This was the concluding conference in a series of three begun in 2011 that worked with the tools developed by Otto Scharmer in his “Theory ‘U’” to encourage a transformative process and greater interaction amongst participants. This year the conference set out on a three day journey exploring Alliances for the Earth. On the first day the aim was to focus on specific issues, on the second to transform them and on the third day to shape concrete ways forward. The core of this activity was set around 16 different working groups each with their own theme. This was supported by lectures, smaller presentations and artistic work through each day.
Between 15 and 30 people participated in each of the 16 workshops whose themes ranged from questions around sustainable development, quality, compost making, livestock/plant breeding, land ownership, and biodynamics for the next generation. In each one building alliances was the theme. The groups used world cafe discussions to encourage maximum participation. One outcome was that many of the groups made a commitment to keep in ongoing contact.
Different forms of alliance building were presented by speakers throughout the conference. The welcome speech by Maya Graf current president of the Swiss parliament, showed how with the help of the alliance building process inherent in the Swiss political system, it was possible to build the momentum needed to prevent the growing of GM crops in the country. Another example was shared by Rajagopal of the Gandhi peace Foundation. He has formed alliances across India to challenge the injustice of growing numbers of landless people and led a successful march of 50,000 people to Delhi last October resulting in a commitment by the authorities to make land available.
There were also shorter contributions about the rapidly growing land trust movement in France, community supported agriculture in America and a new global initiative to inspire the next generation of young farmers.
Reflecting on the conference at the end Ueli Hurter, one of the three Section leaders, pointed to a change of emphasis in the biodynamic movement. The creation of islands of culture has always been the vision for biodynamic agriculture. Now he suggested, another aspect is increasingly important. Islands alone are not sufficient. We need to form alliances for the sake of the earth and do so without losing our integrity. Around 568 people from 33 countries attended the conference including a good number of young people.
The theme for next year will focus on bees. The conference dates are: 5th - 8th February 2014.
By Bernard Jarman
Published in the UK Biodynamic Association Newsletter.
Alliances for our Earth
The shadows cast by our globalised civilisation are putting natural vitality and the social context of life under increasing threat. As a biodynamic movement we are trying to protect and support life through our daily engagement with farms, with seeds, apprenticeship training and the sale of products. Is this sufficient as a response to the earth's cry for help?
This is the point where our conference begins: Can we form alliances with people from kindred organisations by harnessing our combined power on a national and international level in order to provide real and active help to our earth? Creating an alliance requires a coming together from many different directions and working on a common objective. The ability to form alliances must first be learnt however – hence the themed 'alliance-workshops'.
On Thursday the theme is about the required focus: What are the objectives of the alliance and which partners are needed? On Friday it is about transformation: How can the partners develop the additional strength to transcend what already exists and discover new impulses? Inner work is needed from each one: Can I grow with the task? On Saturday it is about creatively shaping the future together: How can the new impulse of the alliance gain acceptance in the world and grow roots? Wednesday is dedicated to an overview of the demands and opportunities of our time in relation to agriculture and nutrition. The three succeeding days are opened with an introduction to Rudolf Steiner's Michael letter; which, drawing on a broad historical perspective, calls for courageous intitiative taking permeated by spiritual understanding. Daily keynote speeches given by Nicanor Perlas to the conference theme aim at stimulating work within the 'alliance workshops' that follow. At the beginning of the afternoon there is a conference gathering for the international biodynamic movement which takes the form of self organised meetings of international groups. These groups are to be announced via the internet and at the conference. Afterwards contributions will be made by those actively involved with existing alliances. Later on in the afternoon and in the evening there will be lectures and artistic offerings aimed at opening up inner aspects to the questions: How and where may alliances be created within each individual and between each other in this Michaelic age?
UELI HURTER JEAN-MICHEL FLORIN THOMAS LÜTHI
Read the summary descriptions of the Alliance-building workshops...