People Changing Their World

We established People Changing Their World as a non-profit corporation in 2003. We will be working with Peakinsight to disseminate information and provide financial support for people who are making positive changes to create a more sustainable world.


We are building another website (http://www.peoplechangingtheirworld.org) to share stories about people who are changing their world and making a real difference. Some people will be profiled here until that website is finished.

Click here if you have a story to contribute or would like to participate in that effort.


The people profiled here exemplify leaders and everyday heroes who are making a positive difference in our world.

Dan Petersen, Sage Canyon
Gunter Pauli, ZERI

Dan Petersen, Sage Canyon

Dan Petersen is a reformed orthodontist who was certified through Hudson Institute to do personal coaching. He confesses to having a high degree of 'restlessness around the ordinary' and works with people who are breaking out of old patterns, making transitions, and living adventurous lives.

Dan works on the edge and helps others explore their edges. He even started an annual retreat called 'Edges' to provide a learning community for other coaches. According to Dan, 'the visionary life keeps dropping us into the unknown and that uncertain future is what gives rise to extraordinary outcomes.'

His own vision involved creating a place that would 'offer a powerful message of freedom and hope to humanity' and promote the evolution of human consciousness. Dan's dream is unfolding slowly. He started by buying 130 acres of canyon lands and relocating to Cortez, Colorado. He continues splitting his days between tele-coaching appointments and working outside. He has cleared land, built roads, and erected a teepee for visiting questors.

The Sage Canyon Project was established as a non-profit organization in 2002. Dan and his partners are attracting a community of people who are 'taking action on their own personal evolution' to make a difference in their world. Sage Canyon is now offering study courses, workshops, coaching, wilderness inventures, and solitude retreats.

Dan exemplifies some core attributes of successful change agents. He has great insight, lives a life filled with purpose and passion, and enrolls other people in his vision and strategy.

For more information about Dan Petersen and Sage Canyon, visit http://www.open-focus.com

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Gunter Pauli, ZERI

Gunter Pauli presided over Europe's first phosphate-free detergent business called Ecover from 1991�- 1993. He re launched the nearly bankrupt company, constructed a 'green' building made out of wood with a large grass roof and implemented many innovations. However, when Gunter investigated how their raw materials were sourced, he was horrified to learn that their successful business model was creating real problems elsewhere (e.g., generating enormous waste and destroying the rainforest habitat for orangutans).

He recalls that 'One day I hit a brick wall and realized that the extracts my company was using represented less than 5% of the total biomass generated by the palm and coconut plantations that produced the oils. While I may have made a marginal contribution to reducing the contamination of detergents in a few European rivers, I had to accept responsibility for massive amounts of waste, generated through my demand for this biodegradable surfactant. Most of the waste was simply incinerated. I just did not know. I was a Homo non sapiens. I concluded that I could only be a real pioneer if I found a way of using all the biomass, not just the 5% of immediate interest to my industry, but also the 95% waste.'

In 1994, Gunter established an organization called 'Zero Waste and Emissions Research and Initiatives.' The acronym was later shortened to ZERI, but 'zero waste' remains a central principle. Gunter believes that the practice of zero waste and emissions will be indispensable if we want to get to real sustainability. He feels that we can't wait - that we can only succeed by starting projects and experimenting as fast as we can. He recognizes that everything must be done locally and decided that there would be no ZERI headquarters.

Gunter counts Lester Brown, Fritjof Capra, Bruno Kreisky, Arne Naess, Aurelio Peccei, Noemi Sanin Posada, and Elie Wiesel among his mentors. All have a deep, profound sense of values that inspire and drive their action. They taught him things like:
  • Embrace your enemy at all times.
  • When a friend is in danger, go to help.
  • Take opportunities to use your personal influence to react and make a difference personally.
  • Persevere against all odds and keep smiling.
Elie Wiesel taught him that if there is injustice to one person in the world, that injustice should become the center of the world's attention; if there is injustice, you have to act. You must bring people together and learn how to talk with the enemy. Now Gunter brings multiple stakeholders together to focus on ZERO emissions.

Noemi Sanin Posada illuminated the importance of speaking for the minorities, creating a voice for the oppressed, keeping the light clear, and risking our lives all the time if necessary. Now Gunter proceeds to 'just do it,' whatever the perceived risk is. He says there is no excuse for not implementing.

Fritjof Capra donated time and generosity. He modeled curiosity for new ideas, self-effacement, and interconnectedness. His revolutionary integrative paradigm helped Gunter to understand autopoesis. Now Gunter is taking interconnectedness to a new level with his ZERI network of practitioners and projects.

Arne Naess emphasized the need for connecting with people where they live in order to understand their situation. He grounded his 'deep ecology' philosophy in an experiential modality. He emphasized that sustainability is not only for humanity, it is for all living species on Earth. Gunter learned the importance of responding to local needs with what's available locally.

Lester Brown modeled the capacity to get data together plus inviting ideas and questions (e.g., 'How would it look like?'). He promotes and facilitates access to information. He quantifies what has gone on in the world, yet maintains a hopeful attitude. Now Gunter is building a network of research scientists and practitioners to ask and answer new questions.

Aurelio Peccei demonstrated a blind confidence in people. He included diverse people in informal gatherings and built networks. With him there were no age limits to learning and participation. Now Gunter is especially attuned to young people. He responds when they invite him to participate and vice versa.

Bruno Kreisky took a stand for the vulnerable people in society. He sought to promote full employment, all the time; he wanted to ensure that there would always be opportunities for people to get a job. He modeled accessibility and capacity to comment. Now Gunter demonstrates the same kind of personal accessibility.

Gunter exemplifies a deep, profound sense of values much like his mentors. He puts his beliefs into action. Moreover, he serves as an 'enzyme' who catalyzes values-based action in others.

On the second anniversary of 9/11, Gunter convened a 'New Visions Dialogue' in New Mexico. He was joined by comrades Paul Hawken, Paolo Lugari, Amory Lovins, and Janine Benyus. They discussed the state of the world and shared hopeful stories designed to inspire action.

For more information about Gunter Pauli and ZERI, visit http://www.zeri.org.

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