Duane Elgin Profile

For more than three decades, social visionary Duane Elgin has defined the cutting edge in consciousness research regarding the ecology movement and future studies. He is one of the greatest living experts on how humanity can work together to obtain a sustainable and prosperous future amidst declining natural resources, climate change, socioeconomic and political crises.

In the early 1970s, Duane served as a senior staff member on a joint Presidential-Congressional Commission on Population Growth and the American Future, exploring long-term challenges of urbanization and population growth. He continued his career as a senior social scientist with the Stanford Research Institute (now SRI International) where he coauthored the revolutionary report Voluntary Simplicity, one of the first papers published that examined the growing ecological predicaments of the earth. Since 2010 he has served as the executive director of The Great Transition Stories project, which collects positive true experiences that serve as guideposts for a sustainable and thriving future.

Currently he’s working to transform the media, particularly television, which he sees as our greatest environmental risk factor because violent programming has a devastating effect on human consciousness and behavior. Duane has co-founded three non-profit organizations concerned with media accountability.

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      • Duane Elgin is an internationally recognized speaker, author, and social visionary who looks beneath the surface turbulence of our times to explore the deeper trends that are transforming our world. In 2006, Duane received the Japanese “Goi International Peace Award” in recognition of his contribution to a global “vision, consciousness, and lifestyle” that fosters a “more sustainable and spiritual culture.”

    His books include: THE LIVING UNIVERSE: Where Are We? Who Are We? Where Are We Going? (2009); VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY: Toward a Way of Life that is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich (three editions: 2010, 1993, and 1981); PROMISE AHEAD: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity’s Future (2000); and AWAKENING EARTH: Exploring the Evolution of Human Culture and Consciousness (1993). With Joseph Campbell and other scholars he co-authored the book CHANGING IMAGES OF MAN (1982). In addition, Duane has contributed chapters to sixteen books, and has published more than seventy articles.

    In the early 1970s, Duane worked as a senior staff member of a joint Presidential-Congressional Commission on the American Future. He then worked as a senior social scientist with the think-tank SRI International where he coauthored numerous long-range, futures studies, such as: Anticipating Future National and Global Problems (for the President’s Science Advisor), Alternative Futures for Environmental Policy (for the Environmental Protection Agency), The Future of the Automobile (for the Ford Motor Co.), and Limits to the Management of Large, Complex Systems (for the President’s Science Advisor).

    Over the past twenty twenty-five years, Duane has co-founded three non-partisan and non-profit organizations concerned with media accountability and citizen empowerment.

    As a speaker, Duane has given more than 300 keynotes and workshops with audiences ranging from business executives and civic groups to churches and college students.

    He has an MBA from the Wharton Business School, an MA in economic history from the University of Pennsylvania, and an honorary Doctor of Philosophy for work in “ecological and spiritual transformation” from the California Institute of Integral Studies, San Francisco, CA.

Duane Elgin Speaking Videos

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Duane Elgin's Speech Descriptions

Building on 40 years of research on the most pressing issues confronting our world today, Duane Elgin engages audiences in a hope filled dialogue on the current state of humanity, our planet, and where we can go from here. His one-of-a-kind programs illustrate how we can co-create a paradigm based on sustainability and abundance, ultimately turning a time of despair into an era of conscious transition.

Duane Elgin is available for talks and workshops that are described below. In a recent innovation, he is also available for live video presentations broadcast to your classroom, conference room, or other center with access to a streaming video connection.

Keynote Topics

Understanding the meaning and the promise of our times

We live in a time of fierce urgency. Climate change, energy shortages, financial breakdowns, and more fill the headlines. We know the world is changing profoundly—but in what direction, and what does it mean for me? How can we make sense out of these challenging times? What are the beacons of hope and opportunity? Is there a bigger story being played out? What skills and talents are important for me in these challenging times?

Cool lifestyles for a hot planet

Lily Tomlin said that, “the problem with the rat race is that, even if you win, you’re still a rat.” A growing number of people are saying they are not interested in winning the rat race but rather in joining the human race—with a higher quality of life. What does a more balanced and sustainable way of living look like? There is no “cookbook for sustainable lifestyles” with all of the answers, so how are people freshly inventing their lives? You don’t want a drab life, but style does not require lots of stuff; it requires your creativity and unique personality. This is the generation to invent cool lifestyles for living on our hot planet. What kinds of changes are underway, both in the larger world and inside ourselves? How is community vital to sustainability?

Stunning insights from science and spirituality offer new insights about the universe and the human journey.

Humanity has reached an historic turning point. Decisions made today will be felt by people living far into the future. To make those decisions wisely, we can draw upon more than two thousand years of historical learning from both science and spiritual traditions to get a fresh view of the universe and of the human journey. We see we are part of something much larger, and the choices we make will reverberate into the deep future.

What People are Saying about Seeing Duane Speak

Rating Entries

    “Duane Elgin totally engaged more than 2,000 green building professionals in a spirited dialog about the future, and in the process began conversations between individuals that spilled over into the conference halls. Duane’s strength is ‘speaking with,’ instead of ‘talking to.’ Participants were empowered to be part of an ongoing dialog about our mutual future. As chair of the world’s largest green building conference, I can say that Duane’s impact was immediate, profound and likely to be lasting on our industry.”
    Jerry Yudelson, MBA,
    2005 US Greenbuild Conference

    “Duane gave an absolutely captivating presentation to a very bright and savvy group of business leaders in our Executives Leading Sustainable Change program. He provoked our deepest thinking and inspired urgent action! Hiring Duane is one of the best investments we have ever made!”
    Rayona Sharpnack,
    President of the Institute for Women Leadership,
    Redwood City, California

    “Duane’s presentation was enlivening and generative. He helped us to examine our work in light of the world that is becoming, engaged us in a dialogue that challenged the way we see higher education, and led us to find innovative and liberating possibilities. Duane also inspired us as a model of values-based, life-long learning.”
    Dean Elias,
    Dean of the School of Education,
    Saint Mary’s College of California

    “Among the nationally distinguished presenters in our Technology and Society Series at Santa Clara University, Duane Elgin was one of the finest. His talk and ensuing discussion on alternative futures and ecological lifestyles was rated by students and community participants as one of the most engaging and entertaining presentations of the series. I give Duane Elgin my highest recommendation.”
    Mitch Saunders,
    Director of Programs,
    California Leadership

    “Your presentation [to our annual gathering of international executives] was coherent and provocative, in the best sense of the word. You were thoughtful, constructively challenging, and very human in your responses. You have a strong yet gentle style that I find very compelling.”
    Robert Johansen,
    Institute for the Future,
    Menlo Park, California

    “I have heard Duane Elgin speak at a number of conferences over the past decade. He is an exceptionally thoughtful, well-informed speaker, on the cutting edge of social issues and ideas. He speaks with clarity, elegance and passion on the major issues of our time.”
    Roger Walsh, M.D., Ph.D.,
    Professor and author of Staying Alive: The Psychology of Human Survival, and other books

    “Duane Elgin does his homework and has a feeling for who he is speaking to. Response from listeners on Man to Man were immediate and extremely positive. Duane is welcome as a return guest anytime.”
    Jerry Johnson,
    host/creator, “Man to Man,”
    KCBS radio, San Francisco

    “We emerged from the workshop with better understandings of our individual and collective places in the world, clearer visions of purpose, renewed commitments, and restored hope…This powerful experience changed lives.”
    Carol Goland, Ph.D.,
    Assistant Professor, Environmental Studies,
    Denison University, Ohio

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Books by Duane Elgin:

    Voluntary Simplicity: Toward a Way of Life That Is Outwardly Simple, Inwardly Rich

    Meeting the growing, changing tide, moving back to the basics, Elgin offers a revised and updated version of his classic book about living with balance. By embracing the tenets of voluntary simplicity–frugal consumption, ecological awareness, and personal growth–people can change their lives–and in the process, may change the world. Illustrations.

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    The Living Universe: Where Are We? Who Are We? Where Are We Going?

    In The Living Universe, Duane Elgin marshals evidence from cosmology, biology, physics, even his participation in NASA-sponsored psychic experiments to show that the universe is actually a living field of existence and that we are always in communion with that field of aliveness whether we are conscious of it or not.

    This is a worldview that, as Elgin explains, is shared by virtually every spiritual tradition, and the implications of it are vast and deep. In a living system each part is integral to the whole, so each of us is intimately connected to the entire universe.

    Elgin eloquently demonstrates how that identity manifests itself on a whole series of levels, from subatomic to galactic. We are, he writes, far more than biological beings; we are beings of cosmic connection and dimension.

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    Promise Ahead: A Vision of Hope and Action for Humanity′s Future

    Duane Elgin′s bestselling Voluntary Simplicity changed the lives of thousands and was called the “bible” of the simplicity movement by the Wall Street Journal. Now, in Promise Ahead, he helps readers take the next step.

    Elgin outlines four emerging “opportunity trends,” including voluntary simplicity, that can help surmount social, economic, and environmental challenges we all face. Other positive trends include using the Internet to leverage swift grass-roots change, heeding scientific evidence of the deilcate balance that comprises the universe, and utilizing the power of compassionate love to heal humanity′s wounds.

    Succinct and hopeful, Promise Ahead shows how we are uniquely posed to use our ingenuity to leap into a promising future.

    Order Here

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