A group of 25 self-selected writers, activists, film makers, and others, all of whom are deeply concerned about the state of the world, have met in Vilcabamba, Ecuador, June 8-14, 2008 for a dialog on the new approaches to the crises that face humanity and the natural world. The detailed description of the meeting can be found on the website of this Phoenix Gathering.

Some additional notes/links of mine; Background of the meeting: Ecuador writes a new constitution.

A final statement of this meeting that summarized the feelings of the large majority of participants, was drafted (see the end of the entry for Friday in the Daily log of Phoenix discussions) but never formally approved. After the meeting, two of the participants did some more editing of this document by e-mail (clarification, slight shortening), and the text of this most recent version is posted below:

The Montesueños Compact (Draft 2.01)

All human endeavors depend on the health of our Earth. The Earth is a living biosphere whose natural ecosystems, diversity and interdependencies remain essential for the survival of all species. Humanity in its current state of industrial expansion and resource depletion is rapidly destroying the biosphere on which our own civilization depends. Mindless over-consumption, industrial degradation and uncontrolled procreation lead to ever more destructive cycles that can bring the end of civilization as we know it, and accelerate the annihilation of many species including perhaps our own. Our political leaders at all levels of government, the private sector, international collaborative bodies and other social structures have either persistently ignored these real crises or, at best, their response consisting of half-measures was not timely and well organized.

Only radical social and spiritual transformations, arising from the understanding of the ongoing planetary change, can prevent further destruction and reverse the downward spiral we face.

The ongoing massive reduction of the Earth's biodiversity is accompanied by loss of human freedom and fulfillment. Unaccountable political hierarchies reinforce economic systems that serve neither humanity nor the Earth. Mankind's menacing domination of the Earth has exceeded our coequal natural right to share the bounty of creation with the myriad other life forms on this planet.

We assert that all global citizens have natural rights including the freedom of self-governance and an equal share in the commons - the water, the air, health, education and resources of the Earth. From these rights arise our collective responsibility to preserve and protect Earth in all of its diversity and the duty to take whatever peaceful, thoughtful and purposeful actions are necessary to achieve this noble purpose.

Some say our time for action to save the biosphere is short; others say there is more time. By either measure, our generation’s failure to act boldly and decisively would leave future generations with profound risks of ecological and social bankruptcies.

The transformation required of us recalls the individual, industrial and societal revolutions of centuries past. We have to make a bold shift in how we think about the nature of community and how communities self-govern to serve the interdependence of all life.

In addition to calling on current governing structures to address the urgent global crisis in the limited time remaining, we propose the following visionary, yet practical, steps:

Governance: The ever decreasing capacity of the centralized governing structures to respond swiftly and adequately to local conditions has compromised too many lives, aged too much infrastructure and squandered too many resources for too long on priorities of dubious value.

We envision the creation of a local to global inclusive democracy starting at the most basic level possible, beginning essentially at the family/household level with a method of consensus-building problem solving that we term an “emergent shared perspective”. The same way that a family might use to decide how to achieve its basic needs for the good of the entire family can be moved upwards to the next level where each family/household in a block sends one representative to the block. Block representatives go through a similar process to solve the problems within the block. This process would continue through as many levels as needed with the key principle being that of including all who have a stake in, or may be affected by, the eventual decision.

Different communities, operating within their own traditions and existing conditions, would choose different paths to the same end state guided by the key principles of inclusivity of all persons, mutual problem solving, empowering individuals and communities through identifying and acting on emergent shared perspectives, transparency of process, and feedback at all levels. Coordinated policies necessary to insure the survival of biosphere and human freedom will be required since neither can be solely preserved locally. To determine such global coordinated policies that will inform the local rules, a networking and information-sharing cooperative of localities will need to be established and appropriately financed. This will likely be a multi-track approach: In different forms and places, we expect a global people's movement demanding action from governments will likely arise, even as local systems of cooperative government are developed.

Too often, courts operate without conscience, in a mock gesture towards individual justice, whose cost to the poorer litigant or unpopular cause is often unaffordable or unfair. No form of governance can survive without a justice system of courts, judges and affiliated personnel whose conflicts of interests are mapped, and whose personal commitment to justice is continually open to inspection and revalidation. We believe that reviving the prospect of true justice for each individual will serve to improve the functioning of transformational societal structures and temper the designs of those opposed to worthwhile change.

Localization: The biosphere is made up of millions of local ecosystems, all under threat from the convergent global crises of climate change, per capita peak oil, and economic instability. Enticed by economic globalization, cities and local communities have surrendered their ability to meet their own essential needs (food, energy, manufacturing, health, transportation, and systems of care). Communities now must rebuild these capacities and develop resilience to the fluctuations in global/national economies, currencies and energy supplies through a process of “localization”. The process involves transforming existing communities into healthy self-reliant entities complete with localized supply chains for essential resources.

Local communities, however, exist in a wider context. While solutions to save the biosphere initiate first at the local levels, essential issues involving water, food, transportation, biodiversity and others must be extrapolated from local to global levels if we are to insure the survival of human civilization. Localization and self-reliance does neither require nor imply regional walls on knowledge and sharable solutions. By way of example, health equity is a right of all peoples. If one region has found solutions to medical conditions, by medicine, technique or lifestyle, the information exchange networks of local communities can be used to transmit and deliver such solutions globally.

Innovation: We will need a variety of still emerging innovative solutions to protect the biosphere and the place of human civilization on Earth, and to identify and develop new sources of affordable energy. Freeing scientific inquiry and exploration, honoring the traditions and wisdom of indigenous people, establishing new forms of democratic grass-root governance as discussed above, and embracing the existing knowledge of all disciplines will facilitate such innovations.

Much is spent by governments, corporations and universities on innovation that only serves the status quo paradigms. Innovation to serve new paradigms inconvenient to accept is often ignored, dismissed or deferred, thus increasing the risks inherent in conventional approaches. Innovation and its human creators should be supported through "innovation incubation nests" of research throughout the world to attract scientists and people of great knowledge and passion. Such centers would embrace the concepts of wisdom and integrity, and offer innovators a supportive and ecologically, humanly and economically sustainable setting. The knowledge produced by such centers would be made readily available to all communities.

Education: Education in our present world, from the global to the local level, predominantly serves to instill in youth an acceptance of their place within hierarchical structures and the conventional economics of environmental destruction. The purpose of true education should be to create independent human beings able to devise novel solutions for unique local and interrelated world problems. The challenges of re-empowering governing structures, localization and innovation can only be solved in the future by students of an educational system built on principles dictated by the interdependencies amongst human beings and the Earth.

Banking and Finance: A primary disease impacting the sustainability of the Earth is the uncontrolled growth of a consumer culture that assumes limitless resources while producing endless waste. Economies that depend upon continued exponential exploitation of the Earth are inherently unsustainable. Future societies will be forced to adopt steady-state economies that redefine acts between buyer and seller, and supply greater information and incentives for all involved in the supply chains and product life cycle choices.

Money increasingly obscures social and environmental values and the potential for human fairness. Money accumulating in the hands of a few subjugates more people each year, pushing many to the extremes of dire poverty. Money and the banking and financial systems must be radically transformed to transparently account for their local and global impacts. Once transformed, the exchange of our natural gifts, talents, and skills may be truly liberated, and abundance, joy and a livelihood based on reasonable and sustainable consumption can once again be united with our human potential.

The realization of these changes, this new global dream of true freedom and sustainability, will require bold and, at times, confrontational action by emergent global citizens determined in purpose and courageous in the face of opposition and adversity.

We affirm the interdependence of all life on Earth, undeterred by the social, political, and economic systems that deny such interdependence. To ensure the natural rights of all humans to live in freedom and abundance, we seek a transformation of individual and social consciousness and of our social structures. We believe that this transformation is an essential part of the evolutionary process from which we can regain our common heritage as part of the network of life on this planet.

As a species we face daunting challenges of our own making, challenges that are now of a global scale and unprecedented in human history. A planetary peoples' conversation on the evolution of human relationships with each other, within communities, and with the biosphere is still in the early stages. We do not have to yield to apathy and despair in spite of that some may see the odds of the survival of the planet and our civilization terrifyingly uncertain. We believe that through our actions the Earth’s biodiversity and with it our civilization will not be allowed to perish on our watch.

We, the signatories of the Montesueños Compact, commit to empowering our fellow human beings to join forces to preserve our common world. In this we freely offer our minds, hearts and souls in hope, determination, trust, and mutual aid.