DCW: Evolutionary Activism

The following is an excerpt from an article posted by Daniel Christian Wahl. I have featured several of Dan Wahl’s articles on this site. This is a link to the rest of the article.

Activism Revisited: Conscious participation and collective intelligence

If success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do […] HOW WOULD I BE? WHAT WOULD I DO?

— R. Buckminster Fuller

We cannot individually comprehend the range, depth and detail of the consequences we are collectively generating for ourselves.

— Tom Atlee (2002)

During my time living and working at the Findhorn Foundation ecovillage, I had the opportunity to collaborate with May East on a wide range of projects. May is Brazilian and has been an activist since the late ’80s. She is a co-founder of the Global Ecovillage Network and Gaia Education, and directs the United Nations training centre CIFAL Scotland. She has been repeatedly listed as one of the top 100 global sustainability leaders (ABC Carbon, 2012). More than most people I know, May embodies the role of a global change agent and bridge-builder between the often-separate worlds of civil society, business and governance.

Her work stretches from teaching capacity-building courses in sustainable community design and transition town trainings to activists all around the world, to working with local and national governments on a wide range of sustainability issues, and to international development work and sustainability training with UNITAR and UNESCO. May has actively contributed to the development of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.

May and I share a passion for helping diverse constituencies and stakeholders explore whole-systems design solutions that draw on collective intelligence, integrating diverse perspectives and needs. We thrive on building bridges of collaboration between activists and corporate leaders, between academia and civil society organizations, and between local and regional governments and the UN system.

May East about her work as an activist (she now calles it ‘reflexive practitioner’) and roles at the UN and with Gaia Education

There is a widespread tendency among activists to ‘fight against’ something, rather than extending our hands and opening our hearts to those whose unsustainable practices and attitudes we are hoping to transform. We are all part of the problem and we will all have to be part of the solution. May once shared her definition of activism with me:

“The first thing I do after my morning meditation is to consciously choose where I will put my attention that day, what conversations and projects I will activate through the power of my attention.”

— May East (personal comment)

We are all activists, activating one story or another through the power of our attention and the way we participate in our communities. We can choose to activate and embody the story of separation or the story of interbeing. We can choose what kind of world we want to bring forth together with the people we are in contact with. We can ask ourselves:

What am I choosing to activate through the power of my attention?

How does my participation contribute to the world I would want to live in?

We are all designers! We are all activists! Regenerative cultures are co-created by people who have become conscious of the way their participation activates certain possibilities, people who share a vision for a better world, collaborating to co-create a thriving future for all Life. Mindful practitioners and conscious activists live a simple question every day:

How can I be the change I want to see in the world?

They are aware of the ‘future potential of the present moment’ and aim to act wisely to facilitate positive emergence in an unpredictable world.

Graffiti by Banksy

The first step is to be aware of what we are activating in the world by the power of our attention and the story we propagate through our thoughts, words and actions. When we reach out to our communities (families, neighbourhoods, colleagues and friends) and invite them to live the questions together, we are inviting multiple perspectives and diverse ways of knowing to inform our cooperation in the co-creation of regenerative cultures.

This kind of open exchange and inquiry can facilitate the emergence of collective intelligence and future consciousness to inform wise actions in the face of increasing complexity and in humble recognition of the limits of our own knowing.

You too can become a conscious activist, change agent and bridge builder by starting such an inquiry in your community. The fact that you have read this far means that you probably already are. By exploring the questions in this book with others and refining them, or adding to them, we can continue our pilgrimage and apprenticeship in the transition to the third horizon of a regenerative human presence on Earth.

In Reflections on Evolutionary Activism, Tom Atlee highlights three evolutionary dynamics:

i) integration of diversity,

ii) constant alignment with reality, and

iii) self-interest rooted in the wellbeing of the whole.

These are key characteristics of regenerative cultures aligned with the evolution of life. They are also guidelines to help us, as individuals, keep on learning and contributing to the creation of regenerative businesses, communities and cultures.

Atlee begins his book by reminding us of the long evolutionary journey from the beginnings of the universe to our times. Our bodies literally contain atoms forged in the death of giant stars. As participants in this ever-transforming and evolving whole, we are expressions of what Atlee calls the Creative Power of the Universe. He extends an invitation to all of us:

As evolutionary activists we can step out of [separation] and into the awareness that we are part of the ongoing creation of the universe, that our power is the Creative Power of the Universe working through us, and that we have a creative job to do, a really important undertaking to be part of. We are the eyes and ears and hands and feet and heart and mind of the Creative Power of the Universe at work in our world at this time forming the first sustainable self- evolving, wise civilization ever seen on this planet. Every decision we make — including how to spend this precious moment and where to put our precious energy and which precious people to work with and how we are going to be with them — all these decisions are the Big CPU feeling its way about what to do next here, what is possible now. […] You and I are that Power, in that Power, of that Power. Welcome home. We’re all in this job together, backed up by the greatest creative force on Earth — and beyond. Let’s go to work, as consciously, in tune, and together as we can manage.

— Tom Atlee (2009:33–34)

Tom Atlee’s work offers profound inspiration and practical support for people willing to live the questions together in order to redesign the human presence on Earth. He describes how a series of questions has guided his own journey as a life-long activist (pp.43–47):

How can I help make a better world?

What is the meaning of self-organized collective intelligence?

How can activist groups become more collaboratively effective?

How can communities and countries be more collaboratively effective?

How can humanity wisely and creatively work with the crises of our time?

How can we help our social systems and cultures consciously evolve?

How can we grow into being evolution — and take responsibility for our own role as the increasingly conscious co-intelligence of the universe?

How do we activists humbly become the world consciously evolving in directions that deeply support all forms of aliveness?

— Tom Atlee

The last two questions invite us deep into a participatory and evolutionary perspective, which we are participants in and expressions of, aiming to become more fully conscious of how our being and doing creates conditions conducive to life.

The practice of Living the Questions Together and co-designing the transition towards regenerative cultures is a practice of evolutionary activism. The approach I have explored in this book is fully aligned with Atlee’s principles for evolutionary activism:

1) promoting healthy self-organization and the conscious evolvability of whole systems

2) using strategic questions and strategic conversations as primary transformational tools

3) engaging diversity and dissonance creatively in service of greater life

4) highlighting, using, and promoting the energy of positive possibility

5) consciously seeking and using guidance from evolutionary dynamics

6) considering co-creativity the sacred essence and power of our work

7) seeing evolutionary activism as part of the great story of evolution becoming conscious of itself, and inviting others into that story

Tom Atlee, 2009: 54–63; Principles of Evolutionary Activism

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