This is our group's manifesto and a set of initial questions designed to guide our collective practice in the months to come.
Planetary life-support systems are under threat because of collective human activity. Because it is our activity that is causing threats, we must slow down or stop these activities. We have a moral obligation to do this. Our destructive activities are supported and encouraged by social institutions that support and shape our collective social actions. These social institutions were created for a time that no longer exists—the industrial era—and so the challenge we face is to create new social institutions.
The new systems that we create must be profoundly different from the old ones that are causing threats to our existence. Such change is difficult since our attempts to transform institutions are met with other attempts to keep the old institutions in place. One of the primary institutions charged with conservation is the institution of higher education. We believe that universities are under tension, currently manifested as an identity crisis, by seeking to maintain old traditions of knowledge while simultaneously trying to prepare citizens to function in the world where old social institutions are not adequate for the challenges we face. We cannot continue the way we have been. Our students know this. We know this.
It is time to stop pretending we can maintain the university of the past. We believe effective citizens will need to integrate theory and practice that allows them to experiment with new ways of living. We all need to become innovators, systems thinkers, and continuous learners who honor natural diversity. We admit that we are part of the problem we wish to solve, but resolve to be the change we wish to see in academia. We must learn to intervene in academic systems in a way that both respects existing values, embodies new paradigms and causes change. We need to find within ourselves authenticity, benevolence, empathy, mindfulness, courage, joy, creativity, perseverance, and openness. It is our intent to prepare youth and ourselves to honor the whole of nature and empower one another to create equitable social contracts.
This will not be easy and we don’t know the way. Our exploration is guided by four initial questions:
1. What is the least amount of structure that is compassionate yet allows for emergence and innovation that honors the natural diversity?
2. How do we balance Freedom and Equity within our communities?
3. Can we build resilience by integrating across scales; from individual, to classroom, to institution, to community, to planet?
4. How do we cultivate a “whole body” neurological intelligence that enables us to sense and align with what is emerging in sociopolitical systems?