Gordon Feller: Voluntary Simplicity

A Plowboy Interview with Gordon Feller, who discusses voluntary simplicity, disarmament and the world of the future.

| September/October 1983

Can growing cabbage contribute to the quest for world peace?  

Before you answer that question, consider that the head of a large stock-brokerage firm recently noted that the commonly publicized economic statistics ignore the fact that many individuals are swapping quantity for quality in their lives, and that such folks are often doing productive "private" work, including raising much of their own food.  

"Many people," he said, “have realized it's cheaper to grow a head of cabbage in the back yard than it is to ship it in from California." And he suggested that this sort of activity has contributed to public optimism and to the rising stock market.  

Now that may surprise you, but Gordon Feller—who lives in New York City's Harlem with his lifemate Mary and their infant daughter Jessie—has made even vaster connections. He would agree that the U.S. population's growing interest in self-reliance has far-reaching economic implications, but he also feels that it could relate to the chances for a workable disarmament.  

"In another era, I might have been a monk on a mountaintop,” Gordon admits. But in this life, an artistic mother and an engineer father brought him up to have an imagination with a practical bent, and he's turned his energies toward helping to change the world. This might seem like a quixotic ambition, until you realize that—though Mr. Feller is only 23 years old—he has already received his master's degree in international and public affairs from Columbia University, where he was the university's first Wallach Fellow of World Order Studies.  

Furthermore, during his undergraduate years, Gordon worked at the United Nations as convener of the U.N. Headquarters Youth Caucus, and there promoted youth participation in a variety of international projects (including the International Year of the Child). He later worked with the Humanity Fund, which financed groups tackling projects that aimed to augment local self-reliance and neighborhood power, was on the staff of the World Policy Institute, during which time he completed his first book, Peace and World Order Studies (which has since become a standard reference for college and university curricula), served as executive director of Planetary Citizens, a U.N. project initiated by Norman Cousins, and cofounded the Business Initiative, which allows corporate leaders to explore the views of the alternative culture. He has lectured to college audiences and professional groups throughout the country, has written for numerous national and international publications (and has a new book, The Eye of the Storm, coming out in the spring of 1984), and is currently a director for Liberty Media, which has an hour-long television special in the works on interconnectedness and the emerging new world view.  

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