On October 28-29, 2016, Toward Ecological Civilization held its second annual fall conference, “Alternative Futures: Pathways Toward Ecological Civilization”, at the Claremont School of Theology. The lineup of exemplary plenary speakers included activist and political economist Gar Alperovitz (Democracy Collaborative), professor of sociology Erik Olin Wright (University of Wisconsin-Madison), professor of philosophy Tian Song (Beijing Normal University, China) and author and political activist David Korten (Harvard Business School, retired).
Bringing together leading visionaries and thinkers from a variety of sectors, the conference successfully discussed and designed innovative, progressive pathways toward ecological change, while also spotlighting cases of “concrete utopias” in the form of already established models proven effective. Among such models were:
- water-conservation landscaping and education projects
- artistic use of Earth satellite imagery (revealing both awe and magnificence, as well as visibly apparent environmental degradation)
- a thorough analysis of community co-ops and other such promising “Next System” ventures
Embracing decentralized and participatory modes of teaching, the conference was permeated by a strong spirit of liveliness and collaboration, with multiple group discussions generating freshly emerging insights and vistas. In addition to the four main plenaries there were six distinguished speakers, touching upon the following ecological spheres:
- Becky Rittenberg from the Chino Basin Water Conservation District on “Education”
- Andy Schrader, Director of Environmental Affairs and Sustainability for LA and City Councilman Paul Koretz on “Political Engagement”
- Herman Greene from the Center for Ecozoic Studies on on “Values and Worldviews”
- Joanne Poyourow from Environmental Change-Makers Los Angeles on “Lifestyles and Communities”
- Kenji Williams, artist-in-residence at UC-Boulder and founder of Bella Gaia on “Creative Arts”
- Xavier Rizos on “P2P Cooperative economics”
Envisioned as the next forward looking step following June 2015’s landmark “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization” event, the purpose of this conference was first to imaginatively engage both the potential dystopias and utopias of our future, and then to identify and divest from systems and lifestyle choices that would manifest the former while wholeheartedly striving for progressive pathways toward the latter.
Fittingly, in the final conference assembly, participants were in virtual unanimous agreement that positive ecological change can only result from the combination (and creative compatibility) of these myriad pathways and means. In other words, as this gathering resolutely suggested, we need to continue to sensitively and imaginatively weave together the singular sustainability successes of our day to form the rich ecological tapestry our future world so desperately needs. As the classic saying goes, “It takes a village” — and Toward Ecological Civilization is eager to remain an integral player in this transformational process.