Almost out of hibernation


AT THE TIME of writing, I’ve spent the last five days nursing a mean flu. Probably lost about 10 pounds and who knows how many hours of sleep? It’s funny how humbling life can be. I was scared to touch my family for fear of infecting them.

Lately, I’ve been having these wonderful staring contests with my daughter. I’m not sure exactly what she’s communicating, but there is definitely great wisdom behind those eyes and I’m convinced that I’m starting to learn how to speak baby.

I’ve been lying awake at night drenched in sweat, shivering, my mind racing. I wonder why things are the way they are. My world here in Vancouver seems perfect, even with all the contradictions of this place. I get stuck thinking about the world’s problems and don’t see many solutions. I like to believe that I’m a good problem solver. I try to escape my small-amount ideas and think of something new. When I ask myself, “Why do people hurt other people?” I’m baffled and can only shake my head. So I distract myself, filling my time with inconsequential activity.

If this seems a bit all over the place, it is. I can barely focus on anything except for the pain in my body and the high fever; it’s like trying to form an idea in a pot of boiling water. I called around and asked people to help inspire me.

My friend Dave told me I should write about how we’re all living so close together yet we’re mostly isolated. There is a naïve first world independence that says we don’t need anybody else, just more money, and we’ll be okay. How do we show that we care for others? Starting with our family and then rippling out. Are we consciously doing our best to let people know we’re there for them? People get drunk and hug each other about hockey wins, but don’t have the time for a homeless person.

I’ve heard that our generation is not involved in volunteerism anymore and that there isn’t time or motivation for activism. I know this isn’t entirely true, but it’s frightening to ponder if it is. On a brighter note, I called my sister Maili and she said I should write about all the blossoms and flowers and chances to bare our arms. She said I should write about the birds and the bees. Then I laughed. Maybe that means I’m getting better


Quit worrying about your health. It’ll go away. – Robert Orben

The average, healthy, well-adjusted adult gets up at seven-thirty in the morning feeling just plain terrible. – Jean Kerr

Be silent as to services you have rendered, but speak of favours you have received. – Seneca

Ishi graduated from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 2001, with a BFA major in photography. He makes films, collects cacti and ponders many things. Currently, he is doing what he can for himself and the

Waiting to hear echoes back…

Social media, social change


SOCIAL MEDIA tools like Facebook and Twitter are all the rage these days. We often hear about the incredible potential of social media or, conversely, their lack of relevance, compared to traditional media. But what exactly are social media?

Social media are the web-based tools, applications, spaces and practices that people use to interact with each other and share information online. For example, social networks like Facebook, Twitter and MySpace provide online tools that can be used for sharing media and engaging in online conversations while also providing users with online, personal space that forms a repository of shared media and social interactions.

Social media are more participatory than most traditional (offline) media. With a traditional medium like television, audience members are passive participants, consuming content that has been produced by others. In stark contrast, online social media represent something of a return to a pre-print oral culture – more of an ongoing dialogue than a form of production and consumption – in the form of commentary, anecdotes and shared stories (in various forms).

Through social media, the means of communication and producing social meaning, narratives and values have been returned to what Dan Gillmor calls “the people formally known as the audience.” Canada has a remarkably vibrant social media community. According to Michael Geist, we have the second highest per capita usage of Facebook in the world. Our cities are also stacked with revered social media innovators and well-followed media and technology commentators, many of whom reach thousands of people with the mere stroke of a key.

Most importantly, the use of social media enables the large portion of society that has access to its tools to connect with endless numbers of people, and in real time. Social media facilitate the mobilization of people who are able to unite under common fronts via their cell phone or computer. The remarkable movement for fair copyright legislation in Canada – the result of an uprising of concerned Internet users – is testament to its power. The 1.5 million American citizens that lobbied politicians in 2007, demanding an open Internet, is another example of how these tools can be used to mobilize for social change.

The use of social media is also enabling a plethora of offline meet-ups, collaborations and events. Many of these offline activities are, in part, inspired by and infused with the collaborative practices and values associated with social media. “Unconferences,” for instance, are a new form of radically democratic conferences inspired by open-source software development processes.

Many conferences revolving around technology or media issues are now set up as unconferences where participants direct the conference through a combination of online chat/wiki technologies and face-to-face interactions. BarCamp, for example, is a series of technology-focused unconferences which, as explained on the BarCamp website, are formatted as an “ad-hoc gathering born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment.” (

These unconferences take an element of online social media practices, like distributed decision-making, and apply it to offline activities. BarCamp co-founder Ryan King “figured there was much more expertise in the audience than there possibly could be onstage.” New media commentator Kate Milberry notes, “If users actualize values of cooperation, collaboration, voluntarism, sharing and trust in their social interactions online, this surely has implications for social engagement offline.”

Social media are key tools for social change, reinvigorating local communities and opening up government. For example, this year, a new set of autonomous local conferences called ChangeCamp are underway where citizens and government workers gather to address the question “How do we re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation?”

There are many valid concerns about Internet usage, the digital divide and the social surveillance undertaken by the owners of commercial social media platforms. But with current economic, political and ecological challenges in mind, the social experiments enabled by social media are more than necessary and potentially critical to finding our way through these challenges.

Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The TyeeToronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at:

Exploring food and nutrition

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina

WHILE WE can certainly find some pretty absurd stuff on the Internet, I marvel at the ease with which we can now find facts that, in past decades, would have taken months of searching. The following websites are rich in information:

For accurate information about vitamins and minerals, visit the Linus Pauling Institute’s Micronutrient Information Center at

If you’re curious about how much calcium is in a cup of kale or wonder about any other nutrient in any other food, search through the USDA National Nutrient Database. Just type in the name of the food and away you go.

For events, history, travel, articles or news, check out the website of the International Vegetarian Union at

For other travel directories related to food and B&Bs, etc., visit and

You will find excellent nutrition articles at

The Vegetarian Resource Group is an online magazine offering carefully researched information:

Stay current about various topics by signing up for Google Alerts. You can sign up to receive info via email about the topic of veganism, for example, or any topic you choose.

The website of my Kelowna-based co-author Brenda Davis offers resources, articles and recipes:

My website (with thanks to Cam Doré) is Under “articles,” you can find a few of my previous Common Ground columns.

BC groups and events

The following local groups host events and dine-outs and serve healthy food. They also offer presentations, volunteer opportunities, regular newsletters and an opportunity to socialize:

EarthSave BC: or 604-731-5885 (Vancouver office).

The Vancouver Island Vegetarian Association in Victoria: or 250-380-6383. For information about raw events, call 250-721-0268.

Raw BC is a lively group that extends far beyond Vancouver: or 778-737-8852.

Farther afield

If you’re more the travelling type, you might enjoy the Summerfest event that runs from July 8 to12 at the Conference Center at Pitt-Johnstown on the University of Pittsburgh campus at Johnstown, PA.

Books and DVDs

For those who prefer to explore topics through books or DVDs, the library systems are impressive in the way they stay up-to-date. A search for the word “vegetarian” in the Vancouver Public Library catalogue ( ) shows between 579 and 872 items, depending on how you set up your search. It’s fun to visit the main branch and see the rows of cookbooks and nutrition books on file. They also have 94 vegan items and 69 titles under the subject of raw foods.

The Greater Victoria Public Library is a close second, with 437 titles when you type in the word “vegetarian.”

At the Fraser Valley Regional Library, which serves the valley as far as Boston Bar, a search using the word “vegetarian” offers 221 items, including 12 DVDs. With the word “vegan,” you’ll find 39 books and DVDs and if you search for “raw food,” you can browse through 17 items.

All of these libraries include our nutrition classics Becoming Vegetarian, Becoming Vegan (with Brenda Davis), Raising Vegetarian Children (with Jo Stepaniak), the Food Allergy Survival Guide and the new Raw Food Revolution Diet. You’ll also find the elusive and much loved Cooking Vegetarian, co-authored with the excellent chef Joseph Forest.

As an aside, websites related to the May 12 referendum include and Tuesday May 12 is your chance to vote for a better democratic system and to support the BC Citizen’s Assembly’s recommendation on electoral reform.

Vesanto Melina is a dietitian and author based in Langley, BC. After being in writer’s hibernation for the last six months, she resumes offering consultations in mid-May. 604-882-6782.

Raw Food 
Revolution Diet

Friday June 5, 5-9 PM
Vesanto Melina offers a presentation on the Raw Food Revolution Diet. Saanich Fairgrounds near Victoria on Vancouver Island. For more information, email Jennifer and Joslynn at

Get a good head start

ON THE GARDEN PATH by Carolyn Herriot

BY NOW, most gardeners will have acquired their seeds for this year’s garden. You can keep better track of seeds by filing them 

Super Duper Compost

Build a pile four-feet high and four-feet in diameter, alternating the following in six-inch layers: leaves, weeds (no seeds), herbaceous prunings, manure (can be fresh), grass clippings, spoiled hay, seaweed, lake algae, sawdust and chicken litter. Make it “Super Duper” by adding leaves from comfrey and nettle and strands of dried horsetail, if available. These plants contain valuable nutrients that make high quality compost. To prevent problems with rodents, do not include food waste.

in a shoebox and separating them into three sections: cool weather, heat loving and winter food. Filing seed packets in alphabetical order and using recipe cards as dividers makes them easy to find and if you return leftover seeds to the shoebox, you won’t reorder them by mistake next year.

Adding the “Four Secrets of Successful Soil Building” – compost, manure, leaves and seaweed – to the soil at the start of the growing season makes an incredible difference to the success of the food garden. In turn, feeding the soil web of life feeds plants growing within it. The best part is that all four of these organic soil amendments are free and freely available. If the beds are compacted, turn them under and wait four weeks before planting the garden to allow these amendments to become incorporated into the soil.

While the soil is moist, I do a major weeding around the garden, which prevents weeds from setting seed and makes the gardener’s work so much lighter. At the end of the season, you can smother any new weeds with a thick layer of mulch – what I refer to as an organic weed and feed. This year, buttercups had crept up on me so I had to dig up and rework the entire area, incorporating lots of compost for better drainage.

Whereas March and April used to be good gardening months, we now have to wait for warmer conditions in June or July to plant or seed the garden. To get a head start on the season, I am grateful for my greenhouse, but if you don’t have the luxury of a greenhouse you can improvise using cold frames or cloches. These can be made inexpensively from recycled wood and glass windows or 6ml. greenhouse plastic.

Container gardening is a good way of surviving a poor summer. Heat loving plants such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, eggplant and basil fare well when grown in planters in full sun. Success depends upon a well- drained and fertile growing medium. Once roots fill the containers in late summer, weekly feedings of compost tea or liquid seaweed make a big difference to the yields.

I grow my food garden together with hedgerows of ornamental shrubs, flowers, grasses, herbs, small fruits and berries, all of which attract wildlife in large populations.

For good reason, monocultures don’t exist in nature; they prohibit all the beneficial relationships between plant species. Large-scale monocultures attract pests and diseases fast, which is why ever-increasing inputs of pesticides are necessary. Moving related plants around in rotation prevents the build up of pesky problems by breaking the lifecycle of potential pests or diseases.

There’s a lot to do in the garden this month now that the blossoms and the green violet swallows have finally appeared. The sprouted potatoes have been planted and the late season russets are being “chitted” (sprouted in a container before planting). All the cool weather plants – broccoli, cauliflower, kale, cabbages, Brussels sprouts, onions, leeks, lettuces, salad greens, beets and chard – are up and growing. The peas are in the ground now and climbing up their bamboo supports. Now’s a good time to plant berries and fruit trees; divide perennial food plants such as globe artichokes, rhubarb and lovage; repot root bound mints; and feed container plants with your own version of Super Duper mix.

Happy gardening chores.

Carolyn Herriot is author of A Year on the Garden Path: A 52-Week Organic Gardening Guide. She grows Seeds of Victoria at the Garden Path Centre where she teaches The Zero Mile Diet – Twelve Steps to Sustainable Homegrown Food Production and Growing an Edible Plant

Infinite possibility

THE POWER OF NOW by Eckhart Tolle

What about all those people who, it seems, actually want to suffer? I have a friend whose partner is physically abusive toward her and her previous relationship was of a similar kind. Why does she choose such men and why is she refusing to get out of that situation now? Why do so many people actually choose pain?

I KNOW that the word “choose” is a favourite New Age term, but it isn’t entirely accurate in this context. It is misleading to say that somebody “chose” a dysfunctional relationship or any other negative situation in his or her life. Choice implies consciousness – a high degree of consciousness. Without it, you have no choice.

Choice begins the moment you dis-identify from the mind and its conditioned patterns – the moment you become present. Until you reach that point, you are unconscious, spiritually speaking. This means that you are compelled to think, feel and act in certain ways according to the conditioning of your mind. That is why Jesus said, “Forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

This is not related to intelligence in the conventional sense of the word. I have met many highly intelligent and educated people who were also completely unconscious, which is to say completely identified with their mind. In fact, if mental development and increased knowledge are not counterbalanced by a corresponding growth in consciousness, the potential for unhappiness and disaster is very great.

Your friend is stuck in a relationship with an abusive partner, and not for the first time. Why? No choice. The mind, conditioned as it is by the past, always seeks to recreate what it is familiar with. Even if it is painful, at least it is familiar. The mind always adheres to the known. The unknown is dangerous because it has no control over it. That’s why the mind dislikes and ignores the present moment.

Present-moment awareness creates a gap not only in the stream of mind, but also in the past-future continuum. Nothing truly new and creative can come into this world except through that gap, that clear space of infinite possibility.

So your friend, being identified with her mind, may be recreating a pattern learned in the past in which intimacy and abuse were inseparably linked. Or, she may be acting out a mind pattern learned in early childhood according to which she is unworthy and deserves to be punished. It is possible, too, that she lives a large part of her life through the pain-body, which always seeks more pain on which to feed. Her partner has his own unconscious patterns, which complement hers.

Of course her situation is self-created, but who or what is the self that is doing the creating? A mental-emotional pattern from the past, no more. Why make a self out of it? If you tell her that she has chosen her condition or situation, you are reinforcing her state of mind identification. But is her mind pattern who she is? Is it her self? Is her true identity derived from the past?

Show your friend how to be the observing presence behind her thoughts and her emotions. Tell her about the pain-body and how to free herself from it. Teach her the art of inner-body awareness. Demonstrate to her the meaning of presence. As soon as she is able to access the power of the Now, and break from her conditioned past, she will have a choice.

Adapted from The Power of Now, copyright 1999 by Eckhart Tolle. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA, 800-972-6657 (ext. 52). Visit

Fixing the inner hard drive

UNIVERSE WITHIN by Gwen Randall-Young

One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star. – G. K. Chesterton

AS WE move along our evolutionary path and strive to attain higher levels of consciousness, we can learn a lot. We may read, listen to enlightened speakers, meditate and even enter therapy. We learn about ourselves and about how we want to be. We may even be making pretty good progress in our growth.

Then something happens. Something occurs that annoys us or that we perceive to be unfair. We have an issue with our child or an intimate partner. Suddenly, we are angry, hurt and perhaps critical or judgmental. We are worked up, to be sure, and that calm, Buddha-like equanimity evaporates.

What happened? It would seem that ego has made an unexpected – even uninvited – appearance. Seemingly just popped up out of nowhere. How can this happen after all the personal growth and spiritual work?

One explanation has to do with how our minds function. I like to think of the mind as a little like a computer. Our conscious mind is the word processing program. Our subconscious mind is like the hard drive. If there is a virus in our hard drive, we can hardly open a document and write a note to clean up the hard drive. The virus will continue to disrupt our programs until we can fix it.

It is known that many of our drives, needs and motivations originate in the subconscious, usually having been formed years ago. Often, survival strategies we needed or developed as children persist well into adulthood, whether or not they are still appropriate. Many ego impulses originate there.

So we can do lots of work with our word processing program: reading, learning, experiencing, forming intentions and making affirmations. We look at the “‘documents” we have created and it all looks pretty good. We can surely talk the talk.

However, when our guard is down and something happens that hits a subconscious “nerve,” a reaction comes swiftly, without even passing through our “word” or “consciousness processing program.” Others may be surprised at our reaction, but perhaps not as much as we are for we thought we had evolved beyond such knee-jerk reactions.

In one sense, when these things happen, it is simply the universe shining a light on the places where we still need to work. There is still some inner healing that needs to happen so that the “security guard” ego does not have to behave like a threatened pit bull.

As previously stated, we cannot “fix” the subconscious with the conscious mind. We can work to overcome our reactions and change our behaviours, but in some cases that is like painting over rust. At first it all seems good, but one day the rust pops through again. The problem cannot be addressed at the surface level only. Some issues require attention at a deeper level.

Just as we need a special program to get into our computer’s hard drive to eliminate viruses, we also need a special technique to get into the subconscious and clean things up. One excellent way to do this is with hypnosis.

Hypnotic techniques allow messages to be received at the deeper subconscious levels so that real change can occur. It allows one to bypass all the analysis, processing, self-doubt and self-sabotage that so often undermine our best intentions.

Ego certainly can be thought of as a virus in the hard drive of our consciousness. When it causes us to think, feel and react in ways that are counter-productive and out of alignment with who we perceive ourselves to be, it is time to take action.

Very often, clients express the frustration of knowing all the right things – how they should respond – but they just can’t follow through consistently. If we find ourselves stuck in this place, it’s a sign that it may be time to go deeper.

Gwen Randall-Young is a psychotherapist in private practice and author ofGrowing Into Soul: The Next Step in Human Evolution. For more articles, permission to reprint and information about her books and “Deep Powerful Change” personal growth/hypnosis CDs, visit

Soul force at work


Daryl Hannah up a tree trying to save an urban farm in LA from being bulldozed.

IN THE 2004 feature documentary Scared Sacred(, activist filmmaker Velcrow Ripper went to what he called the “ground zeroes” of the planet – post 9/11 New York, Bhopal, Hiroshima – in search of hope in humanity’s darkest hours.

With his latest feature documentary, Fierce Light: When Spirit Meets Action, Ripper leads us once again through the shadows, although here his quest for truth and understanding stems from a more personal tragedy. In October of 2006, Ripper’s friend, journalist Brad Will, was shot dead while filming protests in Oaxaca, Mexico. “Brad’s death shook me to the core,” says Ripper in the film’s narrative. The tragedy sets him questioning the relationship between two aspects of himself – the activist filmmaker and the spiritual self and how they work together.

As he crosses the globe, following stories of activists that took huge risks for a cause, you begin to get a sense of what he means when he says, “I feel tremors of a volcanic spirit starting to build all over the globe to the cry ‘Another world is possible.’”

In what is a poetic call to heartfelt action, Ripper asks how, with the batons and blows raining down, activists maintain their composure and the certainty of their convictions. Civil rights activist, now congressman, John Lewis, says even after being beaten and left for dead during the Bloody Sunday march of 1965 in Selma, Alabama, hatred and violence were never an option. “We just gotta love the hell out of them,” Lewis recalls his mentor Martin Luther King saying to him.

Ripper reflects on the ideas of Gandhi, who called this inner strength “soul force” or “truth force” and whose non-violent doctrine has been taken up by generations of activists. The documentary regularly revisits a protest to save a large, urban farm in South Central Los Angeles from being bulldozed for development. Clearly, this little piece of Eden is cherished by and has enriched the hundreds of people, young and old, who cultivate it. The farm’s plight is splashed across the news, as actress Daryl Hannah and Julia Butterfly Hill, famed for her two-year tree-sit in the “Luna” redwood, decide to hold out in the branches in an act of civil disobedience. As the drama unravels, Ripper succeeds in showing the importance of the action in bringing people together and raising consciousness, even if the goals of the action are not fully realized.

Considering the film covers so much pain and violence (I’d forgotten quite how awful that Rodney King beating was), its stories are often quietly inspirational. Ripper melds mythology and spiritual practice with a meditative soundtrack and fluid, metaphorical imagery so that it almost washes over you. The theatrical release is set for May 15.

The Pacific Cinematheque has a mini season of BC film and television work – awards for which take place May 8. Well worth a look is Carts of Darkness, profiling North Vancouver men who combine binning with shopping-cart racing down steep North Van mountain roads. The doc, nominated in six categories, shows with Warrior Boyz on May 1, with director Murray Siple in attendance. Now that the NFB has opened its archive for online viewing, you can watch the full film at

The controversial and lucrative trade in wild dolphins is the subject of The Dolphin Dealer (PCP, May 2, 5pm). The Leo-nominated doc follows former Vancouver Aquarium trainer Christopher Porter, who exports dolphins from his Solomon Islands base for $100,000 a head to marine parks around the world. Critics include Ric O’Barry, a former trainer for television’s Flipper. The 44-minute doc screens as a double bill with Blowdown, a documentary about the demolition of a Cape Canaveral rocket launch tower.

Robert Alstead writes at

Let’s get it together

SCIENCE MATTERS by David Suzuki with Faisal Moola

THE NORTH Coast of BC is one of my favourite places. If you visit this spectacular and ecologically diverse region, you’ll see mountains, forests, oceans, sea lions, puffins and whales. If you are fortunate enough to dive into the ocean, you’ll see salmon, herring, rockfish, sea anemones, giant scallops, kelp forests, and – deep below – 9,000-year-old glass-sponge reefs.

It’s absurd to think that we could manage our activities in such a vast and complex area by having different government departments oversee individual activities in isolation. But that’s pretty much the way we’ve been doing things.

Fortunately, people are beginning to talk about a new way of managing our oceans, a way that’s being tested in five large ocean areas in Canada. One of these areas is the North Coast of BC, in a region stretching from northern Vancouver Island to the BC-Alaska border, which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) has labelled the “Pacific North Coast Integrated Management Area,” or PNCIMA.

The DFO is attempting to engage an integrated management planning process here, in part based on the recognition that everything in nature is interconnected, including human activity. For years, many scientists, resource managers and environmentalists have encouraged government to adopt an ecosystem-based management, or EBM, approach that takes into account all values and interests.

The Federal government’s planning processes in the Beaufort Sea, Gulf of St. Lawrence, Eastern Scotian Shelf, Placentia Bay/Grand Banks and Pacific North Coast could set an example for the EBM approach in all of Canada’s oceans. Until now, there’s been more talk than action.

PNCIMA’s integrated management planning process has recently seen some significant breakthroughs, though. In December, DFO signed a formal governance agreement with First Nations in the area to move forward with a marine planning process. And in late March, more than 380 people – including representatives from government, First Nations, coastal communities, marine industries and non-governmental organizations – took part in a two-day forum to discuss management and conservation options for the region.

That so many people from so many walks of life and so many communities were able to come together to discuss the needs of this area shows not just that cooperation is possible, but also that everyone understands the need for urgent action to protect the health of our oceans.

As with most processes involving a multitude of resources, interests and ecological values, government must continue to play a leading role. Even more importantly, our government must provide enough money for scientific research to ensure that decisions are made according to the best local and scientific knowledge.

We don’t have a lot of time to waste. Many ocean ecosystems are at tipping points, with pollution, resource extraction and industrial impacts contributing to declines in fish, mammal, and other marine-life populations. Add to that the uncertainty about the effects climate change is having on these ecosystems and the need for planning becomes even more urgent.

A credible, long-term plan for any ocean region must include an increase in protected areas where specific types of industrial activity are limited. Canada has the longest coastline of any nation on Earth and 40 percent of our jurisdictional area is ocean, yet the federal government has set aside less than one percent of that as marine protected areas.

I hope governments, First Nations and other interested people will continue the formal dialogue, scientific research and relationship building required to ensure we have intelligent management and conservation in our oceans. I believe most people understand that our own health depends on the health of ocean ecosystems.

I encourage everyone in Canada who cares about the future health of our oceans to let the government know that we want a greater investment in science, management, and conservation so that our oceans stand a fighting chance in an all too uncertain future. For more information, visit

Take the Nature Challenge and learn more at

Your turn to be the change

by Maureen Jack-LaCroix

“YOU MUST be the change you want to see in the world.” This profoundly grounded and compelling call to action by Mahatma Gandhi is the founding principle of the social change program developed by Be the Change Earth Alliance, and it reveals more to me every time I consider it.

Along with the mandate of taking personal responsibility to clarify and live what we value, with this statement Gandhi challenges our integrity to act in alignment with those values.

The challenges of our time are calling for change on a scale we do not yet understand. Even when we start to recognize, through scientific and spiritual insight, the truth of our interconnectedness, the complexity of the natural and social systems in which we operate far exceeds our ability to comprehend.

Whether or not you have moved through decades of personal growth and spiritual exploration, we are now collectively entering a new moment in time that calls us to transform our operating perspective from “I” into “we.” To quote Ken Wilbur, this is a “transcend and include” process. We must not lose the personal responsibility and unique offerings of the “I,” but we must also embrace the collective responsibility and wisdom of the “we.”

We are being asked to trust our collective potential as never before – to let go of our competitive, individualistic tendencies – both personally and organizationally – and to trust more deeply in the unfamiliar, and sometimes chaotic, collaborative approach. There are so many aspects required in this change that one person alone cannot see the emergent social order.

I like Ken Wilbur’s maxim that no theory or model is either all right or all wrong. It opens me up to listen for understanding, instead of agreement. This is a primary protocol for Be the Change circles. When listening for the unique perspective each of us has, we hear the broader collective wisdom that the circle brings.

What a rich and juicy range of issues and changes to consider in the global shift that is underway at this time. That’s the exciting aspect of “The Great Turning” “un-conference’” we have planned for May 23. It is an opportunity to dialogue with a dynamic spectrum of change agents, each speaking to an issue about which they are passionate and knowledgeable. Be they eco-warriors or eco-innovators, social justice missionaries or spiritual activists, they all hold an important piece of the puzzle. Our process is to honour everyone and to challenge everyone, to broaden and deepen our understanding so that we can consider the personal and collective actions we can take to be the change we want to see in the world.

Dr. Joanna Macy stated, “The Great Turning is our essential adventure, as we shift from an industrial world view to one that engenders a life-sustaining civilization.” This systems theorist and honoured teacher is deeply grounded in Buddhist wisdom and she calls us to be both hospice and midwife in these times of great change.

To hospice the old structures and systems that do not serve life on Earth as they fall away. At the same time to mindfully, and with great intention, midwife the emergence of new life sustaining systems and structures that will support the health and well-being of our planet and all members of the Earth community.

We know that we cannot do this work alone. It is essential to connect with others, to share insights and stories of change. We must talk together, feast together and nourish ourselves in a community dedicated to environmental sustainability, personal meaning and social justice.

The Great Turning will help coalesce the collective wisdom that informs our community and generate cross-sector collaborations and collective actions to accelerate the shift that is presently underway. While the pathways to a restored Earth may already be here, no single person or community will lead the way forward. Many voices are needed. Yours is one of them! 

Maureen Jack-LaCroix is executive director of Be the Change Earth Alliance and producer of the first annual un-conference, The Great Turning, Saturday, May 23, Maritime Labour Centre, 1880 Triumph St, Vancouver. Tickets available at or call 604-269-9874.

Growing Citizens – can gardening change the world?

Fertile ground makes good things grow

by Joanna Ashworth

Free Talk 
Gardening as a Catalyst 
for Civic Engagement
Wed., May 6, 6:30-8:30pm, Simon Fraser University, Wosk Centre for Dialogue, 580 W. Hastings. Seating limited. Pre-registration required

More info: 778-782-7925.


WHAT DRAWS you to the garden? Have you noticed lately that one of our most fundamental and pleasurable activities – cultivating food and flowers – has been discovered anew by the denizens of our towns and cities here in BC? Urban farming, guerilla gardening, community supported agriculture and other acts of community building have now become acts of solidarity that offer nourishment for a community, and in some instances, providing places of physical and spiritual healing.

There are many moving stories about how the simple act of planting flowers in previously uncared for public ground, sharing a row of vegetables grown in your back yard with complete strangers, or helping whole neighbourhoods develop a sense of pride in their street life have become profound acts of citizenship. For some, it is not so selfless. For some of your neighbours, the desire to garden may simply be motivated by a craving for beauty in an otherwise dreary, urban landscape. For others, gardening is deeply rooted in principles of ecological engagement and connection to the land.

On May 6, SFU’s Dialogue Programs hosts part two of a three-part series of public dialogues entitled “Heart of a Citizen.” This series is intended to explore why people make the shift from focusing only on their private concerns to actively engaging in creating positive, social change in the public sphere.

The first session in the series began in early April with author and activist Paul Loeb who launched the conversation with riveting stories of well-known change makers. People whose imagination and persistence saw them prevail in spite of tough times and circumstances. Think Desmond Tutu, the archbishop of South Africa, the Dalai Lama, Rosa Parks and Gandhi. Loeb offered participants much to ponder and, in particular, challenged the myth that one person can’t make a difference. He also confronted the rationale of “I don’t know enough about a particular problem,” noting that it isn’t a legitimate reason to stay on the sidelines.

On May 6, the second session of the series presents three remarkable citizen gardeners, perhaps lesser known than the above-mentioned Nobel Laureates, but nonetheless effective at what they do: creating beauty and hope in public spaces.

Sylvia Holland is an urban planner and longtime street gardener. David Tracey is a garden designer and author of a new book, Guerrilla Gardening: A Manualfesto (New Society Publishers). Ward Teulon, otherwise known as “City Farm Boy” is also the founder of CityFarmBoy. The three speakers launch the dialogue with accounts of their own gardening adventures and the unique paths that led them each to embrace the garden and public life in equal measure. As Tracey sees it, “gardening is a an act of hope and… our natural birthright … it creates better cities and a safer planet.”

Ordinary citizens have such untapped potential – skills, abilities and, most importantly, passion – and they want to become involved in making their cities and neighbourhoods better places. In response, SFU’s Dialogue Programs are developing a new certificate program that will launch in September to train people to use civic engagement methods, founded upon principles that encourage effective citizen participation.

Advisors and supporters of the SFU program, including local government, community agencies and private organizations, recognize such engagement as an essential tool for a participatory democracy. In June, the third session of Heart of a Citizen will explore how festivals and the arts serve as vehicles for public learning and engagement.

So what do you think? Can gardeners change the world? Bring your perspective to what promises to be a fertile conversation. It just might get you back to the garden in ways you had never imagined.

Dr. Joanna Ashworth is the director of Dialogue Programs at Simon Fraser University.