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Retrofitting Culture Towards an Ecological Democracy


Yesterday we voted to elect the Colombian’s congress (senate & house of representatives) in the forthcoming 4 years. Concerning my convictions, I supported two of the Green party’s representatives. They always are a minority in contrast to the traditional political machinery. As usual, such apparatus gained the major amount of votes. Well, I’d say it’s a normal issue in most of the nations. The point is, regardless political labels, we still keep fitting the same vicious cycle over and over again…The same political graft and gridlock, the same social chasm, the same loss of community, the same socio-economic model, the same ignorance. Hence it’s inevitable to come back to the same certainty: as long as we do not cultivate the ecological outlook as the heart of our human life, we won’t have any progress. Thus –regarding my thoughts– I want to emphasize the importance of retrofitting culture in order to reach a genuine democracy, i.e., an ecological democracy.

So here the question nearly could be: How we can connect the different elements of the system (culture) into cyclical mutually reinforcing relationships that transform the traditional socio-political/economic model, capture and use the exceptional human powers, and improve the quality of education, socio-ecological systems, and life? (1*) By making a quick analogy, I’d stand both Biophilia and the understanding of the spirit of Gaia as relevant subjects for ‘retrofitting culture’ and therefore acknowledging we aren’t separated from nature. This is where we could apply some techniques I realized such as psycho-architecture, acclimatize mindfulness, and restoring a virtuous cyclical educational approach. Gaia Education Worldwide, Capra Course, The Institute for Evolutionary Leadership, Schumacher College, The Tekos Kin School, Matríztica, Kaospilot Business and Design School, The Latin American Center for Social Ecology, The Society for Organizational Learning, The Presencing Institute, Ecoversities, among many other emerging endeavors, could be good models to follow for the formation of the evolutionary/adaptive leaders this transition needs.

Additionally, I want to point out the book Design for Ecological Democracy by Randolph Hester as an appropriate complement in pursuing a cure for our ‘urban anomie’. This book was a personal recommendation from Professor Fritjof Capra. –I also have found it very inspiring and helpful in scoping out the life’s project I’ve mentioned (eco-village) and the main reason why I’m enrolled in Gaia Education–. Fritjof says that the thrust of the book “is the integration of the science of ecology with direct, participatory democracy.” (2*) which is precisely the argument of this reflection. He also highlights how Hester “maintains that our current urban problems can only be overcome by combining ecological knowledge with the active, hands-on involvement of citizens. Such direct citizen participation in ecologically oriented design is what he calls ‘ecological democracy.’” (3*) Thereby I could argue ecological democracy should be one of the most essential outcomes from green building and retrofitting. Furthermore, it’s totally bound to the whole systems design philosophy.

Lastly, I want to share a graphic scheme that arises whilst I was enrolled in Capra Course which currently is a research in progress. It can exemplify a way of ‘retrofitting culture’ by changing the core from economics to ecology. By means of this realization I’m addressing some basis for approaching a cultural evolution towards the Homo sapiens reciprocans and consequently the move from the machine organization towards the living, reflexive, conversational and interdependent Organizatio sapiens reciprocans.

By Juan Sebastián Cárdenas Salas (2017)

(1*) This is the original question from the module’s handbook: “If we are aiming to shift from unsustainable design and siloed thinking to sustainable design and whole systems thinking, we have to keep asking ourselves the question: How can be connect the different elements of the system (building) into cyclical mutually reinforcing relationships that avoid waste, capture and use energy sustainably, and maintain or improve the quality of water, air and soil? (Gaia Education, 2018)

(2*) Conversation with professor Fritjof Capra. Capra Course. May 13, 2017

(3*) Ibid.

Author: Juan Sebastián Cárdenas Salas (March 12, 2018)

From the serie: Reflections Around Gaia Education

Watch Humberto Maturana y Dalai Lama

Watch conversation with Fritjof Capra: Discussing Schumacher College, Holistic Science and Capra Course with Phoebe Tickell

Watch Peter Senge: “Systems Thinking for a Better World” – Aalto Systems Forum

Watch Inspired by Schumacher College: A Film

Watch Introduction of Evolutionary Leadership by Manuel Manga

Watch The Kin School Tekos Russia

Enroll in Gaia Education:

Enroll in Capra Course:

Enroll in Schumacher College:

Join The IEL’s Community:

Resources of support

Ecological Dimension – Module’s 5 Handbook general contents and references (Gaia Education, 2018)

Cover Image by Jscinteractivo


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