Sustainability Consciousness

About the Conference

It's Earth Day 1995. You are nestled in a spectacular meeting of land and water along the rugged Pacific coastline of Big Sur.

Esalen Institute is the setting for 23 invited guests as they explore the challenges of building a sustainable culture. There was agreement that our relationship to the life-support systems of the Earth is in crisis. Stopping the damage is not enough.

There was enthusiasm for imagining ways it could become the business of human culture to restore degraded habitats and ecosystems to their fullest botanical and biological capacity.

We also recognized that while change arises from the desire for a different future, people take action to change imbalances of power and inequality only when there is a widely articulated vision of how things might be other than they are. The strategic aim of this conference was to create an experience that would continue to flow, inspire and give language to a great U turn from a greed-based growth oriented culture to a need-based sustainable one. We've noticed that progress comes, not by sudden fiat, but by many little bridges in consciousness. This is one bridge.

The conference brought together professionals from diverse disciplines: activists, journalists, scientists, artists, architects, business people, and educators, to foment ecological thinking, and to weave strands of a sustainable, spiritual, systems approach into designs for ecological action. A variety of areas were examined for strategic possibilities, including electronic media, patterns of consumption, grassroots organizing, innovative funding, and consciousness raising.

The conference was organized by Christina Desser and Allan Hunt Badiner with assistance and advice from Andre Carothers, Paul Hawken, Marion Hunt-Badiner, Kirk Marckwald, Mayumi Oda, John Seed, Brother David Steindl- Rast, and Eric Utne. It was made possible by the grace and guidance of Sharon Thom, Nancy K. Lunney, Steve Beck, Gordon Smith, and the staff of Esalen Institute.

Aside from its sheer physical magnificence, the land on which Esalen sits is former Native American ceremonial ground, and the site of frequent cross- tribal peace gatherings. American Indian cosmology puts Big Sur at the vortex of powerful changes and describes it as a "weaving" center for human culture. Sustainability Consciousness conference is an effort to weave the strands of sustainability and systems thinking into the emerging new vision of ecological movements.

Prior to the conference, participants composed one page on what they felt were the pressing questions related to ecological transformation in order to stimulate visioning where most needed. Pre-conference papers, proceedings of the conference, and articles by the participants form the basis of a World Wide Website, and soon a CD ROM and/or tree-free trade paperback.

By capturing key elements of the proceedings in virtual space, the conference enabled itself be informed by a much wider commun ity of ideas, and to, in turn, share the fruits of this interaction with far greater numbers of people. At no time did the the virtual conference compete with the actual conference, but rather it "broadcast" the conversation and related materials to a growing global community.

The conference encouraged shared outdoor activity (i.e. walks to the ocean and forests), and blended substantive discussions, with storytelling around a fire, and gatherings in council. There was ample time for participants to enjoy the Esalen cornucopia of transformative practices (i.e. massage, baths, etc.).

The virtual conference that lives on the web is grateful to the Well, and to the teknozen of Allan Hunt Badiner and Todd Goldenbaum.


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