Arts & Nature Social Club

A New Members Club To Cultivate Empathy Among People In Harmony With Nature

This article by Joerg Geier and Lili Jassemi Schmidt-Thomé will be featured in The Beam #11 – Power in People. Subscribe now to read more on the subject


 

The Arts & Nature Social Club, or ANSC, is an international members club launched in Berlin in November 2019. As such, ANSC is shaping a global community of opinion leaders from the arts, sciences, and entrepreneurship.

Our complex and intertwined world, marked by volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity needs equally complex solutions to current challenges that we face globally. Disruptive changes in markets, technology and society, as well as our climate crisis, require organizations and individuals alike to develop a clearer, more creative and innovative vision to tackle these challenges and emerge out of it with more resilient systems putting nature at the forefront. The current Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is yet another reason.

The art world and artists are experts in visionary thought and imagination and have the potential to inspire others with their cutting-edge approaches and their out-of-the-box thinking and creating. This fertile soil forms the basis for the Arts & Nature Social Club. Our interdisciplinary community serves as an inspirational platform for a sustainable future on this planet.

Contrary to most other private clubs, ANSC is not only about providing a safe space for and services to like-minded members, but its mission is also all about purpose and change. Activities include both fundamental and thought-provoking salons on topics such as “Circularity,” “Purpose” or “Growth.” Excursions into nature, together with known artists, workshops, art tours and cultured networking activities aim at establishing a tight-knit community, encourage reflection on oneself and one’s relationship with their environment.

Changing ourselves, our behavior and norms is the basis for a transformation of our systems, ranging from the international economic order to the destruction of the environment and the promotion of injustice. The well-being of humanity and the environment are vital and need to be at the heart of our actions. Prior to acting on these wrongs, however, we need to ask the right questions. ANSC fills this gap with its formats and content while respecting the diversity of backgrounds in its membership. To highlight the importance of its mission, ANSC has enshrined its values in a code of ethics: to inspire inner and outer transformation, it puts acceptance of different worldviews, human rights and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at its heart.

Below, we feature six ANSC members to highlight the club’s diversity. Their profiles reveal their motivation to contribute to ANSC and give insight into their personal journeys leading to their engagement with nature.

Questions:

1.What is your background?

2.What motivates you to contribute to and engage with ANSC?

3.What does connection to nature mean for you personally and from a wider (global) perspective?

4.What else do you enjoy doing? What has touched you most in your life and/or over recent (2 to 3) years?

Johann Haehling von Lanzenauer, Berlin & Alsace
The Founder

Background

For the past 15 years I have been active as the co-owner of Circle Culture Gallery and with this I had the privilege to get to know and study the philosophical worldviews of dozens of influential artists from up close.

This experience has honed my holistic perspective on life and the world, and given me a strong commitment to nature. I am also the co-owner of Circle Culture Consulting which conducts opinion leader communication for some of the world’s largest brands and institutions. As such, I draw on two decades of experience to maximize impact with cultural communication and innovation in global markets. I initiated the Arts & Nature Social Club concept and am developing it with a fantastic group of engaged people. As my life’s mission, I will keep the spirit and vision of this organization alive and work on extending our network globally.

Motivation

The idea of the Arts & Nature Social Club evolved from the intrinsic motivation to give a deeper meaning to my life. I was asking myself how I could use my personal and professional experience and skills to help make this world a better place. Exactly that fulfilling experience, which came to life through the Arts & Nature Social Club, is something I want to share with engaged professionals all over the world. I am convinced that our strategy to inspire change in the hearts and minds of opinion leaders in entrepreneurship and politics – through a cross-pollination with the arts and science – will create a massive impact on the healing process of our dying world.

Connection to nature

Nature is not only the biggest living artist. For me nature is God.

Joys and touching moments

I moved to an old farmhouse in Alsace close to my hometown of Baden-Baden two years ago. This is the manifestation of my personal happiness. After 25 years in Berlin and other big cities I finally returned to the rhythm and spirit of rural life. With my partner Gianna Thiess we developed a private retreat center which embodies all the things we enjoy: arts, Pilates as well as yoga, meditation, gardening, healthy food and community. You can check out our curated retreats and artist residencies at www.lamaisondestemps.net

Lili Jassemi Schmidt-Thomé, Berlin
The Community Curator

Background

Born to Iranian parents in Germany, I spent the past decade in France, Belgium, the UK, as well as some Middle Eastern countries. Immersing into different multicultural environments gave me a deep understanding of different local political, economic and social contexts. After consulting in politics, business and at cultural institutions, I co-founded an art gallery in London showcasing Middle Eastern alongside western contemporary works. I am currently a doctoral researcher in Business Ethics and focus on trust and community building in multicultural (virtual) organizations applying an interdisciplinary approach. Interconnectivity and bridging the gap between diverse cultures and disciplines is my strong suit.

Motivation

In my work I am connecting politics, management, art and philosophy to find solutions for individual and organizational leadership challenges by focusing on a holistic approach. ANSC provides a platform to share and refine my findings thanks to our diverse and global membership base and reciprocal exchange. The transformative power of tight-knit communities engenders collective intelligence to come up with innovative solutions. Art is the common denominator that is not only an icebreaker but an eye-opener.

Connection to nature

Connection to nature is the intimate connection to the wholeness that we are all longing for, that we have lost touch of in modern societies. We are an intrinsic part of nature, however, we are exploiting and using it to fuel our egos with artificial needs. This is counter-intuitive and has caused a crisis of spirituality and consequently sparked a renewed search for meaning.

Joys and touching moments

I enjoy bringing people together within the context of transformative experiences. Examples include organizing a camp at Afrikaburn (South Africa-based Burning Man spin-off) involving immersive contemplation practices. The renewed demand for purpose inspires me to connect science and spirituality in creative contexts and offer experiences that truly leave a mark on people. Thanks to art, as experienced through our various senses, we can be true creators of our realities!

Jörg Geier, Berlin
The Bridge Builder

Background

I enjoy building bridges between people and their ideas, projects and organizations. My outlook on the world has been significantly shaped by living, working, and studying abroad, especially in the US and the UK, for over 15 years. I am in the early stages of building a sustainability-focused start-up and consult on green innovation and capacity building projects. I directed customized leadership programs at Cambridge University’s business school and have been a climate mentor, innovation researcher and judge in business plan competitions. At ANSC I create programs and facilitate the collaboration with another NGO I am part of, the German chapter of the Club of Rome, a global think tank that promotes sustainable action and a transformation.

Motivation

ANSC unites two seemingly separate areas I feel passionate about: the arts and sciences with nature as the connecting element. At the same time, ANSC has a clear action focus. Entrepreneurship is part of the club’s DNA: while stimulating the senses and inspiring debate, the mandate is also for participants to walk away with new ideas that can be implemented in the real world and thus contribute to a more balanced life in harmony with nature.

Connection to nature

Being in nature, and consequently feeling connected with what surrounds me, gives me a sense of freedom that I don’t feel otherwise. The speed, energy, and distraction in our metropolitan environments can be quite stifling and make us feel disconnected from the world – and each other. My dream is for us to reverse our ecological challenges collectively by instilling more of a sense of connection with our planet – emotionally and physically – and thereby creating more empathy as a basis for change.

Joys and touching moments

I feel inspired when hiking up a mountain, running through a forest, or cycling around beautiful scenery. I still remember my childhood during the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Back then I wasn’t allowed to play outside anymore. In a strange way, this environmental tragedy planted the seed for my interest in issues related to sustainability and innovation.

Alina Süggeler, Berlin
The Musician

Background

I’m a musician and one half of the creative core of the German band Frida Gold. I trained in classical flute, and now direct my focus on composing and writing songs.

Motivation

Johann is a really close friend of mine and I participated in the process of creating the idea of the Arts & Nature Social Club. We talked deeply about our personal journeys of becoming more aware of what our own needs, what the world’s needs are, and how our privileged lives come with the duty of helping create more awareness and minimize the world’s pain. To create a members’ club as a safe place for people who want to learn more about today’s crucial issues and methods that could be beneficial for creating new ways of dealing with these issues is an important, wonderful thing. Based on the idea of bringing artists, scientists and people from business together to constitute a great foundation for change.

Connection to nature

Nature has always been a source of healing to me. Nature puts everything in perspective. It helps me order my thoughts and stay true to myself.

Joys and touching moments

I love doing what I’m doing. I love the process of creating. To reach out to people through my music, and creating resonance is the most fulfilling thing to me.

Matthias Bank, Los Angeles
The Sustainability Expert

Background

I began sharing my passion for renewable energy 30 years ago, when I helped found “Initiative Schau_ins_land,” an innovative non-profit program that taught thousands of students about renewables. In 1993, I was the first to use a major music event to showcase renewable energy, turning the renowned ZMF into a “Sun and Wind” festival. This helped kickstart Solar Fabrik in Freiburg. Later, I directed a campaign to bring solar cooking and solar technology to rural Africans. Over the last twenty years, I have been a media and marketing consultant for numerous sustainability related companies, an award-winning documentary filmmaker and cameraman of over 200 films, and a student of Baubiologie. Since 2007, I’ve served as Media and Outreach Director at the Renewables 100 Policy Institute.

Motivation

I have been lucky to work and live in many countries and to use my media and marketing skills in a range of fields. I’ve learned people have more in common than that which differentiates us. Science also confirms our DNA is 99.9% identical. We need to celebrate our nuanced differences and leverage our variations in perspective and expertise – as well as emphasize what unites us – to work together to solve the many global crises we are facing. We need to build bridges not barriers. I think ANSC can help by bringing experienced stakeholders from different disciplines and cultures together to forge multiple pathways to a more sustainable future.

Connection to nature

Without nature, none of us would be here. We are a part of nature. We have spent centuries learning to protect ourselves from the harsh elements of the natural environment, but by doing so have come to a point where we are jeopardizing ourselves and countless other species by destroying nature. We need to learn more from the intelligence of the natural world and end the mindset of trying to conquer or be better than nature, focusing instead on how we are, in fact, of nature and must live in harmony with our only planet earth on which we fundamentally depend.

Joys and touching moments

One of the most impactful events of my last two years was losing my family home and office and experiencing the damage to my community in the largest wildfire in Los Angeles County history. One of the greatest joys and challenges for my wife and myself is to combine tragedy with our expertise to rebuild our home as a living laboratory and document best practices in sustainable building, renewable energy, waste management, water conservation organic food gardening and healthy habitat protection.

Cheyann Benedict, Los Angeles
The Creative Entrepreneur

Background

As a Creative Entrepreneur, I have, for a long time, fluctuated between the businesses of fashion, creative writing, directing, producing. My training is in Experimental Theater – I received a degree from NYU but found a career in the fashion industry when, in 2002, I launched the iconic brand, C&C California, which sold to Liz Claiborne in record time. Currently, when I’m not making sustainable clothing, I’m writing for either television, theater, or working on my sci-fi novel. For almost 20 years now, I have also mentored start-ups – specifically female-driven businesses. My interest in meditation, esoteric philosophy, and self-mastery carries into my mentoring programs. I’m currently active in the UCLA MAPS Program – a program committed to deepening the practice of Mindfulness.

Motivation

ANSC has the unique ability to create a platform that encourages meaningful discussions – specifically on the topics of nature and science. We are living in an unprecedented time in history where our existence may rely on how we interact with our natural environment. As human nature continues to unfold, I believe that conscious conversations that inspire proactive exchanges concerning nature, from both scientific and entrepreneurial points of view, are what will change the world.

Connection to nature

I believe our connection to nature interlinks with how our species will ultimately evolve. We are learning more and more as to how the human biological system synergistically aligns with the natural world. We are learning that basic bio-hacks can be done by merely spending time in and around natural environments. From a health and wellness perspective, nature is, more often than not, the ultimate cure.

Joys and touching moments

Recently, I’ve been spending time in New Mexico. The high desert air, expansive scenic views, and overall stillness have captured my heart. The desert is fascinating for many reasons, including its various microclimates, artistic support, and its focus on simplicity and wellness. New Mexico also has a long history that still revolves around Native American culture. As I continue to grow and expand my knowledge base, I have found so much inspiration in these cultures.

 


 

Joerg Geier: Sustainable Innovation Consultant; Member, Club of Rome; Advisory Board, ANSC.
Lili Jassemi Schmidt-Thomé: Doctoral Researcher/Writer on Leadership & Transformation; Advisory Board, ANSC.