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7-Generation GTB

We are each responsible for bringing our piece into the great story of our species, which is a long and complex story… It can be confusing to determine what stories are real, what stories actually impact our lives, what is worth our attention, and what, once heard, we are accountable for acting upon… Our future depends on being able to turn and face what is, and to be honest about what we are going to do to survive.”

Writer and Social Justice Facilitator

In the time of the Seventh Fire, New People will emerge. They will retrace their steps to find what was left by the trail. Their steps will take them to the Elders who they will ask to guide them on their journey.”

Wisconsin Ojibway of the Fish Clan
and Spiritual Teacher

Everywhere was now a part of everywhere else… Our lives, our stories, flowed into one another's, were no longer our own, individual, discrete.


Only stories will help us to rejoin human to humility to humus, through their shared root (the root that we're looking for here is dhghem: Earth).”


If a particular society's cultural world – the dreams that have guided it to a certain point – become dysfunctional, the society must go back and dream again. We must reinvent the human… by means of story and shared experience.”

Cultural Historian

This is work in the context of lifetimes across generations, bringing all generations together in one re-generation.”

Legacy Project Founder and
7-Generation Strategist

The grounds for hope are in the shadows, in the people who are inventing the world while no one looks, who themselves don't know yet whether they will have any effect.”

Historian and Author

BE #ChangeTheStory


7-Generation GTB is empowering people (generations) in place (bioregion) to #ChangeTheStory for resilience and regeneration. But #ChangeTheStory to what? We are living into the story of Bioregional Earth, which is at the level of a worldview or Overstory.

This page is being updated. Here's a sneak peek…

A civilization is very much about the bigger story we all share over time – the meanings, values, and structures that guide us collectively. As our stories crumble, we crumble – individually and collectively. People are feeling fear and uncertainty about what the future holds for themselves and even our human civilization. Deep narratives from our past are breaking down and we're trying to recraft them.

Story is not a trivial thing. From an article on Relational Systems Thinking: "Most of us trained in the Western traditions of the academic world have been taught to rely on our chronically overdeveloped reason… [But Indigenous understanding] lives in stories… These stories are of course archetypal, they are dynamic, there is always an unfolding going on, whereas Western culture which has largely displaced other cultures over the past several hundred years, particularly the last 75, privileges abstractions; succinct, clear, de-contextualized characterizations. 'Tell me what you know; don't tell me a story.' We go from lived experience, something you can touch and feel and tell stories about, to an abstracted description and we consider that a higher form of knowledge. We consider that more refined, which is kind of bizarre in a way. They both have a function… The danger of the Western approach is that all you get is abstraction, you end up with almost no lived experience. Somebody is considered an expert because they can talk a lot about something, or they've written books about it. In the social science or the domain of human living, the consequence of this disconnected abstracting is that we struggle and struggle with how to 'implement' ideas, how to do it, because we start off thinking that's a lesser kind of knowledge. This creates a false dichotomy between knowledge of the head and knowledge of the hand."

Story is the most effective way human beings have to navigate through the world, find psychological cover, nurture healing, imagine possibilities, pass values on to generations that follow us. Stories bring mental order to chaos, some meaning to the seemingly meaningless. Says author Virginia Burges, "A story is a fundamental system on which to create an experiential palette, an understanding of life. Stories are the nearest thing we have to a map of the soul's journey."

Stories also provide us with a collective decision-making matrix.

But just as a map is not the territory, a story is not the thing that the story is about. In a relatively stable system, there will be a number of standard stories we can use to guide collective decisions with some reasonable expectation that outcomes will be positive. The biggest problem with stories is when we substitute telling them for meaningful action to deal with the real issues the stories are about, especially in a dysfunctional system. When the overarching system is breaking down, one by one the stories that were reasonable become more and more clearly absurd – and we're increasingly left to face a void of meaning, alone.
As we work to #ChangeTheStory, the intent is what master storytellers call a new Grand Narrative, an Overstory, meaningfully and vitally connecting us in the context of all other living things on this planet at this moment in time that holds past, present, and future (long now). This is as vital as water – and just as difficult to grasp.

This new/old story, a story of Bioregional Earth, is deeply informed by an Indigenous worldview. For Indigenous peoples, everything rests on right relationships within Natural Law. Together with various Indigenous collaborators locally and internationally, we are weaving together Western and Indigenous ways of knowing to find a "third way" forward in a time of uncertainty. How can we heal our relationships with each other and the Earth?

To be clear, this isn't a single, written story with a beginning, middle and end. It's a living, multifaceted story that really has no beginning or end, only an ever-evolving middle. It may be expressed and take shape in many ways.

This is also a story that should slide in time. As we re-evaluate stories of history (e.g. North America was "discovered"), three narrative opportunities are in play: the story of what happened (rethinking historical stories, who told them and from what perspective), the story of what now (if we change our understanding of history, how does that change what we see/value today), and the story of what next (can we find the imagination and courage to see and pursue new possibilities). We have a chance to reconceptualize the past, present, and future.

If the ultimate goal is at the scale of an Overstory, then the storytelling has to be both intensely human in the current moment and timelessly mythic, co-created across generations. In the words of Nobel-winning poet Octavio Paz, "The myth is not situated on a definitive date, but on a 'once upon a time,' a knot in which space and time are intertwined. The myth is a past that is also a future."

A 7-Generation Bioregional Earth story is, by its very nature, a complex story. Journalist Amanda Ripley wrote an insightful piece on complicating the narratives. How do we respond effectively to the different stories different people hold, and move forward collectively in some way? We must "go beyond the clichés and name-calling and excavate richer, deeper truths, at a time of profound division… Anyone who values truth should stop worshipping reason… The lesson for anyone working amidst intractable conflict: complicate the narrative. The natural human tendency is to reduce that tension by seeking coherence through simplification. Complicating the narrative means finding and including the details that don't fit the narrative – on purpose. First, complexity leads to a fuller, more accurate story. Secondly, it boosts the odds that your work will matter – particularly if it is about a polarizing issue. When people encounter complexity, they become more curious and less closed off to new information. They listen."

Human beings, through relationships with each other, create stories of meaning. Author and ecophilosopher Dr. Roy Scranton writes, "The human ability to make meaning is so versatile, so powerful, that it can make almost any existence tolerable, so long as that life is woven into a bigger story that makes it meaningful. It's at just this moment of crisis that our human drive to make meaning reappears as our only salvation… if we're willing to reflect consciously on the ways we make life meaningful – on how we decide what is good, what our goals are, what's worth living or dying for, and what we do every day, day to day, and how we do it."


Three Guiding Questions

In a polycrisis, or what some even call a metacrisis, very little "makes sense." We need to go between and beyond. Novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald said that "the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function." We need to exercise that ability.

If we can individually and collectively make some good sense in this uncertain time, we can act in ways that make sense. People of all ages can become citizen sensemakers, or what we call Citizen HJPs – historian-journalist-philosophers, connecting stories across the past, present, and future.

As each of us goes through our journey of life – from being elders-in-training (from the time we're born) into elderhood to ancestorhood – how can we bring meaning and wisdom to everything we do?

Ecological thinker E.O. Wilson once commented, "We are drowning in information, while starving for wisdom." Indigenous ways of coming to know, as practiced by Elders, is the pursuit of "wisdom-in-action" – the goal is becoming wiser in living properly in the world. Ancient philosophy required a collective effort and mutual support. Wisdom isn't just for wise people, philosophers, and psychologists – it's for all people and for the future of the world. Wisdom brings together experience, ability to think, and emotional maturity to make good decisions at an individual and societal level.

To help people think in complexity, we're using Warm Data, developed by Nora Bateson of the International Bateson Institute in Sweden. Says Bateson, "Developing an understanding of the patterns and processes of interdependency in complexity is the single most practical capacity that we can support in ourselves and each other."

More possibilities open up through the practice of Warm Data. Explains Bateson: "Thinking in complexity requires the ability to perceive across multiple perspectives and contexts. This is not a muscle that has been trained into us in school or in the work world. Warm Data Labs are group processes which illustrate interdependency and generate understandings of systemic patterns for ordinary people with no previous exposure to systems theory. Warm Data Labs enable new societal responses to complex challenges."
Making Sense
As youth, adults, and elders develop their complexity muscles, they can become more effective community sensemakers. Systems work can only happen if there's a continual, "alive" flow of human information.

We're using the sensemaking work of Dave Snowden (Cynefin Centre, UK), who recently released a field guide on Managing Complexity (and Chaos) in Times of Crisis for the EU. A citizen sensemaking network is important in times of crisis and change.

Community sensemakers take stories from their own life and connect them into a bigger context of stories. The emphasis on "story" opens windows to perceive differently and imagine possibilities – to make new sense.

Particularly in the GTB with such a large area and large population, we need to know what's going on and where the work needs to go in any given moment. Cynefin's SenseMaker software translates the stories of individuals into visual sensemaking patterns.

From Cynefin: "Imagine the rich, sense-making, actionable insight gained from diverse, individual meaning, motivation and reason at scale. Imagine the compelling, empowering decision-making support gained from hearing the whispers of change, the stories from the streets, the out-of-earshot coffee-break conversations and other weak currents of social stirring. Then, imagine how real-time tracking of the impact of decisions with continuous data gathering enables the ability to pivot and adjust interventions proactively. SenseMaker combines the best of both worlds: numbers and data analytics with stories and human wisdom."

Making sense ultimately becomes a function of sharing stories in an ongoing, mutually-informing process. Part of this process is to translate thinking into action through Legacy Projects.


Seven Themes

The GTB is large and complex in land area, population, and politics. Equally, it's crucial to the people who live here, and to both the province of Ontario and Canada as a country.

As we try to navigate through the polycrisis, difficult challenges will continue, increasing in intensity. Systems are already crumbling and people are already suffering – as the pandemic, floods, fires lay bare. Says systems thinker and climate scientist Dr. Elizabeth Sawin, "Losses that can't be fully prevented can still be honored. They can be honored by making meaning out of the experience and by applying lessons learned in ways that could prevent future suffering and loss."

The 7-Generation GTB work is a very different systemic, intergenerational, land-based approach. Grounding in the real world of the land across time is important. The work opens possibilities for different structures and processes. There's a shift in focus away from organizations, issues, and ideas in isolation, or even in competition, to weaving them into coherence and multiplying possibilities.

7-Generation GTB interconnects across seven broad themes: environment and climate change, economy, community, health, education and lifelong learning, life course and aging, Indigenous worldviews and knowledge.

We've brought together a local Group of Seven big-picture thinkers as guides in this work.

Weaving together a coherent story and effective action across the themes, in the specific GTB context, is a process held over the long term by the Legacy Project core team and guided by those working on the ground.

Below is an introductory overview around the seven broad themes informing and being woven together to #ChangeTheStory.


Graham Saul, Environment/Climate Change, Group of Seven

"If you ask me, it'd be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it. We ought to be looking for energy sources that are adequate for our needs, but that won't give us the excesses of concentrated energy with which we could do mischief to the earth or to each other."
Amory Lovins, physicist and Founder/Chief Scientist,
Rocky Mountain Institut
e (RMI)


Ann Armstrong, Economy, Group of Seven

"The economy used to be about livelihoods and the provision of a household, but we've lost that purpose. An economy should be about fairness and equity. It should be for the wellbeing of your people and the sacredness of creation. You take care of your place because it provides for you. And the place provides for you because you're protecting it."
Rebecca Adamson, Cherokee, Founder of
First Nations Development Institute and First Peoples Worldwide


Janelle Hinds, Community, Group of Seven

"The world is so empty if one thinks only of mountains, rivers and cities; but to know someone who thinks and feels with us, and who, though distant, is close to us in spirit, this makes the earth for us an inhabited garden."
, novelist


Gary Bloch, Health, Group of Seven

"As aspiring doctors, students think they are getting into the business of making people healthy…
[But] the most important factors that determine people's health are social, and the most effective solutions are political. Health services – the response to ill health – have much less effect on ultimate health outcomes than social determinants… What the students learn is that, while they can indeed have the power to heal, they cannot act alone. The response to illness is not limited to one profession or sector: it must be societal."
Ryan Meili, physician and politician


Carol Campbell, Education and Lifelong Learning, Group of Seven

"We move from data to information to knowledge to wisdom. And separating one from the other… knowing the limitations and the danger of exercising one without the others, while respecting each category of intelligence, is generally what serious education is about."
Toni Morrison, novelist and professor


Peter Whitehouse, Life Course and Aging, Group of Seven

"There are timeless elements which can connect us to the universal ground where nature renews itself and culture becomes reimagined. Youth and elder meet where the pressure of the future meets the presence of the past. Old and young are opposites that secretly identify with each other; for neither fits well into the mainstream of life."
Michael Meade, author


Dan Longboat, Indigenous Worldviews/Knowledge, Group of Seven

"I could hand you a braid of sweetgrass, as thick and shining as the plait that hung down my grandmother's back. But it is not mine to give, nor yours to take. Wiingaashk belongs to herself. So I offer in its place a braid of stories meant to heal our relationship with the world. This braid is woven from three strands: Indigenous ways of knowing, scientific knowledge, and the story of an Anishinaabekwe scientist trying to bring them together in service of what matters most."
Robin Wall Kimmerer, botanist and author of Braiding Sweetgrass

Across these seven broad themes, we're working toward ecopsychosocial wellbeing in lifetimes across generations on a Bioregional Earth. #ChangeTheStory.