It’s Earth Day as I write this personal reflection on a part of my life that has been critical to helping Mother Earth through these very difficult times, caused by the human beings. I was always interested in travel in seeing other cultures and in the 1980’s I was able to make trips to different places. I visited China to see traditional Chinese medicine facilities and barefoot doctors. I was amazed at what traditional Chinese medicine offered and began my journey to become a Qigong teacher and therapist. I was also struck by the signs of the changes in China that were threatening the earth. The huge population growth, the use of resources and the beginning of conversion from bicycle travel to cars. I could sense the potential negative impact. At that time in the 1980’s, living in London, Ontario, the Forest City, Victoria Hospital where I was working got involved with the medical relief efforts after the devastating drought and famine in Ethiopia. We sent teams to assist with treating people. The biggest impact was trying to save the starving children starving. After the critical period, we took on assisting a community, Bette, to redevelop. We saw deforestation and human activity harming the earth. We formed Future Forest as partner of Bette. Using funds raised locally and from the Canadian International Development agency (CIDA), we worked with the community to develop more sustainable strategies. Using water more efficiently and building local sustainable businesses. I was able to see the impact in that culture and it led me to see what we were doing to our own environment in Canada.
By the early 1990’s I was looking for potential ways to deal with our own impact on Mother Earth. My wife, June, and I got involved with the Global Action Plan for the Earth (GAP). This project developed by Robert Gilman and David Gershon was to get households together as teams to reduce their global impact. The focus was 6 areas including waste, water, transportation, energy use, consumerism and empowerment. The program had a method to measure the results. I was in Uxbridge, Ontario by this time, and we were able to get 90 households to make a difference. The local newspaper the Cosmos followed the progress and activities of our GAP program participants. Even more impactful, for me, was the connection to the international aspect of GAP as multiple countries took part. We had international Board meetings including one at our family community in Uxbridge Ontario to compare results and share approaches. In 1995, I went to Egypt as a consultant to work on a CIDA project and again had the impact of another culture on me. Its challenges reinforced the need for action in my own home area and in the whole world.
When I returned from Egypt, I was contacted by Milt and Barb Wallace of Sun Run Farm, an organic, regenerative farm in Ontario. They had just returned from a meeting in Findhorn Scotland of people from around the world. They had initiated the Global Ecovillage Network (GEN). GEN is an ever-growing network of regenerative communities and initiatives that bridge cultures, countries and continents. It is composed of 5 regional networks and a youth arm that spans the globe and now has over 10,000 communities identified. An Ecovillage is an intentional, traditional or urban community that is consciously designing its pathway through locally owned, participatory processes and addresses sustainability through the regenerative areas of social, cultural, ecological and economic activities.