November 15, 2003

Contact: Mardi Jones, Ph.D

Dear Web Page Visitor,

In a recent conversation with Mike Cohen I learned something that he's never mentioned previously. In 1986 a group of experts in social innovation, held an international symposium in England on the Isle of Wight. This group included members and associates of the Bureau of Applied Sciences, the Institute of Social Inventions and The Global Idea Bank, Its purpose was to identify and give visibility to a small group of individuals whose "Unconventional Ideas in Science, Medicine and Sociology" had made significant social contributions that had never before been properly acknowledged or recognized. Informally called "The Maverick Genius Conference," each of these selected individuals was unofficially identified as a "Maverick Genius" because in a society that valued the contribution of their social invention, they would be acclaimed as geniuses as exemplified by Albert Einstein, John Stuart Mill, Stephan Hawking, William James, Darwin, Mozart, Descartes, Curie, Plato, etc.

The organizers of the Symposium identified Mike Cohen as a Maverick Genius and invited him to England to familiarize the conference attendees with his work. He was chosen for his thinking and innovative programs that led him to conceive and found the 1985 National Audubon Society International Symposium "Is the Earth a Living Organism." This included his Grand Canyon discovery in 1966 that Planet Earth could be viewed as a living organism and his creation of organic expedition education books, curricula, psychologies, therapies, schools, institutions and the Whole Life Factor that helped people build balanced relationships from empirical evidence and experiences within the framework of his living Earth discovery. His thinking was also instrumental in stopping the development of the Pittston Oil Refinery in Eastport, Maine in 1984.

Mike's brother, John, similarly displays innovative genius in his fields of endeavor. Could it be genetic? I learned from Mike that he is distantly related to Moishe Sharat, a Prime Minister and founding father of the State of Israel.

In questioning Mike about the symposium, he said that the conference chair, Bruce Denness, explained that some of the criteria used to determine who would be invited fit into the descriptions of genius (see my list, below; I think it accurately reflect Mike's work.)

"The principal mark of a genius is not perfection but originality, the opening of new frontiers."
Arthur Koestler

"Genius not only diagnoses the situation but supplies the answers."
Robert Graves

"Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple."
C. W. Ceran

"It takes immense genius to represent, simply and sincerely, what we see in front of us."
Edmond Duranty

"Genius . . . is the capacity to see ten things where the ordinary man sees one."
Ezra Pound

"A genius is one who shoots at something no one else can see, and hits it."
Author unknown

" Genius is the capacity for productive reaction against one's training."
Bernard Berenson

"True genius resides in the capacity for evaluation of uncertain, hazardous, and conflicting information."
Winston Churchill

"Towering genius disdains a beaten path. It seeks regions hitherto unexplored."
Abraham Lincoln

Creative genius: "Individuals credited with creative ideas or products that have left a large impression on a particular domain of intellectual or aesthetic activity."
Author unknown

"Persons of genius, and those who are most capable of art, are always most fond of nature: as such are chiefly sensible, that all art consists in the imitation and study of nature."

"What makes men of genius, or rather, what they make, is not new ideas, it is that idea - possessing them - that what has been said has still not been said enough."
Eugene Delacroix

"Some superior minds are unrecognized because there is no standard by which to weigh them."
Joseph Joubert

A good criteria to determine a genius is to see whether he has caused a paradigm shift in his time.
Author unknown

"My father taught me that a symphony was an edifice of sound, and I learned pretty soon that it was built by the same kind of mind in much the same way that a building was built.... Even the very word 'organic' means that nothing is of value except as it is naturally related to the whole in the direction of some living purpose, a true part of entity."
-Frank Lloyd Wright, quoted in Jonathan Hale, The Old Way of Seeing

"Those individuals that rise to the particular challenges of emerging in a civilization when it is in some way endangered and who make a response to ensure the continuity of the civilization."
Arnold Toynbee

"The willingness and ability to challenge conventional wisdom. Perhaps even more importantly, scientific genius depends on an instinct for invention, an ability to focus on the problem at hand, and a determination to pursue that problem to a successful conclusion."
Author unknown

In the interest of strengthening Project NatureConnect, NSTP and NIAL, I'd like to take the Symposium's findings a step further and get folks who are familiar with Mike and his work to endorse him as a Maverick Genius. This may bring further attention and credibility to Project NatureConnect and the work we each do that incorporates it.

Mike's new book, The Web of Life Imperative along with Reconnecting With Nature and the Project NatureConnect website make excellent documents of what Mike has done and its outcomes; it is not necessary for us to further define it. However, if you want to make a short statement that shares how your relationship with PNC or Mike fit into one or more of the definitions of Genius, that would be a helpful contribution. I'll put it all together and make a web page out of it and we can see where it goes from there. It would no doubt be an interesting press release if nothing else, one that might catch the attention of the McArthur Foundation and other support organizations that give financial awards to outstanding contributions. I am also
writing an anthology of Mike's lifework as reflected in his nature writing. I
think your ideas and comments on his 'Maverick Genius' status would make an interesting chapter.


Mardi Jones