The World Cultural Forum Experience

By Alexander Maxwell

An inspiring collection of around 500 minds from China and internationally gathered in Hangzhou, in south-eastern China, May 17-19, 2013 for a World Cultural Forum with the theme of “Strengthening International Cooperation for Ecological Civilisation.”  Created to facilitate exchange between experts from across disciplines and with different cultural backgrounds, the term ‘cooperation’ instead of ‘competition’ lay at the heart of this gathering, as did the word ‘ecological’ rather than ‘environmental,’ with ‘eco’ (from the Greek ‘oikos’ meaning ‘home’) referring specifically to our relationship with the environment.

A key figure the Chinese enlisted to help achieve this was Nobel Peace Prize nominee and ‘Father’ of the Conscious Evolution movement Dr. Ervin Laszlo, who created a similar high level platform for the exchange of ideas when he established the Club of Budapest. He used his opening address to stress that key to making use of this critical moment in human history is the rise of a new integral planetary culture to drive the next phase of civilisation forward. This culture embraces the idea of unity within and through diversity and is grounded in a holistic yet scientifically based view of the world. Individuals and organisations contribute positively to common life systems while minimising negative impacts. It was a message was reiterated by everyone in one form or another; that ultimately a sustainable Eco-Civilisation requires increased collective consciousness and greater awareness of humanity’s unity with nature, not separation from it.

Barbara Marx Hubbard of the Foundation for Conscious Evolution told how throughout the history of the planet crises have preceded transformation and that these transformations when they occur are quantum jumps towards systems of greater complexity, consciousness and co-creativity. founder and environmental journalist Isabel Hilton reminded us that we have been living beyond our means with nations running up not only financial but ecological debts at a catastrophic rate under the current Western industrial model. Economists present at the Forum, such as Herman Wijffels from Utrecht University, stressed that to avoid certain environmental and societal bankruptcy a far reaching redesign of economic processes is needed to improve resource efficiency. The existing take, make, dump linear model must be replaced  by a circular economy. In a CE the basic principle is to recycle to prevent depletion and pollution.

The concept of Ecological Civilisation is now at the highest level of policy consideration in China. This is recognition of the need to define new values for a global post industrial landscape and links ancient, Taoist ideals of human harmony with nature with current advanced science and technology. While standing as an aspirational goal this concept will out of necessity also guide the direction of China’s long term future development. In fact the stability of the Communist regime arguably means they have will have far more success planning and implementing long term policy than many of the Western governments obsessed with re-election and therefore thwarted by short-termism. Regardless, as former French Ambassador Jean Jaques Subrenat said at the Closing Ceremony, now that we are globally aware of the urgency of the situation the responsibility exists to take action, to identify and then implement tangible measures to make Ecological Civilisation a reality.

The knowledge and technology needed to help implement measures are in principle available. Industry analyst Daniel Rasmus argued however that a consensus reality is required with concepts needing to be mapped and definitions agreed upon in order to effectively share knowledge and approach solutions. Scenario planning and platforms such as instant discussion and collaboration tool WeJit could be vital in overcoming the barriers to clear communication. This platform agnostic application quietly brings people together in self organising groups around specific goals, to produce easily accessible quantitative and qualitative results. Democrasoft’s Richard Lang created it as a way to go beyond simple online connectivity and engage the power of structured expression.

In the immediate days following the Forum Dr Lazslo sent out a letter to the delegates that attended. “In our view the real meaning and potential accomplishment of this event was to have sent a signal to the Chinese leadership that the idea of international cooperation focused on building a global ecological civilization is taken seriously by those of us who participated...China, backed by its top leaders, is beginning to take seriously the prospect of moderating the hitherto paramount aim of all-out economic growth with concern for its effects on the environment – on our shared, global environment.”

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This article appears in: 2013 Catalyst - Issue 9