Mother Pelican
A Journal of Solidarity and Sustainability

Vol. 15, No. 8, August 2019
Luis T. Gutiérrez, Editor
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Catalysing Mass Commitment to Transformative Change

Andrew Gaines

August 2019


Readers of Mother Pelican are likely to be aware that humanity is at a critical junction where we either transition to being a species that lives in harmony with the rest of life on this planet – and with each other – or end up where we are already headed.

Many astute thinkers have given up. This article is for those of us who have not given up. It addresses how we might align to shift mainstream consciousness.

Our current situation is that we are devouring the Earth.

Globalization cartoon posted online in how to save the world,
original source unknown.

> To have any hope of a positive future, collectively we must change all the major drivers that make things worse.

A positive goal

It helps to have a positive goal. A useful way to put it is:

The challenge of our time is to transition to a life-affirming global culture, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological self-destruction.

What might this entail?

At a practical level, it is things like Transition Towns, renewable energy, raising kids without abusing them, and organic agriculture.

Importantly, we also have to deal with the really big drivers of environmental destruction – things like devotion to economic growth, trade agreements, undue corporate influence on governments (the best democracy money can buy). And we shouldn’t forget massive investment in the military, with the ever-present threat of nuclear war.

What will it take to turn things around?

I put it this way:

Greta Thunberg will have reason to hope when she sees that mainstream society is committed to turning things around.

Until then, none of us has a realistic basis for hope. If this is the case, then the key question for the entire environmental-progressive (and faith) communities to solve is:

How can we seed the goal of transitioning to a life-affirming culture into mainstream society?

And how can we enable people to come to terms with the profound systemic changes that are needed to succeed?

The Great Transition Initiative

The Great Transition Initiative offers an answer to this question. Our idea is to inspire as many of the members of the millions of groups that care possible as citizen educators. We provide ready-to-use communication tools including sample emails, guerrilla marketing tactics and Kitchen Table Conversations.

We can ‘reach the mainstream’ by simply communicating with our friends, neighbours and business colleagues. We are all part of the mainstream, and our combined personal networks are massive. Personal communication can have a huge influence if we can take it to scale.

The Great Transition Initiative is not an organisation in the usual sense. There is no central group that directs what people do. We all act independently, aligned to a common purpose. We have colleagues in North America, Britain, Europe, Thailand, India, and across Australia where I live.

Messages, or helping people think better?

Many activists emphasise messages. Messages are important, and they can be easily broadcast. However, often our environmental messages fall on unprepared minds.

It is far more powerful (albeit more time-consuming and challenging) to help people develop a comprehensive framework of understanding so that they can make sense of things for themselves. So, our approach is to help people think better.

In her famous essay, Leverage Points: Places to intervene in a system, Donella Meadows highlighted the value of this approach.

Diagram from "Places to Intervene in a System" by Donella H. Meadows,
in a paper published by Innovation Labs (CC BY-NC 3.0)

The Great Transition Splash

The focus of the Great Transition Initiative is to:

  • Seed the meme transitioning to a life-affirming culture into mainstream society
  • Enable people to think through what is involved.

Our next milestone is the Great Transition Splash. It will be during the second week in September. The idea is to have as many voices as possible simultaneously articulating the goal of transitioning to a life-affirming culture, and enabling people to grasp what is involved.

I would be pleased if you would consider lending your influence to the Splash.

Possible things to do during the Splash include:

  • Sending an email / posting a blog to your networks about transitioning to a life-affirming culture.
  • Guerrilla marketing such as putting a poster and flyers in your professional office.
  • Conducting a Kitchen Table Conversation with someone you know. This takes some preparation.

The Great Transition Initiative website has resources to make communicating as easy as possible.

* * * * * *

The task of our time is to transition to a life-affirming culture, rather than continuing on our present course of ecological self-destruction

Great Transition Splash Introductory Video

Andrew Gaines, Great Transition Initiative, 10 March 2019


Andrew Gaines is the instigator of the Great Transition Initiative – a platform supporting citizen-educators championing transitioning to a life-affirming global culture. The aim is not modest: it is to shift the direction of our global civilisation from our current path of almost sure ecological self-destruction.

Professionally Andrew has been a Feldenkrais practitioner, creativity trainer and psychotherapist. He is trained in The Natural Step, a way of working out whether a business – or country – is ecologically sustainable. He is a Board member of Be The Change Australia and the Frank Fenner Foundation.

He applies insights from creativity training, environmental sustainability, the psychology of trauma, and the neurology of improving human performance to large-scale social change. His books include Kitchen Table Conversations, The Witness: Gateway to Self Development, and Creative Conversations.

"You who can heal all wounds and hate
make my heart open, free, and great."

— Carol Bialock, Coral Castles, 2019


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