In gratitude to Fritjof Capra for planting the seeds of the Regeneration
by Daniel Christian Wahl
Fritjof Capra and his work have had an important influence on my own path towards becoming a glocal change agent in the transition towards diverse regenerative cultures. I first came across his work in the spring of 2000. At the time, I was living in a caravan in the fertile valley of the Alpujarras in Southern Spain, working on a plan to create an ecovillage and sustainability education centre that would demonstrate to people how to ‘live the solutions, rather than be part of the problem’.
We were surrounded by massive olive trees that where planted before the ‘reconquitas’ forced the berber tribes who had created the ‘acequia’ irrigation system and the terraces that made this land so productive to retreat to North Africa again. There is a lot you can learn from spending time with 800 year old trees!
To cut a long story short, our ecovillage and education centre never materialized. I had been somewhat blue-eyed, dreaming of bringing many good friends together in one community project. Initially I thought it was all about straw-bale buildings, off-the-grid solar PV, micro-hydro, and small wind turbines, composting waste and building compost toilets, permaculture based food production and agroforestry [all of which are important]…. Well, the project “failed” because I did not know enough about economics, entrepreneurship, conflict mediation, effective decision-making, fund-raising and how to cultivate the community glue that helps people weather the first disagreements and move forward together.
I had driven my VW van all the way from Southern Spain to the far North of Scotland to visit and learn from the Findhorn Ecovillage. There I had met my now long-term Gaia Education colleague, May East for the first time. She had just finished the first installment of the ‘Ecovillage Training’ month-long programme she had created with her then husband Craig Gibson. The course later influence the creation of Gaia Education’s ‘Ecovillage Design Education’ programme. Working in exchange for ‘meal tickets’ I helped Craig mulch his garden to ready it for winter and we planted fruit and nut trees together.
I spent months at the Centre for Alternative Technology, taking courses in ‘Reed Bed Sewage Treatment Systems’, ‘Timber-Framing’, ‘Walter Segal’s Self-build Architecture’, ‘Micro-hydro Systems’ and ‘Off-grid 12Volt PV Systems’, while signing up for two-week internships in the different departments of the cooperative in between the courses.
I visited ecovillages and education centres across Europe. among them The Middlewood Trust in Lancaster, the folks from ‘Low Impact Living’, Maddy and Tim Harland at the recently founded ‘Sustainability Centre’ in East Meon, Declan Kennedy at Lebensgartenecovillage in Germany, the ‘Federation of Damanhur’ and ‘Torri Superiore’ in Italy, and ‘Permacultura Montsant’, ‘Matavenero’ and ‘Sun Seed’ in Spain.
Around the time that I began to realize that our project was unlikely to succeed and that I had so much more to learn, I came across two people who’s work has deeply influence me ever since: Fritjof Capra and Joanna Macy. Reading their books and articles, I found out about the Masters in Holistic Science at Schumacher College, applied, got accepted and by the summer of 2001, Alice and I had moved to Totnes.
I first met Fritjof at Schumacher College in the spring of 2002. I will always remember the day I heard him explain that “the ecological, economic and social crises that are progressively worsening, are in fact the symptoms of and underlying deeper crisis — a crisis of perception, a crisis of consciousness.”
I have learned so much from Fritjof, reading his books ‘The Tao of Physics’, ‘The Turning Point’, ‘Uncommon Wisdom’, ‘The Web of Life’, and particularly enjoyed ‘The Hidden Connections’ that came out while I was at Schumacher College.
Fritjof, along with David Orr and John Todd, inspired me to write my Masters thesis in Holistic Science on how the practice end of complexity theory, Goethean science, Gaia theory and deep ecology was in fact ecological design. The relationships he explores in ‘The Hidden Connections’ influenced my subsequent PhD research on ‘Design for Human and Planetary Health: A Holistic/Integral Approach to Complexity and Sustainability’ which laid the foundation for my book ‘Designing Regenerative Cultures’.
Fritjof’s more recent magnum opus with Pier Luigi Luisi on ‘The Systems View of Life’ offers a sound scientific bases for the emerging new story of interbeingthat nourishes regenerative culture initiatives around the world.
Since I moved to Majorca in 2010, I had opportunity to see Fritjof more regularly, as he has repeatedly been a speaker at the ‘Soil, Soul and Society’ conferences that my friend Guillem Ferrer has been organizing to seed ‘ecological consciousness’ on the island and influence the local education system to learn from the amazing work of the ‘Centre for Ecoliteracy’ that Fritjof founded. For a while I was part of a working group with the local government to support this development.
A 26 minute talk by Fritjof Capra at the ‘Tierra, Alma y Sociedad’ event in Pollenca, Mallorca, on ‘The Systems View of Life’ and how it can inform a new kind of education as a driver of a fundamental culture change towards cultures that know how to create conditions conducive to life.
Fritjof deeply understands that culture change starts with an education of ‘head, hands, and heart’ that is deeply rooted in ‘ecoliteracy’ — the awareness of our fundamental interdependence and interbeing with the life supporting cycles of the rest of nature.
One of my most cherished memories of Fritjof is the day I spend showing him some of my favourite places on Mallorca during his last visit in 2014, going snorkeling at Cala Murta and having a meal by the sea while we talked about the process of researching, writing and publishing a book.
I could not believe my own luck that the man who’s books had inspired me many years before to go back into education and do a masters and a PhD was now sitting across from me as a mentor and a friend — giving me advice about how to go about writing my first book.
While I lived and studied at Schumacher College, I frequently quipped “when I grow up, I want to write books like Fritjof Capra.” I might still be a long way from that, but I have also come a long way. I am deeply grateful for Fritjof’s advice on that path of seeding the memes from which regenerative, ecoliterate cultures can grow.
It was a special treat when in 2016 Fritjof kindly offered me a free place on his recently launched CapraCourse — a great opportunity to connect with cultural creatives from around the world in an on-line learing community that explores the wisdom within ‘The Systems View of Life’ through a series of videos, readings, and forum chats that Fritjof contributes to generously. If you find the book a little intimidating — it is a university text book after all — this course is a wonderful way to guide your reading of it. Don´t miss it!
Last year in July, Simon Robinson — co-author of ‘Holonomics: Business where People and Planet Matter’ and a fellow Schumacher College MSc graduate who is supporting Fritjof in promoting and running the CapraCourse — asked me whether I would be willing to take part in an hour-long webinar conversation between Fritjof, Simon and me.
We explored topics like the importance of a fundamental value change and how the Earth Charter is an underused document that could offer a shared value basis for humanity in the turbulent century ahead. We desperately need to find the higher ground of working together as one species to regenerate healthy ecosystems functions and the planetary life support system upon which our future and the future of our children depend so critically.
We spoke about how a holistic understanding of sustainability and ecoliteracy is informing the current surge in interest in regenerative development and regenerative culture, and how we have reduced the meaning of the word ‘development’ to purely economic terms at our peril.
We reflected on how to effectively work with business leaders who are ready to transform their business towards a positive impact on people and planet, and how Fritjof’s notion of creating ‘meaningful disturbances’ can help to spark the deeper commitment that can transform businesses from within.
Recording of the webinar conversation between Fritjof, Simon and me last June.
The three of us deeply enjoyed having this conversation and many people have given us positive feedback since. So we decided to give it another go, and will offer a webinar on ‘Transformative Change, Sustainability and Regeneration’ at the end of January.
I am particularly delighted that we are offering this live webcast as a collaboration between Capra Course and Gaia Education’s ‘Glocalizers Webinar Series’, as I know from my involvement with both that both of these educational offers are deeply aligned and contributing to tackling the deepening and converging social, economic and ecological crises around us by following them up-stream to address the crisis or perception — the crisis of consciousness — of which they are the symptoms.
I am personally deeply grateful for and inspired by Fritjof Capra’s 43 year commitment to articulating the ‘uncommon wisdom’ and deep ecoliteracy that has to become common shared understanding if we are to successfully make the shift towards diverse regenerative cultures everywhere, working in global-local collaboration to create conditions conducive to life and a thriving future for all.
Please join Fritjof, Simon and me on January 29th as we explore the themes of ‘Transformative Change, Sustainability and Regeneration’ in our ongoing work to plant the seeds of the Regeneration.
Regeneration Rising! Trim-tabs unite!