ORIGINS OF FDS
9 - 11 SEPT 2019
The paths of collaborators Jerome Lewis, Jessica Sweidan, Paola Bay and Carolina Comandulli, weaved together to conceive and create the 2019 Series, which marks the beginning of the Flourishing Diversity movement.
The spark for Dr Jerome Lewis, Anthropologist and director of CAoS (Centre for Anthropology of Sustainability), UCL, came after the inaugural CAoS conference in 2015.
“The conference concluded, among other things, that the most radical and relevant ideologies for finding a cosmovision suitable for the new era, were not to be found in academia but in the struggles on the margins of the ‘one-world’ system promoted by late capitalism: among indigenous people, marginalised groups such as black resistance, and women’s movements articulating their struggles against patriarchal domination or invasion of their lands and resources.
The Flourishing Diversity Summit is a direct response to the collective reflections of leading anthropologists such as Anna Tsing, Arturo Escobar, Henrietta Moore and Bruno Latour who all contributed to the conference and feature in the volume ‘The Anthropology of Sustainability’.
During the course of writing the introduction to this volume, the concept of 'Flourishing Diversity’ was elaborated upon, and began to clarify itself as a way to align ourselves with the principles that have sustained life since it emerged on Earth." (Jerome Lewis)
Shortly after this conference, during a conversation between Jerome and Jessica Sweidan from Synchronicity Earth (SE), a shared for vision for what is now called ‘The Flourishing Diversity Series’, emerged.
“A couple of years ago, Jerome and I were catching up. Towards the end of our conversation, I started ranting about the negative effects of monoculture on seemingly everything – our food systems, our high streets, our clothing – and how it was influencing our obsession with ‘self’ and the interrelated fear of ‘other’. I added that even our current narratives of resilience, mitigation, and adaption didn’t feel robust enough to help move us beyond the blanketing, almost oppressive feeling of sameness, especially since I was aware that these powerful forces are also contributing to our undoing, by negatively impacting the natural world.
Slightly exasperated, I remember looking at Jerome, almost begging for an alternative vision: ‘How do we move beyond this? How do we break the cycle?’ It was then that he offered the idea of cultivating flourishing cultural and biological diversity. The concept landed deeply inside me as the solution we have been longing for. It is so simple. It provided a way forward that addressed the cultural and ecological crisis of our time.” (Jessica Sweidan)
Following this revelation, Jessica asked Jerome to write some short articles for SE publications. The discussions that ensued led to the development of the Flourishing Diversity Series, and the concept of 'Flourishing Diversity' becoming embedded into the work of SE.
The next stage in the journey of creating the Summit and Listening Sessions was to gather Indigenous Representatives from a diverse range of communities across the globe who were willing to travel to London to share their wisdom.
Not far into this journey, Jessica was introduced to Paola Bay by a mutual friend. Their meeting was meant to be, as Paola was already deeply committed to supporting, listening to and working with Indigenous people, through her relationship with the Arhuaco people of Colombia.
“I met the Arhuaco Mamos (spiritual leaders) 5 years ago in the Sierra-Colombia during a gathering of 100 Mamos. I am blessed, as we have been family ever since, working together for the wellbeing of Mother Earth. As soon as I started talking with Jerome and Jessica about FDS, I felt the Mamos would be interested in coming to London for the series.” (Paola Bay)
This connection led to a delegation of the Mamos traveling to Europe for the first time in order to share their messages and practices with the Western world.
Simultaneously, through the work of Carolina Comandulli and Dr. Jerome Lewis, Benki and Moisés Piyãkoare, leaders and shamans from the Ashaninka community of Apiwtxa (State of Acre, Brazil), were also among the first to come on board, alongside representatives from the Guarani people of Brazil and Argentina.
Carolina had studied and collaborated with Dr. Lewis since 2006, and worked extensively with indigenous communities of the Amazon and Atlantic forests throughout her MSc and PhD.
A partnership established among CAoS, the Guarani people, the NGO Indigenous Advocacy Centre (CTI) and the Ashaninka people from Apiwtxa, to join forces to support the Guarani people in their efforts to restore the Atlantic Forest, awarded them The Newton Prize 2018. It was this fund that made it possible for the Ashaninka and Guarani people to attend the Flourishing Diversity Series.
“I still remember how inspired I felt when I first listened to Jerome Lewis at UCL, in 2015, speaking about the time he lived with the Baaka hunter-gatherers. Since that talk, I sensed we had something to realize together. Over the years we had many positive exchanges in different contexts. Jerome was able to visit Apiwtxa village in 2016 while I was doing fieldwork with the Ashaninka and deeply involved with the community’s life. He was very touched by the powerful way the Ashaninka people were looking after their people and territory, and he took me to Jessica’s office in 2017 to present Apiwtxa’s work and their leaders’ voices. A seed was planted, and it continued to grow up to the days of the FDS and beyond, expressing concern with promoting respect for the indigenous voices, their ways of living and recognizing their contribution to life on Earth. I am fortunate for having the opportunity to learn from indigenous peoples and am honored to build the Flourishing Diversity process alongside Jerome, Jessica, Paola and so many other special people that have joined us on this journey.” (Carolina Comandulli)
These are just a few strands of this rich and fertile story, that brought representatives from 17 different communities to London for the first gathering of its kind. This offers a window into the birthing of the 2019 Flourishing Diversity Series and the movement that is unfolding from here.
We would like to thank every representative who spoke and shared ceremony throughout the Series, all those who attended and took part, and everyone who worked to bring the series to life. We all form part of this co-creation, and the collaborative vision for a habitable earth for all species that together we are working towards.