
9. Aquaculture
10. Water supply: background
11. Water supply: pumps
12. Water supply: tanks
13. Water supply: solid wastes
14. Water supply: treatment
15. Water supply and sanitation
16. Energy: general
17. Energy: improved cookstoves and charcoal production
18. Energy: wind
19. Energy: water
20. Energy: solar
21. Energy: biogas
22. Housing and construction
23. Transportation
24. Health care
25. Science teaching
26. Nonformal education and training
27. Small enterprises and cooperatives
28. Local communications
29. Beekeeping
30. Small industries
31. Disaster preparedness and relief

If one were looking for either the philosophical base or practical unique inventions of appropriate technology, he/she would end up from either road with John and Nancy Todd. The Todds have been outstanding practitioners of AT since before it all started. Nancy is an accomplished and visionary author, able to put into words the future being made imaginable by the working ecological designs of her husband and other progressive scientists.

Dr. John Todd, born in 1939, started a promising career as a university research professor with degrees in agricultural design, biology, aquaculture, and fisheries. His encyclopedic knowledge led him, with his wife, Nancy, and a few others, to found the New Alchemy Institute on Cape Cod. The stated goal of the institute was

the creation of ecologically derived human support systems—renewable energy, agriculture, aquaculture, housing, and landscapes. The strategies we research emphasize a minimal reliance on fossil fuels and operate on a scale accessible to individuals, families and small groups. It is our belief that ecological and social transformations must take place at the lowest functional levels of society if humankind is to direct its course towards a greener, saner world.

Our programs are geared to produce not riches, but rich and stable lives, independent of world fashion and the vagaries of international economics. The New Alchemists work at the lowest functional level of society on the premise that society, like the planet itself, can be no healthier than the components of which it is constructed. The urgency of our efforts is based on our belief that the industrial societies which now dominate the world are in the process of destroying it.

The institute followed no academic pattern but mixed, out-of-the-box ideas of such progressive leaders as Buckminster Fuller with every-woman-down-home practical techniques. Their organic gardening, bioengineering, aquaculture, and unique architecture both in the USA and in Canada were drawing cards for other imaginative activists and designers from 1969 to 1991. One particular design concept, living machines, had practical applications that led John and Nancy to found another organization, Ocean Arks International (OAI), with a for-profit wing, in 1991. Living machines are applications of biological processes to the practical use of humans. For municipal wastewater treatment plants, OAI copies the natural design of wetlands. A network of aerobic reactors, plants, fish tanks, filters, and ecological fluidized beds remove the harmful chemicals and microbes from the water, not only making it potable but also producing edible plants and fish as well as other by-products for sale.
Now there are thousands of living machines around the world. Each one designed to use and harmonize with the local ecology and culture. John is now an adjunct professor at the University of Vermont where he is working with the next generation of bioengineers who will carry his and Nancy’s design and concepts into a more hopeful future.

Born in the Netherlands in 1935 Sim fled war-torn Europe in 1939 with his family to the outskirts of New York City. Sim, with colleagues from Berkeley, founded the Farallones Institute Rural Development Center and the Integral Urban House in California in 1969. They helped to create national awareness of ecologically integrated living design. The work started at the Farallones Institute continues today at the nonprofit Ecological Design Institute (EDI),, a tax-exempt, nonprofit corporation. EDI’s activities comprise two branches: One provides education, facilitation, public event speeches, and presentations. The other branch provides design and consulting services through Sim Van der Ryn and a network of collaborative talents.

The Ecological Design Collaborative. is the design and consulting arm of EDI focusing on what Sim calls “surpassability” design solutions for a carbon-neutral world through design workshops, retreats, and brainstorming, master planning and conceptual design, and green architecture. The Center for a Livable Future is EDI’s educational and training arm. EDI offers training, facilitation, education, and research services in ecological design and “surpassability” to businesses, government agencies, professional organizations, and educational institutions.

“We are engaged in an ecological revolution every bit as profound as the preceding industrial revolution,” Sim explained while addressing an assembly of architects. “The worst thing you can do is keep making no changes. That’s where the risk lies.”

As well as covering some of the activists who are still leading us toward a new society, it may be well to recall some of the thinkers who put us on the path and whose innovative work is still with us. Scott and Helen Nearing are a great example. Their books and article on the “good life” were staples of the New Earth magazine in the 1960s. The good life, to them, held both connotations of “good” as being supportive of others and “good” as enjoyable. Their good life was a back-to-the-land self-reliant good life.

Scott, born in 1888, had been an economics professor at Chicago University until WWI. His strong protest of the war blackballed him from university teaching. He continued writing his challenging books and pamphlets with such title as Wages in the United States (1908—10), A Study of State and Federal Wage (1911), Poverty and Riches: A Study of the Industrial Regime (1916), The Great Madness: A Victory for the American Plutocracy (1917), The American Empire (1918), The Next Step: A Plan for Economic World Federation (1922), and Dollar Diplomacy: A Study in American Imperialism (1925).
Helen was born in New Jersey in 1904. She had grown up in an economically comfortable and well-educated vegetarian family of Theosophists. She was trained as a musician. As a young woman, she traveled extensively, exploring nature and other worldviews. For some time she lived with the philosopher and writer Krishnamurti during his “enlightenment” experience under the pepper tree.

Back in New York, Scott and Helen met and discovered that their rejection of the American system gave them much in common. So in 1932, they left New York and bought a small run-down farmhouse in Vermont and turned to living off the land and off the grid as much as they could. Their daily life was divided into four three-hour sessions: one for “bread labor,” one for music or writing, one for sleep and relaxation.

I first met the Scott and Helen shortly after they had decided that the Vermont ski area was not for them and moved to the rocky and barren coast of Maine to start a new homestead. They were constructing a house out of local stones, each selected for the corner, lintel, or wall for which it was shaped. A stonewall also surrounded their large garden to keep wind out and to absorb solar heat. Seaweed and river silt compost piles fed their garden. A free-standing greenhouse made from discarded windows grew greens planted in late fall for their winter harvest.

Their home had as much storage room as the living room. The Quaker-like simple surroundings were decorated with hanging drying herbs. Canned, spiced, pickled, and dried foods in a bevy of containers lined neatly filled open shelves in every room. For the meals I had with them on rare occasions, we were each given a wooden bowl and a spoon. Popcorn, bread, and other hand foods were dumped in the middle of the bare wooden table, and the bowls were laden full of a thick soup from a boiling pot on the nearby stove. I learned as much in our mealtime conversations as I learned working with the Nearings in their carefully planted garden.

What I learned and much more was penned into a different line of books by Helen and Scott. Among titles are The Maple Sugar Book, Living the Good Life, Wise Words for the Good Life, Simple Food for the Good Life, and, after Scott’s death, Loving and Leaving the Good Life by Helen. I still practice some of those lessons in my unheated greenhouse. I remember that nothing grows during the short winter days. So you have to have them near harvest growth by late fall. I pick greens and broccoli throughout the twenty-below winter days but simply leaving them to unfreeze when the sun hits them. Tomatoes, cucumbers, and other produce can be in-season both earlier and later than the outdoor gardens.

Scott lived to his one hundredth birthday in 1998. Then he decided he had written enough and stopped eating. Helen lived a few years longer before an automobile accident took her life. But they live on in their books that are still sold and in the hearts and practices of many whom they taught, like us, and in the Good Life Center at Forest Farm that still carries on their learning programs for social justice and simple living.

The renewal happening around us has many roots and many names. The environmental movement in the USA was initiated by books such as Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring in 1957. The common ownership movement in Britain was given impetus with the transfer of ownership of the Bader works to the workers; in Jacques Ellul’s The Technological Society brought on a reevaluation of technology; Eric Dammann’s The Future in our Hands, in Norway, initiated a major reexamination of first world–third world relationships. The Consumer Association of Penang in Malaysia, the co-op in Bolivia, the Gandhi Peace Foundation in India, the Tasor Women’s Group in Ghana, and the Eco-development Centre in Paris are only a few of the independent actions which indicate a deep-seated and global desire for change.

The theories of quantum mechanics and relativity have laid a philosophical base for this global transformation. As physicist David Bohm demonstrates in Wholeness and the Implicate Order, the shift from Newtonian to modern physics necessitates a change in our mode of thought from one of atomism and fragmentation to one of wholeness and continuum. The notion that individuals and parts of the universe have separate existences is an illusion. It is to some extent necessary for humans to divide things up and to separate them so as to reduce certain problems to manageable sizes. But, Bohm argues, we have let fragmentation become our dominant approach to life. We separate our thinking into desperate disciplines. Religion, art, science, work, leisure are all put into separate unrelated categories. This proclivity to divide and subdivide leads ultimately to negative, destructive, and unreal results. In modern physics it is recognized that the Newtonian, mechanistic, and fragmentary view of the universe is valid only within certain limited domains. Once we go beyond those domains closer to reality, each particle or individual becomes part of a continuum reaching to infinity. It is Bohm’s belief that the new view of the unity of the universe is affecting world culture just as it is affecting modern science and our general mode of thought.

The search for wholeness and rejection of fragmented lives was marked in the 1960s by billows of smoke rising from the riot-rocked cities of Amsterdam, Newark, London, Washington, Tokyo, San Francisco, and Paris. During the 1970s, the concerns of the counterculture moved into the mainstream of acceptable society. Studies such as the Club of Rome’s “Limits to Growth” made even the most academic scholars look out of the windows of their ivory towers; stagflation sent shivers of fear through all ruling capitols of the world; the oil crunch is making every household recognize the need to reappraise our social forms. Now, in the twenty-first century, the many small beginnings and the many independent actions in all parts of the world are beginning to coalesce into a single network for transformation.

The counterculture was well-described in The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson. According to Ferguson, there is a conspiracy among people who seldom know one another. They are nonetheless conspiring in that each recognizes the turnabout in the consciousness that is bringing about the radical change in our culture. She notes that the unspoken beliefs of people change long before they publicly concede the transformation. We are, thus, still mouthing conviction in bygone values, mores, and paradigms while we already live by different principles.

James Robertson in The Sane Alternative delineated some of the mental shifts needed and taking place. Wealth, for example, can no longer be counted in stocks and bonds, mansions and limousines. Particularly since 2008 depression, the wealthy person is coming to be the one least dependent on the fragile economic-social system for his or her livelihood and well-being. “Work” can no longer be defined only in terms of hours away from home and financial income. More and more people are mixing recreation with employment to combine self-sufficiency with self-realization. Dogmatic religion is giving way to personal spiritual transformation, professional services are being replaced by personal relationships, and the established government is being bypassed as communities and individuals dominate social innovation.

Chilean Gustavo Lagos ties this age of transition and wholeness to world government in “The Revolution of Being,” one of a number of articles with decentralist themes from the World Order Models Project. He contends that “the revolution of having” has failed to bring either justice or happiness. The future world system must be based on a cultural and spiritual transition from “having” to “being.” It is his belief that the world culture based on fragmentation and accumulation is being replaced by one of unity and faith in human beings.

It would be illusory and hypocritical to talk of a major cultural and spiritual revolution without recognizing that it will be neither sustained nor effective without a major structural change in the formal social, economic, and political system by which we are governed and by which we govern. It would be equally illusory to speak of a future world government without recognizing the unalterable transformation in human thought and in human being now in progress. To speak sensibly of world government, we must recognize that formal government is merely one part of a complex of informal and formal governments.

Each of us is governed and governs by many forces. Physical forces hold us to the Earth, biological forces dictate what we need to survive physically, inner spiritual forces determine our requirements for meaningful life, and social forces govern our associations with other people. Families, churches, employers, schools, and technologies are all part of the system of governance. Each influences what we can do and how we can influence the behavior of others. Government is only one element in this system of governance. Government is only necessary, and only effective, when some other element of governance is ineffective.

Current discussions of world order are premised on the omnipotence of the nation-state. They seldom recognize the full range of forces that are part of the system of governance. In fact, the nation-state system of world government is an invention of a few European rulers within the last two hundred years. It was spread from a small sector of the Earth to the rest of the world by the force of arms, the dogma of a religion shaped to do its bidding, and an economic-industrial system that relied on it for control and protection.

World order based on the nation-state assumes that the resources and the people within a political boundary are the inalienable property of that nation-state. Leaders within each nation-state gain control through some form of competition that eliminates opposition. Once in power, and in order to maintain power, they must compete to maximize their nation’s share of the world’s resources. They are entrapped in a competitive world system. Though recognizing a degree of economic independence, no nation dares recognize its political interdependence. The fact that all persons have a stake in programs and policies that distribute the world’s resources is given no voice. Nor are the selection of national/world leaders open to all those affected by the choice. Each nation-state is accepted to be politically supreme, autonomous, and independent regardless of the effect its government’s actions have on people outside, or even within, its borders.

There is nothing inalienable or permanent in this European-invented form of government. The study of history, even European history, reveals many alternative political systems. In fact, history shows that the societies with the least bureaucratic and hierarchical structures have had the greatest stability over time. Many of these societies are based on precepts that are much more in line with the emerging Gaian age than the precepts of the nation-states. Consider, for example, the Native American system of governance.

For most Native Americans, the whole culture—religious, economic, social, technological, and political—is based on the concept of a community of beings, or more correctly, a community of being. Each individual—human, animal, plant, and even force of nature—is a part of a single living system we now call Gaia. Each element of Gaia has its purpose and its proper niche as part of the whole. The individual, the person, is not bent on mastering nature, controlling others, or competing to win respect or property. Each strives to perfect his or her own being in harmony with, and as part of, the whole. Human rights are not a matter of law bestowed by government. They are parts of one’s duty, and one’s obligation, to being. Each being, human and nonhuman, is responsible for developing not only his own creative powers but those of all others of Gaia of which they are part.

The Native American economic-political system designed itself from this metaphysical understanding. One could not own property for property had its own being. Even tools, clothes, and utensils had a being and purpose to be fulfilled. One’s own future and the welfare of his family were not assured by an accumulation of material wealth but by one’s service to being. Elaborate ceremonies were developed to provide for the broad distribution of food, shelter, and the other necessities of life, particularly to the aged and weak. The dignity of the individual was gained not by what he owned but by what he was able to give away—his contribution to society. The great hunter or craftsman had no concept of selling the product of his work. His duty to being was to create for the benefit of the community. The natural system was one of cooperation, consensus, and confederation rather than one of competition, confrontation, and struggle for power.

Variations on this theme were well-known in Africa and Asia as well as the Americas. They were the rule rather than the exception before the advent of European expansion. They are, perhaps, too idyllic to be copied without change in the overpopulated, under-resourced, and stressful world we know today. But by envisioning ourselves in the framework of alternative governmental systems we may be able to break the bonds which tie us to the dying paradigms of the passing age.

Governance for the future cannot be based on the narrow concepts of government through bureaucratic nation-state hierarchies. The current transformation is holistic and multidimensional. In keeping with this transformation, the world government should be holistic and multidimensional. We must recognize the many forces of human governance and construct a world that reflects, promotes, and takes advantage of the emerging spiritual and ethical affirmation of human rights and human dignity. A future world government can be pictured as a multidimensional network or networks that provide each individual with many optional paths through which he can provide for his own well-being and can participate in controlling world affairs.

A multidimensional system of world governance is, in fact, nothing new. World religions have never completely surrendered their power of governance to the nation-states. New systems of supranational control have been created by multinational corporations that have not only been able to avoid the meddlesome interference of national governments but have in some cases been a positive force in avoiding destructive wars between nations in which their financial interests were involved. The oil-producing countries, through OPEC, added another dimension to world governance, which goes well beyond the boundaries of nation-state. Such examples prove that the world order has many dimensions; they also show that grassroots participation has not yet been provided for in global decision making.

These beginnings must be extended to provide a system of optional ways in which each planetary citizen can express his or her preferences for the world of the future. A world council of ethnic groups could provide a channel for each individual to reach up from his local village to the highest echelons of world government. A world council of craftsmen could be another. A world council of communities, a world council of laborers, a world council of homeowners, a world council of religions, a world council of nations, a world council of business, and other world councils would provide other equal voices for expressing the needs of the grass roots. A council of world councils could assure coordination, guarantee balanced representation, and provide overall direction in world affairs.

Such a world representing more than the territorial rights of nation-states could reduce the tensions that lead to wars and could give people new agents to which to declare their loyalties and allegiances. But merely substituting many parallel hierarchies for one would not necessarily assure human rights, equity, democracy, peace, or self-realization. Each vertical hierarchy might still remain open to dominance and elitism. New Age governance calls for a more fundamental reordering of our channels of communication and governance. It calls for horizontal linking at the level of individual and their communities as well as multiple vertical linking to the seats of world direction.

It is not even necessary to destroy or replace the current world government system in order to put into effect a Gaian system of world government that gives more voice and more power to the people. As has been stressed throughout this book, formal government is only one element of world order. Informal, nongovernmental, and voluntary agencies already play significant roles even within the very hazardous and faulty UN/nation-state system. The existing, or any, governmental form could provide a more stable, humane, and equitable future for all if the people’s values replaced with those of the competitive ruling elites.

The primary need is for transitional people-to-people networks in which the grass roots can build solidarity based on an understanding of one another’s desires. The strategy for this is to build horizontal networks as complementary alternatives to the existing order. This second level of world governance could grow to take over many, if not all, of the functions now performed by the association of nation-states.

Gaian governance is slowly taking shape. Sister Cities International is a transitional twinning of cities that provide technical assistance to one another to solve urban problems, Action Aid from London has helped small communities and small industries provide mutual assistance. The Experiment in International Living helps students learn about one another’s culture by living in one another’s homes and promotes bilateral links between groups developing appropriate technologies, the International Communities Exchange provides information for groups wishing to exchange experiences in new lifestyles, and many other transitional networks are helping to promote a nongovernmental world system of cooperative self-reliance.

To date, few of these nongovernmental networks have given serious attention to their potential participation in world governance. Those which have, like the official NGOs associated with the UN agencies, have spent many fruitless days reacting to empty proposals and hackneyed propositions advanced by UN committees and bureaucracies. They have spent scattered efforts in their own initiative to bring peace and understanding among people or among nations. Notable exceptions to this general rule have been the Pugwash Conferences. Initiated by Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, and her leading scientists at the height of the cold war, the Pugwash Conferences brought together leading scientists from all parts of the world, irrespective of the relationships of their respective nations, to discuss world problems without the hindrance of official national positions. Although elitist and confined to the problems of science and society, Pugwash provided a model on which other people-to-people networks are being built as the harbingers for a Gaian world governance.

As transnational networks mature, there is a growing realization that self-renewal, local community action, alternative technology, human rights, ecological concerns, and other transformational activities must be linked with developing concepts for a just world order. It is not enough to “rearrange the chairs on the Titanic.” A just world order can only be built by recognizing the radical reformation human thought now taking place throughout the planet.

There are many social networks. Some have their heads in the esoteric clouds. Others keep their hands and feet mired in the too-real land of development aid. Others have locked themselves in their academic ivory towers. Many are locked in the corporate economics of self-interest, competition, and materialism. This millennium is a time of coming out and coming together. Gaian governance must have many elements: the spiritual, the technical, the social, the economic, and the political. It will be harmonious and unified, and it will be rooted in the minds, hearts, and souls of all people. As stronger transnational people-to-people networks are built and as bridges between the many Gaian movements grow stronger, a community global governance will emerge for the fuller development of human potential.


Our current society is too enmeshed in its current cultural blinders to see that options to our cultural norms exist. The daily practices of our families, our schools, our churches, our stores, and our work teaches us that the way we do things and the way we think is normal, natural, and there is no other. Not doing any of them is as abnormal as eating cat meat in the USA or not saying “please” and “thank you” in Amish societies. We take the values of self-interest, competition, and materialism as merely normal and not a value system that we could give up even if we wanted to. We are died into it by our economic system as well as our social system. The transition to a new system and a new paradigm is not normal. It would be a rejection, or at least an open reexamination, of all that we take as inalienable truths.
Manish Jain has opened that door in India with his concern for “unlearning.” School leavers are encouraged and helped to erase from their minds what they learned and the way they learned in school. Ivan Illich in Deschooling Society (see chapter 6) urged Euro Americans to do the same. He went further to show that the cultural norms of our current society, which are emphasized in our schools, perpetuate the illnesses of our current society so that although many recognize the failures, they cannot see their way out. The cry for change in President Obama’s campaign hit a very responsive chord in we-the-people. But the definition of the change that was needed has not yet been enunciated by any of our political leaders. The word “change” hangs in a fog that everyone can see and agree with but which no one articulates clearly.

Trying to fix the organizations that now make up our society is helping to maintain the status quo. Yet ambitious programs rave on about “fixing the schools,” “fixing the government,” “fixing the market,” “fixing the infrastructure,” “fixing the health system” and “fixing” all the other aspects of our culture. All of these not only harmonize with but are also dependent on all of the others. All are based on the same values of self-interest, competition, and materialism. To rise above these limitations and open ourselves to real social change means rejecting the foundation as well as the superstructure.

As we have shown throughout the first two sections of this book, a Gaian paradigm and Gaian cultures give us realistic goals for our lives. What we need now is some ideas on how we can bring the transition about. The first requirement may be to reset out goals. Rather than expecting self-interest, competition, and materialism to bring us the good life, we might set our new goals on public interest, cooperation, and the health of Gaia. Llfelong learning is required for the transition.

Public interest is the true meaning of democracy. It refers to the common well-being or general welfare. Under law, these terms become almost meaningless since almost any action can be defended in terms of public interest. Consumerism and corporate greed, to most people, are in the public interest. In terms of materialism, this is easy to defend. However, as a personal goal within the concept of Gaia, it can become clearer. Public interest is whatever improves the well-being of Gaia—the Earth and all its people.

Cooperation, as we have discussed, is human nature and the core of the successful evolution of humans. A cooperative society is, like a reciprocity culture, one in which life’s purpose is the well-being of all of society. It is the recognition that we are all interdependent. And the well-being of all is the well-being of each. Within a Gaian society, that motto extends to all of nature as well as all of humanity.

Lifelong learning is the active part of this trio. A society steeped in and practicing lifelong learning instead of the accumulation of material wealth is a radical departure from the status quo. Large mansions, speedy cars, and conspicuous consumptions are no longer accomplishments to be sought. Accumulating knowledge and skills and using them in the public interest replaces them.

No one of this trio alone sets out a new social order. Their interdependence does. The question we need to address is, “How can lifelong learning create a cooperative society that puts public interest, cooperation, and knowledge accumulation ahead of self-interest, competition, and material accumulation?”

The industrial worker of the past is no longer of value in the Unites States. Menial boring jobs are done by machines or by the poor in other countries for far less cost than would support a family in America. What is needed, if the United States is to remain viable, are creative individuals inventing new kinds of goods and services. Locking young people up in schools during the most formative years of their lives to be taught skills and lifestyles no longer of value to society is destructive not only of the individual’s own self-worth but also of the nation’s potential future. The time when graduating from school provided graduates with enough memorized knowledge to live a comfortable long life has passed. The future industry requires lifelong self-learning.

Not only is the industrial need for workers radically different from in the past, but learning must be transformed to meet humans’ psychic and social needs as well. There is no personal satisfaction now, if there ever was, for the self-interest, competition, and materialism of industrial society. As Alfie Kohn in No Contest: The Case Against Competition (see chapter 6) so well points out, the competition we take for granted is destructive to both individual and social well-being. Kohn argues that the cultural norm of competition must be transformed to cooperation. Ivan Illich enlarges the position in making the case that both learning and living should be convivial. That is, we should all learn and live in joyous collaboration with family, friends, and colleagues.

The present education system limits its concern to presociety individuals. It has not given up the old dominator motivation for learning in spite of dramatic social changes and social needs. Young people are still isolated in schools to be taught the mechanics and lifestyles they would have needed for jobs no longer available in this nation. Euro American societies no longer need automatons to work rote jobs in the boring production lines. Even industry now sees it needs creative critical thinkers able to invent, innovate, and imagine new concepts, new systems, and new designs. They need workers able to keep current with the rapidly changing of inventions and innovations. A new learning system must be designed for the future of industry as well as the psychic well-being of the lifelong learners themselves.

Brain Research
Not only is the reason to learn radically differently, for both the individual and society, but also brain research has revealed how the human mind learns. No two minds are alike, nor is any one mind prepared to absorb and organize the same information as any other at the same time and in the same way. Trying to teach twenty or more people at the same thing and the same time in the same way is an inefficient, if not impossible, task.

Brain research sets a new foundation for understanding learning. It tells us that learning is a nonlinear function of the mind. That is, the input to the brain is not organized. It includes a chaotic jumble of unorganized sounds, sights, feelings, smells, tastes, and ideas. It is the mind that organizes the scattered inputs into logical and useful order. The ability to learn anything new is unique for each person. Learning is something each mind does for itself.

The educate/teach/school syndrome with its government-designed curriculum taught by authoritarian teachers by rote memory is not only inadequate but also even destructive for the process of learning. Manish Jain in India has initiated a new program of unlearning for school graduates and school leavers to enable them to become creative members of society. Roland Meighan in England has organized a personal learning movement to recognize and meet the unique needs of each individual on a personal path. In America, some families have moved beyond homeschooling to “unstopping.” They learn with their children whatever and whenever a child expresses an interest in any topic. A small booklet, How School Affect Your Kids, from the Consumers’ Association of Penang in Indonesia explores “why schools make students ill.” It questions why students are “cut off from reality” and wonders how they can exist in the world having been taught that “only what is authorized is accepted.” The booklet ends with a long list and some stories of great men and women who have become leaders because of their refusal to be schooled. Among them are Ernest Hemingway, Jack London, Ansel Adams, Joan of Ark, Thomas Alba Edison, the Wright brothers, Benjamin Franklin, Steven Spielberg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Albert Einstein.

We will see later in the book how a few organizations have moved beyond education and adopted programs to help learners learn.

What we learn is the central concern of the current education system. In the K-12 system, the curricula are given undue attention by educators, bureaucrats, and legislators. Even at best, a curriculum is broken down into subjects. Each one is taught as if it had no connection with others. The products are graduates who may have gotten straight As but who are not able to synthesize the courses into an integrated view of the whole. They may have skills, facts, and data, but they have no wisdom and little participation in the world in which they live.

Higher education is likewise carefully prescribed by degree-granting institutions as well as is the advance of students. I recall my own university education where as an engineering physics student I was discouraged from taking courses in theater. It was argued, probably correctly, that I had only four years to accumulate all the credits needed for my degree and a job in science. Even in graduate school, the prescribed courses narrow one’s choice of learning. Education is very Newtonian. That is, it is atomized into topics and subtopics. Very much as the dominator paradigm suggests a Gaian holistic approach to learning is taboo.

I found that this approach to education limited the breadth of the physicists I met while in the physics program of the National Science Foundation. Most of them knew all there was to know about their very narrow specialty but were woefully uninformed in other areas. A few, like Einstein, Max Born, Eddington, Russell, Murray Gell-Mann, and others were able to become specialists in their professions and still have a deep and broad understanding of other fields. In my university teaching of physics, I insisted that each of my classes read a couple of the more philosophical books of some of these expert scientists. The dean of my university soon reminded me that I was hired to teach only physics. This may, of course, be just the way the fields of knowledge are, but it may also be that the system of education requires our limits to knowledge.

Certainly in all levels of learning and all levels of life, society can and must develop a broader view of learning than now exists. New concepts of lifelong learning must be freed of current strictures. Learning must be viewed as the purpose of life, replacing work, jobs, and material accumulation. Each person must be free to learn anything at any time in any way from the vast world of knowledge without being limited to small hunks of that world determined by governments, religions, or other outside forces. The major work of learning is learning how to learn. Our mantra should be “freedom to learn.”

The current system of education concentrates on the K-12 ages with a passing interest in preschool training. At one time, that may have been a somewhat justified assumption, as was the accompanying assumption that one can be taught, in the k-12 years, all of the information needed for a full life of work earning a living. Both the current social needs and the new brain research give the lie to these assumptions to say nothing about the psychic needs of the individual for a pleasurable, creative, and fulfilling lifetime of learning. Add to that the new techniques and technologies, including the Internet, that make communication around the world possible in nanoseconds and it’s easy to see why schools at all levels are failing to prepare students for life.

Social needs, human capabilities, and technologies make it necessary as well as possible to design a learning system that better serves both individuals and society. The holistic Gaian concept implies that we are all integral parts of nature and society from birth. New information is flowing endlessly and being organized in our brain/mind continually. We are, whether we plan for it or not, lifelong learners.

Lifelong learning is more a change in philosophy or worldview than merely a change in how we do things. It is the view that all people should, or must, be open to new ideas, new experiences, new behaviors, and new skills throughout their lives. This not only leads to a more satisfying life but is also necessary today and will be more so in the future. The world of knowledge is growing so fast that even in the fading industrial world no one alone can keep current with all the knowledge they need. No one can get enough knowledge in their heads to serve them for more than a few years. A few years ago, the turn of time for knowledge was twenty-five or more years. In the past decade or two, it has shortened to five or ten years. This speeding up in the growth of knowledge needs to be accounted for not only to maintain the skills one needs for a series of ever-changing jobs but also for rapid change in all aspect of our cultures—music, art, services, goods, leisure, religions, foods, medicines, and others. Today with computers, the transformation of knowledge is rapidly getting even shorter.

For this reason alone, it is clear that the school system is inadequate and that a learning system must provide more flexibility so that each person can learn at any time what they need and want at that specific time. This fact drives many families to take their children out of school and become homeschoolers. In doing so, they also take their children out of the learning environment and away for learning peers.

In cooperative learning with peers, a learner gains from the interest, knowledge, and help of others. The breadth of the topic studied comes not only from what others know but also from what they don’t know and the questions one learner asks that might never come to another one’s mind. In addition, comrades in study fill in the basic human need to belong. That feeling of friendship, conviviality, cooperation, and sense of belonging lasts well beyond a session in math, English, or nature study. It is usually a lifelong enjoyment.


Thus it seems that transforming learning implies a transformation of not only how individuals learn but also of how society as a whole evolves. A mantra for social change might be the same as we stated above for the individual: “Every person should have the right, the freedom, the resources, and the opportunity to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want.”

All of the elements of our culture are subject to radical transformation by the emergence of a Gaian social paradigm. But none is more important to social evolution and transformation than the way future citizens learn and how they are introduced into society. Future citizens are now being trained within the dominator paradigm for a culture that is no longer relevant to human survival or well-being. The dysfunctional educate/teach/school syndrome perpetuates this dysfunctional social social system. Looking at learning from a position of social need, we can repeat the concern that “during their most formative years, young people are locked away from family, community, society, and nature.” Thus, society is denied the continual input of new citizens involved in the emerging culture.

To better understand the relevance of learning to our social being, it may be well to examine the evolution of human cultures, mindsets, and worldviews. Many books, listservs, blogs, and Web sites dwell on our Euro American cultures’ values of self-interest, materialism, competition—that is, greed and violence. But few have analyzed how we have reached this state of our culture.
The first human cultures were deeply dependent on nature. Their earliest creation stories recognized, honored, and worshipped the natural order. Mother Earth, the sky, the land, the moon, the sun, lightning, and thunder were the forces that controlled their lives and which became their gods. Some have called this rule by nature as “dharmocracy.” It is nature-centric rather than anthropocentric. It acknowledges that only by cooperation and interdependence with nature and other people could humans, and their world, exist and evolve. This acknowledgment led each individual to work for the public good. Production and distribution of goods and services was by reciprocity, not economics. Each individual produced, and gave what they produced, for the good of all. They recognized their interdependence with the well-being of the Earth and all of its life-forms, not unlike the Gaian worldview that is now being revealed by modern science.

A second level of worldviews came to a few of the evolving cultures. The earliest worldviews were in Asia. The mystery of the unknown was taken as the need of a personal process: becoming one with powers beyond nature, removing one’s thoughts and being above daily suffering, and living a life of harmony with those unknowable powers.
The mystery of the unknowable also gave room for a belief in powerful humanlike creators—the sun god, the moon god, the god of travel, the god of rain, the god of crops, and others. In one culture, at least, the concept of one all-powerful God was born. Others had many baals, gods, angels, and other humanlike superpowers. The view of nature’s control of the world was replaced by theocratic beliefs. A world controlled by nature was transformed to a world controlled by supernatural humanlike powers. That power was transmitted to humans through shamans, priest, holy books, prophets, ceremonies, and divinely sanctioned governments.

The Renaissance and Reformation brought a third element of social control. The age of faith was slowly replaced, or at least added to, by the age of reason. Control of the world shifted from the priests alone to the governments, the banks, the politicians, and the moneyed class. An oligarchy, still claiming divine sanction, ruled the world. It was this culture in Europe that became the most powerful. With its sword (technology), flag (nationalism), and cross (Christianity), its social paradigm by divine sanction soon dominated the whole world.

Slowly religion lost control as technology strengthened the hands of the owners of the tools of production. And materialism replaced spirituality. A fourth major paradigm shift came typified in 1776 by the advent of political democracy in America. This social paradigm was little changed from the preceding dominator paradigm that had been growing since humans were first taught that the Earth was made for them. The stated goal of this paradigm was individual freedom and democracy—power to the people. This democratic political paradigm adopted the moral code of self-interest, competition, and materialism, which led to material wealth as well as to the destruction of the natural habitat. But it also eliminated the divine right of kings and gave some power and responsibility to the people or, at least, to representatives of the people. Technologies and techniques of the day did not make direct democracy possible. This glitch kept political and social control in the hands of a moneyed elite that continued to own the tools of production and distribution.

Today there is a fifth major paradigm shift evolving, as we showed in chapter 1; science is revealing a radically different worldview. It shows that independent, lone individual freedom is neither economically nor scientifically sound. Gaia, like the cosmos, is shown to be a single unit or holon composed of tightly interlocked and interdependent smaller holons embedded in a larger, more comprehensive holons. The dominator paradigm of the past is being replaced by a Gaian paradigm. All entities in the cosmos are no longer seen as free and autonomous. They are tightly interlinked to all the other parts of Gaia. The well-being and freedom of each element of Gaia is subject to the well-being and freedom of all. Humans are part of Gaia and are controlled by, as they affect, the Gaian paradigm. Separate researches on human evolution and human nature reveal that cooperation and interdependence are social necessities as well as human nature and cosmic law.

This understanding of social evolution suggests that the evolution from dharmocracy through theocracy, oligarchy, and democracy is being followed by new social/political system. We might call these new system “cosmocracy.” Cosmocracy implies that the cosmos is its own, and our, controlling agent. The most we can do is to try to understand it. It could be a more fruitful form of human control. Individuals empowered by new scientific knowledge and new technologies can cooperate directly with one another at the community level in the production and distribution of goods and services. Community cooperatives could exchange with one another on a global level. Cosmocracy would not be bound, as is oligarchy and democracy, by the space, time, and human limits. Today we can know what’s going on in any part of the world in real time. No matter where we are, we can converse with anyone in Uganda, Iraq, or Nepal on our cell phone. Our reliance on any bosses, governments, corporations, or boundaries is ephemeral. We have the ability to form communities with others to control, within cosmic laws, our own lives and to have an effective voice in our own governance. The question is now only one of will and wisdom.

Whether we can take advantage of the possibilities is the crux of the topic learning and democracy. When material production was the primary need of society, it was important to train willing workers for service and factories. In the 1840s, the compulsory state school system was established to transform an agrarian society into an industrial one. The influx of immigrants searching for industrial jobs extended the value of the system. Authoritarian, hierarchal, competitive schools had the responsibility of molding young people into service of the industrial factory world. It trained them to obey authority, to work by the bell, to learn what was determined by others, and in general, to fit into an authoritarian, hierarchal, competitive, materialistic society.

A Gaian paradigm, like all those before it, is dependent for its fruition on the intellectual transformation of the youth who will become its members and leaders in a fundamentally different social world. It takes at least a full generation for any new paradigm to become universal. This one particularly demands a broad program of learning to create independent a generation of critical thinkers including everyone. Jefferson’s dictum was that democracy is dependent up to an educated citizenship. Direct democracy requires an even freer and more universal participatory learning. Participatory learning must develop to lead to a participatory democracy.

A Gaian world requires students to be free to learn about freedom and democracy. One learns about freedom by being free in a democracy. This calls for transforming teaching institutions into learning centers and for the morphing schoolteachers into community mentors both or either to be used freely at the will of the learners. It creates a world of critical thinkers best able to participate in world affairs. It transfers the money wasted in prisonlike schools to tax breaks for organizations providing learning opportunities selected by the learners. It puts the hierarchy of individual, family, community, society, and world in a more human-oriented network of command. It replaces self-interest, competition, and materialism with lifelong learning as the purpose of life.

This transformation of the learning system is closely akin to the research being done on artificial intelligence (AI). The new demand for a learning system moves beyond the “dumbing us down” education program that teaches students the qualities of being pseudorobots for the past industrial age. The AI research is moving from the other direction trying to make robots into pseudohumans. This is not to suggest that the meeting point is in the middle in some kind of robohuman. But it does recognize the fact that the AI study of human thinking and learning may provide us with some new knowledge of how the brain works and what is unique in the human mind. Computers today are able to beat the world’s greatest chess master in a game of chess. This is a feat of a machine’s ability to see two hundred chess moves per second ahead compared to a human’s prediction of about eighty future moves. This does not help us understand the human ability to recognize patterns, to reason, to encode conditional dependencies, or to use Bayeseian networks—that is, to establish probabilities and make decisions based on partial data. Researches on these are the functions of human thought, and AI research may be relevant to our concern. It may give humans the opportunity to be fully human. Much more than is provided by the educate/teach/school syndrome, it may give us the chance to practice our free will in a truly free society.

The link between freedom and learning was first brought to public attention by German philosopher Friedrich Froebel (1782–1852), best known for his invention of both the fact and the word “kindergarten.” Froebel’s theory was that to understand freedom, one must be free. He put his idea in practice particularly with children recognizing what they became later was dependent on how they learn in the very beginning of life. Also, recognizing how children played, he designed his learning system around play.

He designed toys, blocks, dances, cards, and other games that had a hidden agenda of learning reading, writing, and arithmetic while learning, to learn to be free by being free. Children were free to learn what they wished. As children grew older and became adapted to being free, other amusements filled their learning programs. Freedom and learning were built up in step-by-step continuous, progressive, accumulative achievements. The Froebelian revolution caught on to become the foundation on which Dewey as well as Buckminster Fuller built their philosophies.

This recognition that the capacity to be free must be built up in us from birth is a natural offspring of a Gaian paradigm too long forgotten by pedagogues. Especially in children, but throughout life, the joy of freedom must be continually renewed and strengthened by internal experiences of freedom. Imposing learning goals from the outside hinders the growth of freedom. The disregard of a child’s, an adolescent’s, or even an adult’s desire to be free and enjoy freedom is not only a damage to the individual but perhaps more importantly a damage to society.

Democracy also fits in these same shoes. “Education for democracy,” an oft-used phrase by educators, is an obvious oxymoron. Any attempt to make a whole classroom of students sit quietly in their seats to be taught democracy is a misdirected cause. One may teach about the structure or history of the operation of a democratic government. But one learns to be democratic only by practicing it. Democratic schools practice letting learners learn themselves by deciding to jointly decide what they want to do.
I remember one example in which I followed its development in day-by-day reports on the Internet. The mentor had removed all furniture and furnishings from his classroom. When the class came into the empty room, he didn’t even suggest that they sit on the floor. He said, “This is a democratic course on democracy, what would you like to do first?” When the cacophony subsided, he agreed that they might need some furniture and pointed out that there was a lot of it stashed in a nearby closet. By the time decisions had been made on the setting up of the room, the students knew what democracy was all about.

An offspring of homeschooling calls democratic learning “unschooling.” In general, unschooling means giving the learner support but full control of when, where, and how he or she learns all of the time. This means no assigned curricula, no courses, no teaching, no schooling, no forcing. It means creating learning opportunities in every aspect of our culture. It means making learning the purpose of life, replacing accumulation of goods and money.

One proponent of learning freedom is Roland Meighan in the UK. Roland has started a network for personalized learning.

My own idea of democratic learning came during a three-month stay at a hotel run by Buddhist monks in Kathmandu during a UN project on which I was working. Every morning I awoke with the chanting of the monks. Before breakfast, the waiters lined up at one end of the dining room holding the spread-out tablecloths high above their heads. With the doors open at the other end of the room, they wiggled the tablecloths, herding the flies out the door. That was a lesson on refusal to kill. But my unschooling lessons came from a series of lectures held in the third-floor library of the hotel. While I and other listeners sat cross-legged on the hard floor, the lead saffron-robed monk sat on a silk cushion slightly higher than the learners. Since some of us spoke only English, we had an interpreter. After each short pronouncement of the leader, the interpreter would follow with “Artishar says” translating his message into English. The eight lectures were on the eightfold path—right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

I went in to each session expecting some clear rules on how to live the right life. But Artishar never lectured in good American school or church style. There was no preaching or teaching of what would happen if we did or did not follow the eightfold path. No talk of rewards or punishments. Artishar told stories, often funny stories, of his own life and that of the monks with whom he had learned. I learned by listening to examples. Perhaps my epiphany came near the end. I never did learn the name of our unassuming monk. I did learn that artishar was the pronunciation our translator had for “our teacher.”

This epiphany transformed my understanding of artishar from being close to a divine representative of a holy world available to only a select few humans, to “our teacher,” a blood-and-flesh human who was passing on to us, mere mortals, the wisdom of a long line of blood-and-flesh sages who devoted much of their lives to contemplating the cosmos and the place of humans in it. These mahatmas were neither better nor worse than the priests who offered me bread and wine in cathedrals around the world; the Muslim imams who call me from the turrets of the mosque for cleansing and prostrating myself facing Mecca (Salat) five times every day for prayers to Allah; the community preachers who reminded me of my sins and forgiveness at weekly meetings; the Amish farmers who devote themselves to simple living with nature every day; or those, like myself, who search for the same answers in the results of science.


In the past three decades, there has been a growing movement to reinvent the way citizens learn and how young people are introduced into society. Homeschooling, charter schools, cyberschools, unschooling, lifelong learning, Waldorf schools, and Sudbury schools are just a few of the elements of this movement. The movement has been growing exponentially each decade since 1980. It has become a challenge to the traditional school/teach/educate system. Lifelong learning has been promoted by management guru Peter Drucker in Post-Capitalist Society on one end of the spectrum and, on the other end, by Elise Boulding in Building Global Civic Culture, and by many scholars in between.

The bottom line in this movement is to provide the freedom, opportunity, and resource for self-learners of all ages, with their families and communities, to choose to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want—to self-learn.

In spite of the rapid growth of this movement, it has drawn little positive attention from governments. Professional educators and their unions have shown concern that the proliferation of homeschooling will draw funds away from the public school system. A few public school systems have accepted the challenge and established special programs to provide would-be homeschoolers and other self-learners more autonomy within the public school system. Some have established parent-teacher programs that depend on parental involvement and give parents greater autonomy in the learning process. But as parents are increasingly recognizing that personal liberty and private protection from control by majority rule applies to their children’s learning, none of the existing systems, including homeschooling, have completely incorporated that concept. Nor do they fully meet the needs of our information society, which requires a lifelong learning system to provide for each individual’s continual learning processes, as detailed in the work of writers and thinkers from John Gardiner, John Holt, and Alfie Kohn to Daniel Pink and Howard Gardner, among so many others.

Foundations, likewise, have been slow to rise to the challenge and opportunity that is unfolding. The millions of dollars for public schools, coming from all levels of government, are followed by millions more coming from private foundations. But little, if any, of this private funding is available for the many nonpublic-school personal learning experiments being undertaken. A search of the philanthropy databases with words like “homeschooling” comes up with no program in any foundation whereas a search under “schools” or “education” comes up with many thousands. Individual appeals to hundreds of foundations by home school support groups, learning co-ops, and other forms of nonschool learning communities are regularly returned with the words “this proposal does not fit into our current program of support.”

Motivations for moving toward self-learning and abandonment of traditional public schooling are many. Perhaps the most prevalent is parental concern about the loss of control of the learning of young children. Many families want to take direct responsibility for their curriculum, approach to learning, and the principles and values upon which these are based. Some parents believe that the public school system instills values that run contrary to those of their family. Some are explicitly guided by their religious beliefs to direct the education of their children. Others have had disturbing experiences with schoolyard bullies, unfeeling teachers, or misdirected bureaucracies. A few hold that government support is inherently controlling and that their tax dollars are binding families to a failing system. These parents argue for complete parental control. But there’s the rub. Parent control is an oxymoron. What is called for is personal child control—trust in the motivation, curiosity, and open minds of young people.

Self-learners are also influenced by education critics, philosophers, and religious leaders. Some, like Ivan Illich, believe our current life, including school, is based on the principle of work now for future rewards. They urge that schooling, and life, be convivial and vernacular. That is, that learning and work should be carried out in joyful collaboration with family, friends, and neighbors. And that it should be embedded in the local culture, ecology, and friendships.

With Brazilian adult educator and social activist Paulo Freire, some see schools as perpetuating the socioeconomic rich/poor status quo. This, Freire suggested, prevents the natural social evolution that would occur if all citizens were given freedom to self-learn in their own families, communities, and nature. In his book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, Freire used the education system to arouse the workers, starting a labor movement that is still operative today

Following John Holt, others believe that schooling is not an efficient way to learn, nor for future citizens to be introduced into society. They are working to transform the school system into one of learning opportunities, urging all social institutions to participate in lifelong learning.

Most great philosophical traditions, including those embodied in Gandhi, Tagore, Aurobindo, and Krishnamurti, recognize a spiritual component to learning, teaching that knowledge is more than a way to get a job or score well on a standardized test. It is the purpose for living. It is being human. Rabindrnath Tagore started his learning community Santiniketan to transform the human mindset from self-interest, competition, and materialism to mutual aid, cooperation, and the love of learning. Growing out of a variety of personal, philosophical, educational, or religious motivations, the lifelong self-learning movement continues to expand.

It is impossible to measure the success of self-learning with tests, grades, and scores. Perhaps the most interesting successes are found among those learners who do not flourish in a traditional setting with standard measurements of success. These individuals are free to blossom in their own ways and do—anecdotal evidence abounds about happy and successful learners who have traveled a nontraditional path to their own personal success.

Self-learners are equally honored among our greatest leaders. Thomas Edison, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Abigail Adams, Benjamin Franklin, the Wright brothers, Helen Keller, Albert Einstein, and Margaret Mead are only a few of those who have learned without school. The newspapers are filled with stories of less well-known successes. Ryan Abradi of Maine showed an interest in numbers at an early age, so his parents let him stay home and self-learn; by age ten he was working his way through second-year college calculus. Caitlin Stern of Haines, Alaska, stayed out of school and became a recognized expert by studying bald eagles in the wild. Jedediah Purdy, a self-learner from West Virginia, graduated summa cum laude from Harvard University; in 1996 he was selected as a Truman scholar and as West Virginia’s nominee for the Rhodes Scholarship. He then went on to Yale Law School and, in the meantime, wrote a best-selling book.

The growth rate of self-learning is a partial measure of its success. From a few scattered school leavers in 1980, perhaps twenty thousand, the number has grown, according to Newsweek magazine, to over two hundred thousand in 1990 and into a broadly integrated network of an estimated 2 milllion today.

Considerable research has shown that students learn much more easily when they self-learn. As long ago as 1930, the eight-year study of thirty special schools demonstrated that the most effective schools used a different approach to learning. Instead of organizing learning by subjects, they organized it around themes of significance to their students. There seemed to be an inverse relationship between success in college and formalized education as opposed to student-selected learning.

A recent Cornell University study confirmed this and showed that schooled children become peer dependent while those who learned with their parents have more self-confidence, optimism, and courage to explore. A Moore Foundation study of children of parents who had been arrested for truancy found that their homeschooled children ranked thirty percent higher on standard tests than the average classroom child.

Providing possible insight into the reasons behind these successes, a UCLA project showed that the average schooled student receives seven minutes of personal attention a day but the self-learner receives from one hundred to three hundred minutes of attention daily. Following this, a Smithsonian Report on genius concluded that high achievement was a result of time with responsive parents, little time with peers, and considerable time for free exploration. Standardized tests reflect self-learner success as well. Time magazine reported that “the average homeschooler’s SAT score is 1,100, 80 points higher than the average score for the general population.”

Dr. Lawrence M. Rudner conducted a study in 1998 that included 20,760 students in 11,930 families. He found that in every subject and at every grade level (K-12), home school students scored significantly higher than their public and private school counterparts. Some 25 percent of all homeschool students at that time were enrolled at a grade level or more beyond than indicated by their age. According to the study, the average eighth-grade homeschooler was performing four grade levels above the national average. The average ACT score was 21 out of a possible 36 for public schooled children. It averaged 23 for self-learners. This qualifies the average college-bound self-learner for the most prestigious universities.

This movement is not only addressing the why, how, when, and what all citizens learn but is also rebuilding the foundation for the society in which we all live. How we learn determines the kind of society we build. Authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic schools prepare future citizens for an authoritarian, hierarchal, undemocratic society. A lifelong learning system based in family, community, society, and nature could be the foundation for new democracies of freedom, equity, and justice.

The movement continues to promote the concepts of lifelong self-learning in all its complexities to a wider audience to address critics on the issues of accountability and credibility, and to raise funds to help those working to bring its ideals to fruition.

The common thread among all of the learning modalities is freedom to learn. Freedom to learn has been a topic of a long list of critics of education including Froebel, Dewey, Goodman, Illich, Holt, Freire, and others. It has also been the cry of an increasing number of today’s activists. My concern here is the gap between the wise men of the past and the activists of today. Although the number of leave-school advocates and activists is rising at an impressive rate with the advent of homeschooling, charter schools, cyber learning, vouchers, and a conglomerate of other educational modalities, very few, if any, have escaped the syndrome of educate/teach/school. Christian schooling is the whipping boy for a different purpose for brainwashing. But nearly all other school refusers are based on the nonexistent parental rights—the right of parents to teach whatever they want to their children. Many homeschooling parents are almost paranoid in choosing or designing a curriculum for their children to follow. Oftentimes the state demands such a curriculum before they will recognize one’s right to homeschool.

Unschooling was used by some older critics to emphasize the student’s right to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. Unschooling was meant to let the students from birth practice their own choice of learning. Most parents do this in the preschool lives of their children. But they somehow don’t recognize that their children learn more by this mode than they do in school. For unschoolers, the parent was expected to continue to be a mentor and to help the children find the resources to learn whatever came to their minds and to learn with them. In practice, unschooling has too often been only a slightly modified form of homeschooling. In a recent computer listserv for unschooling, weeks were taken in discussing how parents could be sure that their children were learning the correct code of ethics. At some times it went further to discuss how parents could be sure that a sound basis for a future job was being built. It is not the purpose of a school, a state, a nation, or the parents to establish a goal for unlearners. Unlearning is based on the principle of the freedom to learn. Any teaching that is done is done by example, not formal education. It follows the “do what I do, not what I say.”

Manish Jain, an unschooling advocate in India, adds a different concept—“unlearning.” Jain’s idea is along the lines of Illich’s Deschooling Society, Gandhi’s honest reflection, Toffler’s deconditioning, Buddha’s letting go, and other oft-used terms like “conviviality,” “de-institutionalizing,” “voluntary simplicity,” “repatterning,” and others. To paraphrase Jain, unlearning is the process of moving beyond all the limitations instilled in a student by schools and carried into their lives. It is not about forgetting, emptying, destroying. Nor is it simply about critical thinking, positive thinking, or problem solving. At its most basic level, unlearning starts with looking at the realities and possibilities of life from other than the school’s points of view. It involves becoming more conscious of the different cultural norms and mental models, assumptions, generalizations, sacred constructs, cognitive blindness, expectations, anxieties, etc., that influence how we understand reality, how we create knowledge, how we make choices, and how we grow. It is not an educational modality as much as it is a new social paradigm. From our point of view, it means escaping from the dominator paradigm and embracing a Gaian paradigm.

Jain’s research is the study of people, particularly young adults, who have escaped the confines of the standard school and social paradigm in spite of the being embedded in it. They have risen above the mindset, worldview, and mainstream culture that are perpetuated by the teach/educate/school syndrome. They have reached a new level of freedom. The goal is to learn how we can all unlearn or, as Einstein put it, recognize that “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”


Nonschool lifelong learning provides an opportunity as well as a challenge. As we move into the future learning system, we have to act out of the box as well as think out of the box. Intellectual problems and solutions that can be learned or memorized and repeatedly applied no longer exist in moving out of a rote fact demanding society we are moving into an information-based society. Its knowledge base is continually changing. The value of any specific bit of memorized knowledge fades rapidly. In today’s world, people have to renew their knowledge and skills continually throughout life. Nothing could be more amazing than to have the same activities that worked in the past work for the future. Most educators, parents, legislators, and the press confine themselves to their march to folly and strive valiantly to fix the schools just as they stick to the old values system of self-interest, competition, and materialism. A few are already using, or at least experimenting, with nonschool techniques for the learning future in society based on a Gaian paradigm.

Riane Eisler was the founder of the Center for Partnership Studies and of a unique new way to look at education. It is so close to recognizing that schools perpetuate the status quo that it fits well into the last section of nonschool education. But Eisler also recognizes the fact that for some time schools will be the accepted way to learn and, for the meantime at least, providing alternatives wthin the current system is the only accepted way to go.

Eisler moved into the field of learning from a beginning as a social historian more than a social critic. This beginning was the adoption of the research findings of Marija Gimbutas, a paleontologist. Gimbutas in researching the Minoan culture in Crete found that this early culture had no weapons or fortifications; it seemed to be a culture of peace. Gimbutas also found literally thousands of small goddess sculptures indicating worship of the female. From continued digging and analysis, Gimbutas concluded that the Minoan culture that reached its peak about thirty-two thousand years ago not only worshiped a goddess but was governed by women in partnership with men. The Minoan culture was based on the value of the homes and family. As she analyzed her data in later years, she found that nomads with metal tools and on horseback from the steppes of Russia had invaded around 3000 BC. Their original goal was destruction and plunder. Later they built walled cities on high hills for protection. Their way of life and male domination not only spread across all of Europe but also drove even the more peace-loving communities to build defended cities and adopt defensive and offensive armies. So cultures were driven into the age of war and violence.

Eisler wrote of this in her best-selling book The Chalice and the Blade, expanding the concept of a “partnership way” to a goal for the future. This she carried forward in other books, for examples, Tomorrow’s Children, Educating for a Culture of Peace, and The Real Wealth of Nations. Finally, she concluded that the only way to initiate a society based on female-male partnership was to introduce it to children in their most formative years, K-12. That, to her, meant designing programs for schools. In order to work directly with schools, the Center for Partnership Studies, a 501c3 nonprofit education organization, works not only in the K-12 schools themselves but also with universities in both education colleges and research centers to continue both discovering new knowledge and providing lifelong learning for educators and others.

In chapter 17, we mentioned many new fix-school modalities of learning within the teach/educate/school syndrome. Even those nonschool modalities often have not unlearned the dangers of those social and cultural norms. They still hold to the need to brainwash children with the values and lifestyle of their parents and this industrial culture.

In the above half of this chapter, we have presented examples of new programs still within the fix-the-schools mindset but which have attempted to introduce at least elements of personal learning, giving the learners a degree of freedom to choose what, when, and how they learn.

In the below examples we have crossed the line. These programs reject any form of schooling for freedom to learn. They rely on the learners’ inherent curiosity and ability to learn what they want, when they want, and how they want. These are good examples of learning to be free by being free.

SelfDesign is a modality of learning. It is also the title of a book and a program designed by Brent Cameron of Britain. The program was founded when Brent’s six-year-old daughter realized that if she went to school she lost control of her life, so she asked her father to be her teacher and to learn at home. Inspired by his daughter’s natural ability to learn and by the experience of watching her learn to talk, he worked with her for the next twelve years to design a learning program based on every child’s natural enthusiasm to learn and their ability to generate their own learning path. That learning path is now the path of over eight hundred children guided by the Wondertree Foundation that Brent founded. The SelfDesign modality has also been adopted by many other learning centers around the world with the help of Cameron and his team of consultants

Brent’s recognition that children were learning from birth and that schools stopped the self-learning process suggested that he established the SelfDesign Learning Community (SDLC), an innovative network of families and learning consultants to help nurture children learning in their homes and communities. SelfDesign helps learners create their own place, time, and way of learning. It supports natural enthusiasm-based learning rather than imposing and teaching a government-designed curriculum. It supports children and their families in a holistic learning model that conserves the disposition of wonder in a context of love.

As the SelfDesign program for children spread, the founders saw that it was relevant for all ages. Since 1985 they have been working on lifelong learning programs for career transition coaching, business productivity, innovation consulting, experiential learning and consulting. As well as expanding its age range, SelfDesign Inc. is expanding its contacts. It is creating a broad international network of affiliates such as Living the Potential Network Inc. of Portland, Oregon; HOPE Co-op Online Academy in Denver, Colorado with over 3,800 online learners who visit seventy-nine learning centers; gateway courses on Barbara Marx Hubbard’s Evolve Web site; Laddie Livingston of VISION in Colorado; and Dan Janik, author of Unlock the Genius Within and president of the Neurobiological Learning Society. The number of proponents and programs for personal learning seems to be growing almost as fast as the need.

Probably the most profound innovations in the way we earn will come from emerging computer technology. The most obvious place to look for new ways to learn is in the world of cyber learning. Of course schools have not overlooked the computer. In fact they have jumped on the commuter bandwagon. But they have used this technology to produce more of the same fix-the-schools and co-opt-computers-to-teach/educate/school way of thinking. They have hardly explored the unique potentials of cyber learning or cyber thinking.

By cyber learning and cyber thinking, I mean to convey a new brand of using one’s mind in learning and using the knowledge one needs. For example, we no longer need to rely on our past education or bound volumes of encyclopedia or even the collection of books in one’s library or all of the interconnected libraries that easily exchange their holdings. Instead, we can quickly check facts and ideas with the push of a few keys. That is the way this book has been composed.

Not only is all knowledge at our fingertips, but any person can now communicate any place in the world in nanoseconds. “Ask a colleague” no longer limits one to a classroom or even a community. Working with colleagues around the world is a daily, or should I say, instantaneous action. In addition, rather than composing pages and pages of notes for an online text, we can allow our reader instant linking to any number of resources that expand or clarify our text. Actions that make these potentials real are almost too common to need elaboration. A bit less understood or well-used are computer games.
The value of computer games is emphasized by the Web site Social Impact Games. The goal of this site is to catalog the growing number of video and computer games whose primary purpose is something other than to entertain. These are also known as “serious games.” People who want to locate or create serious games can find them and can see what others have done on this site.

There are over five hundred serious games listed on this Web site. They are indexed under the keywords Education, Learning Games, Public Policy, Political, Social, Health, Wellness, Business, Military, Commercial, and Adventure.

One in line with much of this book is Media Blackout. This a 3-D video game in which the players face all of the ills of our current society—corporate interest, religious fundamentalism, and military might. It recognizes the media-compliant government propaganda, fed by the corporate agenda. The game highlights the march to folly controlled by the corporate greed and the military-industrial complex that seeks to dominate the minds of the people at the grass roots. Today’s media message is formed by a coalition of militaristic plutocrats, right-wing media moguls, and neofascist populists stridently attempting to maintain their dominance. Media Blackout creates an allegorical environment through new interactive technologies attempting to immerse both player and viewer in the true “psychological operations” of our time.

Other games show the transition from working hard to educating a new generation in old ways, to using what people enjoy, to helping them learn. Many games are two-faced: one is learning and the other is entertainment. One example of this is the Monkey Wrench Conspiracy. This game has two agenda. It’s game agenda put the player in the role of an intergalactic space agent trying to rescue the Copernicus space station from alien hijackers. Its learning agenda is to help advance engineers to think and design in three dimensions (3-D). That is the computer assisted design (CAD) of drawings in 3-D space rather than a series of two-dimensional drawings first to represent the 3-D final product. The CAD program can then take blueprint drawings directly off the computer. This eliminates hours of tedious drawing.

Beyond the world of video games is a world of virtual worlds. These are not programs in which players win, lose, compete, or play. They are more imaginary worlds in which you just live and participate just as as you live in the real world, but with more freedom. Perhaps the largest and most interesting is Second Life virtual activities made possible by Linden Lab. As they say, Second Life is a 3-D virtual world entirely created by its “residents.” Since opening to the public in 2003, it has grown explosively and today is inhabited by millions of residents from around the globe.

Residents buy land, build houses, organize communities, make laws, provide learning, play games, use computers, design computer games, and take any other action they wish. All this is done in an economic system based on Linden dollars (L$). These you can buy before you enter or you can earn them by selling or exchanging goods and services you make or buy in that virtual world or outside of it. Each resident creates his or her own virtual personhood or “avatar” or multiple avatars. You meet others in your Second Life and work with them just as you work with other people in your first life, creating whatever virtual products or organizations that you wish.
One Second Life game that is in line with the thinking of a Gaian paradigm is Exchanging Cultures. This is a diplomatic game built inside Second Life. It was created to facilitate the creation of virtual communities and relationships based on the exchange of cultural items like dances, art crafts, food receipts, architectural models, clothing, cultural routes, and images of real original places for travelers and explorers. Each player becomes a diplomat who must attempt to understand the cultures of the people with whom he or she is building relationships as well as share elements of his or her own culture.


This book is based on hard science to the best of my ability. I believe that the hard sciences provide the most certain path to reliable concepts about the universe and our place in it.

The search of scientific knowledge cannot only reveal new laws of nature but also can provide us the knowledge of ourselves and how we must live in order to survive in an inhabitable universe. The concept of Gaia (Earth and all of its life-forms including humanity) provides us with a new basis for living. As we explored in section I, the unity of Gaia, the knowledge that Gaia evolves as a unit and that we humans are parts of Gaia, all dependent on one another, is the foundation of this new social paradigm.

The path to the future we have laid out in the book is based on science. But it is not the only possible path to Gaian cultures. Nor is it even the primary motivation for social change. In chapter 6, we looked at some of the other sciences and commonsense foundations for a Gaian paradigm. The commonsense approach to a universe based on public service, cooperation, and knowledge, to some, may be a more spiritual worldview. These are also held by many in our culture. Many of these are from creation myths of Mother Earth, the sun, and other forces of nature. Still others are further beyond the pale of accepted science.
One of my personal contacts beyond the pale, as I see it, was with Wilhelm Reich and his concepts of orgon energy. Reich was a leading student of Freud in Austria during the 1920s. He broke from Freud over some disagreements on the place of sex in psychiatry. After working in Europe for a while, he migrated to the USA, established a successful psychiatric practice in New York City, and a summer later set up a research laboratory and library in Rangeley, Maine.

As a then college physics student who had grown up in Rangeley, I came to know Reich quite well. With him I looked through his microscope at dancing smoke particles that he interpreted as life motion in inorganic matter. I see it as the well-studied phenomena of Brownian motion caused by small invisible molecules of air striking the visible carbon particles. His other examples of orgon energy, such as the attraction of hair to a rubber comb, likewise had explanations well within the bounds of current classical physics.

I declined the offer to work at the Reich laboratory but read his books assiduously, with a red pen to underline misinterpretation of physics and a green pen to underline the genius he showed in the emotion being of people. One of the examples of the latter was in his Listen, Little Man, a condemnation of the public’s tendency to reject genius and new concepts in their midst. Another of his earliest contributions was body armoring, the tightening of muscles in the physical body resulting from mental stress. Body armoring has become the basis of many massage therapies for emotional stress, such as Reiki. They seldom give credit to Reich as their initiator.

 H O L O D Y N A M I C S
Orgonomy is far from the only science (or pseudoscience) that challenges mainstream science or scientists. The holodynamics of Dr. Vernon Woolf, for example, views reality as a coherent, dynamic, living, holographic information system intimately connected to the human consciousness. It is an extension of social scientist Woolf’s concept of a “quantum field” emerging from the “parallel dimensions of the space-time continuum.”

The cosmos, as Woolf sees it, is a holodyne. Each moment or point in space-time contains information on the whole. Human consciousness is composed of these holodynes and is self-oganized by each human to create a unique view of the world. Humans are capable of knowledge and practice, of reaching deeper into this holodynamic world and to gain understanding and powers too seldom used.

For Woolf, human consciousness is considered the prime condition of the holistic rivers within microtubules of every living cell of the human body and underlies all bodily functions including mental and social functions. As a person alines with these forces he/she has a rebirth of understanding and lives a different life. The society Woolf sees has much the same characteristics as the Gaian culture described in the book

No predictor of the future has led more enthusiastic followers of prediction than Michel de Nostredame (Nostradamus). His book of quatrains first published in 1555 was followed by annual almanacs until his death. Since then they have been interpreted and reinterpreted to predict everything from the Johnstown flood to WWIII. The vagueness and lack of specificity of his prophecies make them easy to falsely interpret. They are often applied after the fact and sometimes rewritten to make them appear more specific than they are. Their prediction of 9/11 is a good example of the widely circulated wild translations of one of his quatrains on the Internet. Today they have become the subject of many popular activities including the work of many rap artists. That some use them to predict the revelation of the Gaian paradigm is almost unsurprising.

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a French Catholic priest, was educated in paleontology and geology. In his primary book The Phenomenon of Man, he expanded on the work of Vladamir Vernadski. It abandoned Genesis as the origin of humans and suggested a third stage of cosmic evolution—the “physiosphere” and the “noosphere.”

The physiosphere is the collection of minerals that make up the cosmos. On Earth it has been expanded that the biosphere that makes up life. The noosphere is a third sphere of evolution—the product of the mind. It is the collection of all thoughts, ideas, memories, and concepts that human minds have produced. It is not unlike the concept of cosmic soul developed in chapter 5 of this book. Chardin predicts that the noosphere will go on autonomously evolving to “the omega point”—the unity of human thought with the mind of God. Some have predicted that this unity of mind and spirit will bring a new culture that they call “Gaia consciousness.”

The Mayan calendar was not handed down in history to Euro Americans from some ancient text. It was discovered in Mesoamerica in stone carvings on forgotten temples. The interpretation of these hieroglyphics has been a long and arduous study by many European and American scholars. Their research has revealed a complex of overlapping and repeating astronomical cycles. They are amazingly accurate in predicting the paths of the planets. The movements of the moon, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, and Jupiter are accurately determined, as are the times and paths of solar and lunar eclipses and other astronomical events.

Some cycles have been used to predict or plan coronations, wars, climatic catastrophes, and social transitions. The cycles of the Mayan calendar go far back to 500 BC and forward as far as one wants to take them. The cycles within cycles have many periods: 13, 260, 365, 584, and 819 days and 52 and 54 years. The overlapping of the starting and ending of various cycles prophesy memorial and divine days. Currently being watched is a convergence happening on December 21, 2012. Some advocates predict a cataclysmic happening for that date. Others predict that that prediction is incorrect, as was the 9/11 prediction. Still others predict that that will be a day of enlightenment and the expansion of a new consciousness that will put society on a Gaian path.

In the chapter on the food system, we pointed out the contributions of Rudolph Steiner to the horticulture and the food system. This contribution was a result of his unique philosophy, not the new sciences that are the basis of this book. His ideas have been extended and explored by others. One of these is the book Gaiasophy by Kees Zoeteman.

Zoeteman points out that the world, as we know it, is revealed to us by our five physical senses. They reveal only the physical world. These observations are further refined by reason and logic to form scientific models of the physical world.

Gaiasophy accepts the revelations of science from the big bang through Galileo’s heliocentric theory, Newton’s gravitational theory, the theory of evolution, and the findings of chaos, complexity, and Gaia theories. “But,” it questions, “is that all?”

Its conclusion is that for at least the last six thousand years, humans have built a wall around their understanding of this physical world. The physical world has shut out the evolution of nonphysical worlds. Zoeteman suggests that early cosmic evolution, as known by early humans, had nonphysical aspects that are no longer a major part of our worldviews.

Along with and before the physical world as we accept it are other world characteristics that have come through their own evolution. The physical world, the ethereal world, the astral world, and the spiritual self, are enfolded in one another. These characteristics were recognized by early humans. They are found in early myths, in the Mayan and other languages, in ancient temples, in ceremonies such as the Pueblo dances, in the “dream world” still lived by Australian aborigines, and the lifestyles of other cultures. They are invisible to the physical world but inherent in it. Together they compose what proponents call the spiritual world and can be witnessed through spiritual science.

The first layer above the physical world, the ethereal world, is reminiscent of Plato’s Doctrine of Ideas. Ideas to Plato were the forms, purposes, functions, and governance that exist before the physical object exists. The idea is not produced in the physical world. Not two trees, wheels, or humans are exactly alike; they exist only as ideas in the ethereal plane. In today’s scientific world, biologist Rupert Sheldrake has postulated the existence of morphogenetic fields. These fields, said Sheldrake, are initiated by a chance thought or action and built up by parallel inventions or repetitions. As more minds repeat the initial invention, the fields become stronger and a new addition to it becomes easier. This ethereal world is what gives form to the physical world although it is seldom seen or recognized from the physical world.

The third level, the astral world, is the forces of the cosmos that give meaning and drive to the two lower levels through the ethereal world to the physical world.

From this spiritual base, many gaiasophists write a new spiritual evolution theory based on the long history of esoteric myths, stories, and phenomena. They see Greek mythology, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Nostradamus, the lost city of Atlantis, astrology, the Bible, and many creation myths as memories of times before written history, times when physical man still held the shapes and powers of astral and ethereal man. They see Buddhism, Taoism, yoga, revelations, astrology, UFOlogy, contemplation meditation, and other beliefs, skills, and practices are still reaching into a spiritual reality.

They see a future in which a living Earth will be recognized as the only reality and humanity will be recognized as but a reflection of that reality.

We could not, no matter how long we make this book, explore all of the reasons that we are facing a radically different future. There is a deep human desire, if not a crying need, for humans to create a different world. The continued existence of humanity may depend on it. Our goal in this book is to explore one possible path to a sustainable future. We do not hold that science reveals that only path nor event the best path.

In this book, we have tried to open minds to one very likely path. One based in harmony with the sciences of today. We do not hold that science is the only foundation on which a new path can be based. We do hold that science does create the more reliable model of the truth. It makes possible predictions of the orbits of the planets, for the construction of computers, for bettering health, for feeding the world, for communicating around the Earth, and for dealing with humans at home and abroad. Perhaps most importantly, science provides the vision of the cosmos and the place of humans in it that has been most productive and is shared by most rational beings.

Regardless of which path or paths convince humans that a constructive, positive, and equitable new worldview is needed, as are actions to create it, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Doing something to make the world a better place for humanity does not require any particular view of the future or even any view of the future. It requires small local social innovations in which people respect, love, and aid their neighbors. Many such innovations are happening now. If multiplied and expanded, science tells us that they will spontaneously self-organize into the world toward which many paths are leading. We list a few in the final appendix.


This book is not a technical article and does not contain pages and pages of notes and bibliography. It does not attempt to prove that I am right nor does it even claim originality in any of the ideas. Its goal is to suggest a different road for critical thinkers. Where you think a note is needed, plug the questionable name or phrase into a Google search and look in the Wikipedia or other leads given. That is where most of the data came from for this book, if not out of my memory.

Many of the people and resources I used are mentioned in the text. A few may need mention here.

The wording for dominator paradigm was suggested by Riane Eisler in The Chalice and the Blade where she used it to explore a gender-based dichotomy between dominator (male) and partnership (female). I used it to explore a dichotomy between corporate culture and nature. Fritjof Capra has used terms like “Gaian paradigm,” which contributed to many of my concepts. Many online readers have pointed out errors and made comments too many to mention. But a niece-in-law read every page and corrected at least three errors in every paragraph. Sue Morris, a Vermont communalist, also made many useful suggestions. A close friend, Molly Bishop, successfully challenged some of my wordings on religions. My wife, Margaret, who shared most of the experiences with me, was the co-author of some articles that we published elsewhere, and was a critic of it all. And my four children and five grandchildren put up with me sitting at the computer instead of skiing, climbing, playing monopoly, or watching movies in many evenings.

If I were to add notes to this text, I would concentrate on DOING SOMETHING, not reading more. I have no criticism of reading. I do it all of the time. It is my favorite pastime, particularly since it’s not up to skiing anymore. But as someone said, about 80 percent of what you read, especially on the Internet, is criticism and diatribe against the government and the status quo. About 18 percent are Utopian dreams, like this book, about how the world should be. Only about 2 percent or less are taking actions to make the world better. I like to believe that this book will increase the 2 percent who are doing something. Toward that listed end are some of the existing social innovations and a few of the social entrepreneurs who are creating some of the cells that might just spontaneously self-organize into the Utopian Gaian future for which we all dream.

1. Mutual Credit—Tom Greco
2. Local Scripts—Paul Glover
3. LETS—Michael Linton
4. Time Dollars—Edgar Cahn
5. Credit Unions—Bill Sterner
6. Local Currency—Lewis Solomon
7. Community Loan Funds—Rebecca Dunn
8. Peer Lending—Mary Coyle
9. Reciprocity—Dominique Temple
10. Democratic Management—Len Krimmerman
11. Worker Ownership—Carol di Marcello
12. Collectives—
13. Alternative Trade Organizations—Jim Goetsch
14. Rodale Cooperatives—Joe David Wetly
15. Food Co-op Storefronts—George Keller
16. Food Co-op Buying Clubs—Peg Pritchert
17. Co-op Warehouses—Dave Gutknecht
18. Community-Supported Agriculture—
19. Permaculture—Dan Hemenway
20. Community Land Trusts—Julie Orvis
21. Intentional Communities—Laird Schaub
22. Co-Housing—Ken Norwood
23. Ecovillages—Lois Arkin
24. Homesteading—
25. Education Alternatives—Jerry Mintz
26. Homeschooling—Pat Farenga
27. Community Learning Centers—Francesca Louria
28. Frugality—Vicki Robins
29. Health Communities—Tyler Norris
30. Community Health Systems—Bruce Amundson and Karen Johnson
31. Community Gardens—Phil Green
32. Farmers Markets—Center for Rural Pennsylvania
33. Community BBSs—Ken Komshi
34. Community Patrols—Rita Marth
35. FreeCycle—
36. Straw Bale Houses—


This book is not meant to be an academic study, a promotion, a prediction, a criticism, or a plan. It is meant to suggest that the current worldview and social paradigm is not fixed and concrete. It is a creation of humans and it can be changed by humans. It is the scattered thoughts of one person. It is an attempt to think outside the box and to challenge others to do the same.

The ideas, practices, and speculations have been gathered from innumerable sources over a lifetime of ninety years, but there is little original in the book. Thousands and thousands of creative social concepts are floating round our globe. This book is a collection of only a few of them. It is a result of many resources. The chaotic collection had one author and was composed as a chaotic jumble. Many critics read parts and parcels and suggested changes. A few read the whole treatise. Pat Farenga, a colleague of the late homeschool guru John Holt, read and made suggestions on the whole text, particularly section III on the way to the future, and the organizer of an intentional community redrafted an early version. Others like those mentioned in chapters 6, Other Paths, and chapter 15, People, as well as throughout the text had a deeper and more profound affect in creating a Gaian paradigm.

The final text was edited in spite of my dyslexic errors, poor spelling, and misuse of words by Gayla Ellis, a niece-in-law, to make it all readable. Gayla examined every line and word I wrote many times, suggesting input often. She refused to be listed co-author so any errors or outlandish suggestions aI still must accept.

It would be impossible to thank them all or to even give just adequate credit to the real authors. It would be impossible to give adequate credit to Gayla, to other readers, and the real authors. Instead I will list by chapters the resources used in drafting this text.

Below is a by-chapter listing or my major resources.
Chapter 1
Bak, Per. 1996. How nature works: The science of self-organized criticality. Springer Verlag.
Eisler, Riane. 1987. The chalice and the blade. HarperCollins.
Gell-Mann, Murray. 1994. The quark and the jaguar. Freeman.
Golding, William. 1968. Lord of the flies. Perigee.
Gleick, James. 1986. Chaos. Penguin.
Kauffman, Stuart. 1995. At home in the universe. Oxford University Press.
Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1936. The great chain of being. The president and board of Harvard.
Lovelock, James. 1982. Gaia: A new look at life on earth. Oxford University Press.
Smolin, Lee. 1997. The life of the cosmos. Oxford University Press.
Waldrop, M. Mitchell. 1992. Complexity: The emerging science at the edge of order. Simon & Schuster.

Chapter 2
Briggs, John, and David Peat. 1989. Turbulent mirror. Harper & Row, 178.
Gould, Stephen Jay. 2002. The structure of evolutionary theory. The president and fellows of Harvard College.

Ellis, William N. 1982. “Transnational networks and world order.” Transnational Perspectives 2, no. 4.
———. “Transnational networks and world order.” Transnational Perspective 8, no. 4:9.

Chapter 3
Drucker, Peter. 1993. Post-Capitalist Society. Harper Collins.
Gatto, John Taylor. 2005. Dumbing us down. New Society Publishers.
Mintz, Jerry, ed. 1994. Handbook of alternative education. Macmillan.

Chapter 4
Bateson, Gregory. 1972. Steps to an ecology of mind. Balantine.
Descartes, René. 1637. Discourse on method.
Descartes, René. 1912. Every man’s book.
Dr. Thomas I. Ellis, associate professor of English at Tidewater Community.
Leduc, Lautent. 1993. Intellectual conversion and the Gaia hypothesis. Toronto: Michael College.
Lonergan, Bernard. 1957. A study of human understanding. New York: Longmans.
Schumacher, E. F. 1996. Guide to the perplexed. Harper & Row.
———. 1973. Small is beautiful. Harper & Row.
Swimme, Brian and Thomas Berry. 1994. The universe story. Arkana.
Wells, H. G. 1897. “The war of the worlds.” Serialized in Pearson’s Magazine.

Chapter 5
The ideas and words of chapter 5 emerged in a letter the author wrote to his grandchildren on his eighty-fifth birthday.

Chapter 6

Clark, Prof. Mary. 2002. The search for human nature. Routledge.
Dawkins, Richard. 2004. The ancestor’s tale. Houghton Mifflin.
Fox, Matthew. 1983. Original blessings: A primer in creation spirituality. Bear & Company.
Humaines, Valeurs. 1995. Editions L’Harmattan. 5-rue de L’école Polytechnique, F-75005 Paris, France.

Illich, Ivan. 1971. Deschooling society. Marion Boyers.
Kohn, Alfie. 1986. No Contest: The case against competition. Houghton Mifflin.
Sussman, Robert, and Donna Hart. 2005. Man the hunted. Westview Press.
Sperry, Roger. 1979. Bridging science and values. Unity of Science, UN.
Temple, Dominique, and Mireille Chapal. La Réciprocité et La Naissancedes.

Chapter 7B: Peace
Mead, Margaret. Coming of age. Samoa Perennial Books.
———. 1930. Growing up in New Guinea. Pelican.

Chapter 9

Nace, Ted. 2003. The gangs of America. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Chapter 10

Cahn, Edgar S., with Jonathan Rowe. 1992. Time dollars. Rodale Press.
Yunus, Muhamad. 1998. Banking to the poor. London: Aurum Press.

Chapter 11
Carson, Rachel. 1962. Silent spring. Houghton Mifflin.
Kimbrel, Andrew, ed. 2002. The fatal harvest reader. Island Press.
Rodale’s illustrated encyclopedia of organic gardening. 2005. Henry Doubleday Research Association.
Steiner, Rudolph. 1924. Biodynamic agriculture lectures.
Tudge, Colin. 2007. Feeding People is Easy. Pari Publishing.
Wendell Berry, Woes Jackson, Helen Norberg Hodge, David Ernfield, Gerry Mander, and other members of the Foundation for Deep Ecology explore how the current industrial agricultural system has created hunger and why a radically different system is necessary to solve the food problems.

Chapter 12
Gaskin, Steve. 1974. Book Publishing Company.
Gaskin has published, and is still publishing, a long series of books on the the hippy culture, drugs, the vegan diet, home birth, the Farm’s third world projects, ecovillages, his lectures, travels, the future, and his thoughts. They have mostly been published by the Book Publishing Company and the Farm’s own publishing house. It publishes a wide range of tracts and books on the hippy life—“life as it should be.”

Hill, R., and R. Dunbar. 2002. “Social Network Size in Humans.” Human nature.
Kincade, Kat. 1973. A Walden two experiment.
———. 1994. Is it Utopia yet?. Twin Oaks Publishing.
———. The first five years of Twin Oaks community. Quill.
McCamant, Kathryn, and Charles Durret. 2004. Cohousing. Ten Speed Press.
Rexroth, Ken. 1974. Communalism. Seabury Press.

Chapter 14
Huxley, Thomas Henry. 1868. “On a Piece of Chalk.” Macmillan Magazine, collected essays VIII.
John, Bishop, and Shelby Sponge. 2001 Why Christianity must change or die. Cahners Business.

Chapter 15
1992. Alternative America. Resources.
Capra, Fritjof. 1975. The tao of physics.
———. 1982. The turning point: Science, society, and the rising culture.
———. 1997. The web of life.
———. 2002. The hidden connections: A science for sustainable living.
———. 2007. The science of Leonardo.
———with David Steindl-Rast and Thomas Matus. 1991. Belonging to the universe.
Darrow, Ken, and Mike Saxenian. 1986. Appropriate technology sourcebook. Volunteers in Asia
(now available online and in DVD at

McRobie, George. 1981. Small is possible. Harper & Row.
Meadows, Donella H., Dennis L. Meadows, and Jorgen Randers. 1972. Limits to growth. Club of Rome.

Nearing, Helen. Loving and leaving the good life.
Nearing, Scott, and Helen Nearing. Living the good Life.
———. Wise words for the good life.
Todd, John, and Nancy Todd. 1980. The village as solar ecology.
———. 1984. Bioshelters, oceans arks, city farming.
———. 1984. City farming: Ecology as the basis of design.
———. 1994. From eco-cities to living machines.
———. 1981. Reinhabiting cities and towns: Designing for sustainability.
———. 1980. Tomorrow is our permanent address.

Chapter 16
Daman, Eric. 1979. The future in our hands. Pergamon Press.
Ellul, Jacques. 1954. The technological society. Vintage Books.
Ferguson, Marilyn. 1980. The Aquarian conspiracy. J. P. Tarcher.
James Robertson. 1978. The sane alternative. River Basin Publications.
———. Beyond the dependency culture.
———. Creating new money.
———. Future wealth.
———. Future work.
———. The history of money.
———. Monetary reform: making it happen.
———. New economics of sustainable development.
———. “Sharing the Value of Common Resources.”
Most of Robertson’s books are available for free download at

Lagos, Gustavo. 1977. The revolution of being. New York Free Press.

Chapter 17
Jain, Manish. 2006. Teaching social studies in schools. Cyber Tech Publications.
———with Manjula Jain. 2000. Women! Be rebellious. C&C School of Leadership.
———. 2008. “Being the change: In Gandhi’s footsteps.” Yes! Winter.

Chapter 18
Russell, Stuart, and Peter Norvig. 1995. Artificial intelligence: A modern approach. Prentice Hall.

Snider, Denton Jacques. 2007. The life of Frederick Froebel: Founder of the kindergarten. Sigma Publishing Co.

Chapter 19
Freire, Paulo. 1968. Pedagogy of the oppressed. Continuum Press.
Purdy, Jedediah S. 1999. For common things: Irony, trust, and commitment.
———. 2003. Being America: Liberty, commerce, and violence.
———. 2004. Democratic vistas: Reflections on the life of.

Chapter 20
Cameron, Brent. 2006. SelfDesign. Sentient Publications.
Eisler, Riane. 1987. The chalice and the blade. HarperCollins.

———with David Loye. 1990. The center for partnership studies. HarperCollins

Chapter 21
 Gilbert, Adrian, and Maurice Cotterell. 1995. The Mayan prophecies. Element Books Inc.
Reich, Wilhelm. The function of the orgasm: Discovery of the orgon.
———. 1943. The Wilhelm Reich infant trust.
———. 1945. The sexual revolution.
———. 1980. Character analysis.
Vernon, Victor. Woolf holodynamics: How to develop and manage your personal power.
Paperback by (Author)
Zoeteman, Kees. 1991. Gaiasophy. Lindisfarne Press.



Abradi, Ryan, 119
Action Aid, 103
acupuncture, 81
Adams, Abigail, 119
Adams, Samuel, 62
adaptive flexibility, 24, 28
Aerogramme, 17
AI (artificial intelligence), 55, 114
Airuda, Oberto, 78
Alexander, Gary, 70
eGaia: Growing a Peaceful, Sustainable Earth through Communications, 70
Alternative America, 93
Alternative Education Resource Organization. See AREO (Alternative Education Resource Organization)
alternative trade organizations, 133
American Empire, The (Nearing), 97
American Philosophical Society, 62
American revolution, 53, 57
amoeba, 39
Amundson, Bruce, 133
Ancestor’s Tale, The (Dawkins), 39
anthroposophical medicine, 68
appropriate technology. See AT (appropriate technology)
Appropriate Technology Sourcebook (Darrow and Saxenian), 74, 93
Aquarian Conspiracy, The (Ferguson), 99
AREO (Alternative Education Resource Organization), 17
Aristotle, 21
Arizmendiarrieta, Jose Maria, 60
Arkin, Lois, 133
Arrow, Kenneth, 7
Arthur, Brian, 7
artificial intelligence. See AI (artificial intelligence)
ASFS (Association for the Study of Food and Society), 71
Ashby, Ross, 38
Association for the Study of Food and Society. See ASFS (Association for the Study of Food and Society)
astral world, 130
astrology, 130
AT (appropriate technology), 59, 73–74, 92–95, 143
atheists, new, 89
Atlantis, 130
“Atmospheric Homeostasis By and For the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis” (Lovelock and Margulis), 6
Augustine, Saint, 21
autocatalysis, 7, 12
autonomy, 31
ayurvedic medicine, 81


Bacon, Francis, 22
Bak, Per, 6
How Nature Works, 6
Bates, Albert, 74
Bateson, Gregory, 20, 24
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, 24
being, 26–27
belonging, 19, 29
Benedict, Ruth, 44
Berry, Thomas, 23
billiard ball world, 30
biodynamic agriculture, 68
biodynamics, 68
Bioneers, 90
Bishop, Molly, 132
Blessed Unrest (Hawken), 90–91
Blue House, 76
Boas, Franz, 44
body armoring, 128
Bohm, David, 99
Wholeness and the Implicate Order, 99
bonding, 30–31
Boston Tea Party, 13, 53, 57
Boulding, Elise, 19, 117
Building Global Civic Culture, 117
“Imagine a World Without Weapons,” 19
brain research, 107
Brazil Neighborhood Food Program, 71
Bread for the World, 71
Bread Riots, 13
Briggs, John, 9
Turbulent Mirror, 9
Brownian motion, 127
Buddhism, 130
Building Global Civic Culture (Boulding), 117
Burke, Edmond, 13
Bush, George, 16


CAA Labial-Euskadiko Chute, 61
CAA Labial Popular, 61
CAD (computer assisted design), 125
Cahn, Edgar, 133
Calvert, 57, 59
Calvin, Jean, 20
Institutes, 20
Cameron, Brent, 123
Campbell, Donald, 38
Capra, Fritjof, 132
Carson, Rachel, 68, 92, 99
Silent Spring, 68
causation, downward, 30, 36–41
CCF (Cooperative Capital Fund), 63
CCL-LLCs (Cooperative Community Lifelong Learning Centers), 16
eukaryotic, 41
prokaryotic, 41
Center for Partnership Studies, 122–23
Center for Rural Pennsylvania, 133
CFNE (Cooperative Fund of New England), 63
Chalice and the Blade, The (Eisler), 122, 132
Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, The (Honacki), 35
chaos, science of, 9
chaos and complexity, 6, 8–10, 14–15, 24–25, 83, 90, 130
Christiania, 76–77
Christianites, 76–77
citizen participation, 11–12
Clark, Mary, 30
In Search of Human Nature, 30
Clinton, Bill, 50
clockwork concept, 5
Clonal School Home-Based Education Center, 17
CLT (community land trusts), 12, 133
Club of Rome, 93, 99
CoHousing, 75, 133 [hanged to “choossinb” by Xlibris indeer]
CoHousing (McCamant and Durrett), 75
Columbus, Christopher, 10
Coming of Age in Samoa (Mead), 45
Communalism (Rexroth), 72
communal living, 85, 90
gardens, 133
health systems, 133
patrols, 133
solidarity, 11
community BBSs, 133
community land trusts. See CLT (community land trusts)
community learning centers, 133
community-supported agriculture. See CSA (community-supported agriculture)
competition, 32
complexity theory, 14
Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars (Goodman), 17
computer assisted design. See CAD (computer assisted design)
Consciousness Revolution (Sperry), 38
conspiriatio, 35
consumerism, 32
Consumers’ Association of Penang, 99
How School Affect Your Kids, 107
contemplation meditation, 130
cooperation, 106
Cooperative Capital Fund of New England. See CCF (Cooperative Capital Fund)
Cooperative Community Lifelong Learning Centers. See CCL-LLCs (Cooperative Community Lifelong Learning Centers)
Cooperative Fund of New England. See CFNE (Cooperative Fund of New England)
Cooperative Housing Association Law, 75
cooperative society, 106
co-op warehouses, 133
Copernicus, 86–88, 90, 125
corporate power, 14, 52–53
cosmic soul, 27–28, 129
cosmocracy, 113
Coyle, Mary, 133
credit unions, 61, 63–64, 133
criticality, self-organizing, 6–7, 9, 12
CSA (community-supported agriculture), 12, 69
Cuban Neighborhood Health program, 71
“Cultivation of Conspiracy, The” (Illich), 35
culture, 42
cyberspace, 8
cyber thinking, 124


Damanhur, 78
Damanhurians, 78
Dammann, Eric, 99
Future in our Hands, The, 99
Darrow, Ken, 74, 93
Appropriate Technology Sourcebook, 74
Darwin, Charles, 5–7, 41–42, 86–90
Darwinian theory, 86
Davies, Paul, 39
Dawkins, Richard, 39
Ancestor’s Tale, The, 39
de Chardin, Pierre Teilhard, 27, 128
Phenomenon of Man, The, 128
Declaration of Independence, 53, 62
democracy, 4, 105, 112–13
direct democracy, 4, 13, 112–13
first phase, 12–14, 105, 112, 115
participatory democracy, 10–11, 13, 113
second phase, 14–15
democratic governance, 12
democratic management, 133
de Nostredame, Michel (Nostradamus), 128
Descartes, René, 22, 26, 48
Deschooling Society (Illich), 17, 30, 34–35, 105, 121
Dewey, John, 16
dharmocracy, 111, 113
Dickens, Charles, 60
di Marcello, Carol, 133
Doctrine of Ideas (Plato), 130
Dollar Diplomacy: A Study in American Imperialism (Nearing), 97
dominator paradigm, 5, 18–19, 43, 48–52, 60, 86–91, 108, 111–12, 121, 132
Dommini, 57
Drucker, Peter, 19, 117
Post-Capitalist Society, 19
dualism, 22
Dumbing Us Down (Gatto), 16
Dunn, Rececca, 133
Durant, Will, 142
History of Philosophy, A, 142
Durrett, Charles, 75
Cohousing, 75
Dyson, Freeman, 25
Imagined Worlds, 25


Earth, 4
East India Company, 52–53
e-Bay, 59
Eco-design Collaborative, 96
Eco-development Centre, 99
Ecological Design Institute. See EDI (Ecological Design Institute)
ecological footprint, 77, 93
ecology, 24, 38, 43
economic and social transitions, 6
ecovillage, 77–78, 133
EDI (Ecological Design Institute), 96
Edison, Thomas, 119
Educating for a Culture of Peace (Eisler), 122
education, 16–19, 25–32, 43, 61, 68, 91, 94–96, 108–9, 113–14, 117–19, 121–22, 133
education alternatives, 133
eGaia: Growing a Peaceful, Sustainable Earth through Communications (Alexander), 70
Einstein, Albert, 104, 107, 119, 142
Evolution of Physics, The, 142
Eisler, Riane, 122, 132
Chalice and the Blade, The, 122
Educating for a Culture of Peace, 122
Real Wealth of Nations, The, 122
Tomorrow’s Children, 122
Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 18
Ellis, Margaret
“Non-Western Cultures and the Future,” 44
Ellis, Thomas I., 24
Ellis, William
“Non-Western Cultures and the Future,” 44
Ellul, Jacques, 99
Technological Society, The, 99
emergence, 30, 36–37, 39
orgon energy, 127
solar energy, 48, 50
“Energy Strategies: The Path Not Taken” (Lovins), 49
equilibrium, punctuated, 6
eukaryotes, 40
eurythmy, 68
biological, 14
cosmic, 14
Darwin’s theory of, 5
punctuated, 9
theory of, 5, 41–42, 130
Evolution of Physics, The (Einstein and Infeld), 142
Evolve, 124
Exchanging Cultures, 126
Experiment in International Living, 103


FAA (Food and Agriculture Association), 71
Fagor Electrodomésticos, 61
Farallones Institute Rural Development Center, 96
Farenga, Pat, 133–34
Farm, 72
Farmers’ Markets, 133
Federation of Intentional Communities. See FICA (Federation of Intentional Communities)
Feeding People Is Easy (Tudge), 67, 70
Ferguson, Marilyn, 99
Aquarian Conspiracy, The, 99
FICA (Federation of Intentional Communities), 74
First Continental Congress, 62
flexibility, 14
folk schools, 17
Food and Agriculture Association. See FAA (Food and Agriculture Association)
food co-op buying clubs, 133
food co-op storefronts, 133
food system, 43, 65–71, 129
growing food, 43
Fox, Matthew, 33
Spirituality Named Compassion, A, 30, 33
Franklin, Benjamin, 13, 62, 107, 119
FreeCycle, 133
Freetown Christiania. See Christiania
free will, 37–38, 114
Freire, Paulo, 118
Pedagogy of the Oppressed, 118
Fristaden. See Christiania
Froebel, Friedrich, 114
Froebelian Revolution, 114
frugality, 133
Fthenakis, Vasilis, 50
“Positive Future, A,” 50
Fuller, Buckminster, 20, 95, 114
Future in our Hands, The (Dammann), 99


Gaia, 4, 112
GAIA (Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance) International, 24
Gaian creed, 28
Gaian energy, 48
Gaian habitat, 72
Gaian paradigm, 5–20, 24–30, 36, 40–44, 87–92, 112, 112–34
Gaian theory, 6, 20, 24, 36, 41, 43, 68, 90, 130
Gaiasophy (Zoeteman), 129–30
Galileo, Galilee, 22–23, 42, 86, 88, 90, 130
Gandhi, Mahatma, 12, 99, 121
Gandhi Peace Foundation, 99
Gangs of America (Nace), 55
Gaskin, Steve, 72
Gatto, John Taylor, 16
Dumbing Us Down, 16
Gell-Mann, Murray, 7
Quark and the Jaguar, The, 7
Gimbutas, Marija, 122
Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance. See GAIA (Global Awareness Interdisciplinary Alliance) International
Glover, Paul, 132
God, 23–24
Goetsch, Jim, 133
Golding, William, 6
Lord of the Flies, 6
Good Life Center, 98
Goodman, Paul, 17
Compulsory Mis-Education and the Community of Scholars, 17
Gould, Stephen Jay, 6
punctuated equilibrium, 6
Grameen Bank, 11, 57, 58
grassroots organizations (Gross), 10
Grassroots Support Organizations (GSOs), 11
gravitation, theory of, 86
gravitational theory, 130
Great Madness: A Victory for the American Plutocracy, The (Nearing), 97
Greek mythology, 130
Green, Phil, 133
Green Revolution, 66
GROs (GrassRoots Organizations)
Growing Up in New Guinea (Mead), 45
Growing Without Schooling (Holt), 17
[ STRIKE: Grumman Bank, 11, 58 THIS WORD SHOULD BE "GRAMEE BANK" here and in thw text]
Guide for the Perplexed (Schumacher), 20
Gutknecht, Dave, 133


Habitat, 143
Hair, 20
Handbook of Alternative Education, The (Mintz), 17
Hart, Donna, 30–31
Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, 31
Hawken, Paul, 50, 90
Blessed Unrest, 90–91
health, 79–80
health communities, 133
Heifer Project, 71
heliocentric theory, 42, 130
Hemenway, Dan, 133
History of Philosophy, A (Durant), 142
holistic medicine, 81
Holland, John, 7
holocaust, 23, 46
holodynamics, 128
holodyne, 128
Holt, John, 17, 118, 134
Growing Without Schooling, 17
Instead of Education, 17
Home Education Press, 17
homeopathy, 81
homeschooling, 9, 12, 17, 35–36, 87–88, 91, 107, 117, 120–21, 133
Home School Legal Defense Association. See HSLDA (Home School legal Defense Association)
homesteading, 12, 87–88, 91, 133
Honacki, Lee, 35
The Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, 35
[ STRIKE:Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, The, 35}
HOPE Co-op Online Academy, 124
horticulture, 66, 68
How Nature Works (Bak), 6
How School Affect Your Kids (Consumers’ Association of Penang), 107
HSLDA (Home School legal Defense Association), 17
Hubbard, Barbara Marx, 124
Hudson Bay Charter, 53
hunger, world, 66
Huxley, Thomas Henry, 89
Piece of Chalk, A, 89
hypercar, 50
hypnotherapy, 81


ideosphere, 27
IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Movement), 69–70
Illich, Ivan, 17, 30, 33–36, 69–70, 105–6, 118
Cultivation of Conspiracy, The, 35
Deschooling Society, 17, 30, 34–35, 105, 121
Medical Nemesis, 35
Shadow Work, 34
Tools for Conviviality, 34
Imagined Worlds (Dyson), 25
IMAT (International Mechanism for Appropriate Technology), 143
Indian Rebellion, 52
Indra’s net, 30
Infeld, Leopold, 142
Evolution of Physics, The, 142
information theory, 38
[“ingots”not in text. should be INGROd (International GrassRoots Organizations)
Inquisition, 5
[ STRIKE; In Search of Human Nature, 30]
In Search of Human Nature (Clark), 30
Instead of Education (Holt), 17
Institute for Creation Centered Spirituality, 33
Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology. See ITEST (Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology)
Institutes (Calvin), 20
Integral Urban House, 96
intentional communities, 11, 72, 75, 77–78, 87–88, 91, 133–34
intermediate technology. See IT (intermediate technology)
Intermediate Technology Development Group. See ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group)
International Communities Exchange, 103
International Federation of Organic Movement. See IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Movement)
International Mechanism for Appropriate Technology. See IMAT (International Mechanism for Appropriate Technology)
international non-governmental organizations. See Ingots (international nongovernmental organizations)
Iroquois Nation, 13
IT (intermediate technology), 92, 142
ITDG (Intermediate Technology Development Group), 92
ITEST (Institute for Theological Encounter with Science and Technology), 23
Ithaca Hours, 11


Jain, Manish, 105, 107, 121
Janik, Dan, 124
Unlock the Genius Within, 124
Jefferson, Thomas, 13
Jesus Christ Superstar, 20
John Paul II (pope), 23
Johnson, Karen, 133
Jung, Carl, 27


Kauffman, Stuart, 7
Keep Your Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America (Mead), 45
Keller, Helen, 119
Kennedy, John F., 50
knowledge, 86
Kohn, Alfie, 30, 32, 106
No Contest: The Case Against Competition, 30, 32, 106
Komshi, Ken, 133
Krimmerman, Len, 133
Krishnamurti, 97
Krishnamurti (Jiddu), 97


Laddie Livingston of VISION, 124
Lagos, Gustavo, 100
“Revolution of Being, The,” 100
learning, 19, 107, 111
cyber learning, 124
lifelong learning, 106, 109, 117
participatory learning, 113
Leduc, Laurent, 23
Lehman, Gene, 18
LETS (local exchange and trading systems), 11, 63, 132
Library Company, 62
Life of the Cosmos, The (Smolin), 7
Limits to Growth (Meadows, Meadows, and Randers), 93, 99
Lincoln, Abraham, 54, 119
Linden dollars, 125
Linden Lab, 125
Linton, Michael, 132
Listen, Little Man (Reich), 127
Living the Good Life (Nearing), 97
Living the Potential Network Inc., 124
local currency, 133
local exchange trading systems. See LETS (local exchange and trading systems)
Local Scripts, 11, 64, 132
Lonergan SJ, Bernard, 23
Lord of the Flies (Golding), 6
Louria, Francesca, 133
Lovelock, James, 6
“Atmospheric Homeostasis By and For the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis,” 6
Loving and Leaving the Good Life (Nearing), 97
Lovins, Amory, 49
“Energy Strategies: The Path Not Taken,” 49
Luther, Martin, 20
Ninety-Five Theses, 20


Man the Hunted: Primate, Predators, and Human Evolution (Hart and Sussman), 30–31
Man to the Moon Program, 50
Maple Sugar Book, The (Nearing), 97
Margulis, Lynn, 6, 41
“Atmospheric Homeostasis By and For the Biosphere: The Gaia Hypothesis,” 6
Marth, Rita, 133
Mason, James, 50
“Positive Future, A,” 50
Massachusetts Company, 53
Mayan calendar, 129
MCC (Mondragón Cooperative Corporation), 60–61
McCain, John, 83
McCamant, Kathryn, 75
Cohousing, 75
McNamara, Robert, 73
McRobie, George, 50, 92
Small Is Possible, 50
Mead, Margaret, 20, 44–45, 119
Coming of Age in Samoa, 45
Growing Up in New Guinea, 45
Keep You Powder Dry: An Anthropologist Looks at America, 45
Meadows, Dennis L., 93
Limits to Growth, 93
Meadows, Donella H., 93
Limits to Growth, 93
meaning, 31
Media Blackout, 125
Medical Nemesis (Illich), 35
Megatrends (Naisbitt), 8
Meighan, Roland, 107, 115
microfinance, 59
MicroPlace, 59
mind/body control, 81
Mintz, Jerry, 17, 133
Handbook of Alternative Education, The, 17
National Directory of Alternative Schools, 17
Mitcham, Carl, 35
The Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, 35
Challenges of Ivan Illich: A Collective Reflection, The, 35
Mondragón Cooperative Corporation. See MCC (Mondragón Cooperative Corporation)
Mondragón network, 11
Mondragón University, 61
Morgan, J. P., 54
Morris, Sue, 132
Movement, the, 91
mutual aid, 11, 15, 32, 59–60, 62–63, 78–80, 118
mutual credit, 132


Nace, Ted, 55
Gangs of America, 55
Naisbitt, John, 8
Megatrends, 8
NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration), 6
National Directory of Alternative Schools (Mintz), 17
National Science Foundation, 108, 142
natural capitalism, 50
Natural Capitalism Solutions. See NCS (Natural Capitalism Solutions)
naturopathy, 81
NCS (Natural Capitalism Solutions), 50
Nearing, Helen, 96
Living the Good Life, 97
Loving and Leaving the Good Life, 97
Maple Sugar Book, The, 97
Simple Food for the Good Life, 97
Wise Words for the Good Life, 97
Nearing, Scott, 96–98
American Empire, The, 97
Dollar Diplomacy: A Study in American Imperialism, 97
Great Madness: A Victory for the American Plutocracy, The, 97
Living the Good Life, 97
Maple Sugar Book, The, 97
Next Step: A Plan for Economic World Federation, The, 97
Poverty and Riches: A Study of the Industrial Regime, 97
Simple Food for the Good Life, 97
Study of State and Federal Wage, A, 97
Wages in the United States, 97
Wise Words for the Good Life, 97
need, 85
networking, 8, 12
transnational networking, 8
Neurobiological Learning Society, 124
New Alchemy Institute, 95
New America Foundation, 59
New Christianity of Bishop Spong, 87, 89
New Earth, 96
New Paradigm for Financial Markets, The, 70
Newton, Isaac, 5, 42, 86–88, 90, 130
Next Step: A Plan for Economic World Federation, The (Nearing), 97
Ninety-Five Theses (Luther), 20
No Child Left Behind Act, 16
No Contest: The Case Against Competition (Kohn), 30, 32, 106
“Non-Western Cultures and the Future” (Ellis), 44
noosphere, 27, 128–29
Norwood, Ken, 133
Nostradamus, 128
nuclear energy, 49
nuclear fuel, 49


OAI (Ocean Arks International), 95
Obama, Barrack, 83
Ocean Arks International. See OAI (Ocean Arks International)
OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), 93
oligarchy, 112–13
OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries), 102
opportunity, 85
organic farming, 69
organic gardening, 68–69, 95
Organic Gardening, 68
orgonomy, 128
Orvis, Julie, 133


Parnassus, 57
Paul of Tarsus, Saint, 21
Pax World Funds, 57
peace, 46
Peat, F. David, 9
Turbulent Mirror, 9
Pedagogy of the Oppressed (Freire), 118
peer lending, 58–59, 133
Pennsylvania Hospital, 62
People’s Worker Bank. See CAA Labial Popular
permaculture, 133
Phenomenon of Man, The (de Chardin), 128
Philadelphia Contributionship, 62
physiosphere, 129
Piece of Chalk, A (Huxley), 89
“Planet Report 2002” (WWF), 93
Plato, 21, 130
Doctrine of Ideas, 130
Popper, Karl, 37
“Positive Future, A” (Zweibel, Mason, and Fthenakis), 50
Post-Capitalist Society (Drucker), 19, 117
Poverty and Riches: A Study of the Industrial Regime (Nearing), 97
power, 85
preventive medicine, 72, 81
Pritchert, Peg, 133
prokaryotes, 40
public interest, 105–6
Pueblo dances, 130
Pueblo Indians, 85
Pugwash Conferences, 104
Purdy, Jedediah, 119
Pusher Street, 76–77


quale, 41–42, 83
quantum mechanics, 20, 83, 99
Quark and the Jaguar, The (Gell-Mann), 7


Randers, Jorgen, 93
Limits to Growth, 93
Real Wealth of Nations, The (Eisler), 122
reciprocity, 40, 45–46, 106, 111, 133
Red Crescent, 70
Red Cross, 70
Reich, Wilhelm, 127
Listen, Little Man, 127
Reiki, 61, 128
relativity, 20, 99
reorganization of learning, 17
revolution, cognitive, 37
“Revolution of Being, The” (Lagos), 100
Rexroth, Kenneth, 72
Communalism, 72
RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute), 49
Robbins, Glen, 59
Robbins, Mildred, 59
Robertson, James, 100
Sane Alternative, The, 100
Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers, 60
Rocky Mountain Institute. See RMI (Rocky Mountain Institute)
Rodale, J. I., 68
Organic Gardening, 68
Rodale Cooperatives, 133
Rodale Institute, 68
Rodale Press, 68
Roosevelt, Franklin D., 54
Roosevelt, Teddy, 54, 57
Rudner, Lawrence M., 120
Russell, Bertrand, 104


Salvation Army, 70
Sane Alternative, The (Robertson), 100
??????? santiniketan, 118 don't know thie word and can find it ???
Saxenian, Mike, 74, 93
Appropriate Technology Sourcebook, 74
SC (Seikatsu Club), 11, 61–62, 69
Schaub, Laird, 133
Schumacher, E. F., 20, 92, 142
Guide to the Perplexed, 20
Small Is Beautiful, 20, 50
Scientific American, The, 50
SDLC (SelfDesign Learning Community), 123
Second Life, 125–26
Seikatsu Club. See SC (Seikatsu Club) 11
Seikatsu Consumers’ Cooperative, 61
SelfDesign, 123–24
SelfDesign Inc., 124
SelfDesign Learning Community. See SDLC (SelfDesign Learning Community)
SFM (slow food movement), 69–70
Shadow Work (Illich), 34
Sheldrake, Rupert, 130
Sherman Antitrust Act, 54
STRIKE: Siesta Club, 11 This is the Seikatsu Club
Silent Spring (Carson), 68, 92, 99
Simple Food for the Good Life, 97
Sister Cities International, 103
Skinner, B. F., 74
Walden Two, 74
slow food movement. See SFM (slow food movement)
Small Is Beautiful (Schumacher), 20, 50
Small Is Possible (McRobie), 50, 92–93
Smith, Adam, 5
economic theory, 5
Smolin, Lee, 7
Life of the Cosmos, The, 7
social activism, 91
social evolution, 14, 85–86, 113, 118
Social Impact Games, 124
Socially Responsible Investing. See SRI (socially responsible investing)
social paradigm, 5
social revolution, 86, 88, 90
Socrates, 21
Solomon, Lewis, 133
soul, 26–27
Sperry, Roger, 30, 36, 41
Consciousness Revolution, 38
spiritual evolution, 130
Spirituality Named Compassion, A (Fox), 30, 33
spiritual world, 68, 130
Spong, John, 87
SRI (socially responsible investing), 57, 63
Staden. See Christiania
Steiner, Rudolph, 68, 129
Steps to an Ecology of Mind (Bateson), 24
Stern, Caitlin, 119
Sterner, Bill, 133
Straw Bale Houses, 133
Study of State and Federal Wage, A (Nearing), 97
suffrage, 13–14
Sussman, Robert, 30–31
Man the Hunted: Primates, Predators, and Human Evolution, 31


Tagore, Rabindrnath, 118
tai chi, 130
Tasor Women’s Group, 99
Technological Society, The (Ellul), 99
Temple, Dominique, 133
Ten Thousand Villages, 78
theocracy, 113
Thomas Aquinas, Saint, 21
Time Dollars, 11, 133
TO (Twin Oaks), 74
Todd, John, 95
Todd, Nancy, 95
Toffler, Alvin, 121
Tom Greco, 132
Tomorrow’s Children (Eisler), 122
Tools for Conviviality (Illich), 34
TRANET (TRANsnational NETwork for Appropriate Technology), , 8, 73, 92–93, 74, 143
TRANET library project, 74
TRANsnational NETwork for Appropriate Technology. See TRANET (TRANsnational NETwork for Appropriate Technology)
Trickle Up Program, 59
SRIKE: TRUANT, 8, 73, 92–93 here and in the text. This should have been TRANET
Tudge, Colin, 67, 70
Feeding People Is Easy, 67
Turbulent Mirror (Briggs and Peat), 9
Twin Oaks. See TO (Twin Oaks)
Tyler Norris, 133


UFOlogy, 130
Ulgor. See Fagor Electrodomésticos
uncertainty principle, 83
UN Conference on Human Settlements, 143
unconscious, 27
UNCSTD (United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development), 76
UNESCO, 42, 46, 92, 142
Union Fire Company, 62
Unitarian-Universalist Church. See UU (Unitarian-Universalist)
United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development. See UNCSTD (United Nations Conference on Science and Technology for Development)
University of Pennsylvania, 62
Unlock the Genius Within (Janik), 124
unschooling, 115, 121
upward causation, 37
UU (Unitarian-Universalist) Church, 87


Van der Ryn, Sim, 96
“vernacular,” 34–35
Vernaski, Vladimir, 129
Phenomenon of Man, The, 128
Vicki Robins, 133
Virginia Company, 53
voluntary simplicity, 121
von Bertalanffy, Ludwig, 38


Wages in the United States (Nearing), 97
Walden Two (Skinner), 74
War of the Worlds, The (Wells), 25
Washington, George, 119
Weldor education, 68
Wells, H. G., 25
War of the Worlds, The, 25
Wendell Berry, 70
Wetly, Joe David, 133
WFP (World Food Programme), 70
Whitehead, Alfred, 23
Wholeness and the Implicate Order (Bohm), 99
Willing Workers on Organic Farms. See WOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms)
Wise Words for the Good Life (Nearing), 97
Wondertree Foundation, 123
Woods Hole Research Center, 95
WOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms), 70
Woolf, Vernon, 128
worker ownership, 133
World Bank, 58, 92, 142
World Food Programme. See WFP (World Food Programme)
World Order Models Project, 100
World Trade Organization. See WTO (World Trade Organization)
Wright brothers, 107, 119
WTO (World Trade Organization), 43
WWF (World Wildlife Fund), 93
“Planet Report 2002,” 93


yoga, 130
Yunus, Muhammed, 58–59
Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against Poverty, 59


Zoeteman, Kees, 129
Gaiasophy, 129–30
Zweibel, Ken, 50
“Positive Future, A,” 50

About this book
( not for publication )

This is a very personal book. It is an edited compilation of thoughts, activities, articles, and journal entries I’ve had or written from high school through my current interests and actions to create the groundwork for radical social change based on new scientific knowledge. Some of the articles are almost unchanged. Other ideas come from books I have read or actions in which I’ve been a participant and friends on the Internet. The rest is my imagination and whatever just spontaneously self-organized as I wrote.

My first epiphany occurred in the 1930s, in the local library as a freshman in high school. The librarian suggested I might enjoy reading A History of Philosophy by Will Durant. I was captivated by the wonderful ideas created by the human mind. I delved deeper into the history of ideas for the next few years, considering various concepts, noting correlations and disagreements. The next epiphany came as a senior in high school when I read Einstein and Infeld’s The Evolution of Physics. I suddenly realized that everything I’d read before was speculation! If I wanted to search for a reliable truth, I’d have to become a scientist and draw my conclusions from indisputable facts and a system of logic. Since then, my life challenge has been to do just that. I reject any authority outside my own mind and use facts and logic to understand cause and effect and to reach sound conclusions about the cosmos, Gaia (Earth and all of its life-forms), cultures, and my place in them.

In my search, I skipped around colleges for a number of years studying crucial subjects of the time earning a couple of degrees in physics and gaining some knowledge of other fields like anthropology, history, social studies, etc. I also chose a wife, Margaret, who, as an anthropologist, could join my search. So we settled down to raise and support a family. For the next twenty years, I pursued my high school dream with organizations such as the National Science Foundation, UNESCO, and the World Bank. In all these organizations, my positions included evaluating the impact of science on society. In NSF, the task was to provide support for research in physics with my hidden agenda of concern for practical technologies and social results. After publishing a few articles and joining public discussions on these subjects, I was asked by UNESCO to move to Paris to help design programs to help third world nations determine which scientific programs would most benefit their people. After two years in France, I returned to the United States and responded to a proposal from the World Bank to help establish a new path of foreign aid to help the poorest of the poor.

My work in both NSF and the Bank brought me to the realization that science and particularly the technologies coming from it are as important, if not more important, to the third world as they are to industrial societies. But there is one major difference. What is called for is what E. F. Schumacher (see chapter 14) called intermediate technology (IT)—something better than the digging sticks and winnowing by beating but not as complex and expensive as harvesting machines and spinning jennies. At the same time, social activists in Europe and the USA recognized that we have let technology become our master, not our slave. The industrial world needs to create a new technology kinder to the Earth and to humans.

  The welding to the two movements came to be called the appropriate technology (AT) movement. With a commitment to promote AT, I left the world of paid employment to become an AT networker. One of my first freelance assignments was to help bring AT practitioners from around the world to the NGO forum “Habitat,” associated with the UN Conference on Human Settlements. The 1976 two-week-meeting in Vancouver, Canada, increased the level of interest in the United States and in the press. At plenary session near the end, the grassroots innovators considered a proposal from the UN for establishing IMAT (International Mechanism for Appropriate Technology). The plenary session of local activists rejected the idea with the worry that any centralized bureaucracy would soon make the decisions of what local innovators could do. Instead, they called for a nonorganization, a network, that would promote direct communications among the AT practitioners on new designs and new innovations. Since I had been the facilitator of the AT “Habitat” forum, it was suggested that I become the facilitator of TRANET (TRANsnational NETwork for Appropriate Technology).

Since my early retirement from the self-interest, competitive, materialistic rat race, some thirty-plus years ago, I have been the general coordinator, editor, and publisher of the TRANET newsletter-directory and other related alternative and transformational activities. TRANET’s work has taken me and my wife Margaret to visit many of the 1,500 or more local AT centers scattered around the world. We have visited AT centers in remote third world villages and lived in some of them for extended periods. As well, we have visited creative AT centers in the USA and Europe and participated with other AT advocates and numerous conferences and workshops. This life has given us a unique view of not only the alternative and transformational movement of the present, but has allowed us to envision a more humane, equitable, and creative future. In this book, I am trying to give others a feel for and a motivation to join in this almost hidden optimistic view of the emerging future.

Bill Ellis
11 Lakes St. Box 567, Rangeley, ME 04970

Copyedited and indexed by Deil Jossaine Galenzoga Reviewed by Flordeline Silorio