Energy & Economy: Smoke, Mirrors, …and Power Games

How will you adapt to the rapidly changing developments in energy supply and demand? How does this relate to an already strained international economy?

Energy drives our economy, and the burning of fossil fuels is the acknowledged main culprit (See The Guardian article on IPCC report) of runaway climate change. If humanity is to have a chance to develop a sustainable and resilient way of life, we must begin by understanding the relationship between our energy consumption, the economies it drives, and the consequences for humanity and our environment.

What does this mean for your company, your family, your life? Major changes are happening now, but many of these “signals” are being glossed over and repackaged to prevent disrupting the economy, already in a deepening crisis since 2007. This “smoke” and these “mirrors” can be cleared by being informed, making intelligent decisions and choices easier for you and your company.

Some facts of our time in regard to fossil fuel energy use are:

– Energy Subsidies: (according to International Monetary Fund) for the fossil Fuel Industry are currently 1.9 Trillion “(2½ percent of global GDP or 8 percent of total government revenues)”. What would be the effect if these subsidies were going towards renewable energy?

– Stranded Assets: to “avoid a rise in global average temperature of more than 2°C above pre-industrial levels”, 80% of all fossil fuel reserves are unburnable. Continued burning – and investing in fossil fuels – will amount to a “Carbon Bubble” with devastating effects on the global economy.

Here are some selected articles from reliable sources, although rarely seen on the front pages of these major newspapers or headlining the evening news of the majors.

The article in the Los Angeles Times read (May 20, 2014): “U.S. officials cut estimate of recoverable Monterey Shale oil by 96%”
The estimate just one year earlier was said to “boost California’s gross domestic product by 14%, add $24.6 billion per year in tax revenue and generate 2.8 million new jobs.” The earlier estimate made the California Monterey Shale 2/3 of the US total recoverable shale oil reserves.

Considering the vast investments necessary to finance the oil industry, this must have been quite a blow to aspirations of US oil independence. Overnight, the geopolitical position of Northern America had changed – although politicians and oil industry executives have done their best to downplay the importance of this new reality.

In the meantime, social unrest and wars have been raging in the Middle East for decades, most recently, and intensely, in Syria and Iraq. This region is still the source of vast oil reserves, which were diminishing according to an International Energy Agency (IEA) whistleblower already back in 2009:

“Many inside the organisation believe that maintaining oil supplies at even 90m to 95m barrels a day would be impossible but there are fears that panic could spread on the financial markets if the figures were brought down further. And the Americans fear the end of oil supremacy because it would threaten their power over access to oil resources,”

The same article in The Guardian continues:

“A second senior IEA source, who has now left but was also unwilling to give his name, said a key rule at the organisation was that it was “imperative not to anger the Americans” but the fact was that there was not as much oil in the world as had been admitted. “We have [already] entered the ‘peak oil’ zone. I think that the situation is really bad.”

How does this, five years on, contribute to the present unrest in the Middle East?

Islamic State: The latest major “terrorist” threat, acting very much like a state, albeit outside the “system”. They bring in USD 3 million per day in oil revenues, besides what they get from kidnappings, extortion and other crimes. Jürgen Todenhofer, “the first Western publicist in the world who was allowed to visit the “Islamic State.” says upon returning from Northern Iraq:

“I firmly believe that ISIS currently is the largest threat to world peace since the Cold War. We are now paying the price for George W. Bush’s act of near-unparalleled folly; the invasion of Iraq. To date, the West remains clueless as to how this threat is to be addressed.”

Israel/Gaza: More than 1387 Palestinian lives were lost in Gaza (773 civilians), and 9 Israeli lives (three civilians) for Israel to secure access to gas reserves located under and off the coast of Gaza, see two relevant articles here, and here. The story in the mainstream media was:

“We continue with strikes that draw a very heavy price from Hamas. We are destroying weapons, terror infrastructures, command and control systems, Hamas institutions, regime buildings, the houses of terrorists, and killing terrorists of various ranks of command… The campaign against Hamas will expand in the coming days, and the price the organization will pay will be very heavy.”

In other words, a war on “terrorists” no mention of gas or oil reserves.

Arab Spring: Were the string of uprisings in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Yemen the result of an upsurge of democratic aspirations or a change in the politics of oil? Here is one paper that sheds some light, from Harvard (John F.) Kennedy School (of Government):

According to the authors, oil wealth endows leaders with extra repressive capacity, and the means to buy off regime elements that might otherwise defect in the face of protest. And regimes that practice hereditary rule are ones that have forged “unusually strong ties between the ruler and the repressive apparatus.”

Another article by investigative reporter Ahmed Nafeez in “The Atlantic” states:

“…while the violence is largely framed as a conflict between Islamism and secularism, the roots of the crisis run far deeper. Egypt is in fact on the brink of a protracted state-collapse process driven by intensifying resource scarcity.”

In another article published in The Guardian, where Nafeez until recently was one of the top investigative journalists, he writes about how western interests contributed towards today’s Islamic State:

“The strategic thinking behind arming both sides was alluded to by one US Joint Special Operations University report which said: “US elite forces in Iraq turned to fostering infighting among their Iraqi adversaries on the tactical and operational level.” This included disseminating and propagating al-Qaeda jihadi activities by “US psychological warfare (PSYOP) specialists” to fuel “factional fighting” and “to set insurgents battling insurgents.”

How does this energy “oil perspective” influence our lives? And by that I mean our livelihoods, our jobs, our homes, our families, our ability to have a roof over our heads and food on the table.

Disregarding the ongoing power games for control of oil is nothing less than folly. The same power games have far reaching effects on our economies, which today subsidize the fossil fuel industry to the tune of  USD 1,9 trillion and are on course to unleashing a “carbon bubble” which could paralyse the world economy (see above).

Is everything as black as crude oil and fossil coal? No, on the contrary. There are innumerable initiatives worldwide providing sustainable solutions and showing the way towards a very resilient future for humanity. There are movements and countless local initiatives, including our own, Sacred Valley Dialogues, on the island of Mallorca, in Spain.

The first step however is to be informed, asking the right questions, and then make informed choices. Embarking on such a path involves developing personal awareness about “who I am”, and “what do I really want?” which can be simple, although not always easy. Start by informing yourself locally about what initiatives are already up-and-running. If you can’t find anything which resonates with you, start your own initiative.

And tell me about it, I would like to hear about your ideas, and what you can do to be part of the solution towards a very sustainable and resilient presence on this beautiful planet we call our home.

More facts and interesting reading:
Sacred Valley Dialogues On Energy, Economy, and Ecology
Post Carbon Institute “Building Energy Literacy”
Resilience.org, and article by Steven Kopits:
Oil Supply and Demand Forecasting with Steven Kopits
Signals of Change by Stephen Hinton
Our Finite World, by Gail Tverberg.

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Distracted for ten or fifteen seconds…

Modern noise, TV, media, music, thoughts… Where is my head? Where is my heart?

The two men came walking across the wide promenade in the last rays of afternoon sunlight. Smartly dressed and good looking, they could have been well-to-do friends on a long-weekend getaway. One of them approached the dustbin close to where I was sitting, with my shoulder bag parked next to me on the bench. As he pulled out a paper from his pocket some keys fell on the ground, and he kneeled fumbling for them while I stretched forward to help. Moments later, with his keys in hand he turned and went calmly away…

I don’t think that more than ten or fifteen seconds could have passed when I turned to look down the other side of the promenade and noticed, with not a little sudden panic and disbelief, that my fancy brand-name black leather bag, with a brand new Apple Mac computer, unopened software, and glasses, was gone.

A few days have passed, and after first running around breathlessly in the back streets looking for the thieves, then spending several hours at the police station reporting, then trying to identify the culprits from mug shots, I have now settled into – or am trying to settle into – a more philosophical way of thinking about the event.

After the initial “This can’t happen to me!!!”, and then “Why me???” and then, yeah, “it happened to me…”, then the self-accusing and the guilt of being an idiot falling for such a scam, and then talking it over (the police were very helpful), I realized that these thieves were professionals. It probably started earlier, in the café where I was sitting working on the computer, and charging my phone, when a well-dressed young woman walked out shortly before I left. She was about the same age as the two young men (mid-thirties), and had been sitting across from me, alone, and not doing much of anything (no book, newspaper, phone). Apparently this is the drill: identify the target, follow him/her, create a distraction, get the bag and disappear. And according to the police, it’s quite successful.

Why do I bring this up in my blog on Energy, Economy, Ecology, and Humanity?

Well, yes, it’s first on the part about Humanity. Do I have a right to blame this professional liga who are very good at what they do? Maybe, maybe not.

According to police, the groups originate in countries where poverty is widespread. Why is poverty widespread? According to Oxfam, the British charity, there are 85 individuals who together own more than 3,500,000,000 of the other individuals on the planet – half the worlds population. Gives me something to think about.

We need to think about poverty when we think about Energy, Economy, and Ecology, and equally so, we need to think about income inequality, considered the greatest challenge of our time by no less than the super wealthy at the World Economic Forum in Davos, in 2014. Should I be grateful for contributing towards a more equal wealth distribution? No, I won’t go that far, but I was certainly given a lesson, close-up and powerful, on what the possible widespread consequences can be of continued ignorance about unequal wealth distribution.

It also occurred to me what can happen in ten or fifteen seconds of distraction. I have insurance, and Macs have a great backup system, but I could have lost all my work, and been in serious trouble for quite some time, which I’m lucky not to be, at all. And I wasn’t mugged, beaten, knocked down, or otherwise harmed, except possibly my pride…

I was distracted for ten or fifteen seconds…

Most of us in the modern world live in a state of almost constant distraction, while “805 million people – or one in nine people in the world – do not have enough to eat.”.

Energy, Economy, and Ecology, is all about Humanity! Isn’t it time to get our heads, hands, and hearts together, mindful of what we really want to do with our lives, our planet, and our future?

P.S. And that, by the way, is what Sacred Valley Dialogues is all about…

 

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Time to get serious…

Roll up your sleeves, unbutton your shirt, loosen your pants, sit down, and do nothing… actively!

That’s something I look forward to doing more of this year of 2015. It’s something I started doing about twelve years ago after spending four-and-a-half years with intense career building. I realized then what I really needed was to Stop, Reflect, and Listen… With a good dose of observation in between.

I have just finished another intense project that took more than a year, and am now slowing down, creating both time and space for more reflection, which I am very thankful to be able to do. I realize that not everyone is so lucky. Modern life is very demanding; holding a job, or two, or three… bringing up a child, or two, or three… and still maintaining a healthy relationship to oneself, is difficult, and sometimes impossible.

It’s when things become seemingly impossible that the problems arise, and we have a so-called “crisis” on our hands. So-called because I ask myself, “what is a crisis?”

crisis-chineseThe word for crisis in Chinese consists of two characters: 危機; (pronounced in pinyin: wēijī). The two characters stand for “danger”, and “opportunity” respectively. The danger is perhaps that of missing an opportunity.

There is no lack of “crisis” in the media where we are bombarded daily. There is an energy crisis, a social crisis, an economical crisis, and of course the all-pervading climate crisis, to name just a few. There are obvious dangers associated with these crisis, ranging from the personal to the danger of mass extinction (50% of all known species have disappeared in the last 50 years). But what are the opportunities?

Before talking about the opportunities however I would like to delve into the question of Energy. Not the energy we are mostly familiar with, the fossil fuel (coal and oil), or even the renewables (hydro, wind, and solar), but rather the energy of things and thoughts, that is, the energy intrinsic in all matter, and ourselves, as matter. Because Energy, the energy of us and our environment (all things) is released constantly, and more so when we perceive ourselves to be in a state of “crisis”.

The Power of Polarity:

This Energy is the Power of Polarity, and drives us to do things, to act. It’s the “fight or flight” energy of when we are confronted with a situation and are “forced” to react. This “Force” can perhaps be converted into “Power” when we realize what an amazing, nothing short of miraculous opportunity is presented.

So, is it possible that these crisis are forcing us to react? Is this “Force” something we can convert into “Power”, and choose a path of renewal, regeneration, and revelation; generating new insights?

I am absolutely convinced that it is, and that we can, and that the way to do this is simple, although not necessarily easy.

It can be be reduced to where we started, “Roll up your sleeves, unbutton your shirt, loosen your pants, sit down, and do nothing… actively!”. This is the alchemy of change and innovation, getting in touch with our authentic selves by creating a time and space to Stop, Reflect, and Listen, to the inner wisdom inherent in every body, every where.

My challenge this year 2015 is for us all to get serious, and start by doing no thing, actively, until we get in touch with each of our authentic selves, and see that we are all connected, and that we can be immensely powerful in creating that beautiful place our hearts know is possible, on this planet, now!

Wow! What an opportunity!

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Business Revisited

The biochar event was great; 30+ people showed up, mostly from the west coast of the island. One hour theory and two hours of practice, and lots of time to chat and network in-between. We found out that this was the first workshop at the new sustainability centre in Sóller; Capvespre and the farmers cooperative there. We learned how, why, when, where and with who we can and should make biochar for our gardens and orchards – making our footprint on the planet a little greener, improving the quality and nutritional value of our food, and building community amongst ourselves and nature.

There was another event on the island that same day; presenting the new Tesla Model S (Saloon) car; fully electric, sleek, quiet, yes even silent…

It had all those qualities I would have loved to see in a car, ten years ago. Indeed, I had been fortunate to test drive the Tesla Sportster three years ago in Stockholm, when we did a fundraiser with the Tesla sales office in Denmark. It was such a boost to show how an environmentally friendly car could look, and feel. I still remember the exhilaration at flooring the pedal and going from standstill to 100 kmh in less than 5 seconds – on electric!

Stands to reason, if you have access to renewable electricity like in Sweden, going electric is great, and something the automobile industry should have, and could have embraced a long time ago. Now I’m in Spain, it’s warmer, the growing season longer, the people friendlier. Electricity however comes from the incinerator on the island; that and an oil fired power plant on the north side of the island; both essential to power the 10 million + tourists visiting the island every year, and the million or so permanent residents. So an electric car here is less environmentally friendly here than in other countries with better access to “cheap” and renewable energy.

Or is it so? Can we even allow ourselves to think that way?

My first thought when I saw the new Tesla S, with room for seven passengers, a LCD screen twice as big as my 15 inch computer, plastics, paint, chrome details (plastic) and some very sophisticated hard and software – not to mention the batteries needed to give the car it’s 500 km reach on a full charge. My first thought was: this has to be manufactured – a big factory, transportation, lots and lots of oil to make, transport the pieces, transport the people, and the batteries; an environmental hazard, and a big one. Is this really the answer?

Isn’t it time we took a long, slow, and deep look at what we really NEED?

Can we really afford to have these objects to show off, at the cost of the planet, and humanity?

Because we are there now, heading in no uncertain way towards much more than 2° warming this mid-century, and that puts us past the tipping point – now.

Is there any other business than a business that regenerates, that rebuilds, that brings nourishment to the people and the planet?

How can we even entertain supporting companies that destroy the planet, destroy our ability to live on this planet?

There is only one way, and we need to start weaning ourselves off the addiction to oil, fast. And we need to unplug ourselves from a culture of destruction, now. We need to reconnect to ourselves, to each other, and to nature, now.

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Sustainability and Leadership, Some Reflections

A short presentation delivered during a workshop on sustainability and leadership in June 2009 to the European Professional Women’s Network (EPWN).

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Homeschooling world changers

“Why are we running around trying to be more successful in a system that is driving us to collective suicide?” Jem Bendell

Professor Jem Bendell

“Why are we running around trying to be more successful in a system that is driving us to collective suicide?”

At a conference on women’s leadership, I spoke about the role of education in enabling the critical thinking that is necessary for leadership. I explored the relevance of the approach of Charlotte Mason, who founded the Lake District campus in 1892 which is now the home of our Institute for Leadership and Sustainability (IFLAS). In the talk I challenge participants to question their assumptions in order to drive change, rather than just “succeed” within existing systems that are damaging people and planet. I reveal one famous activist was home schooled, and what his mother told me about her approach to his education. You can discuss this talk in our Linked In group, linked via www.iflas.info

 

 

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IPEMA at Ubatuba, Brazil

IPEMA at Ubatuba, Brazil

The Atlantic Rainforest stream at the Permaculture Institute of The Mata Atlântica (Atlantic Rainforest)

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Me, Myself and I . . .

So many words have been written of the Ego; the egoist, the egocentric, the destroyer of values . . . what, who, where is this beast? – and how can we recognize him (I’m talking about me here . . .)?

Indeed, how can we begin to master this “beast” if we barely know him (or her)? And isn’t it the ego that is telling us what is right, what is wrong, what we should do, and not do, all after careful (and sometimes very complex) intellectual deliberations about pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages to ourselves, what we stand to gain, to lose?

We compare, judge, create expectations, make assumptions . . .  for what? Does all this make me happier?

I don’t think so.

I am writing these words with my conscious ego (I am thinking), so how can I know? What makes me human however allows me to ask these questions and using the same intellect of the ego, to observe the mental activities that have brought me here.

I remember my childhood: Sweden, Easter eggs behind a tree in full view and my mother waving from behind the tree; did she know I had already found all the eggs? What do we know that we know, – that we don’t know?

Different cultures, countries, languages; seven before I enter college after more than twenty moves on three continents. Everyone I meet is different; who is right, who is wrong?

It was difficult to settle down with so much to see, so many fascinating, beautiful, mysterious people, places, pleasures. I listened so many times to stories of how wrong the others were and thought: they must be right, these persons are old, wise, experienced. But I wondered . . .

After Universities in the USA and then Sweden I began my own wanderings; Marriage and back to USA, California to write screenplays, then Spain after our first daughter was born; real estate and property development, then Austria where I became involved with humanitarian aid for Former Yugoslavia; learning first hand the tragedy and sorrow of war in Croatia, Bosnia, Serpska Krajna; and that nobody wins. The UN was there representing the non-warring countries and very much a part of that war. Sadness, disappointment, frustration; I remember thinking: maybe one person who can save the world is here, what will happen to that person, what will happen to the world? And the cancer continued to spread across the globe. Those were my thoughts. From Austria we fled, finally, to Sweden again, only to meet professional disappointment through the crash of the Asian Tigers in 97´; newly arrived, with a liquidated Hong Kong company and jobless. After many fruitless attempts to find employment I get a phone call; start a company in South America? Interested? From the blue.

South America and Brazil was not on my plan, the furthest from my plan, actually, if there ever was a plan. Yet it was a homecoming. The energy is good there. The people, nature, the sounds and scents all agreed with me.

As I sit on this island north of Stockholm, this archipelago of more than 40,000 islands, I feel privileged to think about these things, to have the time to sometimes Stop, Reflect & Listen . . .

It was a choice I made before leaving Brazil. Soon eight years ago I am still learning about my conditioning, the programming of my life, the marks of my experiences good, bad, ugly and beautiful.

The ego is a handy tool to get things done in this practical world or worlds. A useful friend we can choose to listen to, or not. I have learned much from my ego, my ego has taught me volumes, and I am thankful. Mostly, my ego has shown me what I am not.

Now 52 springs later there are 9 countries on four continents I have lived in, experienced and learned from. I have much to learn and more to unlearn.

My experiences are not who I am. My thoughts are not who I am. My ego is not who I am. Many things I am not, yet all of these things I am.

And I am grateful.

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Stop, Reflect & Listen . . . the beginning

Never in the history of humanity have we had access to so much knowledge, never has so much information been available for humanity to make intelligent decisions on governance, quality of life and the environment.

Yet, we stand before our perhaps greatest challenge as a humanity blindfolded, deaf and dumbstruck; unable to utter the words that will take us all from theory to concerted action.

Why this paralysis, why these paradoxes of the mind? And I continue to ask:

Will you help me?

In this book, a collection of blogs, I will present a few reflections that have helped me Stop, Reflect & Listen, and brought me to the realization that whatever we do, it must be something very different from all that has been done before, being all those things that have brought us here. Indeed, how can we even think of doing something different if our thinking limits us to doing only that which we know, and all this knowledge has been built, collected, memorized and programmed into and by the system we are trying to change; certainly an impossible task!

It is my hope therefore that if we can unlearn our psychological past, reflect on our practical knowledge and listen to the winds of change; embracing this spectacular opportunity to create a life worth living in it’s fullest manifestation . . . then we may truly have a chance to not only survive as a species, but live creating more than we destroy on this fragile planet.

Before we begin on this journey of discovering the truly unknown, allow me to start by telling you a little about myself. Why you ask? Well I am as much part of this system which has brought us to this point in our evolution as anyone on the planet, and I admit, I am writing this book for myself. It is my hope that I may learn something new by writing these reflections and sharing them with you, so that perhaps a dialogue may ensue. So I begin with myself, so that you know the circumstances which have brought me to this point, which have made me choose these words, for surely these words are chosen because of my background, my learning, my environment and the people I have had the fortune, or misfortune to encounter on my path.

Finally, before I begin, may I mention the gravity of this task which lies ahead? We stand before the possible end of humanity as a species, the extinction of life as we know it. And we know how it is happening, and we know who is doing it; it is you, it is me, and the man and woman across the street. We are all the problem, and we are all the solution, and I know that we can make the right choices if we just learn to Stop, Reflect, and Listen.

to be continued . . .

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Of Doors and Carrots . . .

These past several weeks have been very intense; it seems almost as if there is a growing awareness, awareness of the urgency for change, and it’s growing fast. More important than ever to take time out to Stop, Reflect & Listen . . .

A number of business fairs presenting Replanting a Rainforest and our work at Open World Café, an international symposium; Globe Forum in Stockholm, Professor Lester Brown from Earth Watch Institute and Earth-Policy.org presenting his latest book; Plan B 4.0, and innumerable other events, meetings and dialogues later I realize I have scarcely taken the time to Stop, Reflect & Listen!

A dear friend stepped outside her home into the early spring sunshine, squinted and tripped on a step to the garden; a few hours later with a bandaged foot and cast on the right arm she found she would have eight weeks to Stop, Reflect & Listen . . .

A few months ago I was so stressed and my mind was so far away when I pulled up to the gas station that I filled the tank to the top with gas . . . instead of diesel, after more than a year driving a diesel car (I had borrowed a neighbors gasoline car the day before and my mind had not made the switch).

It’s times like these, with gracious and generous reminders by friends that help me understand the importance of my thinking and my action in these turbulent times. And turbulent they are; Greece on financial default, Spain and Portugal not far behind, and the once great United Kingdom; all contributing to a new potential financial meltdown, this time of the states themselves, putting in question the very existence of the Euro as a common European currency. An Icelandic volcano with a name nobody can pronounce, BIG earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, China and the Solomon islands have not helped to reduce the “noise” in our day-to-day lives – lots of distractions; I need to focus!

Precious little is said about the lifestyles which have brought us to where we are today. And it’s time to change.

In the meantime we all know that, but are we changing? Are we willing to change into something new, do things we’ve never done before? Are we willing to let go of all the preconceptions  of how things “should” be? Are we prepared to change into something we don’t know?

Here is where my head goes into a higher gear, and I would like to address what for me is the central issue: It’s all in our thinking. Put differently: what will it take to radically transform the way we think about these things? What will it take to change the way we think about change?

And what does this have to do with Doors and Carrots???

As I walk through life, along this pathless path I have chosen, I feel often alone; why do I choose a life which goes against the very grain of modern society? How can I NOT co-exist in a society bent on having fun, lots of toys and constant “fun” distractions (Hollywood, Las Vegas, Disneyland and the epitome of these three; Dubai) how can I resist the Carrot dangling in front of my eyes wherever I look (the cars, the houses, the clothes, the power and the status), vanishing as soon as I grab it? If I am alone (and we can all be alone even if we have lots of people around us), if I am alone it will be difficult.

But if, along that pathless path i see a Door, and I venture inside, and find other people who have chosen to Stop inside that place, a space where I can share and participate in a dialogue, a dialogue for change, then I will no longer feel alone, and that dangling carrot that isn’t will be where it should be; growing orange and green in the rich and abundant earth.

That is indeed the idea behind Open World Café and the Open World Foundation, places to meet and engage in dialogues for trans-formative change; thinking thoughts where no mind has gone before . . .

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