Green Unconference

‘Green Unconference:’ Making life whole, healed

By:  - @inquirerdotnet



Imagine a conference that begins with everyone seated, breathing evenly, eyes closed, backs straight, feet flat on the floor, listening to soft music and words of wisdom about healing the earth.

Imagine a conference where you hear more about environmental solutions and pathways than about problems and roadblocks.

Imagine a conference where conveners ask you to speak from the heart, where the program ends with lively music and a healthy, organic meal.

Imagine all these happening in just one morning, and what you have is the first Green Unconference held on Aug. 10 at Asian Institute of Management (AIM) in Makati City.

The conference, wrapped around the theme “a collective sharing to move the spirit,” was held with the support of Kai Farms and its mother company, Transnational Diversified Group (TDG).

Conveners Karla Delgado and Amena Anantishi Bal brought together 15 speakers engaged in environmentally relevant work “to go beyond intellectual exercise to creating a shift in people’s hearts,” Delgado said of the “unconference” concept.

“So we have meditation, music and art—to transport us from a head space to a space that is so much more expansive, where we can reconnect with our highest selves and our highest purpose,” she added.


Among the speakers was Mark Garrett, a permaculture design consultant who develops agricultural ecosystems intended to be sustainable and self-sufficient.

“Permaculture isn’t just for anybody. It’s for everybody,” said Garrett, who specializes in tropical permaculture. He designed Richard Branson’s Necker Island and redesigned the edible gardens of Green School, the world’s greenest school located in Bali, Indonesia.

Permaculture, he added, is a way of living in harmony with nature by growing food, creating efficient energy systems, saving and reusing water, cultivating diversity, and regenerating soil nutrients and minerals so people can live healthy in thriving environments. Garrett explained how permaculture can be done on a small scale in gardens, or on a larger scale in farms, parks, cities and even on entire islands.

Sleep, exercise, nutrition

Young mother Melanie Teng-Go spoke about growing up amid chemicals because of her family’s business and becoming aware of toxins in her body. This led her to study and create a consultancy in building biology, which looks at environment with its inhabitants in mind. Building biologists identify sources of toxins in homes and buildings and work to reduce or eliminate people’s exposure to these toxins.

Even having television and mobile phones in the bedroom is unhealthy, said Dr. Pinky Baclig, who spoke about “Greening the Mitochondria.” Using minimal technical language, she explained how the nucleus of a cell communicates with the mitochondria, telling it to produce energy. Today, she said, the communication between the nucleus and the mitochondria is unhealthy and science is finding that this is linked to chronic illness, premature aging and the early onset of Alzheimer’s.

To deal with this, people need sleep, exercise, and nutrition, she added.

Dr. Baclig currently practices health optimization medicine and shares her philosophy on healthy living at the Philippine General Hospital and at the University of the Philippines College of Medicine.

Medicinal gardens

People must find ways to connect with others, said Antonio La Viña, who spoke about pushing to the international stage the environmental policy on climate change. He said COP21 (or the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties) in Paris would be making crucial decisions on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in December this year. If no agreement comes about in Paris, the COP21 will be leaving a harsh world to our children. “The future will be very tough,” he warned. “Do what you’re already doing but reach out to others to enlarge impact,” he added.

Myrna Jimenez, secretary general of Kasarian Kalayaan Inc., or Sarilaya, provided an example of just that, and spoke about the success of Sarilingap Program. The program has worked with women to establish communal and household “farmacies” or medicinal gardens, community seed banking and social enterprises in herbal medicine. Already, it has established farmacies in the provinces of Cavite, Nueva Ecija, and Tarlac.

Other speakers were as deeply committed.

Jeannie Javelosa spoke about sustainable social entrepreneurship, Hindy Weber-Tantoco distinguished between organic and genetically modified food, Dharam Gian Kaur led the gathering in meditation for a healthy mind, while Colin Steley spoke on renewable energy and the future of microgrids.

John Lakan Olivares meanwhile spoke about Filipino play and games as leadership training, while Raymond Rufino showed how better workplaces translate into better performance. Denise Celdran shared knowledge on homeopathy, Nicolo Aberasturi of Down to Earth recounted how he got started in organic farming, Virgie Llorin of Greenpeace spoke of the importance of local food security and diversity, while Brian Benitez Mcllelland rode in on his bamboo bike, a product of social entrepreneurship with residents of a Gawad Kalinga village in Tarlac. Between discussions, Joey Ayala and CV Wasu played music that had the participants singing along.

Everyday choices

Environmental scientist Beatrice Gomez, who synthesized the rich content of the Green Unconference, reminded everyone of how our impact on the environment goes back to the everyday choices we make about how we live.

The Unconference, described convener Bal, was about “making life healed, whole and complete.”

She added: “This concept is meant to harmonize and heal duality and be a sustainable loving bridge between past, present, future; between science and soul … between modern technology and ancient indigenous wisdom … between urban living and rural, natural lifestyles.”

Apparently, the Green Unconference was meant to go beyond the gathering that Monday morning at AIM. Delgado and Bal will apply the ideas and concepts from the Unconference into reality, as they continue to work with Garrett to establish permaculture in Kai Farms, a property of TDG, which supported the Unconference.

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