Collaborative Empowerment: Biology, Technology and Morphic Fields
I recently attended the ‘REGEN 18: Moving Beyond Sustainability’ conference held in San Francisco on May 1-4, 2018. Founded and produced by Kevin Jones, founder of SOCAP, author/producer, Marc Barasch, and regenerative practitioner Dr. Holly Dublin, REGEN 18 was billed as a conference where ‘hundreds of world-changers in philanthropy, business, government and citizen activism will convene to foster the emergence of a new regenerative society’ with the intention to ‘help bring about a rapid shift from a degenerative economy to one that supports the mutual thriving of people and planet.’
The conference lived up to its name and intentions in all aspects – and provided the people, projects and a wide range of applied technologies and business models that fed my excitement and expectation of the bridge that many of us are building to a sustainable regenerative economy.
For example, the work of Charlie Hopper, Executive Director of the Hardesty Renaissance project in Kansas City is an extraordinary showcase of repurposing an all but abandoned WW2 army quartermaster depot into a mixed use urban agro-industrial, entrepreneurial maker-space and value-added incubator in what is functionally a forgotten inner city neighborhood. Charlie’s bioregional agro-regeneration framework is the basis for an insightful and inspiring urban redevelopment model that integrates many aspects of a farm-to-table ethos from food, to medicine, to agro-industry and agtech.
Living on the leading social-economic-technologic edge is, to say the least, challenging. It has always been hard to be ahead of the curve. Now, depending upon your social graph and for some, your social credit score, you are either leading the evolution or not. Given the stark polarity of today’s social and political climate it is a wonder that any of us are able to sustain positive emotional states that keep us active and moving forward. Yet, we do. And, we do it in an amazing palette of ages, skills, activities, projects, technologies, economic and business models and professional and personal associations forged from a common set of core values to bridge the obvious chasm between degenerative and regenerative development models that have emerged over the past several decades.
Gregory Landua, CEO of Terra Genesis International with the Regen Network, Balance Sheet for Earth, is creating a platform for reversing ecological degradation through a blockchain-based incentive system that accurately measures and reports on ecological outcomes and provides tools that enable any organization to incentivize behaviors and outcomes that benefit the environment. By building provable measurement capabilities and a decentralized platform for ecological regeneration, Regen Network is creating a value-backed system that improves the health of the planet from an ecosystem perspective.
It is exactly 50 years since Stewart Brand first published the Whole Earth Catalog and sparked a counter-culture revolution in tools that empowered individuals and advocated for the experimentation of different forms of social living, right livelihood and societal engagement. At about the same time, the Mother Earth News spawned a new generation of niche-specific publishing based on people who valued self-sufficiency and right livelihood more than materiality and wanted to put their ideals into practical practice. These publications were modeled in part after the Rodale Institute and Helen and Scott Nearing’s “Living the Good Life’ and they, in part, were influenced by Thoreau and a host of utopian social movements throughout all of history. Indeed, we all stand on the fertile and rich deep topsoil trodden by those before us.
The cross-generational overtone of the Regen18 was quite wonderful to see and be part of. It is evident that many of the more positive, life affirming values socialized during the sixties era have found new homes with many Millennials and Generation Z. The cross-pollination has as much to do with shared values and vison as it does with collaboratively learning how to apply new technologies such as blockchain and AI, new business models such as tokenomics and cryptocurrencies, and new more democratized forms of raising capital, for example, initial coin offerings (ICOs), to advance regenerative initiatives across the national and global economy.
The essence of what is occurring globally in real-time is simple and more eloquently stated by the esteemed Margaret Meade in her very famous statement, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
So, here we are, barely pregnant with the 21st century and we find ourselves often overwhelmed by social, economic and political entropy. We may be feeling that any positive forward-thinking trajectory to create a more socially just and environmentally and economically sustainable society has been built on shifting sand; the social, political and economic inertia seems impenetrable at times. All of this, unfortunately, rings true for many of us more often than we care to admit.
Yet, the truth is, we are living in a most amazing time. Every important social indicator – health, longevity, education and illiteracy, poverty, housing, food and more – demonstrates that the people of the world have never lived better. And, still there is suffering on a massive scale. Still, the economic gaps continue to widen. Still, the devastation we do to our living planet, all in the name of progress, imperils our very existence. We mistake our progress in tool building for progress in civilization and learning to live cooperatively and peacefully with each other and all of nature and life.
Oil, the lubricant for our 20th century economy and our inestimable, though sometimes lurching, forward momentum, now gives way to data as the single most important tool for social, economic and environmental evolution. Hierarchical top-down organizational models give way to flattened, team and project models based on measurable performance management. Proprietary technologies, while still an important backbone of business, have given way to an open source movement and the rapid adoption of different versions of a sharing economy, is simply amazing to observe and participate in. More and more businesses are adopting principals of cooperation over competition and social venture and Benefit corporation models that incorporate triple bottom-line accounting over traditional finance-only bottom-line and return on shareholder value. Self-empowerment through online self-education is setting a new social and economic standard. And, most importantly, there is more communication, more networking, more agreement amongst like-minded people and more social and entrepreneurial opportunity to find your tribe – wherever they are.
Reginaldo Hasslet-Marroquin, grew up amidst armed political revolution in Guatemala and watched his family and extended community survive by collaborating with each other in local small-scale food production, especially chickens, a staple of many Latin American diets. This model lay the foundation for his Main Street Project in Northfield, MN. Building upon a model of community-based small-scale sustainable farming, Reginaldo has extended it to build a scalable and extensible poultry-centered regenerative agriculture system that is economically viable for small family farmers on as little as 2-3 acres or as large as several hundred acres. Reginaldo presented his intercropping permaculture model and showed the economics of how small-scale regenerative farms of this type can be a foundational component for a resurgence of regenerative agriculture production in virtually any bioregion.
I am an unapologetic optimist when I say that the confluence of rising awareness about environmental, social and economic issues coupled with our highly leveraged capacity to reach and communicate with nearly anyone, anywhere on our beloved Mother Gaia, and give them new tools to enrich their lives is a level of empowerment never before possible in the tens of thousands of years of since our ancestors pounded one rock against another. What internal motivation inspired them to use that sharpened rock as a tool or a weapon when interacting with their brethren, we don’t know. But, we can make a pretty good guess that those same flight or fight responses from the reptilian part of their brain are as active now in our brain as they were then.
In the technology world, they speak of the hockey stick growth curve based on the network effect of reaching mass consumer traction. You either hit it or you don’t. I believe that we, the world at large and all sentient life on our planet, are at the very beginning of the greatest hockey stick growth curve of the past 10,000 years. The confluence of deeper understanding on how nature works is mirrored more and more in the tools we build and the ways in which we build organizations and develop and sustain relationships. More and more, the wisdom of traditional and indigenous cultures is being recognized, and despite much devastation, bioregional action has been taken to protect ancestral lands and watersheds and knowledge. Have we reached a positive tipping point? Not yet, but I fervently hope we are close.
That said, I am neither a Pollyanna to the obvious social and economic incongruencies and environmental decimation that we all live with daily nor am I an apologist for unbridled development of technology leading us unconsciously to some utopian (or dystopian) future with robots that mimic human behavior through advanced algorithms of artificial intelligence and artificial empathy or uber sophisticated methods of social credit scoring as we see overtly in China and covertly in the USA. We see the unconscious application of tools and social position every day by those who wield political and economic power to their own ends; and, the blind rationalization that appears to totally discount the deep and direct consequential social, economic and environmental impacts of their political and economic actions.
The question is not for us humans to stop building tools nor stop exploring. These two characteristics are innate to this version of homo sapien. The question is how to do we substantively shift consciousness where the reptilian brain is not the predominant reactive point of the super sophisticated cosmic computer known as the neural network in our cranium.
We are at the precipice between two worlds, the world of power and domination or the world of mutual respect and cooperation. We all know this. We all see this every day when we read or watch the news or more intimately when we have challenges in personal or work-related relationships. Each moment is a choice point: reptilian brain or pre-frontal cortex, fear or love, scarcity or abundance, violence or compassion.
Unless we deliberately challenge the ways in which we think and consider the whole systems impact of our actions we will not shift our awareness and forever change our individual and collective consciousness and through us all sentient life and the planet herself. Each person and each situation represent a personal choice point that does have direct and immediate impact.
With sufficient numbers of people making conscious decisions every day about how we live our lives, we exponentially increase our odds, the network effect happens and the hands that are currently at two-minutes to midnight on the atomic clock of the Union of Concerned Scientists start to reverse.
One example of collaborative action in development is between Blueprints and Regen Network who are organizing a rich web of regenerative partners and investors seeking to regeneratively develop the Osa Peninsula in Costa Rica. Blueprints’ mission is dignity in economic development. They created the Financial Time Global Impact Summit, held at Rhodes House, Oxford, UK in November 2016 whose theme was collaboration at-scale to shift emerging regions from aid to economic development. Blueprints is now implementing a 50 percent reinvestment model which cycles growth of keystone projects into exponential growth, while empowering shared ownership by the workers in equitable projects. Blueprints intends to build the most trusted social, economic and environmental blueprint for rural and indigenous tribes. Blueprints and Regen Network are in process of leveraging their skills, core competencies and shared values to develop a multi-stakeholder governing consortia to reward the individual organizations to the extent they benefit the collective vision for the regenerative economy. This project is intended to leverage 3D mapping of the verdant Osa Peninsula bioregion to develop a replicable model of equitable supply chains with absolute transparency on provenance that utilize smart contracts within a decentralized approach to a token ecosystem. This collaboration integrates the needs of systems analysis for bioregional agriculture with the performance management criteria of impact investors interested in deep ecology.
Another example of multi-stakeholder cooperation is between Charlie Hopper of Hardesty Renaissance, Reginaldo Hasslet-Marroquin of Mainstreet Project, Merlin Yockstick of Iowa RegenX and Edward Keebler of Living Economy Advisors, who are collaborating on a bioregional regenerative agriculture and economic development initiative for the upper Midwest of the United States. This initiative scales from smallhold farms to bioregional value-added agro-industry and cooperative commercial distribution models and is intentionally designed as a templated model that can be replicated based on local and bioregional criteria.
Though it might be difficult to see from our three-dimensional subject-object experience, we are in fact, at the very epicenter of the greatest transformation the world has ever seen. Even those who don’t make the conscious decision to change will be swept up in the field effect explained by quantum physics, and their lives, reactive that they may be, will improve as well.
I’m reminded of the glass is half-full half-empty story. It presupposes that there is a “right” answer based on a person’s character and how they view and act in the world. This is accurate if all you consider is the superficial aspect of the glass and the water as the object and the person as the observer. Upon closer insight and a fundamental reframing of how we understand and experience how nature operates we could come to a totally different conclusion, that neither of these answers is right.
To do so however, we must delve ever slightly into physics. In the Newtonian world view which operates in three-dimensional subject-object reality, there can only be two answers, half-empty or half-full.
But, from a quantum perspective, the half of the glass that appears empty is really composed of space or as the ancient Hindus called it, Akash, or the ancient Chinese, Chi. Even philosophers in ancient Greece or the European middle ages called it Ether. Contemporary physicists call it Dark Matter, mostly because they don’t really know what it is, nor have they been able to assign any tangible three-dimensional value to it. Give it time. They will eventually figure it out mathematically and then experientially and they will then know what many ancient civilizations have known for time immemorial. This space, is the very substrate of all things, of all matter. From this perspective, the glass is always full, and never, ever has it been empty. Only our understanding through the lens of consciousness changes our perception and therefore our experience of the true nature of reality as it unfolds before us.
This does not mean that we do not confront what appears to be a more powerful and intractable level of consciousness that desperately seeks to maintain itself despite its obvious need to evolve. We very much confront and experience stagnant and calcified thinking and outmoded ways of operating both personally, in business, and at the level of nation states every day.
But, the very magnitude and scale of how this level of consciousness operates leaves it ripe for disruption just as older companies with legacy technologies, and more importantly, legacy thought processes and fear-based emotional systems have given way to new waves of entrepreneurs with new ways of thinking and new technologies. Perhaps this is why blockchain technology with vastly improved peer-to-peer security and greater transparency and auditability and cryptocurrency based on new economic models of tokenomics, which are literally rewriting the laws of economics held sacred since first penned by Adam Smith, is so compromising to many nation states and the banks with a monopoly license to create money. As any student of biological systems knows, it is the most cooperative of species that survive and thrive for they are the most resilient, not the strongest or most dominant.
The question is twofold: how to raise our own consciousness out of the 3-dimensional reptilian flight or fight reaction and responsively live a sustained conscious reality of mutual cooperation rather than domination.
Malcom Gladwell’s “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits and the Art of Battling Giants” is instructive. The story is not just that David took advantage of his smaller stature to be more agile nor that he had a weapon that was unknown to Goliath and functionally was a disruptor in their battle. As Gladwell points out, it is also that Goliath was hindered by the very attributes which supposedly gave him unfair advantage. Goliath’s size, overarching strength and narrowness of vision all contributed to his inability to respond in split-second real-time to David. In the face of a more nimble opponent, armed with speed, agility and an unknown weapon, Goliath severely underestimated the skill of his adversary. Goliath was beaten not so much by a smarter more consciously aware and highly leveraged opponent, but by his own hubris in thinking that due to his size and strength and having never before been beaten by any other opponent of his own size and ilk, that he had a sustaining unfair advantage. His short-sightedness and over-confidence in his own status quo, thinking that his past experience in winning by exerting his size and strength assured him of a similar future outcome, was the true source of his demise.
This was a battle of how David thought differently than Goliath as much as it was a difference in how each leveraged their own perceived strengths. David saw liability in Goliath’s thinking, while Goliath saw only that his past was his pre-set future. Goliath lost the battle as much to David’s insight in seeing Goliath’s self-perceived strengths really as his intrinsic weaknesses as it was to David’s inherent skill in leveraging a differing point of view and adroitly using his smaller stature as a strategic weapon. Was David’s winning assured at the beginning of the battle? No one really knows. But he gave it his best do-or-die effort because his entire tribe, their lineage and their very existence was at stake.
We must constantly disrupt ourselves to see beyond what we think is real to see what is really real. We must think differently and know that it is our thinking that gives us unfair strength and power. And, then, we must act from that internal place of knowingness. These simple examples of what happened at Regen 18 barely scratch the tip of the new paradigm-breaking thought-and-action iceberg. Regen18 did this with deep grace, evocative fury and the collective brilliance of all speakers, participants and attendees. I stand proud to be part of this tribe. I invite you to join us.
People and Projects Noted
Regen Conference 18; http://regenecon.net/
Hardesty Renaissance, Charlie Hopper; http://hardestyrenaissance.org/
Terra Genesis International, Gregory Landua; https://www.regen.network/
Main Street Project, Reginaldo Hasslet-Marroquin; http://mainstreetproject.org/
Blueprints, David Solomon; http://blueprints.org/
Iowa RegenX, Merlin Yockstick; http://blueplanetsciencegroup.com/
Living Economy Advisors, Edward Keebler; https://www.livingeconomyadvisors.com/ and https://www.foodshedproject.com/
Marc Strauch is on the Advisory Board of Ethical Markets and has written previously about the Future of Money and Technology Summit (San Francisco, December 2017) and the Water Strategies conference (San Francisco, October 2017). Marc is a partner in Living Economy Advisors, a think tank, project developer and creator of impact investing funds focused on building the regenerative economy through six strategic initiatives – Food, Fiber and Water, Health and Wellness, Bioregional Capital, Education and Media, Technology, and Infrastructure. He is a co-founder of Etheralabs, a blockchain venture accelerator and Arch River Capital, an early stage technology investment fund and co-founder of JustTagIt the first company that enables hashtags to be owned like domain names on the blockchain. He spent ten years in environmental public policy, housing and economic development and more than 25 years in software marketing with Microsoft and other leading technology companies as well as co-founding six software startups and working on a range of cleantech startups. Marc is an award-winning filmmaker and photographer.