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Leaving Utopia: A Glimpse of How the World Could Be

A little over a year ago, I made my first visit to Järna, Sweden, home of the Youth Initiative Program (YIP), a one-year social entrepreneur learning program for 18-25 year olds. As I was preparing to depart, one of the YIPpies stopped by my room to ask me how I felt about my visit. It was then that I spoke the lyrics to what would become the first song I ever wrote when I said, “I feel like I’m packing to leave utopia.”

That was foreshadowing. It wasn’t until my third visit, two weeks ago, that I would really encounter utopia, a glimpse of how the world could be.

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America broke the rules of living systems

“Without ethics, politics has no limits. America broke the rules of living systems, and lost its balance. All the oxygen flowed to a smaller and smaller section of the body politic. The history is brief and unquestionable: close to toppling, the society momentarily pulled itself upright, and then became even less ethical, less balanced, more endangered than ever as a lawless financial system came back from death, and like a foolish patient after a heart bypass operation, continued in its old ways.”

I read this last week in an essay by Earl Shorris about America’s latest pathology, published in the December 2011 issue of Harper’s Magazine. For several years now, I’ve been in conversations with people about the nature of our society’s failing systems—be those schools, healthcare, food, energy, economy, and so on. For better or worse, I’ve had a chance to be in rooms where each and every one of these systems that our society depends upon has been criticized, mourned and raged against. We’ve wrestled with what to do. Read more

Something is wrong with the global financial system. Duh.

“Something is wrong with the global financial system. International financial crises or near-crises have become regular events… The question is not whether there will be another crisis, but where it will be.”

—Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz, 2003

It couldn’t be better timing. I’m reading New Money for a New World, a forthcoming book by economist Bernard Lietaer and co-author Stefan Belgin that examines the systemic failures of our current money system. Meantime, U.S. politicians are offering up drama, paradox, contradiction and befuddlement as we tumble toward the prospect of defaulting on our nation’s debt.

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A snow-inspired inquiry into whether what we do matters

Yesterday I was walking through a gentle snowstorm with my dear friend and Berkana colleague Tenneson Woolf. We were on Mt. Timpanogos, a magical place in Sundance, Utah. Everything was quiet up here at 6500 feet, as we trudged slowly along the slippery path. And then Tenneson asked me if I ever wondered whether what we do matters.

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