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Guy Dauncey, Editor
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Tel (250) 881-1304

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Newsletter No. 103 - Promoting the Vision of a Sustainable Vancouver Island - March 2001


Vicki Robin writes:

From January 25th-30th, 2001, I attended the World Social Forum in Porto Alegre, Brazil ( It was designed to mirror the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, an annual confab of the leaders of governments and business notorious for embodying the interests of money and power. Intentionally held at the same time, the WSF boldly asserted that it's the stupid economy (neo-liberalism, corporate globalization, policies that value money more than life) that is creating untold and unnecessary suffering. "Another world is possible," the Forum declared - one run on principles of participatory democracy, social inclusion, justice, ecological responsibility and respect for the First Peoples.

Every day there were four concurrent morning sessions and 100 afternoon workshops. The crowds were steady at over 4,000 (1,500 non-Brazilians), swelling for some events to 15,000. Almost 1,900 people from the press showed up. (Though no stories were run in the mainstream media - ed.). 120 nations were represented, and hundreds of NGO's. For all the challenges of the week, I reveled in this first post-Seattle/WTO effort to collectively take the next step towards aligning the full spectrum of voices in this broad anti-corporate globalization movement. There was no contention with the local police. Porto Alegre and the whole state of Rio Grande do Sul welcomed the participants. This state has had a leftist Worker's Party in power for 12 years and prides itself on its participatory budget where citizens get to say how a portion of the revenues will be allocated. The whole city was decked with affirming banners - the Earth in the shape of a heart and the motto, "Another World Is Possible". It truly felt that way.

The miracle was that Davos and Porto Alegre were both addressing the nasty by-product of neo-liberalism - the fact that the number of global losers is at epidemic proportion. This was highlighted by a million dollar trans-Atlantic satellite debate between Davos participants and a handful of Porto Alegre spokespeople. While Davos and Porto Alegre were both apparently devoted to the integration of the poor and marginalized into society, their worldviews were more like two trains whizzing by on different tracks. For Porto Alegre, globalization was a deadly business, leaving poverty, death, cultural disintegration and ecological devastation in its wake.

Over the course of days I met a variety of individuals affiliated with the Alliance for a Responsible, Plural and United World (, a forest activist, an internationally recognized feminist, a bunch of high-spirited youth leaders, an advocate for Palestinian rights, many French humanists, all merrily banded together to coordinate another kind of globalization - "a worldwide collective process inspired by a humanist ideal. It has taken up the challenge of building a future where people live in a world of unity and diversity, driven by a colossal ambition: to invent new forms of collective action at the local and global levels, and bring them to bear upon the future of an increasingly complex and interdependent world. Everyone can make changes to their individual lives, but for collective change, thinking and action must be undertaken collectively."

It seemed to me that the anti-corporate-globalization movement has experienced enough victories to be entering a new phase of activism. For want of a better term, I'm calling it visionary activism - putting our cooperative muscle into coherently presenting the philosophies, policies and projects we've been fostering and creating a plausible yet radical vision for a future we are willing to work on together. People like me who have been apolitical will need to enter the messy fray. Ideologues who've championed single issues or single historical interpretations will need to loosen up enough to respond freshly to the world as it is today.

There is a real battle going on in the world today. The community of life is being diminished and increasingly privatized, placed in the hands of the few. The momentum in the system is so great that even with slowing down we are still hurtling towards extinctions and overshoot. I feel a painful urgency when I face these facts. The people on the front lines defending the boundaries of the wild and the free are serving us all. So are the intellectuals with their sharp minds and lucid analysis, as are the teachers and lawyers and politicians who are educating in classrooms and courtrooms. So are the lovers and poets and artists and shamans who are connected with the heart of life and keeping that channel open for all of us. Like the sorcerer's apprentice, we have unleashed a multiplying misery by playing with very large forces, and none of us can afford to be asleep at this time.

Vicki Robin is co-author of "Your Money or Your Life", and co-founder of The New Road Map Foundation. She lives in Seattle. This essay has been edited and reduced from the original, which can be found at

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EcoNews, Guy Dauncey
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Tel/Fax (250) 881-1304

Sustainable Communities Consultancy

Author of 'After the Crash : The Emergence of the Rainbow Economy'
(Greenprint, London, 1988. 3rd edition 1997)

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