Integral City Reflective Organ – March 2019: Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?

This newsletter is published quarterly using a cycle of perspectives on the Integral City viewed from: Planet, People, Place and Power. The theme of this issue is Planet.

… when we look at the scale of life on this planet, we notice that cities as human systems are in the center of the space between self and planet. As we look around the world it appears that higher-consciousness stages of We-space at various scales are increasingly active and prevalent as the next stage of evolution for human systems, including cities on the journey to becoming Integral Cities. As Integral City Community of Practice, we attend to action in the world related to the integral evolution of cities, noticing where Second Tier organizing principles are emerging in larger (communities and organizations) and smaller (teams and families) scales of human interaction. We are being invited to help individual cities evolve by working directly with a variety of emergent “We-fields.”

Hamilton, M. (2017). Integral City Inquiry & Action: Design Impact for the Human Hive. Phoenix, AZ: Integral Publishers, p.17

Scroll to end of newsletter to access Free Resources.

How Might Cities Be Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?

In early March, 2019 I had an opportunity to explore the question, “Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?” My audience was an erudite gathering of the online 3 Horizons University (3Huni for short).

I proposed to explore the case for the evolution of cities, not as a bane on the Earth, but as a necessary stage of maturing capacity of Gaia’s living system. I offered evidence from science, thought experiments and practice, from my Integral City Book Series, Reframing Complex Challenges for Gaia’s Human Hives (2018), Inquiry and Action: Designing Impact for the Human Hive (2017) and Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive (English 2008, Russian 2014).

Macro and Micro Science

My curiosity has long been piqued by James Lovelock, author of the Gaia Hypothesis – that the Earth is a living system. Also, Elisabet Sahtouris, Evolution Biologist. The former speaks to the macro scale of life on our planet. The latter speaks to the micro scale and how the qualities of living systems at all scales reveal self-same patterns or fractals.

Elisabet wrote in the Foreword to the new edition (upcoming) of Integral City: Evolutionary Intelligences for the Human Hive, sharing an experience that we have had in common.

            Looking down on Earth’s surface from an airplane, whether by day or night, our cities look remarkably like cells—nucleated cells, with their obvious nuclear ‘downtown’ hubs, scattered smaller concentrations of buildings like cell organelles, flowing transport systems, extensions into the surround like the pseudopods of amoebae.

            This has struck me again and again in flying around Earth as an evolution biologist and futurist seeking answers to our big questions on whence we came and where we are headed, all the while teaching my evolving take on them. Eventually I realized that cities were indeed living entities, and now undergoing a rapid evolution comparable to the origins of the nucleated cells they so resemble.

Lovelock imagines that Gaia is evolving for herself a “Reflective Organ” through the evolution of human beings. Sahtouris observes that the process of maturiing the human species is passing through early stages of consumption and competition. She points out that as our species matures it will recognize that both these stages consume too much energy (i.e. they cost too much in terms of the relationship of the input of energy to the output of sustainable and resilient results). Sahtouris contends that we are waking up to the energetic equation that collaboration costs much less energy than conflict, wars and pillaging resources, and is the evolutionary intelligent behaviour to enact.

When we see the havoc that humans have created on Earth as we evolve through the early stages of our species growth cycle, it is easy to imagine (as most people do) that Humans are the bane of Gaia’s existence. Our cities tend to be heaped with special blame because they accumulate and concentrate so much wealth. In Book 3 of the Integral City series, I note the veritable vortex of threats that we have created as we have drawn down on the planetary layers of resources (see Figure).

Our VUCA Vortex (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) is whirling around our cities manifesting threats to our quality of life through challenges that are becoming increasingly intelligently documented. The following list names the big challenges and key authors who have explored the data and the implications.

  • Financial Upheaval (Esborn-Hargens, Raworth, Henderson, McCrum, McLeod)
  • Energy (Monbiot)
  • Water Scarcity (Linton)
  • Climate (O’Brien, IPCC, Hawken, Lester Brown)
  • Environment/Ecology (Esborn-Hargens / Zimmerman, Taylor)
  • Food Scarcity (McKibben, Taylor)
  • Collapse (Diamond, Wright, Hawken)

When we plot these threats on a cosmology of the evolution of the Universe it looks something like the image above.

Yet, when we look at key city discourses through the lenses of Sustainable Development Goals (UN), Scale (G. West) or Urban Crisis (R. Florida) we can read excellent analyses of indicators, infrastructures and environmental degradation. But we are hard pressed to find how these authors imagine the vital contributions of consciousness and culture to solving complex problems let alone relating them within a context of evolutionary development. In short, these core frameworks do NOT include a developmental dimension. By contrast, Integral City proposes that cities are not developmentally “flat” or “steady state” but emerge and change and shapeshift in all their internal and external contexts over time. As a result of this understanding of the evolutionary dynamic and its impact on the quality of life in cities, we can open up to ever more complexity and possibilities for the human hive – rather than contracting or shrinking away from such change.

Integral City frames its view of the world through developmental lenses, seeing that individuals and collectives all traverse lifecycles of maturing that produce capacities and intelligences at every scale of human system from individual to family/team, organization, sector, community and the city. The patterns that these different scales exhibit consciously and culturally reveal the fractalness that Sahtouris has noticed through the biological and systems perspective. Thus, the five sets of intelligences that cities, as living systems, have evolved keep them alive, connected to their environments (sustainable) and regenerating (Capra, Wahl).

Read the complete editorial in the following 4 blogs.

Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?

Thought Experiments – Listening & Learning from Bees

Integral City Maps, Intelligences, Emergent Practices for Gaia

Evidence for Big Bite & Hope for Gaia?

Upcoming Events for Integral City

Beyond Smart: Integral City Practices, Tools & Maps

For Practitioners. (2 Days, Findhorn, Scotland, April 27-29, 2019)

This 2-day course introduces “practitioners” to just the basics of the Integral City model. You will learn the framework of practices, tools and maps that reveal the common patterns that impact the lives of individuals, organizations and communities within your city. This short course explores three powerful images animating Integral City systems – the integral map, the meshwork and the human hive. You will learn from your own situations and each other how the toolkit guides you beyond models for Urban Ecovillages and Traditional, Smart and Resilient Cities.  MORE INFO

Beyond Resilient: Integral City Inquiry Action & Impact

For Catalysts. (4 Days, Findhorn, Scotland, April 30-May 3, 2019)

This 4-day course is for “catalysts” to explore inquiry and action that inspires productive impact for reinventing today’s cities for the future. You will interact with the 4+1 Voices of the Integral City (Business, Local Government, Civil Society and Citizens, plus actors from other regional cities) to identify strategic possibilities. Integral City introduces you to new ways to think about, act in, relate to and reinvent the city as a Human Hive. Through placecaring and placemaking, we invite you to discover the unique contributions you make to its aliveness. We believe the future of cities will emerge not just from the bottom up through Smart City Technology or the top down through Resilient approaches – but from the integrated actions of the 4+1 Voices in all the cities in your eco-region, as you reinvent your Human Hives.   MORE INFO

Beyond Complexity: Integral City Care Context & Capacity

For Meshworkers. (4 Days, Findhorn, Scotland, Sept. 14-17, 2019)

This 4-day course is for “meshworkers” to imagine how to reframe simplicity on the other side of complexity in the Integral City – or Human Hive. You will join graduates of prior training to build on the Integral City practitioner and catalyst competencies to apply new skills to a live case study. You will look at the city through the lenses of Care, Contexting and Capacity Building. You will view the city as a complex, adaptive living innovation eco-system, where the internal and external connections amongst the 4+1 voices of the city (Citizens, Civil Society, City/Institutional Managers, Business/Innovators (and other cities) enable conditions for thriving today. You will seek to align intra-city and inter-regional collaborations through caring for people, contexting for place and capacity building for purpose. This course introduces the practices of “meshworking”, so that practitioners who work with individual organizations and catalysts who build bridges between organizations can engage with the city as a whole.  EMAIL FOR MORE INFO

ccc19 Conference Workshop, April 22, 2019, Findhorn, Scotland

Findhorn cChallengers Think Kosmically, Feel Globally, Act Locally, Marilyn Hamilton will facilitate a workshop about the  journey of 20+ Findhornians who joined a UOslo team lead by Dr Karen O’Brien (IPCC) to chart a 30-day path to individual and collective transformation. Listen to Findhorn’s 4 Voices who explored how the power of personal change out-leverages political and technical climate change strategies. Learn how we applied Findhorn’s 3 principles of Deep Inner Listening, Work is Love in Action and Co-Creating with the Intelligence of Nature, to discover how Common Ground can emerge from supporting each other through whole system cChange. Watch for livestreaming options for this conference and workshop.

Ecocity World Summit 2019, Vancouver Canada

Marilyn Hamilton, Founder of Integral City, will be keynoting October 8, 2019 and workshopping at the Ecocity World Summit October 7-11, 2019. Marilyn will be exploring How Cities are Emerging as Gaia’s Reflective Organs.Her workshops will be on MetaCapital Indicators (with Sean Esborn-Hargens) and Integral City/Infill Projects (with Beth Sanders).

EWS is the longest-standing international conference that addresses building cities in balance with nature. It is a biennial event involving over 1000 delegates from around the world. This year, the conference will be hosted by the British Columbia Institute of Technology (BCIT) in collaboration with the City of Vancouver and Tourism Vancouver at the Vancouver Convention Centre West from October 7-11, 2019.

he 2019 conference will bring focus to the International Ecocity Standards (IES) which were developed through a decade-long partnership between Ecocity Builders and BCIT School of Construction and the Environment. The IES has 18 standards pertaining to sustainable urban living grouped under:

 Urban design
 Bio-geophysical conditions
 Socio-cultural features
 Ecological imperatives

Each day of the 2019 summit will highlight one of these four topics through keynote speakers and program sessions, in order to promote the understanding and development of Socially Just and Ecologically Sustainable Cities.

We look forward to seeing you in Vancouver at the Ecocity World Summit 2019!

Integral City Book 3 in the Bookstores

Integral City 3.7: Reframing Complex Challenges for Gaia’s Human Hives Book 3 in the Integral City series, considers a series of apparently intractable challenges that all cities face because the world has become so complex that cause and effect are rarely directly linked. The challenges cities face today result from the intertwining impacts of multiple life conditions, perspectives and capacities and can only be addressed by reframing them within an Integral City model that honors the plural realities, recognizes their developmental and evolutionary relationships and does not conflate differences.

This third book in our series explores three themes that are eternal practices for designing a collective life that works for all life; namely, Caring, Contexting and Capacity Building. The book starts Part 1: Deepening Care with the “missing chapter” from Integral City Book 1 and adds a new Map (5) – “Spirituality in the Human Hive”. It explains the intimate relationship between Caring Capacity and Carrying Capacity as strategic factors that contribute to sustainable and resilient cities. Part 2: Raising Context makes a persuasive case for the city as both a trigger point and a tipping point for evolution on our Planet of Cities. Part 3: Widening Capacity examines the emergence of capacity across a holarchy of human scales: leaders, organizations, systems and city.The book concludes with a synthesis of the relationships between Caring and Contexting as they are expressed in Integral Capacities at multiple scales within the human hive.

The book’s generational number “3.7” reminds us of the 7th generation in the future, a time span that many indigenous people consider relevant to contexting and making wise decisions. The dedication to the seventh generation from now activates an “overview effect” that forces us to consider the consequences of our cities’ impact on our living planet, Gaia.

Celebrating Planet-of-Cities in the Coming Quarter of 2019

Between darkness and light I will always walk, and everywhere that I walk, I will open a window of light and plant a seed of love. (Taize verse)

March 20 marks the start of what Integral City calls the Planet Quarter (from March 20 to June 21). What disturbances darken the path of your planetary experience? What light shines through despite the sometimes conflicted path of our species’ evolution on this emerging Planet of Cities? What landscapes fill you with despair? What vistas inspire you with eternal hope?  We are noticing the leadership roles that cities are initiating to demand changes to plastic cycles/recycles; that C40 women mayors under the banner of #women4climate are standing up for climate; and youth like Greta Thunberg are demanding eco-justice for all life on this planet.  Visit us on our Integral City Website and Blog or post a comment on our Facebook pageabout your passion for our planet of cities as she calls us to become her Reflective Organs.

Meshful Blessings of this Equinox for our Planet of Cities from

Marilyn Hamilton and the Integral City Constellation Corps Team

PS Here are some FREE resources for nurturing our Planet and her Human Hives:

1. Podcast

Sean Esborn-Hargens: A Conversation With Metaimpact

2. Why Come to Findhorn for Integral City Training?

Tamarack: Open Letter from Integral City Beyond Resilient Beyond Smart

3. BLOGS

The Knowing Field and Constellating for the Collective

The Manifesto of New Sincerity

Are Cities Evolving?

Are Cities Evolving as Gaia’s Reflective Organs?

Thought Experiments – Listening & Learning from Bees

Integral City Maps, Intelligences, Emergent Practices for Gaia

Evidence for Big Bite & Hope for Gaia?

Climate Change

How Do You and I Make Drawdown Personal?

cChallenge Draws On & Creates MetaCapitals

New Perspectives on Beauty, Goodness and Truth from ccc19 cChallenge

Meta-Findhorn 4+1 Voices Think Cosmically, Feel Globally, Act Locally

Welcome to the Restaurant at the end of ccc19 cChallenge

4. Enlivening Organizations for Teal/Yellow Development

How Do Organizations Enliven the City?

Are you a Member of the 10%

5. Newsletters Past Issues 2018

Integral City MetaBlog 2018 – A synthesis and index of all Integral City Blogs from 2018.

Integral Cities of the Year 2018 – 6 AIKA – for the collaborative city spirit amongst 6 cities in Finland.

Meshworker of the Year Award 2018 – Diana Claire Douglas for Systemic Constellation Work for the Collective.

Integral City Reflective Organ – December Solstice 2018: Reframing Complex Challenges with the Power to Change

Integral City Reflective Organ – September Equinox 2018: Wholing, Including, Emerging, Evolving

Integral City Reflective Organ – June Solstice 2018: Evolutionary Allies Placecare & Placemake the Human Hive

Integral City Reflective Organ – March 2018: Eco-Villages, Human Hives and Gaia’s Reflective Organs

About the Author:

HI I am the Founder of Integral City Meshworks Inc. and Chief Blogger. Working with cities and eco-regions, I ‘meshwork’ or weave people, purpose, priorities, profits, programs and processes to align contexts, grow capacity and develop strategies for sustainability and resilience in the Integral City. You can read more details about me here http://integralcity.com/about/about-the-founder/

Leave A Comment