Page One of a Three Page Interview
Jim Fournier and Elizabeth Thompson
Twentieth century anthropologist Margaret Mead's oft quoted remark... "Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." . . . was perhaps never truer than in the conception and production of the upcoming PlaNetwork conference.
It has been my pleasure to meet and interview the two principal members of the "small group of committed citizens" who, with the help of a little sponsorship and volunteer effort, but mostly through their own ingenuity and the prodigious sweating of their brows, have put together what may prove to be one of the pivotal events in the crusade to save humanity from itself.
PlaNetwork, the Conference, is nothing short of a brilliant idea. But ideas, like light bulbs, only shine when energized. No matter what the direct, attributable results of the Conference, and whither the ultimate fate of Gaia, I would like to take this moment to thank co-organizers Jim Fournier and Elizabeth Thompson for their two year, all-out effort to bring together some of the world's most progressive thinkers in the hope of drawing a new line in the sands of time.
As we leave the fossil-fueled industrial era behind, we are searching for new intellectual paradigms and cultural norms to guide us away from planetary devastation and spiritual desolation. Time is running out, so this massive, painful task must be undertaken seriously and urgently. More than anything else, we need new vision of what could be or must be.
My own view is that the host of postindustrial problems known collectively as the environmental crisis is already engendering an across-the-board creative response from the world's best thinkers. As a result, we are entering upon what I call the biological, or more precisely, ecological revolution, where the whole system and relational aspects of reality will displace the reductionist perspective in our thinking. The study of complex systems will replace dissection (and vivisection) as an approach to solving problems. Chaotic models will supersede linear analysis, because they more accurately describe real phenomena.
The internet is complex, chaotic and participatory. It is much more akin, in its multifarious communications and its latent evolutionary potential to a brain or an ecosystem than to a machine. My belief is that the "soft" apparatus of information technology will be to the coming ecological revolution what the hard sciences of physics and engineering were to the industrial. Though we have been astray for a while, we are rooted in the biological world, and our thinking is finally beginning to align with our reality.
For the first time in history, a formal event will begin to explore the relationship between information technology and global ecology, how they might inform each other, and how we might benefit from the resulting marriage. One of the most exciting aspects of the conference is that, true to its mission of spawning new thinking on the topic and new formulations for the internet as a tool of environmental reform, Planetworks, the organization, will create a parallel and ongoing "on-line conference" described in this interview. The entire discussion of how to bring the power of the Internet to bear on the environmental crisis will begin, but not end in San Francisco in May, 2000.
Scientist, architect and business man Fournier and artist, Thespian and avant-garde event producer Thompson are setting the stage for that to happen. In this discussion, which ranges from the Seattle World Trade Organization protests to the synergy which can occur unlike minds meet, we get a rare look at the type of thinking which inspires a first magnitude thematic event. It was with considerably excitement that I met Jim and Elizabeth on a sunny April afternoon to learn their thoughts.