Speaker: Thomas LeGrand

The Politics of Being

No individual can truly thrive without looking inward. The same is true for societies. - Thomas Legrand

Author and sustainable development leader Dr. Thomas LeGrand invites us to co-create a new development paradigm focused on "being" and human flourishing instead of a materialistic "having." Through his work as a social scientist, spiritual search, and 20 years of professional experience in microfinance and sustainability for the UN and other public and private sector entities, Thomas has come to believe that sustainability and paradigmatic systems change in and across sectors require activating the latent power of inner-transformation. "The inner pathway to change is so foreign to our cultural software, that its potential is left untapped," said Thomas. "And while culture has been referred to as the fourth pillar of sustainable development [...] we understand very little about creating conditions for bringing out the best in humans."

Currently, Thomas serves as the Lead Technical Advisor for the Conscious Food Systems Alliance convened by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). Along with his wife and their two young daughters, he lives near Plum Village, the monastery of their teacher, late Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, in the South West of France. He also regularly engages as a speaker and consultant on topics focused on spirituality and sustainability, and is an energy healing practitioner.

As a young adult, Thomas's "momentary glimpses of life's vast potentiality" remained overshadowed by looming default narratives of fear, insecurities, and loneliness. At the age of 23, he explicitly began a spiritual journey following his profound, serendipitous encounters with shamans of one of the most preserved indigenous people: the Huichols. In their teaching, "All paths are the same: they lead nowhere... Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn't, it is of no use..," Thomas found a new guiding compass for his life and his work.

He went on to complete his master's in international development in Paris, and returned to Mexico for nearly three years, working as a microfinance consultant while continuing to learn from shamans. While he appreciated the non-paternalistic way microfinance emphasized empowerment, he also learned that microfinance can be a "beautiful idea conceived for the greater good [that] could easily be transformed into an instrument of exploitation by corrupt minds and systems." Thomas' experience also shaped his understanding that economics can inherently work against environmental sustainability. His calling to serve Mother Earth led him to pursue a Ph.D. in Ecological Economics and a deeper way to pursue paradigmatic change. Parallel to these events, he embraced the wisdom of a wide range of traditions and practices, including meditation, energetic healing and Tai-chi-chuan.

Thomas's book, The Politics of Being, published in Dec 2021, synthesizes ten years of his dedicated research and contemplation on radically reframing our model of development to prioritize "being" and human flourishing over having (economic growth) and aligning our institutions "with our true reason for being here on Earth". Along with deep evolutionary insights at the intersection of science and spirituality, the book offers concrete action steps in various sectors of society.

Please join David Bullon and Aidyn Laurynz in conversation with this wisdom's seeker, social scientist, and sustainability practitioner.

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