Note: In honor of Social Venture Network’s 25-year anniversary, the network is inducting 25 of its most innovative and influential leaders into its hall of fame Nov. 13 at Gotham Hall in New York City. To recognize these sustainable business pioneers, SVN’s news program, ‘Sustainable Solutions,’ is interviewing the hall-of-famers to celebrate their accomplishments and learn what more needs to be done. Read the whole series here.
Bill and Lynne Twist co-founded the Pachamama Alliance in 1995, after an historic meeting with the Achuar people, a remote tribe living in the Amazon rainforest.
The Achuar were worried about their land being developed and reached out to the Western world in an effort to find partners to help preserve the pristine habitat where they had thrived for centuries. When Bill and Lynne became interested, the Achuar told them that in order to truly protect natural ecosystems, they would have to change the dream of the modern world.
They also wanted help in bringing about a global shift towards sustainability.
The challenge of the two daunting tasks did not outweigh the opportunity for massive change, and Lynne, who previously helped lead the Hunger Project and is the author of The Soul of Money, and Bill, whose background was in business, signed on as partners.
Since its historic founding nearly 20 years ago, the organization has helped preserve 1.8 million acres of Amazon rainforest by empowering indigenous people to advocate for the protection of their land not just for themselves but for the future of all life.
In 2008, Pachamama Alliance experienced a precedent-setting breakthrough when it worked with the Ecuadorian government to give legal rights to nature in its new constitution. Giving rights to nature “changes the game,” when thinking about our relationship with the earth, according to Lynne.
“It changes the legal paradigm from property where you can do anything you want because you own the earth to understanding that the earth is a living system, a living being with legal rights,” she says.
“That is a gigantic breakthrough, that’s a change in a paradigm, and now it’s being replicated and we are a secretary for a global movement to give rights to nature all over the world. And it’s clear that this is the future.”
But protecting land is only successful if people understand their reliance on and connection to the earth. To meet the Achuar’s request to change the dream of the modern world, the Pachamama Alliance created Awakening The Dreamer Symposium, a half-day workshop that inspires people to see the role they can play in creating a sustainable future for all.
Lynne says they educate participants on the environmental, social, economic and spiritual crises affecting humankind, which helps people move from guilt to action.
“The picture is pretty confronting, people move from what I will call denial up to despair, that sounds terrible but it is up. Going from numb to despair means you really start to face the crises you’re living in,” explains Lynne.
From feelings of sadness and anger, the workshop challenges participants to rethink “unconscious, unexamined assumptions,” such as throwing things away — where is away? — to discover their own responsibility in bringing forth an environmentally sustainable, socially-just and spiritually-fulfilling world.
Since first developing the workshops in 2005, Lynne says it’s been hosted by thousands of volunteers in more than 70 countries, and people are waking up to their responsibility.
“People come out of the symposium and they change their jobs, they change the energy systems in their house, they reduce their garbage, they start visiting people in prisons, they start including new people in their circle of friends,” says Lynne.
“It’s not a burden but a huge opportunity to make a difference with the life that you’re living, and ennoble your life by making choices that are so inspired, so responsible, so filled with a commitment to future generations that you live a life of profound meaning.”
For their work in the Amazon and across the globe, Lynne and Bill are being inducted into SVN’s Hall of Fame as Visionary Social Entrepreneurs. Bill and Lynne are among 25 SVN members who will be honored during the network’s Hall of Fame celebration in New York City, Nov. 13.
This article written by AxiomNews.ca is part of a Social Venture Network series featuring its Hall of Fame honorees.