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Discussing The Earth Charter, Regeneration and ‘Meaningful Disturbances’ with Fritjof Capra

August 4, 2017

This is a guest blog by Simon Robinson, editor of Transition Consciousness and Founder of Holonomic Education.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a webinar with Fritjof Capra in which we discussed a number of themes related to The Systems View of Life. Fritjof Capra is one of the world’s leading thinkers in systems theory and the author of many influential books, such as The Tao of Physics; The Web of Life: A New Synthesis of Mind and Matter; The Turning Point: Science, Society and the Rising Culture; The Hidden Connections: A Science for Sustainable Living; and Learning from Leonardo: Decoding the Notebooks of a Genius.

I also invited Daniel Wahl who is the author of the book Designing Regenerative Cultures. It was a fascinating hour of conversation, with many people joining us live. However, if you missed the live broadcast, you can now watch again via these videos below:

Part One: The Earth Charter

I started the webinar by taking the opportunity to discuss the Earth Charter Initiative with Fritjof, who is one of the Earth Charter Council’s leading members. The Earth Charter was first considered in 1987 when The World Commission on Environment and Development (known as “the Brundtland Commission”) launched their report titled Our Common Future, with a call for a “new charter” to set “new norms” to guide the transition to sustainable development.

The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all people a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the wellbeing of the whole human family, the greater community of life and future generations.

Part Two: Regeneration

It is interesting that many commentators are now discussing the way in which the word ‘sustainability’ is losing its meaning, and therefore usefulness. A word now being used in its place is “regeneration”. One example is Herbert Girardet’s article from the Guardian: Sustainability is unhelpful: we need to think about regeneration.

In this section I asked Fritjof if he could you talk a little about the need to shift from life-destroying to life-enhancing ways of doing business? And as one of the world’s most highly-respected ecological activists, is it indeed the case that we need to find new ways of framing the sustainability discussion? I also asked Daniel about his work over many years implementing regenerative projects, and he discussed the Regenerative Development to Reverse Climate Change initiative of the Commonwealth Secretariat in depth.



Part Three: Meaningful Disturbances

Many people nowadays are interested in how they can help change the collective consciousness of people inside businesses in order to evolve more life-enhancing ways of business. On Capra Course, Fritjof’s on-line course the module Life and Leadership in Organisations always generates many discussions, particularly the part where Fritjof discusses his concept of meaningful disturbances.

In our new book Customer Experiences with Soul: A New Era in Design we discuss Fritjof ‘s characterisation of living systems and the notion of both ‘meaningful disturbances’ and ‘networks of communication’. In our business consultancy work we find business leaders really respond to it when implementing programmes of profound organisational change. So in Part Three I took the opportunity to ask Fritjof to talk more about this term, asking where the inspiration come from and what are the implications for business leaders.



We closed our discussion talking about Capra Course. In the last few years many businesses have recognised a need to introduce systems thinking across their organisations, and Capra Course is an ideal way to scale up the understanding of systems thinking.

As well as offering twelve lectures which are introduced across a twelve-week period, what makes the learning experience so rich is the way in which participants are able to interact and converse with Fritjof on a daily basis. To offer one example, in a recent interview with Fritjof for Sustainable Brands, I asked him about the conversations he had had on Capra Course regarding the Earth Charter:

I love these discussions in my online course. I find them more substantial than classroom discussions, because the participants and I have much more time to prepare our comments, questions and answers. In our discussion of the Earth Charter, several participants expressed their admiration for the writing process of the Charter, in which many voices from around the world were heard over an extended period of time. “It seems to me,” wrote one of the participants, “that many authors and contributors of the Earth Charter experienced a great depth of listening with a whole lot of love and patience to the many voices they heard and they captured those voices to produce a holistic document.”

We also discussed the merits and problems of written documents in general, from Paolo Freire’s notion that literacy enables people to imagine the world differently, to the problem that such documents — the Earth Charter, the Declaration of Independence or the recent Paris Climate Agreement — represent the level of consciousness of the authors at a particular time and fixes the agreed-upon values in time and space.

In another lecture, I had discussed the nature of power, distinguishing between power as domination of others and power as empowerment of others. So, in our conversations I applied this important distinction to a “systems view of documents.” I argued that, whereas legal texts, contracts and media generally serve to dominate others, the purpose of joint manifestos and declarations, often composed through elaborate collaborative processes involving many individuals and communities, is to empower others.

These are just some examples of the extensive conversations we had on the Earth Charter.

It was wonderful to be able to converse with Fritjof and Daniel on such interesting topics, and I hope you have a chance to listen to our conversation. And if you yourself would like the opportunity to learn from Fritjof, registration is now open for the Fall 2017 edition of Capra Course. To find out more, please visit


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