From Amazon to Africa: Celebrating 30 Years of the Gaia Foundation

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From Amazon to Africa: Celebrating 30 Years of the Gaia Foundation


Thu, 15/10/2015 - 10:11


Girls performing traditional dance in Venda, Limpopo Province, South Africa.
15 October, 2015

HE bought his house in Well Walk, Hamp­stead, back in the 1960s, long before property values rose into the millions. And if you knock on the distinctive yellow-painted door, the snowy-bearded owner will no doubt invite you in – but only on condition you want to save the world.

Economist Ed Posey, who trained as a wartime pilot and then travelled round the world as an airline administrator, especially in Africa, has seen for himself infinite growth and hyper-consumption strangling the globe despite the demanding protests from environmentalists.

That’s why he is one of the founders of the Gaia Foundation, now celebrating its 30th anniversary; that’s why he became one of the beacons declaring “enough is enough” in an international network of experts and organisations seeking social and ecological justice in the face of climate change.

And that’s why he and Liz Hosken, Gaia’s founding director, are responsible for the exhibition From Amazon to Africa, which lifts the lid on Gaia’s aims and motivation. It opened last week at Burgh House, in Hampstead.

Indeed, the Grade I-listed mansion, which has survived since 1783, has itself become part of Gaia’s clarion call with events hosted by such visionary speakers as George Monbiot, Joanna Macy, Hugh Brody and Rupert Sheldrake, the house in nearby Well Walk the original hidden heart of the organisation.

And while Gaia’s official headquarters are in Heathgate Place, off Agincourt Road, Hampstead, Ed Posey has been able to offer them overnight or weekend shelter.

“And they have loved walking on the Heath, even swimming in the ponds and having English breakfast at Kenwood while they were with us,” Ed told me. “My house has become an important feature in Gaia’s operation and in doing things rather differently than elsewhere.”

He met Liz Hoskin just a year before Gaia was formed in October, 1984, after her anti-apartheid activities resulted in her having to leave her native South Africa and subsequently co-found the Gaia Foundation with Ed, Jose Lutzenberger, Wangari Maathal, Vandana Shiva and other ecological pioneers.

Initially, Liz spent many years in the Amazon, where she says she was “initiated” into indigenous native ways of seeing the world. Their way of life resonated with her own potent activities in persuading people “to live and walk and talk differently” in making the transition from a society destroying the world to one with a sustainable future.

“If those of us living today don’t make the change, the terrible legacy we leave our children is an absolutely battered planet,” declares Liz, who has degrees in the environmental sciences as well as philosophy and education for social change.

Both Liz and Gaia have won international awards for their passionate and inspired work developing a methodology to help communities, in particular in the Amazon and Africa, to restore their own rich, cultural and spiritual heritage for a sustainable modern way of life.

And Ed’s activities have earned him an OBE.

“The exhibition is telling our Gaia story and is a learning journey for all of us because there are always new challenges,” Liz told me. “One of the important points in looking into the future is not to know that we can fix things but actually to re-think freshly, to create a new language whereby we are always open to new ways.

“We hope our story provides the message that inspires people to take their own responsibility personally and also, obviously, to support us. Climate change is now a reality with people experiencing it everywhere, hugely in Africa as has been predicted.

“Unfortunately, humans only learn when we have a crisis and we have to do something urgently. That’s why we have been trying to inspire people to feel a sense of responsibility in their love of the planet – and their children.”

She praises her colleague Ed for providing “a place where the worries of the world come and take refuge in a big city” and Ed himself praises Burgh House for providing its support for staging events to help Gaia raise the issues it considers so profound, the current Volkswagen scandal just one of them.

“This is really the moment when it is through people coming on to the streets saying enough is enough, that politicians change and you get the vital social change we need,” added Liz. “If you look through history, there’s the women’s suffrage movement, the voice and the movement of Martin Luther King. And I think today it is about the people’s movement.”

The exhibition, co-curated by Gaia and Holly Wright, the locum curator at Burgh House, is a retrospective of the past 30 years and features film, photography and ethnographic artefacts collected by Gaia from the Brazilian Amazon and African communities going back to their roots in Botswana, plus an insight into Gaia’s best-loved stories.


The Gaia approach

“GAIA has been different from others,” says its website. “There is a generosity and care, which characterises Gaia – seeing the value of people, of culture, of different ways of thinking and creating spaces. That is what makes Gaia very special.”

Martin von Hilderbrand, from Gaia Amazonas in Columbia, declares: “Our work is founded on the recognition that the Earth is a dynamic living whole whose complex processes have maintained the conditions for life to evolve over millions of years.

“Humans are an integral part of these living processes and we depend on them for our wellbeing. It is for this reason that we must ensure that we find a mutually enhancing way to live on the planet, the only home for all species, including ourselves.

“If we do not understand that the crises we face are symptoms of a deeper moral, ethical and spiritual crisis, no technical fixes will help us. Creating a viable future about justice – for humans, for the Earth, and future generations of all species.”

To find out more, or to make a donation, go to or call 020 7428 0055. 

• From Amazon to Africa: Celebrating 30 Years of the Gaia Foundation, until February 21 in the Christopher Wade Room at Burgh House, New End Square, NW3 1LT. Open 12-5pm Wednesday to Friday and Sunday,  admission free. 020 7431 0144,

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