I’m Paul Freundlich, the founder of Green America, and the Curator of this site. I invite you to join in a journey of exploration.
Between the devil and the deep blue sea; betwixt ambition and curiosity, there is a gap both philosophical and practical.
The engine of our global economy is mostly about “scaling up”; massing the numbers to a mighty aggregation that promises to deliver fortunes to innovators and investors, and a cornucopia of consumer goods and entertainment to the rest.
Yet I wonder.
In my years of service on various national and international boards, while our struggles to moderate the global market economy towards greater sustainability were admirable, it seemed we were missing half the point. At odd moments, usually after hours, but occasionally in meetings, I raised a concern that even if we could put Humpty Dumpty back together again, the result might look more like scrambled eggs.
My perspective was influenced by experiences within a community framework that operated substantially outside the parameters and reward systems of the mainstream. There was a lively dance that carried us through the hard times and celebrated the good. We reveled in the trust of colleagues, co-workers and friends, supporting a conviction that we were building a just and livable society for ourselves and our children.
Those of us who succeeded in establishing businesses and organizations learned to monetize our initiatives, achieve economies of scale, and respect a bizarre set of disciplines and protocols which added up to management.
How to reconcile the advantages of scaling up, which even if they included a sustainability agenda, suffered from the inequities built into capitalism? Is there a fundamental contradiction between scaling up to achieve a sustainable global economic system, and scaling down in support of livable communities? Is there a place to meet, somewhere in the middle, to recognize a global perspective, while respecting the communities where we live and work?
If climate change, rising disparities, clashes of cultures and governance, and technological complexity require a revisioning of much we have taken for granted, can we draw on our own experiences, those of colleagues, co-workers, friends and the incredible resources of the internet for the tools to design a livable future?
The many inspiring places, people and projects we have assembled through this website offer a tool kit that might just be the basis for a new paradigm and a viable system. If so, bringing it to scale while insisting on its integrity will be the work of those who are only now coming into their majority.
Time passes and we do what we can.
Fifty years ago, I was traveling the world, making documentary films for the Peace Corps, learning how something called “progress” might be grafted onto traditional villages.
Forty-five years ago, I made a feature length documentary, “Questions Instead of Answers,” about a brilliant initiative by black educational leaders to redesign the college experience by recognizing the inherent creativity of students.
Forty years ago, I wrote and directed a National Institute of Mental Health grant, building on a network of cooperative institutions in New Haven, Connecticut, positing that we could create an island of sanity amidst urban chaos.
Thirty-five years ago, as an Editor of “Communities” magazine, we published “A Guide to Cooperative Alternatives,” 180 pages documenting a wonderful compendium of creative initiatives; one of which was a bouquet of social dances in New England that has flowered into a summer event that endures to this day.
Thirty years ago, I founded Co-op America to link producers and consumers who shared values of social and environmental responsibility, more recently reinvented as “Green America”.
Twenty-five years ago, as President of the Social Investment Forum, and a founding Director of the CERES Coalition, I was part of devising a set of principles to challenge corporate America’s irresponsible behavior towards the environment. Over the next two decades, as an Officer and Member of an active Board representing the national leadership of socially concerned institutional investors and the environmental movement, I participated in negotiations and collaborative initiatives, backing up our staff and setting policy.
Ten years ago, as a Member and Chair of the Stakeholder Council of the Global Reporting Initiative, I participated in a complex, international process which developed guidelines for corporate sustainability reporting that have been adopted and adapted by thousands of companies world-wide.
In the past few years, I completed several video projects, including “HUB Matters” about a global network of collaborative workspaces focused on social entrepreneurship in which my son Tim is a leader; and “A Model That Works,” about innovations in primary healthcare pioneered by my wife, Margaret Flinter, and her community health center. I’ve continued to serve on the Green America Board as President Emeritus, and as an active participant in the project Margaret and I launched in 1980, “Dance New England,” which has grown into a community that has enriched our life and thousands of others. Then there’s a novel, “Deus ExMachina,” in which time travel helps avoid several wars, and another one I’m still playing with – there’s these eight goddesses who feel they are out of touch with the new cyber age…
And the beat goes on.
FREE VIA A DOWNLOADABLE PDF: Below is a link to “Notes in Passing”, the story of Paul Freundlich’s 5 decades of community and social/adventures, from Peace Corps filmmaking to Communities Magazine, founding Green (Co-op) America and launching Dance New England, steadfast service to sustainability through the CERES Coalition and the Global Reporting Initiative, with many diverse illustrations and anecdotes.
Click HERE to read “Saving the Titanic,” by Paul Freundlich; a succinct analysis of what it will take to save civilization. FREE to download.
Deus ex Machina Paperback – June 15, 2005