- Create Conversations: Invite others to join an in-person or online conversation. Along with others, help to catalyze such conversations and facilitate interactions. It takes just two people to have a conversation or even to begin to change a culture. Invite people you know and others who you would like to get to know into a conversation to discuss how to create a sustainable future for us all.
- Become Aware: Truly see what is going on in the Environment of our planet, in the economic and political systems and in the media. Allow yourself to experience our collective pain. Notice our disenchantment and desire for a better future. Notice what you are already doing to safeguard our planet and the commitment that it reflects.
- Gain Understanding: Understand what we cherish about our lives that nourishes us and enables us to flourish. Gain understanding about our current economic system and its historical context, its impact on each of us and options for moving forward. Identify some specific environmental conditions that you would like to see improved.
- Take a Stand: This entire process is one in which we find our voices - individually and collectively which enables us to take a stand. In the course of this, we can share our insights with others and become part of a collective education project in which we work to expand our horizons and options for action while we enlist others to join us.
- Develop a vision: Develop a vision of a future in which we all flourish because of our increasing eco-consciousness and actions to safeguard and regenerate the environment. Share your vision with others. Talk about it. Post it online. Continue to develop it as time goes on. Visions are meant to evolve just as you do in your life business or community.
- Take Action: Translate your vision into a plan in which you engage the assistance and support of others. Take individual and collective action to regenerate our environment and enable our economic and political systems and media to support a flourishing life for all.
- Start Living Your Vision: Build what you have set out in your vision into your daily life and the life of your business or community. Invite others to join you. Solicit their ideas. Try keeping a diary or journal in which you reflect on your progress.
There are a variety of ways to go about creating a vision. They may depend on whether your orientation is to be right-brain creative or left-brain analytical or a combination of both. They may depend on whether you are inclined toward pessimism or optimism; or whether you are most comfortable focusing on the past, on the future or on the present. They may depend on whether you are inclined toward the cognitive or the emotional.
If you are developing a personal vision, how you approach it will be unique to you. If you are collaborating with others, then the vision will reflect the collective aspects of all of you.
Visions ideally should have some descriptive detail. One might even say that they should be evocative; they should enable others to see your future world as you see it. I find that achieving such artistic detail in painting a picture is a bit challenging for me and is something that I have to consciously work at, whereas for others it might be very natural.
Whatever your approach, your vision should reflect a world that you really, really want to live in. It should be highly desirable to you. It should be within the realm of the attainable even if at the moment it appears to be out of reach. Your vision may require the support and assistance of others. Visions ultimately translate into plans - formal, conscious ones or less formal ones and hopefully then into being implemented.
One way of approaching a vision on sustainability is to have a framework of things you could be thinking about on the path of identifying what is most meaningful to you.
This post presents two frameworks that you could utilize for this purpose. These are the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's) and the One Planet Living Principles.
Reviewing these will help you to identify the areas most relevant to your life, your work, your business or your community.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG's)
Here are the UN SDG's:
There are a variety of resources on the Internet that provide descriptions of these as well as ideas about how to go about attaining these goals in your life. One place to start is with this UNDP resource. A resource for the SDG's particularly focused on businesses is the "Blueprint for Business Leadership on the SDG's."
One Planet Living Principles
The other framework that you can use is the One Planet Living Principles. These are being used globally by many who are developing plans for sustainability. A description of the Oneplanet.com Living Principles can be found at this Oneplanet site and are set out below.
You may find the One Planet Living Principles to be a bit more accessible while the SDG's provide more of a global context. Both are in use globally and reflect common areas of focus.
My suggestion is to review one or both frameworks and see what you connect with, resonate with. See what describes dilemmas you find in your own life and world that you feel strongly about. See where you immediately see a disconnect between where things are now and what to you would be a desirable, ideal state. These might be good starting points as you start reflecting on your own vision for a sustainable world. The One Planet Living Principles are particularly helpful as a template. Remember to share your ideas with others as you continue to think about this.
Times When We Were Flourishing.
When speaking of a sustainable lifestyle on a personal as well as a societal level, one descriptor that is used quite frequently is "flourishing." This seems very appropriate for a vision about sustainability. It helps open up the vision to what each of us believes would be conducive for our human fulfillment in a very deep way. What will truly lead to our wellbeing?
This does require us to let go of what society has convinced us to believe is important for our wellbeing. It requires us to let go of the constant messaging of commercial advertisements and of peer pressure. It requires us to extricate ourselves from the limitations of our current economic system and begin to explore other options.
My belief is that deep down, each of us knows what has brought us fulfillment and delight in the past. There are times that each of us remembers quite fondly when we were flourishing - with our family, friends, work associates or being out in Nature. We may have thought at the time, wouldn't it be wonderful if this is how all of life could be. Then we move on back to the world given to us, assuming that such a constant state is unattainable. The hope here is that such fulfillment may be more possible than we have believed.
An important step to creating a vision is to reflect back on those times when we were flourishing in the past. What was going on? What were we doing, what were others doing, how were we feeling, what support was being provided that enabled us to flourish? These are personal stories about the times when we were flourishing. This is an important part of a vision. It is something that could be built in and expanded upon.
While this is a particularly personal reflection, it can be shared with others. We often find important commonalities when we do share these reflections. We also gain respect for how each of us is unique.
Principles for Life in the 21st Century
Many people have been thinking about this recently - what it takes for us to flourish. People have been coming up with what I call "Principles" that describe what is needed for this flourishing. You may or may not feel that these apply for you. In the end, each of us needs to derive our own principles. However, I have found these helpful. Here are some of the principles that I have encountered in the writings of others.
- Living well. Based on a happiness dependent not on possessions, but on harmony and generosity. A flowering of volunteerism and creativity. The deep, abiding happiness that comes from living life in full harmony with the natural world, with our communities and fellow beings, and with our culture and spiritual heritage - in short, from feeling totally connected with our world.
- Cooperative behavior. Mutual altruism, feelings and empathy for people and other species.
- Integrating development with growth. Invest optimally in strategies that promote both development and growth. Economic policy emphasis will shift from efficiency and quantitative growth (getting bigger faster) toward equity and qualitative development (getting truly better.) Development rather than growth may be more conducive to human happiness and welfare.
- Renewed sense of community. Cooperative relationships, generosity and a sense of sufficiency.
- Implementing an equity-oriented planned economic contraction. This will require that the underpinning values of society shift from competitive individualism, greed and narrow self-interest toward community, cooperation and our common interest in surviving with dignity.
- Member economic participation. Members contribute equitably to and democratically control the capital of their cooperative enterprises.
- Conserver values. A sustainable society will cultivate investment and conserver values over spending and consumption.
- Maintaining effective organizational and societal learning to maximize the health of the whole system, not the wealth of a few people.
- Be resource efficient (material and energy). Skillfully and conservatively take advantage of resources and opportunities.
- Optimize rather than maximize.
There are many books that one can read and articles that can be found on the Internet that discuss what a flourishing life could be.
Tim Jackson in his book "Prosperity Without Growth" has the following to say on the topic of prosperity.
The biggest dilemma of our times is reconciling our aspirations for the good life with the limitations and constraints of a finite planet....Living well on a finite planet cannot simply be about consuming more and more stuff....The task of the economy is to deliver and to enable prosperity. But prosperity is not synonymous with material wealth and its requirements go beyond material sustenance.
Prosperity goes beyond material pleasures. It transcends material concerns. It resides in the quality of our lives and in the health and happiness of our families. It is present in the strength of our relationships and our trust in the community. It is evidenced by our satisfaction at work and our sense of shared meaning and purpose. It hangs on our potential to participate fully in the life of society.
In the end, we, individually and collectively, will arrive at our own sense of what a flourishing life of wellbeing could be.
Read Some Visions of Others
A helpful step on your path to creating your own vision of sustainability is to read some visions of others. You will immediately gain the sense that each vision is unique. The issues dealt with will differ. Some visions will be short, others more detailed. Some will be very cognitive while others will be more emotional. There will be visions that deal with individuals, projects, businesses, schools or communities. You will gain a sense of what is important to the individual or collective authors of each vision.
Here are some excerpts from different visions.
Bionova (Finland) Vision: Our vision is a carbon neutral construction industry where all agents cooperate to design greener and better buildings and where every decision is taken with the long-term effects in mind...Our goal is to allow all players in the construction industry to calculate carbon footprint, Life-Cycle Assessment, Life-Cycle Costing and other environmental impacts in the easiest and fastest way possible, enabling better decision-making in the design phase and leading to a more streamlined and effective approach to green building design. Source: Oneplanet.com
Dr. Glenn Barry, Vision: We need to build circular economies that sustain and regenerate natural capital. We can live in a manner where advancement is equated with maximizing the well-being of all humans, indeed all life, where there are guarantees that there will be more tomorrow than there is today. Imagine an economy concerned primarily with broad-based community advancement that also focused upon efficiency, conservation, equitable sharing, and increasing natural capital; rather than simply always more economic throughput regardless of waste streams and diminishment of future development potential. Source: Ecointernet.org
Mt. Douglas Secondary School (Canada). Our vision is simple- Create a Net Zero Water, Waste and Energy campus that functions like a living tree by completely recycling its waste, drawing all of its energy from the sun, and collecting all of its own water from rain. Only by meeting these goals will we be functioning sustainably and fully in harmony with our natural surroundings. Source: Oneplanet.com
Vision of Jem Bendell: I envision people feeling grateful they suddenly found there is time in their lives to sing, dance, and connect with nature and each other. I envision this connection also supporting ways of production, sharing, consumption, and caring, that means people are able to live happily with fewer resources and less certainty. Source: Jembendell.com
Credo School (California, U.S.) Lessons that help us learn how best to take care of each other and our planet should be the foundation of every educational system, no matter where you are in the world. This should be at the heart of every school to set the example for youth of how communities can function in harmony and within the boundaries of what this planet can naturally provide. Our vision at Credo High is to inspire other school communities to bring the One Planet principles into their own school community, into the way their campus operates and into the lessons given to their students. In doing so, we hope that the next generation will graduate with a deep understanding of themselves, how they are connected to one another, their community and how they can make a positive difference in the world. Source: Oneplanet.com
I hope that you have found some inspiration through reading these visions as well as ideas for how you might approach your own vision.
Developing a vision on your own is always a challenge. However, you may find the effort to be a rewarding experience. It requires making the time to do some research and reading and above all finding time to do some reflection and writing. A long walk in a quiet setting can be a helpful aid to reflection. It may help to share ideas with friends. The process of articulating your ideas to others helps you clarify your own thinking. I believe that engaging in conversations with others about what is important to you will lead you on a path to your own vision.
Joining with others in a facilitated, safe space at a workshop can be a great help. Though you may be working on an individual vision, having others around you to have conversations with can be a great stimulus to generating ideas. If you are joining with others in order to create a collective vision, then being at a collaborative workshop with them will make the work much easier to accomplish and certainly create a more enriching experience. It will foster the kind of collaboration and network that will be needed later on to plan for and implement the vision. If you have not already done so, this is an opportunity to invite in the stakeholders who you will need with you to be successful.
I have run visioning workshops using a variety of different approaches tailored to the needs of the particular group. A one-day workshop held in a pleasant setting ideally out in Nature away from one's usual busy life can be a significant step in achieving a vision. A two-day workshop with an overnight will allow for some soak time for reflection and will also provide the opportunity for some team or network building. Currently, the Innovation Lab or Hackathon approach has appeal to people. It allows for making progress on an issue in a shorter span of time while allowing for interaction. I have developed a design for an Innovation Lab which helps participants move through the necessary steps to arriving at a vision.
In developing a vision, it helps to be clear on what you want to change - individually or as a group. The group SITRA from Finland suggests offering categories for people to think about: Clean Water and Air, Sustainable Food System, Future Cities, Material Cycle, Transportation and Industry; and then within these to think of both small and large challenges to solve. You could also use the Oneplanet Living Principles for this. Using the Oneplanet Principes will enable you to post your plan on that site.
Whatever the approach, a vision workshop will place you further on the path to implementing your sustainable future.
Moving from Vision to Plan
Now that you have develped a vision, it is time to translate your vision into a concrete plan. You may have already found that you have already begun to live your vision. This is one of the advantages of having a vision. The act of developing a vision helps to build it into your life quite naturally. Now you will be moving further along the path to implementing your vision. You may be doing this based on an individual vision or a collective vision with friends, co-workers or members of your community.
Developing a Plan
With regard to developing a plan, I have found that Oneplanet.com offers a good deal of help in this regard. It also provides a place for you to publish your plan with some useful graphics. This can be of value to you as you keep a record of the plan and make changes as time goes on. It can also be of value to others who are involved in developing a plan. I know that I have benefited from looking at the plans of others posted on Oneplanet.com. In fact, the plan for Project Earth was published on the Oneplanet.com site. Other plans and their descriptions can also be found on Oneplanet's parent site, Bioregional.
The Oneplanet.com site will first ask you whether you want to set up a plan for an Organization plan, an Area-wide plan or a Project plan. I opted to use the Project Plan for the Earth Project. You can also invite people to become members in the development of this plan. (You will have to consult with Oneplanet.com in terms of whether this is a free or a paid functionality.) The Oneplanet format allows you to develop Outcomes, Actions and Indicators and to create links between them. I use the links to both illustrate the relational connection among members as well as the logical connections among different aspects of the plan. This can be illustrated graphically or set out as a pdf written document. A way of viewing all of this as a table is also available. The entire approach on Oneplanet.com allows you to color code any of these elements based on one of the Ten Principles of One Planet Living if you so desire.
If you have registered with Oneplanet.com as a user, you can log in and access detailed planning documents such as "Implementing One Planet Living," and "One Planet Goals and Guidance for Communities and Destinations." I found the later document particularly helpful. It has a good deal of detail on the Ten Principles of One Planet Living. For each principle, it provides a description and examples of related goals, key performance indicators (KPI), indicators and possible targets.
Holding a Planning Workshop
A collective plan is best developed at a facilitated workshop where the relevant stakeholders can be involved. Goals and outcomes can be established. Activities determined. Roles can be established in terms of who will be responsible for which goal or activity. Timelines will be set out. You will determine how you will learn and adapt based on feedback that you receive along the way. As important as anything else, at a workshop you will continue to build the trust and the network needed for successful implementation.
When you have made some discernable progress in implementing your plan and have had enriching experiences along the way, it is timely to start telling your story. This is a way for you to begin to capture the learnings that go along with your experiences. It is a way for you to celebrate and engage others in the celebration. It is also a way for you to highlight what you still want to continue focusing upon. It is certainly a means of inspiring others who are involved in their own journey.
People tell their stories in different ways. Some tell simple stories relating in a personal, emotional way their journey to living out their vision. Some tell their stories through pictures of scenes or of the people involved. Others have elaborate brochures with pictures, tables of data and verbal descriptions. I have seen stories along this entire range posted on the Oneplanet.com site in the context of a published plan. In addition to what you may set out on that site, you are welcome to post your story on this site. Send it in as a comment and I will post it.
Whether engaged in a conversation about sustainability or developing a vision or plan, building diversity into our sustainability efforts is an important principle that will lead to success.
I take a broad view of diversity. It applies to the individual, the organization as well as the wider society. It includes demographic diversity, certainly. It also covers diversity of thought, perspectives, disciplines and the diverse realities that reflect each of our separate existences. It covers one additional important area that I will discuss here.
Applying Diversity to Individuals
How this principle is to be applied is the critical question. Diversity applies on an individual level. There are many different ways in which we approach the world, and they may sometimes appear to be in conflict. For example, there may be the part of us that likes structure and the part of us that may like things to be more free and easy. There is likely the part of each of us that wants to "do" and another part that is happy to just "be." There is the part of us that is a member of a capitalist, market economy and the part of us that may be quite tired of the consumerist culture. There is the part of us that firmly knows we must act to save the environment and the part of us that may be reluctant to make the necessary changes. You cannot divorce yourself from either one of these internal polarities or tensions. It may well be healthier for you to facilitate your own internal dialogue amongst them. Through such a process, all aspects of yourself will feel acknowledged and heard lessening defensiveness. A natural integration will result which will facilitate your awareness of what you truly need to flourish. You will be able to bring more of your full, rich self into your interactions with others.
Applying Diversity to Organizations, Society
The same is true with organizations and societies. They also have many different aspects to them some of which may appear to be in conflict with one another. We can facilitate a conversation amongst them and the people who hold them. As in the individual case, such a dialogue between seeming opposites is one way of enabling both to be acknowledged and heard. The human psyche will do its natural job of seeking integration both on an individual and organizational level. The result will be a healthier and more flourishing society.
We can helpfully build this diversity into our workshops, our conversations and our communities and facilitate the necessary interactions. To ensure each perspective is fully heard, listeners should try to see the world through the experiences of the person who is speaking. We should provide a safe space to support each in sharing their views.
Expanding Beyond Privileged Narratives
There is, however, a trickier part. We may think that we have factored in a diversity of perspectives even while we are steadfastly following an historical story, narrative or discourse that has been with us for a long time. As a result, we end up privileging that discourse while ignoring other ones. These other ones represent different ways of learning, thinking and even being in the world.
Here are some examples that represent other ways of thinking and being in the world.
"First Nations people in western Canada see the forests of British Columbia as sacred spaces. People from a European background see them as resources to be used or developed even if for leisure. The giving of land back to First Nations people in Canada elicited the complaint that they do not "do" anything with it. The idea that sometimes the point is to "be" rather than to "do" seems to have proved very hard to communicate." (Cata, Myers, 2011).
"The indigenous people of the Amazon understand their world through a different sort of songline. Indigenous people know how to "think" the forests, know that the paths through this wilderness are songs, the song that each plant has. Song makes a thread of light, a path of the mind; each song tells of one plant's relationship to other plants and not only differentiates one plant from another but distinguishes between the uses of for example, stem or leaf or root of the same plant. There is practical wisdom here but also psychological wisdom; you find your way and learn how to live unlost not through the wild forest but within it. The songlines harmonize people with environment. There is no divide." (Griffiths, 2009)
Joanna Macy in "The Greening of the Self," provides another example. She discusses the Chipko "tree-hugging" movement in north India where villagers protect their remaining woodlands from ax and bulldozer by interposing their bodies. One of her students comments,
"I think of the tree huggers hugging my trunk, blocking the chain saws with their bodies. I feel their fingers digging into my bark to stop the steel and let me breathe....I give thanks for your life and mine and for life itself."
Joanna comments in turn,
"What is striking about Michael's words is the shift in identification. Michael is able to extend his sense of self to encompass the self of the tree. (The) tree is no longer a removed, separate, disposable object pertaining to a world "out there," but intrinsic to his own vitality. Through the power of his caring, his experience of self is expanded far beyond that skin-encapsulated ego."
Each of these stories represents another perspective, a reality that may be quite different from our own.
In discussing the First Nations story, Cato and Myers comment:
"What is important here is the unsettling of a previously privileged discourse, an historical embedded discourse from a "civilized" culture of pioneers, conquerors and colonialists, who on initially encountering First Nations and indigenous Peoples' way of life considered it inferior and yet now value their wisdom as contributing to a different understanding of life and collective reality. In the context of the sustainability crisis, this awareness of an alternative perspective acquires added salience." (Cato, Myers, 2011)
One of the key purposes of The Earth Project is to support people engaging in conversations with one another on topics that are important to them regarding Climate Change.
The hope is that in time these conversations will result in individual or collective visions of a future time when we will be flourishing in a de-carbonized world with substantially reduced unproductive waste. You can learn more about the options for such a world in this overall blog site and particularly in this specific blog post.
I would like to provide guidance in terms of how to invite others into a conversation and what initial question you could ask that would catalyze such a conversation. I will offer one idea here. However, I appreciate that there is a wealth of knowledge and experience out there with all of you. Each of you will approach this differently and we can all learn from each other.
How to invite someone into a conversation?
ME: I have been giving a great deal of thought to what is happening with our environment and the whole issue of climate change. It would be wonderful if I had someone to share these thoughts with and also to hear other perspectives and maybe even to come up with some ideas. Would you have some time to talk to me about this over a cup of coffee? I would like to hear your thoughts on this.
Starting the actual conversation.
ME: One issue that I think about a lot is how to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy and how to do it quickly. I believe that we need to significantly reduce the amount of carbon in the atmosphere caused by fossil fuels. [ This is where you set out the issue and your opinion.]
ME: It seems that much of the technology is already in place to switch to solar or wind and it is now an issue of investing in building more of this equipment, creating the jobs to design and manufacture this equipment and offering government incentives to support installation. [This is where you set out your thinking, your rationale.]
ME: What do you think? [This is where you ask for the opinion of the other person.]
THE OTHER PERSON: [This is where the other person speaks and you listen courteously and carefully to what they have to say.]
Asking the other person.
ME: Is there a particular issue about Climate Change and the future that you worry about?
ME: [This is where the other person speaks and you listen courteously and carefully to what they have to say.]
Beginning to talk about a desirable future.
ME: I look forward to a time when I can walk outside every day and clearly see the mountains that surround me and smell air as fresh as being in the country. There is no longer soot and smoke from nearby coal-fired power plants or industrial waste being expelled into the air. I check the output from the solar panels on the roof and see that once again, we will have an electricity credit. We no longer receive electric bills and, in fact, some months we receive a credit from the electric company for electricity that we have generated. Traffic nearby moves quietly because all of the vehicles are electric. I feel more content knowing that with each day, the carbon footprint of our city and country and the world is becoming less.
THE OTHER PERSON: That is a wonderful vision. I would like to add to that.
MY QUESTION TO ALL OF YOU READING THIS POST:
- How would you go about inviting someone into a conversation about climate change?
- What question(s) would you use to start such a conversation?
- What can you do be doing to ensure that this is a successful conversation?
Please submit your responses in the Comments section of this blog.
This week there was an event in New York City, "The Right To A Future" at which Naomi Klein, well-regarded author of books dealing with the economy and climate, and Greta Thunberg spoke. They were joined by a number of other climate activists from indigenous societies who also spoke. This is a lead up to the upcoming UN Climate summit and the global strike for climate on September 20.
Among the important comments from this event was something that Naomi Klein said. It was "Dare to dream in public."
A theme of the early part of this event was the young climate activists sharing their dreams for 2029. In addition there was a short video by U.S. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez which focused on her vision for the Green New Deal.
In one of the more poignant moments Greta shared the impact of her Asperger's diagnosis on her approach to activism. Naomi Klein commented that folks with a more "normal" neurological profile don't focus the same way and are more susceptible to doing what their peers do. Thus, though both Greta and other people may initially have the same reaction to the Amazon burning or the loss of species, Greta will focus steadfastly on these issues while others will get distracted by other events in life or the business-as-usual approach of their peers which has the result of normalizing this lack of continuing attention.
This brings me to the question of what will it take for the rest of us to be able to "dare to dream in public" which is a challenge posed by this entire blog site. What will it take for us not to get distracted by the many other issues and challenges that we face, by technology, by life-goes-on issues? What will it take for us to stop for a moment and to "dare to dream in public" as the young activists demonstrated.
The learning from this event is that we "need to confront the truth of our moment in history." We need to "dream a different kind of world and future." We each need to choose our path, pick a side, find our fight, find our fire. Because, as was pointed out at this event "protecting the future is not a spectator sport."