Bioneers By the Bay: Strategies for World Survival

For three days in October, 2005, over 500 Northeast-based visionaries and activists came together in Dartmouth, Massachusetts to map out not only the world’s environmental problems, but creative and achievable solutions and new ways to go forward. One of 17 regional Bioneers gatherings held concurrently around the United States, Bioneers By the Bay was transformative.

Spirit and Vision: Finding Our Power in a Challenging World

  • Julia Butterfly Hill, Friday
  • Callum Grieve
  • Kita Sullivan
  • Lynn Margulis
  • Anna Lappé
  • John Lash
  • Peter ForbesMake Personal Choices/Redesign the Systems: Visionary Yet Practical Steps Toward the Future we Want
  • Julia Butterfly Hill, Saturday
  • Jonathan Todd
  • Energy Design
  • Dennis Whittle
  • Microfinance
  • Susan Witt
  • Farming
  • Rob Williams
  • Gunter PauliConfront the Problems: Peak Oil, Polluters, Consumption, and Sprawl
  • John Holdren
  • Paul Cronin
  • Juliet Schor
  • Jim Kunstler

    Spirit and Vision: Finding Our Power in a Challenging World

    I arrived in the middle of the first of two plenaries by Julia Butterfly Hill, who became famous for living in a giant redwood tree for two years, until the lumber company agreed to spare the tree’s life.

    Julia Butterfly Hill, Friday: Honor the Sacredness

    [Paul Hawken was supposed to deliver the opening keynote, but he was ill. Activist Hill filled in with an extra session on Friday in addition to her planned remarks on Saturday.]

    I want to see a magazine cover, 100 ways to feel happy and wonderful just the way you are.

    Introduce yourself, not by “what do you do?” but “What do you love to do?”

    What I am passionate & unreasonable about: We have to be the embodiment of the world we want to happen. We’re not even citizens anymore; we’re taxpayers or consumers. If we all took time to share what we love, the vision would be similar. But we have to live it while we’re asking others, and we create a solid foundation of integrity to stand on. Be in connection every moment of every day.

    I’m scared to death every time I go on stage. I climbed the tree because I’m good at playing by myself. I connect to the divine self (all beings). I was in DC on 911, and I saw that every issue is a symptom of disconnect. It’s about holistically healing ourselves and our world. Pick any issue you care about and it’s a symptom. We’ve ripped our roots of connection of our consciousness out, and we’re dying.

    I’ve been doing this ritual in public since 911. We have to be mindful about inviting connectivity consciousness in and to honor the elders who can only be heard in silence.

    [she led the audience through a ritual calling on 7 breaths for 7 directions: the four compass points, up and down, and us at the center).

    I acknowledge you for the power of showing up, for the commitment that there are things larger than ourselves. We must show up and we must step up. I acknowledge that it’s sacred earth that shaped this building, this space, to keep it clean and maintenanced, to do the sound and the lights. The unseen ones we’ve forgotten to see, who deal with what we don’t want to deal with, who clean the bathrooms…bring back the unseen ones, hold them with reverence and gratitude as the allies that they are, and every person is acknowledged for what they contribute. I think about the sacred hands, and I feel the heartbeat of this planet rising up through the floor. This magical planet that we call home—we forget the power [in our daily lives]. I acknowledge the original ancestors of this place, which include the rocks, minerals, the winged, the four-legged, the one-legged—trees—we bow humbly in gratitude. And the original peoples of this place, the rightful caretakers. Most of us are visitors here, and one of my goals is to not continue to perpetuate that genocide or celebrate holidays like Columbus Day, but honor the original peoples, and ask to learn.

    If there’s things I said that did not serve, just compost it. If it did serve…step in and be the connectors for changes. Namaste: serve. I ask that we create our lives as a living, conscious attitude. For all these and more, go to the sacred source, the Great Mystery, and bow humbly in gratitude and say thank you for letting me serve.

    Callum Grieve, Conference Organizer, Director of the Marion Institute

    Public Remarks

    Bioneers conferences have been going for 16 years. This conference is one of 17 Bioneers regional gatherings: Georgia, Arizona, Michigan, elsewhere. The combined number attending satellite sites will exceed those gathering in San Rafael [at the main event].

    The shared mantra is restoration. [Entrepreneur and author] Paul Hawken says, “I’d like to see the word “sustainability” replaced by “restoration.” We don’t want to sustain [a world as greatly damaged as ours].

    This is the fourth year of beaming the San Rafael program by satellite, first year in New England, we put it together in four months.

    Bioneers co-founders Nina Simons and Kenny Ausuble say the solutions are mostly present. we need to muster the economic and political will to move from a disposable society to a sustainable one.

    Many communities are working for real problem solving, from the ground up. This is the critical moment to step into the breach with real solutions. By giving up a weekend to be here with open minds and open hearts, you step into the breach.

    I feel honored when people come to thank me, and humbled. There are so many others who’ve helped to bring this about.

    In a Private Interview

    The Marion Institute has been involved with Bioneers on much smaller scale. We’ve attended conferences, provided youth scholarships to San Rafael, and last year we had a booth in the exhibit hall. So the relationship is strong and long.

    4 months ago, I was working late one evening and thinking about the similarities between the mission of the Marion Institute—to identify and promote models that call for deep and positive change—with the vision of Bioneers, and so I rather impulsively sent an email to Kenny Ausubel and Nina Simons. I talked about our great admiration and asked, would you consider us for one of the beaming Bioneer satellite sites? Half an hour later, an e-mail came back from Kenny: “we don’t have any in the Northeast this year. It’s late in the game but why don’t we give it a shot?”

    The Marion Institute has a phenomenal tradition of bringing presenters of a very high caliber and a diverse background, for weekend seminars. Not that it was by any means easy, but we had a running start. In addition to knowing a lot of these presenters intimately, we reached out to several key partners, and that’s where the momentum picked up:

  • UMass Dartmouth
  • Coalition for Buzzards Bay
  • New England Grassroots Environment Fund
  • Small Planet Fund
  • E. F. Schumacher Society (
  • RSF (formerly known as the Rudolph Steiner Foundation)Attendance: tough to say, with the students that we wanted to expose to, but we think 550-600. San Rafael gets 3000. 17 satellite sites would in total match or exceed that 3000. I think it provides an intimate experience, certainly the workshops, where you have a Jim Kunstler or a Julia Butterfly Hill and you’re in with 5 or 10 people, it’s fabulous.

    [Callum’s personal background] I ran an advertising agency, and my passion was to work with nonprofit clients. Unfortunately, my two other partners weren’t so inclined. The Marion Institute came to our agency for work on their website, ID, and mission statement, and I fell in love with what they were doing. I was asked to go to Bioneers in San Rafael by Marion, and that was it. I came back absolutely smitten. I joined early November 2004.

    Kita Sullivan: A Native American Environmental Lawyer’s Perspective

    Every day, I fight for environmental justice. Why does a woman in her early 20s need thyroid surgery? (co-worker, child’s best friend’s mom)

    I remember as a child that I had a simple childhood faith in my community, in what I had. I would visit my Montucket relatives and know that no matter where I went, I had that community to come back to. They are fighting every day to hold on to their land. They’re next to a golf course. Our water system has been polluted. We used to have an oyster farm.

    My job is to fight not just for my cousins, but for all of the lives that we can touch. I work in communities of color, where people don’t have the resources that so many of you have. It’s an ongoing never ending political battle. You feel like you’re burning out, but if you don’t, who will?’

    I have faith that if I were to sit down today, someone else would take up that struggle.

    The Montuckets were declared dead in a court of law 95 years ago. But I’m here to tell you we’re very much alive.

    When you are doing your work, fighting for trees, birds, the ocean, people—the environment is where we live, work, go to school, and pray. Think about who is not here that needs to be here, whose lives will be affected, why they are not here and how you can get them here—and build that community.

    [Translation of a blessing she gave in the Montucket language]Let me rise above my enemy on the smoke. Let me go one better. Let me take people with me. Whatever path in front of you, walk it well, do it well, dance it well. That’s what faith is.

    Lynn Margulis: Homage to Gaia: The Living Earth as Bacteria See It

    [Margulis is an internationally known ecologist/physicist at the University of Massachusetts, and one of the primary proponents of James Lovelock’s Gaia Hypothesis. Her presentation was mostly a very visual slideshow, so my notes on the words can’t begin to capture it.]

    “Science is the search for truth, whether we like it or not”—David Bohm, physicist

    If we want the world that Julia Butterfly Hill described, the population of humans on the earth must be cut, and this means birth control and abortion available for every woman who wants. The concept that there is enough for everybody is not even true now without massive changes in distribution.

    James Lovelock: The Gaia Hypothesis. He put in 10,000 trees in Cornwall.

    1830 was the first geology course, endowed by a rich Briton, taught at Oxford to glorify the extraction of coal and iron.

    Vernadski: all organisms are related by space. In the biosphere, independence equals death. The biosphere is only 20 km (kilometers) into the abyss, 8 km into the skies.

    Gaia: specific aspects of the atmosphere and surface are regulated by 30 million organisms (primarily bacteria). The environment is part of the body of the biosphere.

    Our first action ought to be to change the name to Planet Water.

    Earth has the optimum amount of oxygen because the organisms control it. The reactive gas composition, pH, etc., are regulated by the organisms.

    There are too many people and we have to face that as the fundamental problem.

    There are organisms that do not depend on the sun. Some animals two feet tall. The energy comes from the interior of the earth.

    Earth, human, humus, humility, humiliation, humanity all come from the same Indo-European word: dghem.

    Microbes/bacteria communities invented everything significant except spoken language—much of it 3000 million years ago (long slideshow in the dark)

    More on this research

    Anna Lappé: Even the Most Downtrodden Can Create Miracles

    [co-author with her mother, food and development activist Frances Moore Lappé, Hope’s Edge. They traveled around the world, collecting stories of hope and inspiration from indigenous people.]

    From Silent Spring, 1962: “We stand now where two roads diverge. The road we’ve been traveling is deceptively easy…a superhighway…to disaster…The choice is ours to make.”

    We too, today, know that we stand where two roads diverge. The divergence is even more clear: fear vs. hope, despair vs. possibility, division vs. community. How do we choose hope, possibility, and community when the times feel so dark?

    Auntie Puah, on Oahu, shared “the vision in the canoe” “We believe in the importance of the vision, that you have to be able to visualize beyond the horizon, even if you’ve never been before, and then you have to build the right canoe to take you there.” Neither too small nor too big.

    For many years, the traditional Hawaiian practices were illegal, until the 1970s.

    Where to we want to go? What do we need to build to get there?

    [Her vision:] Everyone is fed, food is no longer a cultural weapon but a cultural celebration and the foundation of health. Where we listen to the people, and not to the profit margin. We saw communities across the globe bringing powerful new relationships to food, farming, and health.

    3 Aspects:

  • Idea of food as a human right
  • Land is distributed among the people and used for social purpose
  • Land is a common asset, a public good.First Canoe: Food as a Right

    We’ve really considered food as a commodity, instead of a right, and we’re paying the price. As many people are food-insecure in the US as the entire population of Canada. The hunger death toll worldwide is the equivalent of three Asia tsunamis a month. Yet we produce more than enough food to provide all of us with enough to eat.

    Belo Horizonche, Brazil declared food a basic right. They thought differently about the relationship of food to their citizens and to the market. They saw the incredible amount of advertising for fast food, so they did government sponsored ads for fruits and vegetables, whole foods. They supplied their schools with healthy, organic local produce. They gave city-owned land to local farmers, for markets. There were no brands, no labels, just mounds and mounds of dozens of varieties, all priced at the same price. You’d weigh them on your way out and leave with armloads of fruits and vegetables. They had innovation after innovation after innovation. Every new thing we learned, our jaws dropped. We asked the mastermind if she realized how radical and transformative this was. She said to us that she knew how much hunger there was, and how out-of-step what they were doing was, but what she didn’t know was how easy it is to end hunger.

    Second Canoe: Rethinking the Relationship to Land, and Who has Ownership of It

    Around the world, fewer people control larger amounts of land. In Brazil, 1% controls half the land, much of it idle. After centuries of failed attempts to redistribute, in the 1980s, a powerful movement emerged to question that concentration. As the government wrote a new constitution after the end of a long military dictatorship, including expropriation of lands not used for social good for distribution to the landless. With the landowners, you can imagine that not much happened. But a movement using civil disobedience and the legal system made this a reality.

    The MST [ Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terr, which translates as “Landless Workers Movement”] realized that land was just the beginning,. Once they got people on the land, they had to ask, what kind of communities do we want, what kinds of schools, what kind of food do we want to grow? This was the first effort to create an organic seed line in Brazil. 250,000 landless families have now settled on 17 million acres.

    Third Canoe: Environment as a Common Asset

    In Kenya, Wangari Maathai, the first woman Ph.D. in biological sciences in East Africa, started the Greenbelt movement. In the 1970s, she saw how desertification was undermining food security. What would it look like for village women to plant trees and become “barefoot foresters”? To realize that the environment was a common asset?

    Turned down by the government, she planted seven trees in 1977. Then nurseries. Now 6000 greenbelt nurseries have planted 20 million trees around Kenya. They’ve moved from tree planting to looking at bring back traditional foods. Tree planting was the entry point to see the land differently. We met with villagers who also were bringing traditional indigenous food back into the community and their lives.

    Many indigenous varieties have been long-suppressed. In Hawaii, they import 90% of their food. In Kenya, they tasted, for the first time, the foods their parents had eaten as children.

    These are just elements of a vision that we can all hold and make possible. It may seem pie-in-the-sky, completely unattainable. But I prefer to think of ourselves not as optimists but as possiblists. When we met the Greenbelt movement in 2000, the government was still jailing and attacking the movement leaders. Wangari was encouraged to run for a seat in Parliament, and beat her opponent 50 to 1—and President Moi had been defeated, and the new president made her a deputy. Women were dancing in the streets of Nairobi. And then the Nobel Prize. She turned to an associate of ours when she got the call, and said, “I didn’t know anyone was listening.”

    Hopelessness is a luxury that we can’t afford. But hope takes work. It’s not head-in-the-clouds; it’s action. A Hawaiian elder said, “The work of hope is medicine. Work is our medicine, we heal ourselves.”

    The Kenyan women wore t-shirts emblazoned, “as for me, I’ve made a choice.” And so can you!

    John Lash: The Gnostic/Pagan Gaia Story

    Something you probably haven’t heard before at this conference, and maybe at all. a story, a myth about the earth and our connection to it.

    How did we get so disconnected? I’m gong to take you through it so we can come through it more liberated in our sense of our connection to the earth.

    One of the reasons we have become disconnected is that we lost the story of connection. There was a story of connection to Gaia and a mythology that was profound, exact, scientific, poetic, literate, and deeply, deeply developed. It was the sacred legacy of a certain group of people.

    There is another aspect to the indigenous spirituality of the West—of Europe: Paganism. I represent that indigenous pagan spirituality of Europe that was lost in a centuries-long campaign of genocide. [ He has a book coming out on this with Chelsea Green.]

    Rene Dubois said, “we need to have a religion of nature.”

    Religion has a lot to do with the mess we’re in, because religion has not guided us to nature for the last few thousand years. We had a religion of nature. We know that the indigenous peoples of North America had that. And among the tribal peoples of Spain, Italy, Denmark, they had a religion of nature that was highly developed. When the salvationist religions started to emerge, that whole heritage was destroyed. Violently and viciously repressed and destroyed, and it died very hard, because there was a great deal of resistance. The Pagan/Gnostic mystery wisdom

    Telestis: Greek word from Telos: goal, aim. they were Gaian teologists. totally illuminated by their practice of ecstatic contact with nature. The best definition: one who is aimed. If you are aimed by Gaia, you will go where she sends her arrow. If you are aimed by God, it may not be enhancing to your vision to serve Gaia.

    Gaia is a bit like Marilyn Monroe. She’s got a great body, but she wants to be loved for her mind.

    Mystery is the key word: they were the organizational lifeblood of this religious system. The mysteries were a set of rites and practices dedicated to a deeper knowledge of the earth, the Mother. The core of the mysteries concerned the experience of a direct encounter with the living presence, living intelligence of nature. Those who were initiated and had this experience. the method was called gnosis, but it has not been accurately defined in the sense that it was experienced. It is cognitive ecstasy. They are things that can only be known by a surrender to the lifeforce. It’s biomysticism. If I could convey to you the extent of the discipline… It was incredibly refined, not superstitious or pretending. It brought a deep and direct access to the intelligence of the planet. They taught it because they had direct access to it. We would be very fortunate if we could get back to that ecstatic cognition of the living planet.

    Out of the mystery came two things: a story about the planet Gaia and how she became this planet. After about 20 years of study, it suddenly dawns on you that the myth of the Sophia story was an explanation of where the intelligence of the earth was there before the earth was there. They understood it in a much more far-reaching way. Sophia (so-fie-uh) was the name the Gnostics gave to the spirit and intelligence of the earth before she was the earth. I have extracted this from the evidence that remains of these mystery schools.

    After 30 years of involvement with this story, this most precious legacy that was preserved for thousands of years, I am convinced that this story contains 8 or 10 central points of what we now call Gaia Theory. In this myth is contained many of the central points; the myth is not in conflict with science. It resonates directly into what we are trying to do today.

    It is a story not only about Gaia herself, which they considered to be divine, but also contains certain elements that Gaia Theory does not address, including the singularity of the human species. Gaia will be here long after we’re gone and she doesn’t need us to save her. We’re cleaning up our own mess, and that’s admirable. But there’s another picture, another way to see ourselves within Gaia’s purposes. It grows in the imagination of everyone who takes it on.

    I would call to imagination. The most powerful and intimate way for you to become connected with Gaia is to learn this story. It explains the most troubling part of the story: us. But we’re also the ones who carry the story for her. That’s what indigenous people in the world say everywhere—that our role is to tell the story of the earth and her creatures. that’s why we’re gifted with language and can make narratives.

    In the Gnostic writings discovered [Dead Sea Scrolls], we’re not talking about the only begotten son of God, but of a singularity. We are that singularity. What the mystics understood is that because we are the singularity in Gaia’s life story, we can play a special role—but we can also deviate further from her [needs] than any other species. This was understood at a profound level, 2, 3, 5000 years ago.

    What the Gnostics said about this deviation: the main factor that deviates the human species and drives it to a destructive pathology is religion: Judo-Christian patriarchal monotheism. Something that happened at the time of Christ was a showdown between Christianity and Gnosticism. Certain teachers came out of these thousands-of-years-old cells to tell people that the Palestinian Redeemer consequence was [a dangerous falsehood], dementia, insanity. We’ve come out of our mystery schools, breaking our habit of anonymity, because we are very concerned that there is an ideological virus in your minds.

    The main factor driving the pathological deviance is disguised in the highest religious idealism. It is not a message of love, it is a form of dementia. And the Gnostics were wiped out for saying that. We are lucky that today even one shred of evidence remains.

    Peter Forbes of the Trust for Public Lands: Take Steps Toward Environmental Healing and Economic/Racial Justice

    The Stone of Hope

    I see my job to feed and nourish you, with words.

    This is a stone that I’ve carried in my pocket for 25 years, from the coast of Maine. And as I speak, I want to go around the room.

    I believe life is molecules held together by stories.

    The Birmingham church bomb—although I am white and live in Vermont, I’m never far from that story. Or the story of Emmett Till, the 14 year old who was sent to MS to enjoy the sun, and came back in a pine box. These memories have made it extremely difficult for Evelyn White (Alice Walker’s biographer) to admire nature today: “I was afraid that I’d be taunted, attacked , raped, maybe murdered because of the color of my skin.”

    At a conference, she cleared her voice and told us directly that she was terrified. Farms, woods were not happy places for her. This was a difficult moment, a hard way for us to start together. Her flashlight failed and Jennifer, the youngest person, took her arm and led her to her tent. Evelyn would later write, “no matter where I go, I carry Emmett Till and those four girls, but I am comforted, I am less fearful, I am ready to come home.

    The question is, what is home today. When the levees broke [in New Orleans], this country woke to a very disappointing prophecy. We woke to plainly see that our home is a divided and impoverished nation, judged not by our wealth but by our willingness to leave some behind.

    We’re asking, what do we wish for? To be whole again. To be proud to serve one another, to trust and be trusted. To truly feel safe, not from police or burglar alarms, but from the peace that arises when we no longer eat in front of those who are hungry. And for me, to be firmly rooted in my own place, in Vermont, but to live with the truth that many have had their land stolen from them. No boundary should survive suffering.

    What is the spell we have fallen under to create the world we do live in? It’s woven into the 3000 advertisements that reach our children every day, and turns our hearts away from one another. This spell that nature is inexhaustible, that the point of trees is board-feet, the point of land is money, and the point of living is to consume. It tricks us into thinking that [the need to be happy] can be accomplished finally and simply by buying.

    This disconnection and alienation—25% now experience serious clinical depression, even higher above $150,000 per year annual income. We produce more malls than high schools, more prisoners than farmers. 270 acres are destroyed per hour—is that progress, or is that extinction? What’s been called an environmental crisis is not about the earth, it’s about our hearts. The disconnection, isolation. The spell tells us that progress pays no attention to the individual. This is the big lie. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “We need a stone of hope among the mountains of despair.” We need to re-pair, to bring together again. At the expense of others, it’s not healing,. There can be no healing for some of us, it must be all of us.

    What if I told you that everything we need is already at hand? There’s no special membership, no required education. It’s open to red and blue states, bankers and farmers, people in suits and those who can’t afford decent clothes.

    What we need hasn’t gone away—we have. We’re always seeking the sun’s rhythms. The sound of the earth’s heartbeat. We answer this call when we stand in front of ocean waves, when we do something our heart begs us to do. Whenever we merge our sense of awe with of justice. It’s the voice of life, the intimate experience of earth, water, and sky. It’s the wonder that binds us together, it’s the wonder that we need. For all of us. That wonder will save us, because inspiration always leads to transformation. When we realize that everything we’ve piled outside our hearts is lost—the cravings that make us greedy, they simply disappear. The more people feel and respond to that wonder, the more we and our politics and our countries will change.

    The land is also where people’s blood has been spilt.

    The very best aspects of the American spirit come from how we’ve lived on the land. But so has our intolerance.

    And still, today, the soul of our country is born from those epic choices about relationship to land. And it could be good, bad, or ugly

    These forces, that relationship, is the foundation of our cultural house. Our relationship to the land is the place where we start to build that healthy culture. How you live, what you eat, who you welcome to the table. It’s about love and healing, about relationships. Average Americans get this—they don’t need to know the science. Thankfully, love still grabs us by throat. Neither rational nor logical, it pulls us to where we really want to go,. Reconnecting to the land is the first step in diverse people coming to know and aid one another. I know that soul waits to be relit. This is my stone of hope in a mountain of despair. If we’re brave enough to have even a modest relationship with the land, that love will transform our relationships. That’s where we get those clues about what is healthy, fair. It heals the trauma of our separation. It begins to address the broken underbelly of our culture. The restoration of that relationship is the Great Work, the big repair job, what’s remaining in people’s lives. It’s held in that stone, it’s in your skin. And that’s my stone of hope.

    Preserving Lands Throughout America
    The best and brightest are not going into law, they’re going into organic farming and seed saving. Put down your laptops and pick up a shovel! Show your civil disobedience, grow your own food.

    It sounds so simple, so soft. It doesn’t fit today’s appetite for bold solutions—that’s what the industrial society wants you to believe. They know nothing is more threatening to their industrialized consumerist society. The most radical thing you can do is stay in a place. this is going forward, not backward.

    There are more than 2000 CSA (community supported agriculture) farms in the US; that’s the fastest growing part of farming. There were almost none 15 years ago.

    That same 2004 election, 161 communities, red and blue, conservative and liberal, passed bond campaigns to save local landscapes, putting themselves in debt to save land.

    1200 schools have started gardens in the last five years, said no thanks to the corporations that make millions of dollars feeding our children and our prisoners.

    It’s seen in the growth of 1600 local land trusts. 20 years ago there were just a handful.

    I like to think of myself as part of a new underground railroad. The work of liberating people from ways of life that deny them fairness and justice. This underground railroad saves people through inspiration and opportunity, to replace the culture of fear with the culture of care and attention. It’s about following the flame of love.

    Classy Parker is a 3rd-generation resident of 121st Street in Harlem. Her grandmother lived in the same building. When I met her, she was flipping burgers at the White Castle. She was thinking of her parents. She got the radical idea to turn a vacant lot outside her apartment building into a garden. That was almost ten years ago. She produces food and beauty and tolerance for more than 500 families in central Harlem. Don’t tell me New Yorkers don’t have a relationship to the land! It is less than a quarter-acre, but it is their own piece of land to which they have developed their own attachment.

    “Once I started working with the earth, the love in people started coming out. And they started telling me their life stories, so it was like a healing for them too. We think of ourselves as city farmers, never environmentalists. We love people and plants and working with the earth. This is one of the few places in Harlem where they can be free to be themselves. People gonna go where they feel the flow of love. We’re not going to judge you because you’re a different culture or you’re a male. Don’t you feel like my dad’s your dad?”

    I wasn’t prepared for her candor, her hopefulness. I looked at her father ten feet away, 87 years old, garden dirt on his face. Passing each other on the street, outside that garden, our eyes might never have met. But [our connection] was profound. It was the awareness that my own pulse beat within him.

    Make Personal Choices/Redesign the Systems: Visionary Yet Practical Steps Toward the Future we Want

    Julia Butterfly Hill, Saturday Plenary: Personal Choices and the Environment

    Lucky for me I don’t write speeches. I didn’t come to do the “Julia Butterfly Show”—that does not help the world, when people project all their hopes, fears, anxieties, etc. onto me. I want to be the mirror for each of us to look inside ourselves to find the strength to take the next step.

    [Traveling in her biodiesel-powered bus,] we had wonderful conversations all across the country with restaurant owners and workers, collecting used grease. But like all mechanical things, the transmission failed and the bus is in Ohio. But the transmission doesn’t work on vegetable oil.

    The hardest part is for me to get on stage over and over and say, here’s a mirror.

    Anything I say, if it serves you in a positive way, it’s only because you already have that within yourself. We cannot see in others what we don’t have in ourselves: positive or negative. Otherwise, we might see it but we wouldn’t know what we were looking at.

    My passion is about helping every person recognize that each of us has our own tree-sit. That doesn’t mean you have to go live in a tree. We all have the ability to hear a calling that’s so loud we cannot walk away.

    It finally hit me six months after I came down, I was at the tree, and I just cracked up laughing. When I could finally talk, I said, I lived up there for over two years. We never think we are capable of what we are truly capable of. Our mind is too small to get to who we really are: mind, body, spirit synergizing into action. We all have that ability, but it’s incumbent on us that we find that place. For each, it’s different…and powerful.

    We need to recognize that the world our heart longs for only lives within us.

    Every moment of every day we are all making choices, that lead us toward the pain, or toward the possibility. It begins with moment-by-moment choice-by-choice actions. The tree sit was 738 days of ‘if I make it through this breath, I might make it to another one.’

    [Waving a water bottle and a disposable coffee cup] By making the choice to drink out of this plastic bottle, we are saying that it’s OK for some people to have clean water and not others. And more water is wasted and polluted in making this bottle than fills it up. These paper cups are made from trees, in a factory that uses bleach, that causes cancer. Predominately poor people who make these cups can’t afford the $4.99 latte and they live with the environmental consequences. When you see this cup, know that there is a chain saw. Living in the tree, I had to bear witness to the consequences of our choices. The beautiful vision we shared in this room cannot exist in the same space as this cup, as that plastic bottle. Then we find the courage to take it to the next and the next and the next level. We can’t stomp and scream that the administration and the corporations change if we are stripping our own vision from underneath us.

    Anything is possible if we are committed enough and have enough integrity.

    [Julia’s organization, Circle of Life: offers solutions to the cup and water bottle, and way bigger solutions; she works with a staff of six.]

    The plastic and paper [that circle of Life promotes] are compostable and non-bleached, and that’s a huge first step. I want a Bioneers where every single person brings their own plates and cups and utensils. I invite each of you to think about the daily choices. We don’t get muscles sitting in the recliner with the remote and a bag of potato chips. Growth happens in the uncomfortable spaces.

    Make your vision of what’s possible as big as the vision we shared. It’s fun.

    Jonathan Todd: The Waste of One Process Is Food for the Next

    [Son of New Alchemy Institute founders John and Nancy Jack Todd). He and his family design systems that actually clean up polluted water and turn the wastes into a cascading system of other environmentally benign production, such as breweries and mushroom farms. For a clear explanation about how the restorer ecosystems mentioned below actually work, please click here for my notes on a remarkable presentation by John Todd to the E. F. Schumacher Society (]

    One of my favorite design mantras: make sure you’re not thinking up a smarter way to do a stupid thing. (David Orr)

    Our waste treatment plant looks and smells like a greenhouse. You don’t get the people saying “not in MY backyard,” so we can keep water treatment more local. The South Burlington, Vermont wastewater treatment restorer shut down last October for lack of funds. Discharge always met Vermont and [federal] Environmental Protection Agency swimming standards and sometimes exceeded drinking water standards. It discharged into Lake Champlain.

    There was a huge gas spill in January 1998, we had to open all the vents in 20 below weather, the plants took a real beating. But within 3-1/2 days we were back to normal. It took the traditional sludge plant next door 3-1/2 weeks.

    A lot of the sludge is dead bacteria. Snails consume the bacteria, and when they break down, and then the snail shells provide a medium for bacteria. Funded in part through sale of plants and coy fish.

    In Maryland: consuming and utilizing the waste in the lagoon from the chicken processing plant. And reduced electric consumption by 74%, $150,000+ savings in first year. They had to pump 3 times a week. We had .2 million gallons a day and it met EPA standards on the way out. We’re trying to engineer a system that is friendly enough to Mother Nature to let her do her work. We used only native Maryland plants. Tyson’s pulled out of Maryland; I’ve got a friend looking at the empty plant.

    At a Hawaii golf course pond: we took a projected 80 HP and lots of fresh water consumption down to 2-1/2 hp. And now the pond owner is harvesting oysters and selling them to the country club’s Four Seasons restaurant. We received an EPA award. The traditional approach would have cost $10,000 in power, we did it for $400.

    A Chinese city—hundreds of unsewered skyscrapers, waste goes directly into canals, and then is flushed into the bay. The water (afterward) met UN effluent standards and became a point of interest, and people were seeing birds and butterflies that they hadn’t seen since they were children. We did 700 meters [0.7 kilometers] and there are still 60 kilometers to go. We got it working and working well. The possibilities for Chinese cities are great if we can get through the politics and the business. Now we’re designing one for Shanghai.

    Slovokia: we set up floating islands, an idea we stole from nature. Circles of plant filters keeping the algae down. Now, we’re trying to get onto Lake Ponchatrain in New Orleans. The dolphins and manatees will be sick, I saw what went in there. We’re trying to position ourselves to make a proposal.

    Oberlin College’s ecology center has an ecomachine for wastewater treatment [designed by David Orr; I’ve seen this building, and it’s beautiful]. David Orr had to create an incentive to use the bathroom in that building, and now the plants are getting enough nutrients.

    We put in a $12,000 system for the YMCA in Kitchener, Ontario. They have a big function room behind it, and they don’t use it, they use our room.

    Constructed wetlands. Nature invented it, some people in Germany in the 70s recognized it. You dig a hole, line it, fill it with gravel and plants, and the water comes out clean on the other end. We’re not trying to sell our own technologies, but to create the solution to the problem. Constructed wetlands require no energy and they’re very beautiful.

    Omega Institute voluntarily wanted to upgrade their waste. We’ll be starting in the spring.

    Conversion of liabilities to assets: brewery waste: oyster mushrooms. Then it goes to the worms, which get fed to the perch, and then into lettuce flats, in an unheated greenhouse in Vermont winter: 7 plantings, November to March, $6.99 a pound for mesclun mix. You could get $200 a ton for it, vs. $15 a ton for compost.

    In nature, there is no waste, and if we design intelligently, there should be no waste either. All of the nutrients can be used for benefit and not detriment.

    Steven Strong: Challenges and Successes in Energy Design

    The Problem of Reliance on Chemicals and Oil

    There’s only so much moisture in the atmosphere. Severe floods in one area mean severe drought somewhere else. We are seeing substantial increase in frequency and intensity of catastrophic weather events

    As western industrial society, we are all contributing to a massive chemical experiment on the biosphere. Thousands of new chemicals introduced each year, and virtually no research on their effects. The scientific consensus is near-universal about global warming—the 3000 top scientists in the world

    Peak oil: the other 800-pound gorilla.

    Hopefully we will stop extracting it for its thermal content and instead its higher uses [such as plastics].

    There’s a great deal of debate about the width of the top of the curve. (of oil extraction), but there’s no debate that it will occur. The widest disagreement is 20-25 years. The most optimistic say 2020 or 2025, the most pessimistic, this Thanksgiving. But if you overlay exponential population growth [there will be fewer resources to support larger population]. If all the people in China had the energy consumption of the US, we’d need 7 planets. There’s a train wreck here, a serious dislocation.

    We had 4 barrels of oil per person on the planet in 2000. By 2020, that will be half.

    In the last two years, we’ve seen a tripling of liquid fuel and natural gas prices. This will be permanent. Yes, you see perturbations—due mostly to speculators—but the price trend is upward.

    Oil company contributions to politicians: $131 million. Oil profits: 125 billion—it’s time to figure out how to repower the planet.

    Our current path is to extract and spend oil as fast as possible, and then hit the wall.

    It’s important to appreciate the difference between the last drop of oil and the end of cheap oil. The party is off.

    We could easily embrace sustainable energy and new jobs and an era of unprecedented peace and prosperity. It’s not going to be easy, but it is possible. It is not at all possible with conventional technologies.

    A hopeful view of the energy future: sunlight is life. Every renewable technology that we can ramp up will begin to build a bridge to a post-petroleum world. The nay-sayers say renewables aren’t ready, but I submit that this is all we’ve got. An Apollo-scale moon mission [is needed] to focus our resources obsessively toward that goal.

    Thirty Years of Solar Design Success

    [As he talked, he showed slides of these projects.] I founded Solar Design Associates in 1974, after working on the Alaska pipeline. I was responsible for the remote energy support systems, including sectioning the pipeline in case of failure/terrorism. 1973 was the first world oil embargo. Already, the community had come together to look at using photovoltaics (PVs) for earth-based energy, the same week. It took on international proportions. This led me to think that going to the end of the earth to extract the last drop was not the best way to spend my talents. So I came back to Boston with a lot of enthusiasm and a little money. I was 23-1/2. To offer services in energy-autonomous building design and to power these buildings with renewable energy.

    Our early clients were individual homeowners, a working class couple who harvested their own lumber and built with their own hands, northern New Hampshire. It has a south-facing greenhouse, many other solar features. We tweaked its energy efficiency almost like building an America’s Cup yacht. This house satisfies all its thermal demands from the sun that falls on its roof. 9000 degree days, no conventional heating season. The thermal issues were easy, if you were willing to stretch the conventional formula. They don’t have the shingles that are mostly petroleum and classified as semi-hazardous waste when they’re stripped off after 14 years. Most houses have more petroleum on their roof than this house will use in its life.

    Boston 1978, 7500 square feet of solar hot water collectors, 300-unit housing complex. 5 kW of solar electricity—enough to power a single energy-efficient home. It was the first time a PV system had been connected to a utility grid outside a government laboratory. I was still hungering for the opportunity to create a completely self-reliant structure.

    One year later, for a contest. Carlisle, Massachusetts. This house has no fossil fuel, creates a surplus of electricity and sells it to the power company through net metering. It took us two weeks to get the policy changes through [then-Massachusetts governor] Dukakis’s utility commission. Without that policy change, this house would have been impossible.

    In Japan, Europe, Australia—virtually very industrial country has uniform interconnection standards and net metering. In the US, we’ve been struggling for 3 decades to get 1/3 of the states to sign on. We need to say, you picked our pockets clean to pay your nuclear debts—and where is the open access we’ve been promised? And we need leaders who will stand up and require that.

    After Carlisle, we got private house clients. But the package of energy upgrades cost as much as the house. They were not solar yuppies, they owned one, two, or three houses, and this was the last house they were going to have. the idea of taking control of their energy destiny, living lighter was very appealing to them. Clients included the former chair of National Geographic, Mitch Kapor of Lotus.

    Net metering is like a no-interest loan to the utility; they make a profit on it, selling peak power and replacing it with cheaper off-peak. The homeowner wins because they don’t need a neighborhood-sized battery bank. And they get it back at night or on cloudy days, when there’s no air conditioning load. So now each of us is feeding electrons into the network.

    1983, we were hired by a utility company, Brookline, Massachusetts, subject of a nationwide 26-week TV series watched by 10 million people. What would be commonplace in 2012? No fossil fuel, export the surplus to the grid.

    Economists will take exception, but what exists, must be possible. Now, after 25 years, the [federal] Department of Energy is finally investigating zero-net-energy houses.

    Gardner, Massachusetts, 1985. Solar neighborhood retrofit.

    We already knew how to do the virgin sheet of paper with the budget and the willing client. But we realized even then that it was a much bigger challenge to retrofit the existing inventory of buildings. If we can’t address those sets of challenges, we’re not going to get there, and our contemporaries still don’t get that. Every house, the Burger King, Town Hall, college and a furniture retail store all got retrofits.

    2002: full roof coverage is greater than 10 kilowatts, creating 150-250% of average demand. These are twice as efficient as the early 1980s. Sun-drenched roof real estate is becoming a valuable commodity. Consultants are going out to businesses and saying, did you know you have a tremendous resource on your roof? We’d like to power your building, but if you don’t want that, can we lease the sunlight and harvest it and sell it to the utility? This is how to power non-optimal houses such as Victorian, heavily shaded.

    Georgetown University, Washington, DC: the first commercial solar building skin, 1985. A single uniform glass plane: the skin, the power generation. Still working over 20 years later. Higher education has been an early adopter. SUNY, with sunshades, you can reduce the size of your chiller your ductwork, and they make a wonderful platform for PVs.

    Atlanta Olympics, 1996: largest solar installation to that point. We got it done in three months. We’ve created a wholesome one-upmanship where every subsequent Olympics tries to out-green its predecessor.

    Discovery Center, Santa Ana, California: secret of success: surround yourself with people who want you to succeed as much or more than you do. We got the electrician’s union to beg for places to work on this project, a 150-foot solar geodesic cube. And when we were finished, this cube was on the cover of half the electrical trade journals in the country. They interviewed the union workers, they got the benefit. That began a ten-year association where we could pull them into environmental advocacy.

    BP solar-powered gas station program: hundreds around the country, 16-country deployment. Taken in aggregate, the largest installation of solar ever undertaken. The new ones are glazed with transparent photovoltaics—like a giant skylight—and they have recharge stations for electric vehicles. And the franchisees, on their own, made decisions to turn off the high-intensity lights during the day. That gained more than was saved by the solar in efficiency savings.

    The whole has to be greater than the sum of its parts. Every part has to contribute to the success of the whole.

    Daylight in all its forms is far more valuable than running inefficient incandescent lights.

    The BP initiative was from Sir John Brown. If we try to map the moment in history where we started as a society to begin a sustainable future, it was articulated by John Brown in his speech to Stanford in 1997 on global warming. We’d been saying this for decades, but here was the chair of this huge oil company. A few months later, the CEO of Shell said the same thing.

    BP outlined a very ambitious and aggressive and entirely voluntary program to reduce emissions and greenhouse gasses system-wide. BP’s leadership inspired other industry captains. Ford acknowledged global warming in 2003.

    When the Real World Gets in the Way

    Lewis Environmental Center, Oberlin College. We tried to be self-sustaining but the building used a lot more energy than predicted. The sunshades had been “value-eliminated” The opportunities apply in load management. We know how to manage load, but we are not rewarded for it as engineers, and often are prevented. The architect rules the roost. So the engineer does a bigger chiller, a larger transformer. Our system wants you to build the worst building as fast as you can. The architects are fully complicit [in inefficient technology]. If you’re building coal plants to support your new building, your building is not green.

    Oberlin, phase 2, solar arrays above a parking lot, will make up more than enough for the Lewis Center shortfall and another building. They will have zero fossil fuel, net metering.

    Rippling Through Society: The Beginning of Transformation

    We did an 800-acre country estate in Napa, CA, 1998, several buildings plus agricultural irrigation. We had a steep hillside to work with. We mounted “electric sunflowers” each on single pedestals, able to track the sun during the day.

    A university in Ontario, high-rises in Manhattan, Roosevelt Island, NYC transit stations, One Bryant Park, Ford’s new technology center, lakeside cottage, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) training center in Silicon Valley with the electronics right in the classrooms.

    There’s a whole new product line of electric glass, transparent to visitors [that can generate and conduct electricity].

    IBEW in Boston, PVs and wind turbine, right across from the JFK library. We just did the national IBEW headquarters, and the president pledged four years of solar training. That is a major conversion at the largest electrical trade union.

    Capturing the Wind

    Hull, Massachusetts has a municipal electric company with a volunteer board. They took it upon themselves to change their community, to install a utility-scale wind turbine where the wind was the best. The high school is right in the shadow of the tower, and the town voted 93% approval. Senator Kennedy and the other rich landowners should be ashamed of blocking the offshore wind developments [announced off the coasts of the resort islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard]. And Governor Romney. They should go to Hull. this is the first utility-scale turbine on the coastal US, and it was done by a group of volunteers. Are the aesthetics of a spinning windmill so much less aesthetic than belching power plant stacks?

    Wind turbines are popping up all over America. My mother-in-law lived in Yarmouth, Massachusetts for decades, and she said wind powered Cape Cod for over 100 years. There were 4-5 dozen windmills. And they have faux windmills now, all around Cape Cod. Residences and businesses alike. But what’s powering Cape Cod is commercial power plants. We’re putting a utility-scale turbine in Buzzards Bay, at Mass. Maritime Academy, that will power their campus.

    In Europe, you go to a design center and see display after display of different types of building-integrated solar technologies and materials.

    Architects ask about payback—but they put in all sorts of non-cost-effective stuff [for aesthetic reasons], and we call it design.

    The Hummer is a bad transportation model and it’s also an architecture model; we’re building too many buildings like that.

    Japanese automakers who do intelligent, highly-integrated, ultra-efficient design are having their best years, while Detroit is floundering.

    In Europe, solar is integrated into sound barriers, right near the urban cores, in place where construction will never block the view. Railroad rights-of-way. We have parking lots we can harvest. In Japan, headquarters for Sony, Kyocera, and others are solarized. The US mission to the UN in Geneva, a major retrofit.

    You can have any aesthetic you want, from mild to wild. The entire form and shape of the building can be driven by the desire to harvest maximum solar energy. There’s a fire station that generates 2-1/2 times its electricity needs. There’s a subdivision in the Netherlands, if you don’t do solar, you don’t build there.

    Dennis Whittle, Global Giving: How a Toilet Creates a Feminist Wave

    [Dennis Whittle used to administer development projects of up to a billion dollars when he worked at the World Bank. Now heading a web-based fundraising organization called Global Giving with his wife Mari Kuraishi, he has learned to leverage vastly smaller but enormously effective projects.]

    Small businesses are innovators: 13 times more patents than large companies.

    Big companies waste 75%

    The president of the World Bank gave us $5 million and told us to create new products. We thought we could create a market for innovation. We asked staff for ideas; this was revolutionary at the time. They had 15 minutes to pitch the best idea on how the World Bank could fight poverty. And for one day, it was a marketplace of ideas. We funded 11 projects from big staff, and one from the secretaries; no one had ever listened to them before. The most senior person, with tears in his eyes, said, “I’ve had an idea for 15 years, and no one has ever listened. You didn’t fund it but I found another executive with a similar idea, and we’re going to work on it together.”

    So then we thought, maybe poor people have good ideas, too. We let anyone in the developing world submit an idea. People attacked us, they said they wouldn’t be poor if they had good ideas, they don’t have telecommunications, so how will they communicate—but in late 1998, we sent in an e-mail, with a five-week deadline and no marketing.. We got 1130 proposals from over 1000 organizations in over 80 countries. We held a two-day event, women from Uganda who had never been out of the country, Supreme Court Justices from Guatemala. At the end, the president of the World Bank was calling them up to the stage, and for the first time in history, two women from Uganda were standing with the president of the World Bank to receive $80,000.

    And then we left to initiate Global Giving: instead of having one event every two years and only one funder, we should have a market where anyone in the world can propose and fund ideas—and make things happen.

    Together every year in the US, we give, as individuals, $200 billion a year. Part of our idea is that the aggregation of lots of people can be far more powerful than the $1 billion from the World Bank.

    It doesn’t have to be in one big lump. $5000 from within that donation pool literally changed the world—for a toilet block outside of a school in India, a local Rotary club had raised $2500. It was our first Global Giving project. I was humiliated, my last project had been $1 billion, the largest ever at the World Bank. A reporter from Fortune called for me an interview. Mari said, don’t you realize what that $5000 toilet block will do? Girls in developing countries drop out at puberty if they don’t have a private place to go to the bathroom. So this toilet block will keep 440 girls in school through high school instead of dropping out. That’s $10 or $12 per girl, and I went from being embarrassed to being extremely proud. They put the donors on a plaque. They never met each other, and they [connected] through Global Giving.

    At, donors can search by theme, by region, give directly to groups on the ground. Our goal is to get it to the project (90% of donations typically go directly to project expensesas quickly as possible. Global Giving enables a tax deduction to the US donor.

    Global Giving’s website

    Microfinance: A Helping Hand that Transforms Whole

    Introduction by Josie Sentner of Pro Mujer

    50% of the world live on less than $2/day—3 billion, 3 billion with no access to sanitation. Most of the world’s poor are self-employed, eke out a living dawn to dusk, with nothing left past survival.

    Microfinance is an income-producing solution for the working poor. Started in Brazil and Bangladesh 30 years ago. Sustainable organizations that made loans to the working poor, charged interest, and demanded repayment.

    Today, over 100,000 microfinance institutions. Many also provide business and literacy training, health education, personal development, etc. 80 million people are served, but that’s less than 15% of a $ 500 million market.


  • Deborah Drake, head of financial management unit, Acción
  • Lynne Patterson: co-founder, Pro Mujer, a network of five microfinance organizations in five countries in Latin America. Originally set up to better the lives of poor women in La Paz, Bolivia.
  • Ann Hastings, Executive Director, Fonkoze, Haiti’s largest microfinance institution, grown from two volunteers to 400 staff serving 70,000 clients, 25,000 of whom have micro loans. Has spun off a commercial bank.Deborah Drake
    Acción was founded in 1961, based in Boston since 1973 (which was also the year its first microloan was issued, in Brazil). Founded as a “private Peace Corps.” They realized that creating jobs and revenue were key to ending poverty. Mission: to give people the tools they need: loans, training, etc., to work out of poverty.

    Micro enterprises: run the gamut, family-based, often home-based or small storefront. Can provide commerce, service, or production. It’s often a woman with a restaurant in her home. They are very poor, have no credit history, no collateral. But if given a little bit of credit, they can really move forward and achieve a greater standard of living for their family. Their children can go back to school, buy uniforms [and don’t have to work in the markets]

    These are very small loans, for working capital—to buy inventory, more supplies, etc. The loans are short-term. They’re living in a cash economy. If they’re taking a loan and can pay a little every week, they don’t have to worry about a large amount of money under the bed. If it’s a successful repayment, they can access another, larger, loan. It’s a very agile mechanism. It’s made very simple, recognizing the huge cost of a microentrepreneur leaving their business. They may not be literate. It’s very flexible.

    The most well-known microlending model is solidarity group lending, where group of borrowers co-guarantee the loans,. It exerts effective peer pressure for repayment. But we’re seeing a lot more individual lending. They started in groups and have grown, and now maybe they need to buy an oven for bread. But they do not have access to vast assets. It’s character-based lending done extremely well.

    I’ve seen the amazing evolution, the tangible results. Ten years later, you visit and they have two children attending college.

    In a lot of these countries,, there’s no social welfare system. People are extremely entrepreneurial or else they starve. Particularly for women, it gives a great deal of empowerment. It’s real social change.

    1981: 12 NGO partners, 14,750 clients, 4 countries in Latin America, $996,000 in loans.

    2000: 34 partners, 455,393 clients, $284,000,000, 14 countries in 3 continents.

    2004: 1.46 million clients, active portfolio of $940,000,000, in 21 countries.

    We’ve been working over the years, more and more with organizations that have become part of the formal financial sector. We’re succeeding at our job of bringing the poor into the mainstream.

    We provide technical assistance and equity investment. So we consult on how you do this, how you get your money back—it’s more labor intensive. And we play a governance role to ensure compliance with our original mission.

    97% repayment rate.

    Lynne Patterson
    15 years, started to help women with donated food for their children. We were contracted to provide training, they had to sit through it to be eligible for the food. We began with empowerment training, child development, family planning. We worked in back rooms and yards, tried to develop a participative methodology. It’s based on village banking. We organize groups of 25-35 each, classrooms for women’s development, and teach them to borrow, repay, and save a percentage of their loans., Many are first-time borrowers, many afraid to borrow. We require a business plan. We want to see their ability to repay. They come knowing each other, living and working next to each other, and they guarantee each other’s loans. The responsibility in finding responsible partners comes from the women themselves. It’s a challenge to maintain the balance between development and being business-like. The financial services must be profitable, but we don’t want to lose sight of the human development skills. Access to services is very poor. We decided that health education was as important. They receive ongoing training in health, family planning.

    [She often hears comments like] “I didn’t have a business, but the bank helped me figure out what I can do. I harvest jicarel fruit, extract and sell the pulp. I earn $14 a week and it’s changed my life. My children can go to school. My group came to my husband and asked him not to beat me. He listened and he doesn’t beat me anymore. And I get a Pap smear every six months.”

    Now in four countries. Learning from each experience. Nicaragua, Peru, 3rd country, became self-sustaining in two years. Now in Mexico and just starting in Argentina.

    What distinguishes Pro Mujer is that is focus is on the poorest clients who can borrow and repay a loan. Our average loan is $140, and we have distributed to over 200,000 women. The arrears are less than 0.5%. The motivations to repay: group pressure, access to a larger loan.

    Women who never had savings have saved $7.5 million in commercial banks. We have alliances with commercial banks, for savings [Pro Mujer is not allowed to operate savings accounts directly].

    Microfinance is such an effective means for alleviating poverty! Using the financial infrastructure as a service delivery system for health and education deepens its impact and makes it even more effective. I don’t think the bottom-line return on assets tells the whole story. The impact transcends the clients. There’s a positive impact on her family, her business, and her community. They are much likelier to have health care, to have higher income.

    Anne Hastings
    In 1996, I left my management consulting firm to help a priest in Haiti, in the poorest country in the hemisphere. Neither of us had heard the term, microfinance. But he had a clear vision—clearer than all my clients in Washington, DC. He wanted to give the poor the tools they need to build a better life. Including a means of changing the US dollars being sent home. But he also wanted to provide literacy training, business skills training, training on preventing AIDS, whatever was needed to work themselves out of the desperate situation. He didn’t want a project or a program, but an institution on which the poor can rely far into the future. And he wanted that institution to be accessible to the poor wherever they were, even in the most rural parts, with few roads, no electricity, no telecommunications. He knew that this work and these people were going to transform my life. I made a one-year commitment. Nine years later, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. We now have 24 branches and 400 employees, all but four of whom are Haitian. We offer a full range of financial services, have over 80,0000 depositors and $6 million in deposits, over 27,000 active borrowers. Currency exchange at better rates [than banks and money changers]. We are attacking illiteracy with a program combining literacy and business skills.

    Now we have a high-growth dynamic financial services institution, and a foundation devoted to experimentation in the delivery of services to the most economically disadvantaged and rural groups.

    It took 5 years to put the commercial entity in place, and that allows the foundation to move on to new frontiers. I am concerned with those too poor to succeed with a financial institution. This is the kind of poverty that prevents hope. They do not request a credit loan or do not succeed with microcredit by itself. The amount of innovation and experimentation around the world in combating this extreme poverty is breathtaking. Don’t let yourself say “we don’t know how.” We do know how to reverse this kind of poverty:

  • Enterprise development training,
  • Social development,
  • Healthcare
  • Short-term living allowances
  • Transfer of assets to start the business.In Bangladesh, for an average cost of $291, they can guide an extremely poor family with no productive assets to sustainability. They have a 75% success rate. Is a human family not worth under $300 to achieve self-support? We believe it is possible to eliminate extreme poverty.

    Given this shift in our thinking, we say the mission is to provide Haiti’s poor with the financial and educational services they need to make their way our of poverty—and prove to the world that we do know how to overcome extreme poverty!

    No one can get out of this poverty alone. They need others. And you need to accompany her as she struggles out of poverty. And where more than 50% are illiterate, you have to train in literacy. The best way is with solid business principles that assure sustainability.

    Our 24 branch offices facilitate the functioning of these women’s centers, but they facilitate to the entire community. Many men save through it. We have a US 501c3 [tax-deductible] group where donors can participate.

    We look at three results: our growth, sustainability, our impact on client lives. We’re most interested in the third, but it’s the most difficult to measure.

    To show them in a country where agencies [abandon them] that you’re there for the long term, it’s very powerful.

    Responses to Questions

    Fonkoze is supported almost entirely by private funding (donations, investors). Our marketing shows how investors and donor leverage your dollar. Every dollar invested turns over and over again. You have to struggle with people who want to keep their money within their own borders, but when such a small loan size can have such a tremendous impact… You do have to have courageous investors. We spend most of our time talking about the risks. But if you’re interested in the financial and social return, and are willing to take those risks, it’s a fabulous way to go, especially if you come to Haiti and work with us on the ground. We’ve transformed the lives of some of these volunteers.

    Acción: all of us have the involvement of socially responsible investors, primarily women religious. As more social investors have become involved, there’s been a formalization: how do you measure social performance? It’s very appealing to the business community. There are very specific metrics. They are demanding it, and it’s evolving on its own.

    Repayment of individual loans: Microfinance is a character-based methodology, so it depends on knowing the client. Most of the individual lending clients have come out of the solidarity group or village banking, so the institutions already knew the lender. But there’s some innovative collateral, more about peer pressure. But if it’s properly managed, the repayment ratio [is comparable]. The staff is primarily local and indigenous, and it can be a challenge to find local managers, but that’s the goal.



    Pro Mujer


    Susan Witt, E. F. Schumacher Society ( The World We Want to Create, Community by Community

    Let’s carry the responsibility for next year’s Bioneers by committing to bring another person, and each raise one scholarship. And let’s bring examples from our own Northeast groups to extend that exhibit area.

    Like you, I’ve read the catastrophic reports of earthquake, floods, tsunami, fire. Like you, I’ve grieved and ached to comfort and help. Like you, I’ve been staggered by the enormity of the problem. How can we envision the sweeping changes to landscapes with collective memories and common dreams? Yet from underneath, I hear the voices of people who have seemingly lost everything to rebuild their communities with cooperation, knowledge of place, trust in capacity to achieve a goal together. It seems to occur around and outside of government aid: a local citizen movement in town after town after town, with unexpected leadership and alliances. Unprofessional, some might call it. But it’s filled with exuberance and generosities and common courtesies. A citizen train, building a bridge with materials at hand, strong enough to bring the diverse community along. Perhaps not the beautiful or well-planned bridge, but where you want to be with the new spirit. This spirit gives me hope, because it is the same spirit that is needed to rebuild our local economies, There is no formula. It will vary as our communities and cultures vary. But there are some common principles:

    Land, labor, capital. Land and natural resources are the basis for all production. Labor transforms the materials into products, and capital organizes the labor and enables the transport of goods.

    Imagine us thinking boldly, as those who build their communities think, What would be the role of land? Aldo Leopold warned against treating land as private property. He argued that land should not be a commodity that is bought and sold, but a community to which we belong. The commodification of land and natural resources means that those who control can benefit unfairly. Land prices increased because of common need, not because of any earned labor. Henry George noted that it distorts the economic system, creating value and transferring wealth unfairly.

    Robert Swann, founding president of the Schumacher Society, was inspired by George, Tolstoy, and the Gandhian Vinoba Bave to create a system of community land trusts (CLTs): a regional not-for-profit corporation with membership open to anyone in the region, and democratically elected leaders. CLT acquires land by gift or purchase, develops a land-use plan according to local need, and leases the site for 99 years. Individuals own the buildings, but not the land. they have a use right, not an ownership right. At resale, the owners sell their buildings back to the nonprofit at replacement cost adjusted for deterioration. The land is never again commoditized.

    If fully applied to a region—if we imagine 10%, 20%, 50% of the land held in this stewardship way, we would create a revolution.

    There are over 100 CLTs in the US—one of the major providers of permanently affordable housing. It can be applied to other situations. In the southern Berkshires, we bought a CSR farm. The Nature Conservancy bought the conservation easements, the farmers bought the buildings, and we bought the land. The farm would not have been affordable, the land and buildings together, for a farmer to buy. We restrict to [sustainable methods].

    In the 1950s, Vinoba Bave walked through the villages in India, and asked those with more land than they needed to deed the land to him, and he redistributed to those who were landless. But after several years, Vinoba went back and realized that they hadn’t the capital to buy the tools to work the land, so they had resold the land to the former owners and moved to the cities. so then he deeded the land to the villages, who leased the land to the landless.

    And what is the role of money in our new and vibrant local economies? Money is only a tool for issuing credit and creating a means of exchange. Each of us are participating in a system that favors the largest borrowers and efficiently hides the ecological and social consequences in the making of the goods. The monopoly-issued local currency means that the fees flow to a few corporations and further create discrepancies of wealth.

    Jane Jacobs called for local currencies as an elegant tool for regulating local economies. The Schumacher society has been working for 25 years for a local currency issue.

    The classic way to issue money is to issue for the making of productive—like a farmer who needs seeds in the spring. A community can get together and create credit from nothing, based on the future productivity of the farmer. If, say, $500 worth of credit issued in that community will create $10,000 worth of products in the fall. It’s sound backing.

    We began to find out what are the productive loans needed in the community. We began with a loan collateralization program that separated two functions of banking: the risk of who gets credit, and the records of exchanges. We let the bank be the keeper of exchanges, and the community decided who would get the credit.

    Our members opened savings accounts to collateralize loans that the bank wouldn’t normally make. We called it an extension of the Grandmother Principle. We’ve extended the number of grandmothers (willing to make loans). There was a direct connection between the consumer and the producer. We had built-in cheerleaders for those products; there was no failure to pay back any loan.

    A local deli came to us, we told them they didn’t need us, borrow from your customers. He sold “deli dollars” for $8, to be redeemed for $10 in store credit. It was a good deal for him and for his customers, and he raised over $5000 in 30 days. Then a local Berkshire Farm Preserve note, with customers prepaying to get farmers through the winter.

    Our next step is to go through a year-round issue.

    What of labor? How to we gain dignity for the role of labor, to move from hourly wages to maintain ownership of the means of production. In an ecologically, socially, and culturally appropriate way. We need appropriately scaled technologies for on-site energy production, extension of growing methods, responsibly produced clothing..

    When extra spending power is in the hands of a few, innovation goes to luxury goods. It should be our goal to distribute wealth widely. When workers have access to capital, they become owners of the means of production. This means a fairer distribution of wealth. As consumers, we should seek out and support those locally-owned businesses that give workers a share in ownership of production.

    Bave spoke to Indian women in the 50s: “when you choose the local khadi cloth, spun by your sisters, over the luxurious imported silks, you know that your buying that cloth has meant food on their table.” Choose the products with the stories that link you back to your own community.

    The task of building restorative local economies is urgent. Our humanity, our landscapes, our varied and rich cultures are at stake.

    It will take citizens working together, employing new locally-based economic tools, to solve the problem of that rebuilding. It will look ragged, to some. The blueprints are not entirely clear, and will of necessity vary from region to region. But we will feel the excitement of engagement and feel that strange and wonderful alchemy at play, when our full capacities as human beings are engaged in the process that links people, land, and community.

    The Sustainable Future of Farming?


  • Joanne Sunshower, New England Small Farm Institute and United Church of Christ Earth Covenant program.
  • Ron Maribett, Colchester Neighborhood Farm and Northeast Organic Farmers Association (NOFA) board
  • Jonathan Bates, Nuestras Raices
  • Sarah Little, NOFA Board, organic land careJoanne Sunshower

    Churches can audit their energy systems, cleaning supplies, and bring the stewardship of creation into the liturgy. Amherst UCC has done this., by consensus. Regional seems the most efficient economically and environmentally. Close-to-local but big enough to do production and transportation.

    The Northeast has a rich diversity of soils, which allows many agricultural and forestry products. But lots of competition for development of the land. The farmers have proximity to their consumers. People feel they do know where their food comes from. But there’s a production/distribution challenge. Sometimes they do this through groups like CISA (Community Involved in Sustainable Agriculture). The good news about not being beneficiaries of large federal subsidies is people can experiment. But they don’t get much support for innovative practices. They are not forced to get bigger, but not rewarded for it. There’s a regional history of civic and social involvement, conservation activism.

    Sarah Little

    5 years as Wellesley, Massachusetts pesticide awareness coordinator. I discovered that more than half of the town’s homeowners put pesticides on their lawns. I had children and I was concerned. Most people don’t know much about pesticides. Organic farming is now well-defined, and NOFA has initiated the same kind of standards for the care of landscapes, homes, yards, and athletic fields.

    I can choose to buy organic food, but I can’t choose what my neighbor, my school puts on their lawn, their fields. I get exposed even if I choose not to.

    Most city parks are treated with pesticides. In rural areas, people aren’t as concerned with what their lawn looks like.

    Pesticides include herbicides, bleach, rodenticides, etc. Carcinogens, mutagens, nerve toxins, hormone disrupters, birth defects, immunotoxins, developmental toxins.

    Recent studies: golf course superintendents have higher cancer rates, indoor pest control increased childhood leukemia, organophosphates linked to ADHD, cats killed by flea control products.

    The major EPA regulation is in the warning label; most people don’t read it. If it has an EPA registration number, it’s toxic.

    Inert ingredients can be unidentified, trade secrets. Inert does NOT equal harmless! They are allowed to be used until proven harmful. In Europe, they have to be proven safe.

    Massachusetts and Connecticut, others have restricted pesticides on school grounds.

    Five years ago, NOFA developed standards and a training program. There’s a whole protocol for managing pests: identify the pest, change the habitat, etc. And the turf can be beautiful. We have a manual for how to get your university, condo, town to stop using pesticides.

    Ron Maribett

    I’m an eternally optimistic skeptic. I’ve been involved with organic farming for over 20 years, and we were the first organic blueberry farm certified in Massachusetts, 1988. I visited organic farms in Spain in the early 1970s.

    I’m concerned about the absorption of the organic/sustainable movement into corporate agriculture I listen to WCRB, Boston’s commercial classical radio station. I heard a commercial for Stop & Shop’s Nature’s Promise. They described some of the benefits, so I went down there. I’ve made several attempts to market directly to my local Stop & Shop, and they say “you can’t produce enough and you can’t produce consistently.”

    So I went to see Nature’s Promise. There was a huge section of natural that bore no resemblance to what I would consider an organic product. The organic movement has become the Trojan horse for corporatization of sustainable agriculture. I’m skeptical that we can design regional systems that embody the NOFA principles, and they say they want to go “beyond organics” because they’re better than the organic certified farms. But that works when you live down the street, it doesn’t wash with Nature’s Promise, there’s no trust. Stonyfield Farm is in an industrial building next to an airport.

    We don’t own the land for Colchester Farm. It’s been in operation for 200 years. The current owner said, “my barn is falling down, I can’t afford to fix it. If you repair my barn, I’ll give you the land to work.” I said, “But we’re going to farm it organically, and you have to accept that.” The barn is now operating as a farmstand, we’ve achieved certification, have greenhouses up. The only thing that’s not there is the profits. They’re in Nature’s Promise. They have the big farms, they don’t need us. Our neighboring farm has nine house lots for sale in a ten-acre hayfield, $300,000 each. How can we compete with that?

    Because we were from out of town, local government was not supportive. Every time we tried to create a revenue stream, an ice cream stand, whatever, it was $150 for the permit, plus a vote.

    How do we move the Vermont model to other places in the northeast? I need to have the community come in and not just say, “this is a wonderful thing, preserving open space.” [They’ve got to buy the products, too]. Any kind of farming is a hard, hard thing. We had a drought and now it’s been raining for 8 days. Without the support, we won’t have a sustainable agriculture movement.

    Jonathan Bates
    Nuestras Raices, of Holyoke, Massachusetts, is one of the cutting edge organizations in the country regarding urban agriculture.

    {Editor’s note: Holyoke is a small city of 40,000 in western Massachusetts. Once the nexus for the U.S. paper industry, it has fallen on hard times. The densely populated area known as The Flats, where Nuestras Raices primarily works, is a high-poverty urban zone. Largely Latino in composition, it was pretty much left to wither by the local power structure, and thus created its own resources from within. Nuestras Raices (Our Roots) is one of those resources.]

    The organization started with a community garden project in 1993, to improve the environment, safety, greenspace, positive activity, reduce pests, increase property values, access to fresh food. It’s also frugal: $100 per year per family. Now in Holyoke, over 100 families participate.

    Spin-offs: youth gardening and leadership, economic development, environmental justice. Leadership group: Proctetoras de la Tierra (Protectors of the Earth), mural painters, coop project with Williamsburg elementary school [a nearly all-white rural/suburban town a short drive away], city planning, environmental research. Nuestras Raices bought the last remaining agricultural acreage in Holyoke: 5 acres on the Connecticut River. We just completed the first year of Projecto Tierra de Oportunidades (Land of Opportunity Project) there, with five farmers who went through 8-month training. Possible 30 aces adjacent. Gardens at Holyoke schools, farmers market with youth workers.

    Urban agriculture is economic development. {These gardens and farms have led to] a women’s group is looking to set up a commercial kitchen and catering service, using food from the gardens. A greenhouse growing Latino specialty plants, plaza with restaurant, El Jardin bread bakery [which sells at a number of stores and farmstands].

    Environmental justice [is an issue]. Toxics are concentrated in the poor/people of color neighborhoods.

    At Projecto Tierra de Oportunidades, 800 people attended the harvest celebration. We roasted eight pigs, several chickens. Animals are a culturally appropriate part: goats, chickens, rabbits.

    Primarily grant-funded. Ford Foundation, USDA sustainable agriculture grant

    Question Responses
    Ron: We’re trying to extend the growing season, but $3 a gallon gas is playing havoc with our abilities. But it may cause people to look more closely at the cost and origins of their food.] We’re talking about building a giant root cellar. We’re also trying to do historic preservation, and create a year-round relationships with the land. Whole Foods has a strong commitment to buying local. They give me a fair market price.

    Joanne: Low-income? Start a buying club or join a CSA [Community Supported Agriculture farm].

    Jonathan: Williamsburg project. They asked to have their youth come and exchange skills and information, they have a school garden. Nuestras Raices are late teens, and Williamsburg are grade school


    National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture


    Nuestras Raices


    Rob Williams: Homegrown Media, Local Culture, and Vermont Secession

    [Williams, of Mad River Valley, Vermont, teaches history and media studies, and is a musician and activist involved with Vermont Commons, the monthly newspaper of the Vermont secession movement. Founded in 2000, the paper circulates within a statewide weekly, the Vermont Guardian, as well as by subscription.]

    I’m really interested in how media work in and on people. We live in the most media-intensive environment: 10-12 hours a day, consuming tons of media, 3000 commercial messages per day.

    If you want to talk about media to change the world. And we live in a culture where anyone with a little expertise can craft their own reality. We shot this ad with one actor, one camera, 30 minutes, hand-held camera, and a little Flash technology. One of the great things is the democratization of media technology Anyone with an idea, even as crazy an idea as Vermont secession, can spread that idea through self-made media. Our media culture encourages us to be consumers, not producers, of media. But whenever we write a poem, perform a song, we’re creating media.

    Using media to get your stories into the world is the job of the thinking person.

    When you rent movies from Blockbuster, watch Nickelodeon, MTV, you’re watching Viacom. Our culture is owned by a very small number of very large corporations. 6 companies control 90% of all media content. The lifeblood of that is advertising and PR dollars.

    Clear Channel owned 41 radio stations before the 1996 deregulation. Now it owns close to 1400. In 2003, the FCC allowed ownership of 8 radio stations, 3 TV, monopoly cable and newspaper in one community. If you want to control people’s sense of reality in a mass media culture, you have to control the stories that culture tells. You have to find ways to circumvent that media culture. Most of the stories told in our dominant media culture. By the time a person is 70, they’ll have watched an average of 10 years of TV. Our media culture is bought and paid for by large transnational corporations, mostly US but that is beginning to change.

    But the good news is never before in human history has it been easier to get your message out. Our newspaper, Vermont Commons, reaches a particular kind of media consumer who’s interested in words. The average American reads one book a year. And they’re not reading books from Chelsea Green.

    Our monthly newspaper will each people interested in rational discourse and print media. If you’re serious about changing the world, you have to develop a multi-tined, multi-pronged media communications strategy.

    To get the message out and save the world, create different kinds of communities and then bring them together, like tines on a fork.

  • 1st tine: newspaper
  • 2nd tine: e-zine, monthly
  • 3rd tine: video/DVD over the web
  • 4th tine: bumper stickers, driving interest and web traffic.Once people come to the site, they can read archived articles, mission statement, link to other organizations, watch a movie, listen to audio, use our interactive blog.

    Blog as Organizing Tool

    Builds community by allowing multiple bloggers, shared discussions via comments, hyperlinks, multimedia, classification of entries under multiple topics, and adding new categories on the fly.

    For example, we added history when we realized we were talking a lot about the Vermont Republic, 1777-1791.

    Case Study: The Vermont Secession Movement

    Which multimillionaire Yale alumnus are you going to vote for in 2004?

    Secession is a pretty misunderstood concept, even among those who study it intensively.

    Secession means to withdraw, to leave.

    People think of secession and the civil war and they think, it’s a bad idea. But the truth is that it’s a legal policy option. It’s not illegal. Donna Livingston, the foremost secession scholar, says the question has always been decided outside the courts. It’s a constitutional, not a legal question. Secession came up all the time in the first 70 years of the Republic. In fact, it’s a uniquely American invention. US thinkers came up with the idea as a policy option of last resort. Other parts of the world have adopted it. Think about the American Revolution as a war of secession. The Declaration of Independence is a secessionist document. And Jefferson had a much shakier constitutional leg to stand on.

    The Civil War was really about secession, and Lincoln was ready to go to the mat.

    In the region of New England, there were half a dozen times we talked about secession. In 1844, the Hartford Convention was held to discuss leaving the US. It has been part and parcel of the American political conversation. The Louisiana Purchase, Texas statehood also precipitated the conversation.

    Smaller regions make a lot more sense. And secession is not necessarily violent. Look at the breakup of the Soviet republics.


  • The US is an empire, no longer a republic.
  • The empire is too big, too centralized, too militaristic—51% of discretionary budget goes to war. It’s unsustainable.
  • Voting is the least political of political acts.
  • Voting involves walking in to a voting area once every four years, casting a ballot and walking out again. And it’s become about winning, about the horse race. In 2004, both parties spent more than $1 billion on TV ads. The #1 goal of those 30-second ads, other than making the major networks incredibly wealthy, is basically grab us by our emotional brain and make us feel certain ways about one candidate or another. This is a lousy way to run a republic that’s supposed to be based on rational discourse. You don’t hear to much about the red-blue divide any more.
  • The electoral process is fundamentally flawed.We’re living in a little state called Vermont and we’re looking at the rest of the country and recognizing that the national electoral process is corrupt. We never want to have electronic voting machines, but if it comes to that point, there will always be a paper trail (law passed).

    The energy industry says we have 30 years of recoverable oil. They have the biggest stake. I’m guessing we have five, ten years before peak oil begins to really sink in. the hurricane knocked more than 100 out of 135 oil rigs offline in the gulf.

    The 911 attacks were an inside job. Don’t take my word. Ask David Ray Griffin, Michael Ruppert. The idea that 19 Muslim guys with box cutters could stand down the world’s most powerful intelligence community [doesn’t wash] In the devastation, there is opportunity for a very small number of corporations. Dick Cheney is fond of saying this is the war that will not end in our lifetimes.

    The good news: tremendously creative like-minded people around the world are hip to this stuff.

    We’re looking at taking the idea of secession, coupled with economic independence, as a viable alternative:

    1. More sovereignty with smaller political/economic units.

    2. More alternatives in directing our resources, more local control over fiduciary decisions. Take federal tax money and invest it local, state, regional level.

    [Editor’s note: If alternative media interests you, please click here for extensive coverage of these issues as discussed at the National Conference on Media Reform.]

    Gunter Pauli: From Green Corporations to Self-Sustaining Former Deserts

    [Pauli, founder of Ecover, built the first “green” factory in Europe, in 1992. But when he realized that green detergents need palm oil, and that meant cutting down the rain forest, he left Ecover and founded ZERI. He has written 36 fables that teach 1500 sustainable principles. He titled his talk, “The End of Core Business and Core Competency.”]

    I’m on a mission to regenerate this word in coalition with every other species.

    Look at the world through the eyes of our children. Children are the present generation; we are the past generation, and we goofed up, we missed it. If we only teach what we know, our children can only do as bad as we are doing. We should start asking questions to which our generation has no clue.

    Teach a man to fish…and he will overfish! The wisdom of the past is not getting us to the future. We need some wisdom of the past, but we need to go beyond it—quickly, vigorously, creatively.

    I thought I was a hero, cleaning Europe’s rivers. I didn’t know I was destroying the rainforest. You’re having biodegradable plastics made from GMO (Genetically Modified Organism) corn, which is only increasing demand for corn and water, and jacks up Cargil’s profits.

    We have to start thinking in systems. we have to imagine and design and implement systems, fast-track. Humanity must do more with what the earth produces. The earth is tremendously generous with us.

    The Food Potential of Coffee Growing as an Integrated System

    Our coffee consumption only buys 0.2% of the biomass of coffee plantations, just the berries, even if you buy fair-trade. But that means there’s a 500-fold promise of productivity [if we can figure out uses for the rest of the plant].

    If you want organic coffee, you support bananas and herbal teas, also—for shade and bug protection. And then you can grow shiitake mushrooms, and that’s a feed for organic livestock.

    3 grams in a cup of coffee is worth $0.001 to the farmer, $3 at Starbucks. The potential is 1,500,000 times, just from buying organic coffee. We are creating a system where the organic coffee buyer also buys herbs, bananas, and shiitake. And the farmer is hundreds of times better off.

    Diet for a Small Person

    We’re forgetting how to apply Fritjof Capra—author of Web of Life and Tao of Physics—to our own bodies. Acid pH for breakfast; we’re acidifying our bodies to death. Your body has a natural pH of 7.4 and the body tries to maintain it. But orange juice, coffee, etc. is acidifying.

    Advil and Tylenol are sugar bombs, bursting holes in the intestinal walls. And we’re surprised that we’re getting cancer? That heavy metals bond with the acids? And we drink ice-cold water that gels all the fats. Cancer can’t live in 7.4 pH.

    Whales as Models for Power Generators and Pumps
    Whales produce 6 volts of electricity and pump 250 gallons of blood. Let’s get pump manufacturers together to study whales! Let’s make bio-electricity. Children understand this! In Curitiba, Brazil, we have a project at the museum, a challenge to generate enough energy to power one LED for one minute, with a banana peel and an eggshell. They are working to create bio-electricity. Never mind hydrogen. People in a favela in Brazil don’t have hydrogen, and they can’t afford a Prius.. I love hydrogen, but it’s controlled by one country in the world, and I’m not comfortable with that.

    [Editor’s Note: Curitiba is remarkable in many other ways, too. Click here to see how that city completely revolutionized transportation and its infrastructure—part of a much longer speech by visionary energy consultant Amory Lovins.]

    Natural Heating and Air Conditioning at Zero Energy Cost—And Houses that Grow Themselves

    Termite hills are the best air conditioning system in the world—but no architecture school is thinking about it. They have 300 million years of experience. Zimbabwe has a naturally air conditioned 9-story building. It saved $3.5 million of equipment that is not imported from GE or Carrier, and it has no moving parts. It uses lots of chimneys vacuuming out heat. The same concept can bring warm air to a school 300 miles north of Stockholm. The laws of physics always work; hot air rises. We use bamboo buildings for farmhouses. Why can’t poor farmers have air conditioning that doesn’t cost money? It’s easy. When we think out of the box, we can think about how to grow your own house. We have people who enter school and plant bamboo, and when they graduate they have their own small house, no need to depend on [an outside handout].

    Water for Everyone and for Free, Gaviotas, Colombia:
    I’ve visited Columbia 200 times. When we visited this savanna in 1984, we found out that 70% suffered from gastrointestinal diseases. Instead of antibiotics, we created a rainforest. We were told we’re crazy. Next week we have the minister of Japan and a delegation from Europe to see it. We provided drinking water, regenerated biodiversity, and it’s a sustainable community. We were the first and only to get permission to use the Masaru Emoto crystal [as featured in the book series, Images From Water] as a marketing tool. Our bottles are PET plastic, which we don’t like, but we made them in the shape of Lego toys, and no one throws the bottles away.

    If you buy one bottle of water a day to drink for 25 years, and I suggest you do drink a liter a day, then 50 cents goes to Gaviotas, and you will have regenerated 9 hectares—1100 trees per hectare, then remove 500 between 6-10 years, 225 tons of wood, which is enough to supply your paper needs in your lifetime. If 100 of the trees are palm, you generate biodiesel in three years, 4500 liters—45,000 miles per year. 4 hectares = one permanent job. You fix 18 tons of CO2 per hectare for 50 years.

    In this area, no combat, kidnapping, or denunciation for human rights violations. We purchased for $1 per hectare, and now the community-owned land is valued at $3000 per hectare. That outperformed Microsoft over 20 years.

    This article is continued at