Porque estoy aqui

Yo vivo en Medellín hace casi 7 meses. Vine aquí porque la vida me puso muchas pistas, una de ellas siendo el amor. Pero también porque investigando me dí cuenta de una cantidad de procesos interesantes pasando en ésta ciudad.

Medellín pasó por una época indudablemente especial en las decadas de los 80 y 90, después de los conocidos eventos de colonización, independización y convulsiones por acceso al poder, mas o menos comunes a la realidad del continente en general. Ésto y cuestiones socio-económicas con desigualdad, acceso a recursos, educación y mercados han resultado en que la creatividad en desembalarse en la vida han sido cualidades con las cuales destacarse como individuo para ganarse la vida. En mi observación Medellín está poblada por muchas personas altamente creativas.

Mientras tanto, el diseño de sociedad planteado por el mundo occidental se encuentra en grave crisis; la unión europea por ejemplo está al borde del colapso. El modelo abstracto de crecimiento perpetuo está chocandose con realidades físicas, revelando las limitaciones intrinsicas. A parte problemas serios de polución, insostenibilidad, desigualdad, explotación y injusticia, una caracteristica importante en éste modelo es la tendencia a la fragmentación y el aislamiento de los seres humanos, que ha comportado profundos trastornos sociales y siquicos. No sorprende en éste punto el surgimiento de tendencias de colaboración, cooperación, compartir y comunidad: la gente vuelve a contemplar la esencia ontológica de un ser humano. La ciencia moderna con su aporte está poniendo fin a la disección en partes distintas y siempre mas pequeñas como practicada convencionalmente, sino mas bien está volviendo a resaltar las relaciones, lo común. Los físicos cuánticos se expresan mas como filósofos orientales que en lingo cientifico. Estamos redescubriendo lo que las sabidurías ancestrales siempre han promulgado: que todo está interrelacionado y que la separación es una lente de percepción.

Los medios electrónicos han facilitado a las personas reintroducir en sus vidas prácticas ancestrales de comunicación que por los mantras de consumo del mercado han ido desapareciendo. Se vuelven a comunicar directamente, a compartir libremente, a colaborar, trabajar juntas. Todo eso va contra la lógica del mercado concebido por los economistas, y según esas teorias por ejemplo un sistema operativo para computadoras libre y conjuntamente creado como linux no sería posible. Lo que éstos nuevos medios nos permiten es ampliar las propensidades innatas de los humanos para relacionarse a todo el globo. Podemos comunicar con cualquier persona al otro lado del mundo. Y podemos formar redes con cualquiera y compartir informaciones con gente afin a nuestras pasiones, intereses o enfoques de estudio. Se difuminan nociones de tiempo y espacio.

Paralelamente a ésto, también se está revalorando el encuentro físico en persona. Enfin – es así que asistimos a la expansión del fenómeno de los labs – laboratorios de experimentación techno-social, dónde las personas se encuentran para compartir conocimiento, aprender juntas, y sentirse parte de un grupo, formando comunidad. En éstas comunidades se produce, se crea y se comparte libremente por el simple deseo de quererlo hacer, y porque les confiere a los integrantes un sentido de pertenencia y satisfacción – digamoslo, de felicidad. No acaso un evento periodico bien conocido muy simbolico en Medellín fue bautizado “Lo doy porque quiero”.

La práctica de desarrollar software de código abierto ha revelado al mundo lo que es posible hacer con la dedicación de unos individuos con un fin compartido. También ha inspirado y estimulado la exploración y experimentación con sus principios en otras areas de actividades humanas. Ya surgieron comunidades que se consagran a temas como el open hardware, open government, open data, open university, open science, open cities, open business, para solo nombrar algunas.

Es que muchos cerebros que se juntan generan muchas mas ideas. Y no solo mas ideas, pero cada contribución puede ser una pieza de lego para un edifico mas grande, una visión mas completa, und planteamiento mas holistico. Inteligencia colectiva.

Nos estamos enfrentando a retos tremendos. Y globales. Retos demasiado grandes para ser resueltos por algunos individuos, singulas entidades o naciones. Por otro lado, ideas no conocen fronteras ni barreras, el conocimiento fluye libre, es inmaterial. Gracias a Internet, ideas, conocimiento, información y sabiduría se pueden difundir facilmente en su forma digital, llegando a cualquier dispositivo que sea capaz de presentarlo. Las tecnologías digitales que hoy tenemos a disposición, a diferencia de los medios de información masíva convencionales como televisión y radio, son bidireccionales, y permiten la participación. Tenemos entonces a nuestro alcance la posibilidad de combinar y confluir conocimiento de siempre mas ánimas.

Entretanto la mayoría de los seres humanos florece en comunidad con otros humanos, estando en compañía, compartiendo. Las primeras ciudades europeas crecian en base a areas de convergencia en los cuales las distancias eran de mas o menos 20 min caminando. En Latinoamerica todavía es bien tangible y sigue viva la experiencia de vida en barrios. Es la configuración natural de seres humanos.

En contrasto, la vida economica actual no respeta éstas configuraciones. Crea un flujo incesante de materiales y personas desplazandose continuamente, causando congestión y contaminación. Los procesos de decisión están regidos por criterios de financiamiento y ganancia; resultan en que se vendan en Suiza manzanas crecidas en Nueva Zelanda a precios mas baratos cuando Suiza está llena de manzanas; que se transporte cacao desde Sur America hasta Europa para procesamiento para que se venda otra vez en el continente a costos mucho mas altos; que se extraiga recursos naturales de la tierra y se depositen los desechos contando los gastos de contaminación como externalidades. El mercado vive de la publicidad, que nos incita siempre a mas consumo, alimentadose de la necesidad de mantenernos infelices, instigando mas y mas deseos y convirtiendo siempre mas rincones de la tierra a ésta religión, generando siempre mas expectatias y por ende mas consumo, extracción de materia prima, y polución. El mantra que acompaña todo ésto es el del crecimiento.

Siempre mas individuos se están dándo cuenta que ésto no puede seguir así indefinitivamente. Se están buscando alternativas.

Y si volvemos a organizarnos mas afinemente a la configuración natural humana como antes planteado? Si volvemos a formar mas comunidades, abasteciendo la mayoría de nuestras necesidades de manera local? Si aprovecharíamos las propiedades de la tecnología digital, que nos permite divulgar la información libremente, difundiendo lo que hemos aprendido, al mismo tiempo que podemos asimilar contribuciones de otros, sintetizando todo en nuevo conocimiento, nuevas realizaciones, creaciones, avances, inovaciones? Transformando éste conocimiento en adaptaciones locales, para resolver retos locales, creando artefactos localmente?
Es ahi donde vislumbro la confluencia de la emergencia de labs con el potencial de las tecnologías. Producción local basada en el libre flujo de conocimiento global. Ya no necesitamos de gigantescas plantas de producción para todo, y esa tendencia, con la tecnología, va a consolidarse. Los fablabs, los espacios de creación colaborativa, las impresoras de 3D, llegarán a fornecer nuestras necesidades de productos localmente, a medida, cuando y cuanto precisadas, sin necesidad de inundar el mercado. Labels y diseños circulan libremente, fomentando nuevas soluciones, producidas en el lab de la esquina de barrio. En un futuro no lejano ahi podré “imprimir” mi smart-phone; las materias primas se aprovechan localmente, por la gente local, mancomunadamente, y entonces no bajo explotación de entitades ajenas insensibles a los efectos locales. De igual forma, agricultura orgánica, en simbiosis de urbe y área rural, creando sistemas de abastecimiento bioregional, cubre las vnecesidades alimenticias. La energía se genera de forma decentralizada, muchos edificios y construcciones generan su propia energia, alimentando una red inteligente local; el bio-hackerspace nos sirve con productos modernos indispensables, como plásticos biodegradables; muchos artefactos se ensamblan reutilizando y reciclando materiales; y las cuestiones economicas se organizan para el beneficio de la comunidad, no de los especuladores.

Las primeras ciudades crecieron tejendo un ecosistema de emprendimiento local. Los tejidos socioeconomicos son mas resilientes a medida de la cantidad de relaciones que lo conforman. Con mas diversidad de producción y artesania y interdependencia de los actores locales, una comunidad queda firme y resiliente, osea puede resistir mejor a estrés de afuera. Una comunidad que está fundada sobre lazos de emprendimiento y recursos local por ende se vuelve mas firme, resiliente y independiente de las turbulencias de mercado global. Ésto no quiere decir que no haya negocio interregional, internacional o intercontinental. Ésto siempre ha existido de alguna forma, y seguirá existiendo. Sin embargo, fortaleciendo primeramente los actores locales, fomentando intercambio local y construyendo sobre las relaciones locales, las comunidades consolidan su identidad y su coherencia y son menos susceptibles a perturbaciones ajenas.

Creo que ésto no es una postulación anti-progreso, ni anti-negocio, ni anti-nada. Es una propuesta que se está colaborativamente construyendo paso a paso. Es una propuesta en la cual Medellín y Sur America en general puede surgir como un modelo para el futuro, con todo el potencial creativo inicialmente mencionado. También creo que comunidad y cooperación, epitomado por los proceso ancestrales de la minga, están aún mas vivos en el continente.

Creo que Medellín puede jugar un papel sumamente importante en la urgente transformación de sociedad, hacia un modelo sostenible, justo y impregnado de felicidad de vivir. Nada es perfecto, y no acaso aquí mismo siguen existiendo factores muy inquietantes de violencia, explotación y sopresión. Igual para los que estamos hartos de todo lo lúgubre de éste mundo, no tenemos otra opción de que seguir intentando a crear nuevas realidades.

Por todo ésto quiero participar en los procesos que se están dándo en Medellín, quiero contribuir como puedo, enlazandome con la gente activa, intercambiando pensamientos, conocimientos y ideas, a ver que puede nacer de lo que nos estamos planteando conjuntamente para dar vida a los anhelos para una sociedad que en lugar de destruirse a si misma maltratando su propia base, la tierra y los hombres, madure a una sociedad que coopera para resolver grandes problemas, y que llegue a cuidar y hasta enriquecer los ciclos de la vida.

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Sustainability – the Art of Nurturing Life

For most of my life, the current world we are living in to me was unsustainable. This had as a consequence that I was not able to imagine a world evolving from it. Any future vision of a society I could think of were some kind of post-something scenarios: post-collapse, post-partial-collapse, peak-oil scenarios, environmental disaster, societal saturation and revolution, economic instability and chaos, and so on.

Even in my most positive outlooks, the picture was drawn from some limitation imposed by a major event. At some point I dreamed of ecovillages, later of technologically advanced ecovillages, and even later of networked societies in a rhizome configuration [MSc dissertation].

But – I never tried to imagine a world where we could thrive as a species on this planet without the need of a big-impact limiting event.

Why not? I think the major stumbling stone is sustainability itself. In order to survive as a multi-billion species on a limited space called Earth, sustainability is key. What if we’d define sustainability just as the ability to live on this planet, to be able to sustain life, nurture and regenerate it – how would that look like?

For much of our last centuries, using such vocabulary wasn’t very common. Our world view was impregnated by notions of progress, industrialization, innovation, growth. Our relationship towards the planet had connotations of colonization, conquest and domination.

This era brought us a surge in technological advancements, wealth accumulation in many areas – and a taste of limitlessness. For decades, it seemed we would be able to master nature, to make it serve our needs, while we would all become rich, healthy, long-lived and invincible.

Today however we reached a close to undisputed realization that continuing in this manner could terminate our own species, and possibly many more. We cannot just extract and pollute back, ignoring any effect these actions have. We live in a complex system called planet Earth. We are embedded in this system as part of it. We participate in its cycles, we are fed by its products. We are nature! Our bodies are made of nature, I repeat, we are nature! There is no saving the planet, or save the environment. It’s not something “out there” – it’s us! And whatever we do to this body, will feed back to us.

For me sustainability is becoming the art of nurturing life, while losing the focus of limiting something, doing less, or reduce. If we feed something living, it grows, it multiplies, it flourishes. Everything we do should feedback into the system of life. Not only not to produce garbage, not to pollute, not to something – but to actually actively grow life.

That might be working only for me, but this confers to me much more impetus to think of beautiful futures, of cities, buildings and spaces full of living matter, of energy generation based on life (solar or algae, to name a few). In future posts I plan to describe how I could see possible thriving futures.

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Connecting the Dots

This is an older post I actually wrote for the on the 10th of December 2010.

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We could dream of a planetary nervous system, of a united humanity, of a species cooperating on a marvelous magic satellite. We could philosophize over the destiny of mankind, over teleology and the universal mind. We could delve into collective intelligence, shifted consciousness, raised awareness, and speak of transcending boundaries, hierarchies, races, genders, of wonderful futures and shifted values.

Let’s look at what we’ve got though. We’ve got to a point where as a species we have threatened our own survival, and that of our fellow siblings on this incredibly wonderful planet. We’ve got a privileged few who are determined to take hold of their power, no matter what. We have a great majority who feels there’s something wrong with our world but don’t know what to do. And we’ve got an energetic restless bunch who is trying hard to creatively deal with the is-ness of the times and spearheading possible “other worlds”.

The current social arrangements grew out of a positive response to systems which attained their limits. Most of its banner wavers are or were well-intentioned, enthusiastic and idealists. We grew out of monarchies, slavery and spiritual monocultures. All the same we will grow out of the actual configuration, and a powerful unstoppable tide is already building up strongly. As like anything this ephemeral and unfathomable spirit called life brought forth, it is coming together in an organic form, unprecedented, emerging, unpredictable.

Countless organizations, individuals, and groups, are assembling and becoming active, feeling empowered by great ideas and new ways of imagining our human essence. I don’t fall prey to an ideal that everything will be better; as with any system before us, anything we will create will bear the seed of its own incompleteness, of its limits, and its demise.

Nevertheless it’s not difficult to identify the inevitable: collaboration, cooperation, sharing, relationships and networks are the new language, overriding concepts such as competition, economy, markets and corporations.

How does a lush ecosystem evolve? First you have pioneers, who colonize the ground. These pioneers prepare the soil with nutrients, inviting followers to come in; new relationships are built up, and slowly but steadily the place changes, and new species step in into an environment previously hostile to them.

This is how I see a new movement unfolding. We are blessed with charismatic pioneers and fiery colonizers. If you are reading this, I am sure you can list lots of sites and names participating in this blossoming I have never heard of. The Internet, born from defensive and military thought, is the unifying agent bringing people and groups together, like rhizome threads linking trees, shrubs and plants.

Thus, if you share this vision, our first endeavours could simply imply extending the reach of the rhizomes, so that more and more pioneers can start making new links and making connections. Nevertheless, I don’t see the need for a planning big mind supervising this expansion. Let’s let it grow organically, making small connections where there is affinity. A nitrogen fixer works best in concert with nitrogen consumers; a plant may be best rooted where it’s relationships with its most closest neighbours are optimal; a cell in my fingertips does (maybe?) not need to know about a cell in my foot, and yet both are beautifully contributing to such a complex being such as my body…

Most of us are bounded by national regulations, financial restrictions, cultural norms. We have only come to savour the power of limitless connections. Many of us feel the potential, but can’t envision its fulfillment. It’s time to connecting the dots.

This is a tremendously radical approach. It means tearing down national borders, racial differences, cultural trenches, idealogical blinders. It means putting those together who want to work together, directing resources where we want to see them, following where our passions are.

What it takes? Legal structures which allow people to gather around subjects and projects, irrespective of where they live. And adoption of an open source attitude to knowledge and work allocation, where contributors decide for themselves what they want to work on. As every experienced open source software developer has come to know, this does not call for frenetic anarchy; rather for reputation based leadership, open and transparent processes, and access to information and repositories. This might engender value based exchange schemes, evolving the profit-oriented exchange maxim. Trusts may be setup for the stewardship of commons.

Some of the seeds which sprout in this direction are ideas like Chris Cook’s open capital partnerships. In such a framework, investors may offer financial or other resources to a project; contributors offer their workforce as on-par elements of the arrangement, and a trust-like group takes on the steward’s role of managing assets. The project output is then redistributed in commensurate to the contribution share of each element. The group upfront decides upon rules and types of remuneration: a project may decide to redistribute financial gains, but it could also issue shares on the physical output, like vouchers on energy created, items produced, etc.

Thus we could imagine a bunch of geographically dispersed people help a small village in Africa become energy self-sufficient, by providing financial resources. Experienced clean-tech practitioners would contribute with their work in the construction of the physical energy generation equipment, all along locals who at the same time learn from these professionals and become proficient themselves. The “investors” get paid in kWh vouchers they could use to pay their local energy bills. During the whole process knowledge is accessed, captured, customized and made available for others in an open source approach – open data and knowledge.

People working in distributed environments need tools on which to meet, exchange, share ideas and documents, assemble into projects, and manage their tasks. Bettermeans.com is an example of where this could evolve: project management takes a community-embedded flair, tasks are transparently and democratically handled.

These are just pioneers, and I am sure many other such proposals will start to abound in the time to come, focusing on different aspects of distributed community management (for example different flavours of voting, reputation, inclusion schemes, etc.).

The work of the future will be delivered by horizontal assembling over vertical service providers. Such service providers could focus on different parts of project management: www.dreamfish.com for example is already excelling in facilitation, online interaction management and worker inclusion. I could imagine substantial need for such services for distributed teams! Thus everybody contributing “a service” to the project will be remunerated accordingly – as opposed to per platform, per contract, etc.

Accounting could be organized in reference to some external value. This could be kWh, Dollars, Euros – or some new exchange reference (like the Terra maybe?).

In short: seeding countless projects so that all those relationships emerge – by doing. That is the natural evolution of all those fantastic initiatives bubbling up through the digital mesh. It’s too big, too complex, we can’t control it in any way, but surf on its approach: each connection at the time. Not thinking in terms of platforms, but of people coming together in projects. This is one of a possible approach to effectively form swarms.

I have the hope that these are the first steps towards some planetary intelligence or society, living in dynamic healthy balance on its host. What may emerge and what not is not on me to envision, let alone foresee, but I am firmly committed to contribute to that ideal.

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Installing renewables on people’s homes

OK, this is not a claim to have a solution. This is actually a question and call for conversation for people who know better.

Energy companies are not really interested in distributed renewable energy – even if this might solve many of our problems related to energy and pollution. The main reason is, they loose their business. If you are in the business of selling energy to customers, by putting up big energy generation schemes like nuclear energy or gas and oil burning utilities, then you are not really happy about people installing solar panels and the like in their homes.

However, installing such devices on our roofs, gardens, terraces etc. is still quite costly. Many house owners can not afford to do it, also because in many places feed-in tariffs (payments to home energy producers who feed surplus back to the grid) often are not enticing enough, making a pay off only possible in a 15 to 20 years time.

So I was thinking (and I am convinced someone else must have had thought about this before), what if those energy companies would install renewable energy generation devices like windmills, solar panels and the likes on peoples homes and in private space? They would not have to build gigantic costly utilities, and also reduce the amount of transmission investments. People would not be bothered with investments – and would still be paying for energy, even if it is generated on their roofs (in urban areas, this might be even more interesting, as most people share space in some building).

Of course, this would need to be calculated etc. to see if such a business could be viable.

What I know communities are starting to do is to actually take this challenge on themselves. You might for example found a community owned company (for example a Community Interest Company CIC in the UK), which runs the local energy generating scheme, and sells the energy back to the community (and maybe surplus to the grid at higher price). This is what http://www.tresoc.co.uk is doing in Totnes.

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Maturing species

I was 16, and my path ahead looked like many others: study at engineering school, find a job, marry. Suddenly though I realized the world was not working as smoothly as my tranquil childhood had suggested. I grew up in Switzerland, a very wealthy place. Environmental destruction and an economic system devoid of feelings, love and care, but fueled by greed and voracity, conquering every corner of our physical planet and our souls, saddened my spirit. Slowly but steadily an idea was taking possession of my mind: that our society be unsustainable, and that it would ultimately have to crumble and destroy itself, environmentally, economically, socially – in any imaginable combination.

I increasingly felt disconnected with society – and never felt I knew what my place in it would be. In those years there was no Internet, and around me, a small town in the heart of Switzerland, people just seemed preoccupied in getting along, going to work, attracting new projects, manage their careers. Was I the only one seeing how desperately bad we were treating nature? How our economic arrangements were affecting us deeply, breaking families, invading our relationships and claiming more and more of our time? I refused to drive a car, to travel far, to follow passions which seemed to imply resource depletion or pollution. My social connections were probably admiring my dedication, many sympathized; others surrendered to drug abuse and even lost their life in the struggle (we are talking of the 80s, the time of the Needle Park in Zurich). But most could not follow the deprivation path I was suggesting, and many went so far as to dismiss my warnings as pure hippie-ish doom-say.

No positive response to what I felt was most needed – a reintegration with nature – did reach my senses. My mind concluded that we had to go back to nature.

Eventually it dawned upon me that nothing in nature goes back – everything evolves. I had been lucky enough to not have abandoned my apprenticeship as electrical draftsman, which allowed me to enter the local university of applied sciences a few years later. Technology bore the promise of helping ease the earth’s pains, I heard intuitively, and my enthusiasm to contribute to a clean society kindled again. But then the pressure of having to make money came afloat, I entered industry, worked as a consultant, made substantial amounts of money. But I knew I was not happy. And in this highly competitive world of consultancy, I felt again the sense of disconnection.

Nevertheless, these were the times of the first really constructive responses to the challenges I had identified: the first organic shops started to appear, people began waste separation, and the environmental agenda became mainstream (of course I was aware of its origins in the 60s, nevertheless it always seemed so marginal to me), and renewable energies were openly discussed. I do not know how I could praise enough those early pioneers, spearheading the movements, constructing awareness, infiltrating hearts, liberating energies, and connecting to source.

For me though the apocalyptic story had firmly taken over my mind. While I was applauding all these initiatives, I could not help interpreting them as the proverbial drop in the ocean. I dreamed of simple eco-villages with appropriate technology as a new model for human settlements – after Babylon would have collapsed…

The new millennium, with its continued wars, and then the economic crisis of the last few years, and the ever more imminent year 2012, pregnant with prophecies of all couleur, continued hijacking my mind into believing the end game was near.

All the while my heart was still dreaming of a better world – but one recovering out of the ashes of today’s cities. A small scale world it would be.

Only now I am awakening to the beauty and profoundness of the evolving universe. Only now it is I am beginning to comprehend its deep wisdom, its driving force, its pervasive spirit – its love.

The human species is undergoing a metamorphose. New forms of connecting us, of divulging information, of exchanging ideas, are accelerating what we may be describe as a shift in frequency of Rupert Sheldrake’s morphic resonance. Competition, growth, profit, even economy, are terms being shed like an old skin. Collaboration, cooperation, share, love – these are the messages of the butterfly being born. And its flying everywhere!

I am truly amazed to see how the healing professions are being imbued with concepts and approaches purely based on harnessing the self-healing power of the human body. Quantum theory has conspired with holistic medicine to open up fascinating worlds of possibilities for human development. There is an army of coaches, mentors and shamans growing, connecting to source those who seek them up, speaking of love, empowering them to unfold their true potential – and they are training and assisting leaders, emerging voices, as well as any interested individuals. Where may be all go this way!

The social entrepreneurs movement is probing into cracking the code which has been locking us in to the powers that be so far: money and the economy. These pioneers are venturing to balance the high rope between business, service, making a living, and sustainability, while exploring the boundaries of value exchange and value systems – what do we really care for? What makes us happy? How can we co-create wealth? How can we share wealth? How can we realize our dreams while doing good and protecting what is nurturing us – our very home?

The list of governments embracing open data and transparency is growing – blurring the frontiers of “us” and “them”, creating participative space for interaction and citizenry. Speaking of participation – that’s palpable everywhere, from social networks, to self-publishing, to media-platforms, to physical public space. People are not mere clients anymore – they co-create. Medialabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces – labs all the way redefine the intersection of human essence, urbanity, arts, technology, and science. All this while the sciences continue to churn out new technologies for sustainable and clean energy, only hold back to take flight by arguments of costs and investment.

Sure, there’s still work to be done, but it feels like the same way we are creating exponentially increasing connections through the web and in the physical realm, the more approaches to tackle single problems, complex challenges, local issues as well as global threats there are materializing. Truly, truly amazing.

What fuels my trust that we have reached a bifurcation point, a critical mass, representing a major shift as a human species, is the fact that any institution we have today, any corporation, government, or organization, is populated by people – individuals. Even if many of us still linger in old paradigms of domination and control, more and more are resonating to the new frequencies. They might be trapped by jobs, families to nourish, mortgages to be paid. But being even more brave, they might be igniting changes from within, finally leading to the dissolution of inappropriate crusted thinking into the unfolding wave of transformation to maturity of the whole species.

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