Creating conscionable change
Local group works to overcome social decay

People of Conscience founder Ron Margolis. /Photo by Todd Newcomer.

Ron Margolis kicked off People of Conscience almost inadvertently. He had written an opinion piece in the Durango Herald last November. In it, he expressed his frustration with recent American history citing the questionable results of the last presidential election, corporate financial scandals and abuses by the Catholic priesthood.

In light of these and other issues, he called on the Durango community to “join us in trying to halt our nation’s political, economic and moral decay.”

He was surprised when nearly 200 people from all walks of Durango life answered the call and showed up at Rotary Park on a Saturday afternoon and began looking for solutions.

“At that point in time not many people were even talking about what was going on,” Margolis said.

Cemented by a shared sense of despair, the 200 people braved foul weather and started getting down to the hard issues. “There was a commonality,” Margolis said. “People were feeling helpless and hopeless.”

Last fall, Louise Edwards was looking for proactive outlets when she read Margolis’ article. “We had really started seeing that the signs of war were going up,” she said. “I started looking at ways to get proactive. It made perfect sense to me to deal not with the symptom – the war – but with the underlying forces.”

Peace and People of Conscience

Durango artist Karyn Gabaldon and Gallery Ultima owners Stan Rabbe and Paul Lutz recently collaborated to raise funds for the People of Conscience. Gabaldon has designed a Peace T-shirt, which depicts the original peace sign designed by a young woman and her father in the late 1950s to symbolize eternal nuclear disarmament.

The symbol does not have a middle line bisecting the entire circle. Instead the “no” line splits midway to merge with the symbol for disarmament. At some point in the 1960s the symbol changed to the currently recognized peace symbol.

Inside Gabaldon’s peace symbol she has painted Hopi prayer feathers. She says that this is the symbol that “flowed” from her as she painted the work. She said that the symbol speaks to us in our present time in that it asks all nations for peace and Eternal Nuclear Disarmament.

All profits from sales of the t-shirts will go to People of Conscience and its vision to advance a world of positive potential for all people and our planet. The T-shirts are available through Gallery Ultima, 1018 Main Ave.

– Will Sands


Like Margolis, Edwards related a shared sense of defeat at the November meeting.

“We all came to the point of reaching consensus on this sense of disempowerment,” she said. “We were trying to be responsible citizens and not getting anywhere.”

The result of this apparently negative bond was empowering, according to Edwards. “I had this beautiful experience there,” she said.

Mike Karpfen shared in the experience, saying, “People feel so powerless and people want to overcome it, but don’t know how. I think People of Conscience came into being to provide the community with resources.”

Since that first meeting, the experience has grown. Many of the 200 people have continued gathering every month, and new faces also are getting involved. Margolis noted that People of Conscience is centered on action, not simply talking or protesting.

“If given half a chance and some power, we realized we could work to create a better world,” said Margolis. “With very few meetings, energy is starting to evolve. The idea is to do something, not just talk. We don’t always want to be protesting. We want to create something positive.”

To that end, six subgroups have formed. They include groups dedicated to improving community, education, empowerment, economics, simplicity and spirituality. Each of these smaller gatherings has begun putting concrete plans in motion.

There’s an effort to create a “conscious yellow pages,” which would list local green businesses and encourage keeping money local. Plans are evolving to connect local food growers and food buyers. A brochure titled “Taking Care of Business” is being circulated and discusses the downside of the American corporate structure. Work is going into creating a community activist calendar to encourage public participation and education.

Edwards, a member of the community group, noted that a lot of the efforts are fairly abstract. “In the community group, we’re looking at how we can create interactions among segments of the community that don’t normally interact,” she said.

Karpfen, a member of the empowerment group, added, “I see People of Conscience as an ‘incubator organization’ that starts and nourishes independent groups to take action in the areas they’re concerned about.”

Margolis said that People of Conscience will gradually pick up steam. “It’s ongoing,” he said. “As we have successes with one thing, we’re going to build toward others.”

And Edwards said that Durango can expect People of Conscience to grow in positive directions in coming months. Although it is a relatively new group, she said that it already has surprising strength.

“It’s really kind of a fledgling group, but there’s a remarkable sense of connection and energy,” Edwards said. “I’m struck by the strength of our diversity.”








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