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Report From the February Gathering

by Carol Brouillet
From February 25th to the 28th eighty people gathered at a Retreat Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains, near Los Gatos, California to look at strategies to transform the global economy. After acknowledging the depths and dimensions of the world's problems, we gave voice to visions, solutions and strategies that could turn the global situation around. New collaborations, synergism, insights were born, and strengthened our efforts towards achieving our mutual goal- a healthy, just, peaceful planet where people live in harmony and balance with one another and other lifeforms.

        Most people stayed for 3 days, although some came for shorter periods of time. Those who came included:

Marlowe Allenbright, Jack Barisonzi, Pat Barret Women Voices, Bruce Baumrucker, Juliette Beck, Adele Behar, Dean Bell, Amanda Bellerby Sojourn, Alcida Boissonnault, MaryBeth Brangan, Hal Brill Natural Investing , Carol Brouillet, Kenn Burrows Holistic Health Resource Center Institute for Holistic Health Center, Andy Caffrey Earth First Climate Action NOW! U.S. Citizens Mandate for Climate Stabilization and  Community Well Being, Christopher Cogswell , Kevin Danaher Global Exchange, Darien De Lu, Vic Desotelle, Bill Ferguson, Joe Flood Indigenous Designs, Fran Fox, Flemming Funch New  Civilization Network, Maria Gilardin T.U.C. Radio, Marc Gimbrere Global Sustainability Alliance, Mark Goldes, Tom Greco Community Information Resource Center, Jim Heddle, Richard Heinberg Museletter, Norie Huddle, Kazunori Kobayashi, Ken Lebensold, Bernard Lietaer Transaction Net, Michael Linton Community Currencies in 1999/LETSystem, Sergio Lub Sergio Lub Handcrafted Jewelry Friendly Favors, Rosa Lub-Vaschetto, Peter Lumsdaine Resource Center for Non-Violence, Joanna and Fran Macy, Karl Maret, Monica McGuire, Jose Anotonio Jacques Medina MexArt-Tianguis, Ulla Mentzel, Andrew Michael Resource Exchange Bank, John Pozzi Global Resource Bank, Wendy Pratt Global Futures Foundation, Stephen Quinlan, Dave Ratcliffe rat haus reality, Elisabet Sahtouris LifeWeb, Jim Santsaver My Page, Debora Schramm Barter.Com, David Seaborg, Dave Sherwood, Jeff Smith Economic Justice Network, Charlotte Spitzer , Nigel Strafford Chaordic Alliance, Richard and Susan Strong, Paul Swann Plus 5 %, Ron Swenson Ecotopia, Walter Szykitka, Sarah van Gelder Yes! A Journal  of Positive Futures, Genevieve Vaughan For-Giving, Ernie Yacub Community Currencies in 1999/LETSystem, and Peter Ziegler Synergy Systems
(Bold names indicate presenters, authors, well known personalities.)

        On Thursday afternoon, people began to get acquainted with one another. Thursday was devoted to the process of relationship building. We tried a new process at mealtimes. We were fortunate that the dining room had round tables which held 8 people. The rule was to fill up one table at a time. When a table was full, the last person to sit down was encuraged to clink a glass, catch everyone's attention, and introduce themselves by stating one's name, a brief bio, why one was at the Gathering, one's thoughts or state of being (in less than 2 minutes). Each person going around the circle was encouraged to do the same, which created the space for a group discussion and also allowed for other conversations. This procedure was encouraged to take place at each meal, each dialogue, each interactive workshop. The Circle Process helped the group to know one another, to bond, and improved the quality of the interactions.

        On Thursday evening, we joined in a large circle, each person had 1½ minutes to introduce themselves to the entire group. An extra minute was given to those who were new to the group and had no friends or acquaintances amongst us. There was a short break and a smaller circle reformed to answer 3 questions-"What are the blind spots of our civilization? What wisdom, revelation or insight do you wish to share with others? How could we collectively help to realize our hopes and dreams for the future?"

        Friday we opened the Gathering to press and interested individuals and had a full day of presentations and dialogues. The presentations were recorded and taped for radio and broadcasting purposes. Although it is impossible to separate problems from solutions, the morning looked more closely at the nature, depth and dimension of the crises we face as a species, and the afternoon looked more closely at possible solutions. The speakers had 25 minutes to present their views, and then went to other rooms for "dialogues" with those who wish to speak more on the topic covered.

        The Presentations began with Elisabet Sahtouris, Evolutionary Biologist, who gave an overview of what human globalization looks like compared to evolving living systems: how humanity is repeating earlier patterns: how misconceptions of life lead us into unnecessary systemic errors; how an understanding of "conscious biology" can guide us into a more satisfying world for all species.

        Kevin Danaher, Global Exchange, compared and contrasted the major features of elite globalization (the one usually referred to in the media) and the major features of grassroots globalization (what Global Exchange tries to promote) providing the framework for a broad discussion of what is wrong with the global economy and what is being done by progressive forces to fix it.

        Bernard Lietaer, Monetary Expert, surprised us with a new view on this unusual point in time where four major waves are meeting. The long waves of climate change, species extinction's and the shorter human waves of an aging population, technological innovations, all meeting at a point where the monetary system is in crisis.

         Tom Greco, Writer/Activist, gave a general overview of the Y2K situation, describing both the challenges and the opportunities which are likely to arise. Tom also describe the evolution of the Tucson Year 2000 Center, which he coordinates, what they've done, and the things they've learned in the process.

       Andy Caffrey, Activist, gave a detailed look at 3 key climate threatened systems and discussed how the "Global Warming" issue presents activists and organizers with more powerful and effective strategies for putting "Ecotopian Imperatives" on the national agenda.

        David Seaborg, Evolutionary Biologist, described global environmental problems, how they are interrelated and very dangerous because they can run out of control by getting into positive feedback loops. His solution included "Ecospirituality"- the combining of environmental action with inner work and growth.

         Richard Heinberg , writer, viewed human society as an ecosystem, saw our complex technological regime has the characteristics (enhanced competition, maximized energy and materials usage, reduced biodivesity) of an ecosystem in a colonizing phase. Suggested we need to move into a climax phase (characterized by cooperation, diversity, and energy recycling) as quickly as possible, which means forging small-scaled, human-powered or solar powered , local alternatives to the doomed mega-machine.

        Michael Linton, pioneer of the LETS system, gave a needed overview of what money is, the need for local currencies and the latest technological innovation demonstrating the "cc" smart card system. He showed how to apply it in a "community way" program to raise funds for local projects and needs - particularly y2k issues.

        Jeff Smith, Geonomics, gave a comprehensive historical overview of how the monopolization of land has enriched the few and impoverished the many, and how we can change that, by simply changing some basic rules and laws, and noted the progress being made today in this area.

         Ron Swenson, solar energy, detailed how misinformation and misunderstanding characterize perceptions about renewable energy and long term prospects for oil. He showed that solar energy is a better energy investment, and that massive increase in solar systems production is essential to reduce impacts of the coming global oil crisis, likely to occur within 5 or 10 years.

        Mark Goldes, Aesop Institute, amazed us with revelations about little known energy conversion systems that are emerging which may dramatically supplement solar energy. Promising new technologies to replace fossil fuels which could also help in the bioremediation of nuclear waste, and alter our economic system were discussed.

        John Pozzi, Global Resource Bank, explained the Global Resource Bank, John's vision of a transparent clearinghouse for a sustainable global economy. The Bank services an open global society of shareholders who embrace universal economic values that embraces the life-supporting economic value of ecosystem production.

        Genevieve Vaughan, The Gift Economy, explained how the human interaction of exchange is adversarial while unilateral giving-and-receiving is the basis of communication and bonding. It is not just money but the exchange interaction itself that is the problem. An economic way built on nurturing in continuity with mothering and with aspects of pre capitalist gift economies could be the basis of--- a successful approach to y2k and the beginning of a --woman-led socio economic order for the next millennium..

        Nigel Stafford, Chaordic Organizations, explained how Chaordic * organizing is a group learning process whereby participants develop a complex shared understanding of a community enterprise. Thus aligned, yet autonomous, each is free to innovate with a high probability that their behavioral patterns connect sustainably. He used the February Gathering as an example. * "Chaordic" is a registered trademark of the Chaordic Alliance.

        Wendy Pratt, Global Futures Foundation, introduced the Alliance  for a Caring Economy, a network of individuals and organizations who have joined together to change our social and economic rules so that caring and caretaking work receive the value, recognition, and high reward they deserve. She encouraged all to participate in describing a caring Economy and noted the five areas which ACE is focusing on: Children; Healthy Individuals, Families, and Communities; Business and the Workplace; Gender Equity; and the Natural Environment.

        Norie Huddle, The Best Game on Earth, emphasized the important relationship between stories, games and money: Transformation of global society requires that we transform the story, the game and the money." Humanity is currently undergoing a transformation as dramatic as that undergone when a caterpillar turns into a butterfly. The Game is designed to facilitate this process--and it is fun. (The Game's website might be up soon, Dave Ratcliffe offered to help with the website).

(Tapes of presentations available through: T.U.C. Radio.)

        After dinner Friday night, we passed out poker chips which represented time. People could spend chips to address the group or give chips away so that others could speak, or even buy a minute or two of silence. Many chips were tossed in to respond to a question of how to deal with the military in nearby cities which are "practicing for 21st century urban warfare. The chips allowed people to toss out their ideas, and brainstorm. Although most of the discussion was serious, jokes and laughter and playfulness livened up the experiment in generating collective wisdom.

        On Saturday we moved into Open Space formally, although the Laws and rules of Open Space were prominently displayed and encouraged from the first moment of the Gathering. The laws of Open Space are quite Zenlike- "When it starts it starts. Whoever comes are the right people. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened. When it's finished; it's finished.-- The Law of Two Feet- If you are not learning or contributing, use them. Butterflies and Bumblebees are OK- people can move from group to group and cross-pollinate ideas- it's ok to be a butterfly and make space for a different sort of encounter. Be prepared to be surprised. People are responsible for their own experience."

        Anyone who wanted to was encouraged to facilitate a workshop, dialogue, or presentation on any topic by posting it on the wall under a time and place slot. We sat in a circle with paper and pens in the middle. People titled their sessions and took turns announcing them until no one had anything to add. Then we began to negotiate, combine sessions, create the structure for the next day and a half. People signed up on the sessions that they planned to attend to simplify logistical considerations. It was a beautiful day and many people chose to have their sessions, talks outside. Here's the list of topics and (conveners):

  • Basic Types of Complementary Currency- Toward a Taxonomy of Exchange (Tom Greco)
  • Friendly Favors (Sergio Lub)
  • Women & Commerce as an ecological and social force in the world, in other words "One Weave we are all knit Together" (Joe Flood)
  • Leverage Points for Transformation, Practical Ideas for Funding the Quantum Leap, How we can better integrate our efforts & have a Great time Doing It (Norie Huddle)
  • Strategies for Mainstreaming Complementary Currencies (Tom Greco) Video on Breakup of West Antarctica
  • Practical Global Warming Activism- How do We Do This? (Andy Caffrey)
  • Savings & Investment: The Missing Link in Community Economics (Tom Greco)
  • Community Banking, Local Currency & The New Economy (Christopher Cogswell)
  • Planet Action and the "SYNTROPY" Sustainable Living Systems Fund (Marc Gimbrere, Peter Ziegler, Global Sustainability Alliance)
  • What Now for Headwaters Forest? (Marlowe Allenbright, Andy Caffrey)
  • 8-gate alignment Model for Integrating & Implementing Diversified Solutions into a Common Plan of Action (Vic Desotelle)
  • Creating a Gift Circle with the Trees/ Gift Giving versus Exchange (Genevieve Vaughan and Sergio Lub)
  • Money (Michael Linton & others), Money (Michael Linton & others), and More Money (Michael Linton & others)
  • Solar Quest- Solar education (Ron Swenson)
  • Global Resource Bank- Is it Viable? - Getting to There From Here (Paul Swann)
  • Video- Who's Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies, and Global Economics Community Resource Mappers & Youth (Andrew Michael)
  • New Moral Vision (Ken Lebensold)
  • Money and Values: Personal, Spiritual & Social Transformation (Hal Brill)
  • Y2K Hike, Walking and Talking (Amanda Bellerby)
  • Reciprocal Exchange and/or Gifting The Appropriate CONTEXT for each (Tom Greco)
  • Geonomics Now 1) Help LCV Bill, 2) Help Your Locality, 3) Hey, Help Yourself (Jeff Smith)
  • Global Eco-Estates-*Land banking- Agroforestry *Trust formation- Land trust, investment Trust, Community Foundation *Ecovillage Development *Energy Systems Added Value Industries (Peter Ziegler)
  • No Money (Walter Szykitka)
  • Gaian Gifting- Coming Soon to a Planet near you (Geonomics) (Jeff Smith)
  • Metaphors, Sustainability, and the American Mainstream (Susan Strong, Ken Lebensold)
  • Media For a Sustainable Future (Jim Heddle)
  • Mystery of Money (Bernard Lietaer)

        The intense conversations, exchange of ideas, passionate visions, hopes and plans stimulated and exhausted each of us in turn, by nightfall we took a break. The drumming, the music, the dancing, the singing, the massaging of toes, legs, shoulders, backs before the hearth amidst friends, guitar, banjo, songs, jokes, laughter and stories was delightful.

        Sunday morning we reconvened for announcements, new sessions before coalescing into groups united by shared visions. The majority of the group wanted to stay connected, gather together in six months. The realization that Y2K loomed on the horizon gave us a greater sense of urgency and possibility. So much to do, so little time. There were outbursts, conflicts- but they were the honest expressions of people's deepest feelings and beliefs. Respect, compassion, explanations, reconciliations, mediations, and the support of the group for the feelings of one another helped to ease those situations, as well as remind each of us to be aware of our blind spots, how our ignorance may hurt others, as well as the Earth.

        The closing circle was held outside, under the redwood trees. We spiraled together in an enormous group hug, then scattered- energized, strengthened and empowered by one another.

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