23 February, 2020
I arrived in warm balmy Panama City after watching my plane de-ice on the runway in Denver at 5:00 a.m. A few days later, Denver got a foot of snow and my son got a Snow Day. That day in Panama, I hiked down a path through dense trees that Geoversit y staff and volunteers had planted 15 years prior, to swim and lounge in a refreshing pool in the Mamoní River, in a place they named Junglewood Falls. I was with inspirational youth leaders from Spain, Bali, North America, and Panama. At that moment, I was not missing the snow.
Over the past several months, Nathan had shared with me bits and pieces of what they are up to in Panama—projects which are so vast and so impactful that it was hard to comprehend at first. He said more than once, “Just come to Panama. You’ll see.” He was right. I’m attempting to put into words my heartfelt experiences, human connections and indescribable encounters with the wonders of nature.
Mamoní Valley Preserve is a magical place. It is Geo versity’s primary real-life campus of learning, just a few hours’ drive northeast of Panama City, accessible only by 4-wheel-drive and by crossing three rivers. It’s 12,900 acres of jungle and forest where magic happens, offering direct communion with toucans, monkeys, iguanas, agutis, coatimundis, even ocelots.
As I arrived, I realized that we are standing at the threshold of a decade that will determine our future and the quality of life on planet Earth. The work of Geoversity in places like the Mamoní Valley Preserve and their new field station in the Bayano wetlands on Panama’s Pacific coast will be the drivers to course-correct the direction of humanity towards one of survival, renewal and hope. The overarching and ambitious vision of Geoversity is biocultural renewal at a global level, and a popular shift in worldview, moving away from values and practices that set humankind apart from nature toward a fully evolved oneness with nature. This vision is achieved via three areas of innovation: ecology and conservation, creating with nature, and life-changing immersive learning experiences.
The occasion I’m sharing with you was a time in February 2020 when Geoversity organized three overlapping interrelated events—all ambitious and world-class and based on nature. First, the Biomimicry Institute brought their student winners of business ideas, and they were provided mentors to launch their businesses. Their last day overlapped with the second program, a day-long business course, “The Power of Nature: Global Leaders Applying the Power of Nature to Scale Their Organizations.” The third endeavor was the Earth Vision Transcontinental Journey of youth leaders from around the world. They were chosen and invited based on their impactful work already tackling major environmental and social challenges, in order to expand their leadership skills and amplify their voices. Their journey took them from the Pacific coast of Panama up over the continental divide along the Jaguar Trail, down to the Atlantic coast of Panama’s indigenous Guna and onto a tiny island now managed by youth leaders of the Guna General Congress. I knew I was witnessing history in the making.
Nathan and his team have ways of bringing together the most interesting and unique blends of people and projects. He knows how to bring the extra spice in the magical sauce that comes with mixing generations, culture (from indigenous to campesino to urban elite), and talents entwined with business, science, and the arts. I’d seen hints of the unique collaborations in images and reports from the past few years, and then at Geoversity’s Innovation Summit at Harvard in November. Finally at Centro Mamoní, I was surrounded by these amazing people. With us in Panama were media-tech entrepreneur Archie Kasnet; investor Roberto Saint-Malo; best-selling marketing author David Meerman Scott; biomimicry expert Dr. Tamsin Woolley-Barker; businessman Tom Hannaher, who owns and treasures one of the world’s largest collections of Guna art and plant medicine information; and Dr. Michael Schmidt, whose field is human performance and medicine in extreme environments.
Everyone who spends time at the Mamoní Valley Preserve gets to take a jungle nature hike with the incomparable expert and IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) member Lider Sucre. I joined him with aeronautics pioneer (NetJets Europe and HiFly) Marianela Mirpuri, CEO & Founder of Hera, and her team, Mary Pagano, Dana Al Salem, and renowned French architect Gil Bakhtiar, who are considering Panama as one location for Hera City.
Hera City will be a large sustainable smart city providing unlimited potential for women with the support of people concerned about, and engaged in, creating a better future not only for women, but for all people.
Marianela told me about their pilot program in Mumbai, India. Hera City, once approved in Panama, will be located just 12 kilometers south of the Mamoní Valley Preserve, and will include new sustainable housing. Hera City will have an Iconic Hall, world class conferencing facilities, a museum featuring vernacular design, the art of Panama’s native nations, and the history of women around the world. The Institute will focus on the future of humanity studies.
We learned from Lider how the queen ant of the leaf-cutter ants runs their important show in the forest, and how she looks after the others, as a sovereign. This queen ant is a model of strength and independence ; perhaps she will become a symbol of inspiration for the women of Hera City.
Marianela, Mary, Dana, and Gil later went from the jungle into the city to meet with the Panamanian Government officials about locating Hera City in Panama in collaboration with Geoversity.
At “The Power of Nature,” Dr. Tamsin presented Panama and Mamoní as “Living Bridges” bringing diverse species and cultures together for rich exchange and innovation—opening new opportunities for ongoing evolution. She recognized that Panama’s rich “sancocho de gallina” of biodiversity positions it to become a world center for Biomimicry and a much-needed biocultural renaissance—a return to the human niche of cultivating and tending diverse opportunity and exchange. We are part of the living world, and we have a vital role to play in regenerating it.