User:Grandpa Ruh

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Taoist-Quaker-Sufi, Grandpa Ruh - more widely known as Robert Pollard - is founder and Professor of Information Ecology of Information Habitat: Where Information Lives, an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council. Information Habitat played a pioneering role in promoting the systematic use of ICT in support of broad-based participation and access to information by NGOs, beginning with the preparations for the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro through the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul and beyond. He had become involved with the Earth Summit preparations by way of the Friends Committee on Unity with Nature guided, inter alia, by a set of Quaker Queries on Opening to the Light [1] and Queries on Unity with Nature [2] and a concern for Foundations for a Sustainable Common Future [3]

By La Perla Garden compost
May 10, 2006
Photo by Marc Wishengrad

Since the 1996 Habitat II conference in Istanbul, for which he established and managed the official web site and a core set of email lists, the cultivation and practice of information ecology as a holistic life science for a knowledge-based universe has been at the centre of his work, with special attention to the cascading global transition to the larger freedoms of a peaceful, just, sustainable and regenerative world governed by the laws of a knowledge-based universe.

Grandpa Ruh is currently developing a network of web sites for Climate Change 2.0 [4] - based on a vision of harnessing the powers and powers of Web 2.0 and a knowledge-based universe in addressing the climate change crisis in support of the 60th Annual NGO/DPI Conference to be held September 5-7 at UN Headquarters. His focus on climate change grew out of his work as Chair of the Information and Communications Sub-Committee of the NGO Committee on Education [5] of CONGO - the Conference Of Non-Governmental Organizations in Consultative Relationship with the United Nations [6] - in support of the Committee's commitment to the United Nations Decade on Education for Sustainable Development (2005-2014), the International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence for the Children of the World (2001-2010) and the UN Millennium Development Goals [7]. He is developing a model template for an open source platform for the sites and for use by NGOs, community-based organizations and community development initiatives.

Since October 2006, most of the web sites he has developed have been based on the TiddlyWiki Open Source platform [8] - a brilliant self-contained Wiki that serves as a stellar vehicle for a "networked information economy" - and on TiddlyPerfect [9] - a hybrid information species designed to combine the genius of TiddlyWiki with that of DataPerfect - a DOS-based companion of the legendary WordPerfect and arguably the most brilliant relational database ever written, that he has using since its release more than twenty years ago and that serves as the principal means of organizing the extensive archives of Information Habitat and to generate most of the web sites he has built.

The online dissemination and publication of UN documents has been a significant focus of Ruh's work, and he has been compiling an extensive body of more than five hundred key hyperlinked UN documents - global conference agreements, General Assembly resolutions, conventions, treaties, etc. relating to the above-mentioned decades - as the engine for a web site of these UN documents [10]. Many of these documents had previously only been accessible as scanned pdf files; through the use of OCR software, the addition of hyperlinks and the integration in a database, these documents have not only gained a new life, but have been connected to the "ancestors" and "descendants" of the documents.

A lifelong organic gardener, inspired by his late mother's love of gardening and nature, Grandpa Ruh's perspective on information ecology has drawn deeply on his experiences in the garden, especially from the regenerative process of composting, and the principles of permaculture. He has recently become actively involved in La Perla Garden; a little-known neighborhood jewel and Green Thumb community garden at 105th Street and Columbus Avenue in what is officially known as Manhattan Valley although generally considered to be part of Manhattan's Upper West Side. Naturally he is planning a web site for the garden which will include a tree school - in which trees are the teachers - and a biodiversity inventory and map of the garden and community, linked to web-based information - organized, inter alia on the Linnaean system of classification - on the trees, plants, insects, worms, rocks and other living things - including people and information species - that live in or visit the garden, and incorporating wiki spaces, blogs, vlogs, etc. on an open source, common content platform.

In the wake of the shocks and continuing aftershocks of September 11, 2001, Grandpa Ruh has increasingly returned to the original spiritual and interfaith basis of his relationship with the UN, serving on the New York City Task Force of the Gandhi-King Season for Nonviolence [11], is a member of the URI-UN Council - United Religions Initiative at the UN - and convenor of a network of Seasons of Peace Cooperation Circle [12].

After reading Mathematics and Political Economy at Cambridge, he had moved to the US in 1966 as a Research assistant on a "Quantitative Analysis of the French Revolution" at the Institute of Human Sciences, Boston College, and then to the Social Relations department at The Johns Hopkins University. In the context of his active involvement in the Vietnam Peace movement and the alternative culture of the Sixties, and a growing concern about academic links with the "military-industrial complex" he left academia in 1971 in favour of public and community service in support of peace, justice, and community development and the restoration of the environment.

Grandpa Ruh became the first librarian at Baltimore City Jail - where he established a number of programs, including an extensively-used law library, for more than eight years - followed by five years as an Administrative Analyst, during which time he introduced the use of microcomputers to the Jail, shortly after having co-founded, in 1981, the Baltimore Information Cooperative [13] that provided microcomputer support to community and progressive organizations.

Grandpa Ruh took on his current name in March 2005 in honour of his first grandchild and to acknowledge the name he had been given when he took hand as a dervish in the Nur Ashki-Jerrahi Sufi order. In the capacity of his work for the NGO Committee on Education, his name serves as a reminder to himself of the importance of paying special attention to the educational needs of the very youngest among us if sustainability, justice and peace are to be restored, and to prevail.

Other Profiles

Information Ecologist @ Wikibooks
Grandpa Ruh @ TakingITGlobal
Ruh Nabil @ Common Content
Reflections of Grandpa Ruh - an occasional blog

Web sites

Climate Change 2.0
Information Habitat: Where Information Lives
Light Cubes / Virtual Light & Colour Cubes - transformational icons of wholeness
Digital Bridges in Peace - an installation
2005 Gandhi-King Season for Non-Violence
Seasons of Peace Cooperation Circles
UN Documents: Gathering a body of global agreements

Key documents

Queries on Opening to the Light
Queries on Unity with Nature
Foundations for a Sustainable Common Future
Invitation to a Journey: Habitat II Online

Bookmarking sites

Information Ecologist @ Blue
Grandpa Ruh @

The Wealth of Networks WikiNotes - A Free and Open Course
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