The Sophia Harmony Initiative in Lampeter
Dr. Nicholas Campion
Lampeter is well known for its Transition Town activities, and the University of Wales Trinity Saint David is keen to develop its support for community networks. It is also incorporating the UN's sustainability agenda into its daily life, which we all welcome. One project we are pursuing at the moment which relates to both community and sustainability goals is the Harmony Initiative, named after the principle familiar to many pre-modern and non-western societies that we need to live in harmony with the planet: we need to understand that we are part of nature, instead of fighting it. We are partly influenced by the rather wonderful book Harmony, which was written by Ian Skelly, Tony Juniper, formerly of Friends of the Earth and now of the Prince of Wales's International Sustainability Unit, and the Prince of Wales himself, who happily happens to be the University's Chancellor. This gives us a double reason for celebrating harmony as a principle. The simple fact is that the principles of harmony make sense. Even in modern science they make perfect sense: if the entire cosmos emerged in the Big Bang from an object some scientists say was the size of a grapefruit, it follows logically that it is all still one interconnected whole, from the most distant galaxies right down to us, even if we can't always see it on our tiny level.
What made Harmony unusual was its combination of practical advice for anything from cultivating one's garden to managing the global water crisis, with esoteric teachings, such as classical notions of sacred geometry and perfect proportions. It also included a cosmic perspective in the form of the patterns made by planetary cycles, familiar to anyone who has ever tried planting by the phases of the Moon. Just as the principles of sustainability are being introduced across the University's activities, so we are finding a space for the principle of harmony in the curriculum. As part of the move towards this goal we are holding a series of events with the University's new Professors of Practice, Tony Juniper, the Quaker writer David Cadman, and John Sauven, the CEO of Greenpeace. Over the next three years there will be occasional events at the University's various campuses, and teaching in harmony will be developed either in new courses or existing ones. One important point we want to consider concerns perceptions - in other words, how the ways we see the world affects the ways we act in it. The question is not just what worldviews support the belief that the world can be over-exploited and polluted, but what worldviews can support sustainability on our fragile planet.
It's in this spirit that Tony, David and John are coming to Lampeter on Thursday 7 July to host a day of debate and discussion on the current crisis in the environment. David Cadman is connected to the Gaia Foundation, while Tony Juniper and John Sauven have run two of the world's great campaigning environmental organisations, so they offer a particularly striking combination. They will be joined by Juliet Davenport, who is also a Professor of Practice, Professor Jane Davidson, the head of INSPIRE, and Green Gown Award winner Dr Luci Attala.
The focus of the day is discussion, debate and sharing, with a focus in bottom-up solutions to the environmental crisis, rather than top-down ones. What government and industry do is undoubtedly important, but our focus will be on what we ourselves are doing. It's about being active. Each small action each one of us takes can add up to a large step towards healing the planet.
The reason we are focusing on debate and discussion rather than lectures, is because Tony, John and David themselves want to listen, so we are seeing the event as a chance to feed back to them what's happening in Lampeter and West Wales. Future Harmony events will be held in Carmarthen, Swansea and at Schumacher College, so we want to show Lampeter at its best.
All are welcome, the event is free and includes lunch - as long as you book a week before hand either via the website or by e mail. The day starts at 10.00 am and goes on until 5 pm. You will find a separate notice in this issue of Grapevine.
Details are on the web at Living on Earth.
If you want to join us for lunch, or want any further information, e mail me, Nicholas Campion, at firstname.lastname@example.org