Gail Straub is the Executive Director of the Empowerment Institute where she co-directs the School for Transformative Social Change. As part of this focus, she co-founded IMAGINE: A Global Initiative for the Empowerment of Women, with initiatives currently underway throughout Africa, Afghanistan, India, and the Middle East. Gail is the author of five books including The Rhythm of Compassion, the feminist memoir Returning to My Mother’s House, and with her husband, David Gershon, the best-selling Empowerment: The Art of Creating Your Life As You Want It. Her essay in this issue is excerpted from her latest book, The Ashokan Way: Landscape’s Path into Consciousness, available hereShe lives in the Hudson River Valley in New York.


Mike Abkin is a trustee and former director of the National Peace Academy, past president and advisory council member of the Global Alliance for Ministries and Infrastructures for Peace, and volunteer staff with Nine Gates Mystery School. He previously served with Peace Partnership International, The Peace Alliance, and Foundation for Global Community. At FGC, after 9/11, Mike helped develop a vocational training program in Afghanistan. In his former technical career, he applied systems analysis and simulation modeling for agricultural development and air transportation, including projects in Nigeria and Korea. Mike also served with the Peace Corps in Nigeria and earned his doctorate in systems science at Michigan State University.


Kathy Kaiser is a writer and editor living in Boulder, Colorado. She worked as a journalist for several Colorado publications and later as a freelance book editor. Most recently, she was editor of Senior Spirita nationwide newsletter focused on aging issues. She contributed an essay to Until They Have Faces: Boulder Stories of Resilience, Recovery and Redemption (2012) about the homeless, and her short story, Barbara and the Bear, was awarded first prize for fiction in the ACC Writer’s Studio contest (April 2013). She writes a blog, Cabin Journal, about her cabin in the Colorado mountains. She’s an avid hiker, meditator, reader, and naturalist.


Laurie Baumgarten lives in Berkeley, California. She taught elementary and middle school in the Berkeley Unified School District for 35 years and retired in 2006. She is married and has a son who lives in Los Angeles and works as a clinical psychologist at the VA. Since retiring, Laurie has been active in the climate movement and helped create an interactive climate literacy curriculum for adults entitled The People’s Climate Curriculum (further info at ).  She also has studied ikebana (the Japanese art of flower arrangement) for the last 30 years. Her passion for this art form reflects her love of nature, which took root during her childhood in Rowayton, Connecticut.

Susan Prince is a Life Coach specializing in guiding people thru major life transitions. She has created and led several workshops designed for women in their later years and currently co-facilitates the Choosing Conscious Elderhood retreats. Susan has enjoyed the unique opportunity of participating in an indigenous model of community where the Elders have a pivotal role. She has a Teaching Degree and a background in environmental education with an emphasis on nature awareness and has worked with many young people fostering their love and appreciation of the outdoors. Susan has published articles on both eldering and nature connection and, most recently, has written about her experiences in the Amazonian rain forests.


Carmen Accetta is a recently retired psychotherapist from Pittsburgh where he and his wife Carol have been lifelong residents.  They have seven adult daughters and sixteen grandchildren. Concern for the future welfare of the grandchildren has motivated Carmen’s involvement in both the Pachamama Alliance and the Climate Reality Project.  He also promotes living vital elder years by conducting personal growth groups on the Second Half of Life and authors a blog @  Carmen enjoys learning to keep his self-built wooden sea kayak upright and learning the saxophone.  Although a lifetime tennis player, he has recently developed a playing interest in Pickleball.