Creating a vision

The Earth Project Evolving Vision

THE GOAL

To change the landscape of our individual and collective lives and of our various communities to one in which we are flourishing because of our increasing eco-consciousness and actions.

THE EVOLVING VISION

Imagine sitting in a pleasant room or a garden under a tree or visiting a welcoming place on the Internet where friends - old and new pull up a chair or a cushion and join in a conversation. Our conversation will sometimes be painful as we share what we see happening to our Earthly environment and sometimes joyful as we reach out to one another in compassion and friendship seeking a collective path forward. We have found a way to join with one another in this conversation whether in person or on the Internet.

We are talking about important issues, sharing insights, welcoming the perspective of others. We reach out to bring others into our circle, people with whom we have much in common and people with whom we have little in common beyond a desire to respond to the Climate Emergency facing all of us.

We can smell the aromas from the diversity of foods that we bring from our different cultures to share with others in the room. As we drink different types of coffees and teas, we learn about the cultures they are from.

We each experience the thrill of learning from one another from our vast collective knowledge and from the ideas that only diverse perspectives can produce. Our satisfaction is obvious as we reach a new, deeper understanding of the economic and political forces, of old habits, of media enticements that hinder us from leading the kind of flourishing lives we deeply desire.

We celebrate when each of us finds their voice of passion and commitment and begins to share it with us and with others in our many communities. With these voices we express a vision for a flourishing life that we aspire to in a world of reduced carbon-based energy and waste.

There is a sense of exaltation and satisfaction as we begin reporting back on changes from our personal lives, from our workplaces and from our communities that we have helped implement as a response to the Climate Emergency. We speak of the new changes in the economic, political and media landscape that have resulted from our actions. We celebrate the actions that have been taken to safeguard and regenerate our environment and its many species. We are enthusiastic about creating a world where all can flourish.

We have much work yet to do together as we enlist others to preserve a flourishing life for human kind and other species on this Planet Earth.

 


Ways to Create a Vision of Sustainability - 1

Introduction

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:

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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.

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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.

Suggested Application

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.

 


Ways to Create a Vision of Sustainability - 2

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.

Achieving Prosperity

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.


Ways to Create a Vision of Sustainability - 3

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.


Assemble in a Workshop to Develop a 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.

 


Building a Successful Conversation Through Diversity

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

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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)

 


Inviting Someone Into a Conversation on Climate Change

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.

 


Breaking the Gordian Knot in Approaches to the Climate Emergency

image from images.app.goo.gl
In our current efforts to respond to the Climate Emergency that we all face, it may be useful to address what appears to be a dialectical relationship between the two major strategies.

On the one hand, some assert that the way forward can be found in the street protests organized by Greta and the School Strike movement and Extinction Rebellion. This approach seems to be to challenge politicians and governments throughout the world to take action. One does assume that participation in these protests through the power of cognitive dissonance motivates participants to take individual action. However, this approach primarily seeks action at a top-down, national and global scale though motivated by grassroots activities.

Others believe that the way forward is based on individual actions. In this view, if each of us were to reduce our carbon footprint, the collective impact would be significant. If one includes corporations as individuals here then the impact becomes significantly greater. This is reflected in approaches such as the Circular Economy and Industrial Symbiosis. There are many such "individual" actions all around the world, each with its own orientation - its view of economic activity, the nature of progress, the role of humans in our Earthly ecosystem, a definition of wellbeing. Here, progress is seen as based on the combined impact of individual and corporate action.

I admit that in my own efforts, I live out the same quandary wondering which is the more efficacious approach. Where should I and others put our efforts? I also wonder whether the better approach would be to strive for a vision of an ideal future or whether the pursuit of many smaller efforts in time would have the potential of coalescing into a more overarching vision.

In an ideal world, there would not be such dilemmas. Motivated governments and motivated individuals would all be taking action, thus, ensuring an encompassing, comprehensive response to this Climate Emergency. Since we do not live in such an ideal world (which would already have responded to Climate Change many years ago), there seems to be a push-pull as to deciding where to put one's efforts in moving forward. We are wondering where to invest conference space, media focus, available resources and our personal energy. The metaphor that came to me is that of a Gordian Knot which defies habitual methods of untying. The message in the Gordian Knot parable is that there is a simpler, higher level approach that will resolve what in retrospect can be seen as a false dilemma.

Though there are likely many ways of approaching this Gordian Knot dilemma, I would like to suggest one in particular.

I am reminded of a play by Luigi Pirandello entitled "Six Characters in Search of an Author." My recollection is that in this play established characters living out their dramatic lives are searching for an author to provide them with added context and meaning.

I am wondering whether in our current world of sustainability actions and futures, we are not in effect creating individual characters still lacking that underlying essence that will provide them with meaning. Without that "authorship" the dilemma is a self-perpetuating one constantly fueling a Gordian Knot existence.

If one looks back over the history of the United States, one can find many events, individuals and motivations leading to the foundation of the Republic. Over a period of about 150 years, what arose to author the future was a consensus around the core ideals of self-determination, freedom and "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." This obviously did not happen over night and encompassed a great deal of societal discussions, debates, newspaper articles, books, speeches and assemblies.

This authorship became embodied in America's founding documents, the "Declaration of Independence" and the "Constitution" and "Bill of Rights." All of these were based on philosophical themes with antecedents throughout history. One can look at these founding documents as an epochal turning point in which a new paradigm was firmly established. Another historical example of a world-changing paradigm around which a consensus developed is the Enlightenment.

It seems to me that our efforts in sustainability are lacking this consensus having to do with what we are about based on a philosophical, biological, ecological, scientific, ethical etc. foundation. We lack a consensus around our "author."

Our additional challenge is that we do not have 150 years to sort all of this out. We have less than twelve years. At the same time, many exciting ideas already abound based on work over many decades. There are countless books, internet posts, articles, events, where ideas are being set out on topics ranging from Biomimicry, to Ecological Economics, to Natural Capitalism, morphogenetic change and regenerative economies. Many posit interrelationships among different disciplines and perspectives among which are ecological, economic, social and cultural ones. Some go as far as asking for a new unifying though heterogeneous narrative for our Earthly ecosystem.

We do seem to be gradually seeking a new paradigm that will author all of our efforts. I believe that it is the current lack of a consensus around such a paradigm that creates the Gordian Knot dilemma that we are experiencing and which makes our work that much more challenging. A common paradigm would provide an authoring concept to which we could organically relate our various activities.

We cannot force the emergence of such a paradigm. We can, however, act in a facilitative way to create a fertile ground for its emergence based on our learning from history. The following ideas are not intended to develop fixes, solutions or isolated actions. They are focused upon the development of a philosophical and ethical basis for a new narrative for all creatures and elements of nature that have a place on this planet including we human sapiens.

  • We can support each new idea as a seed worthy of germinating, paying attention to, adding to and reflecting upon each with openness.
  • We can support new ideas with resources.
  • We can provide in-person and virtual venues where interchange and synthesis of ideas can occur in a spirit of collaboration and respect.
  • We can utilize all modalities open to us to express ideas including the vehicle of the arts: music and song, painting, drama, dance, poetry, performance art.
  • We can read, share, talk and dialogue about ideas and share our new learnings.
  • We can offer a library of ideas which the School Strike, Extinction Rebellion, Green New Deal and others can draw upon.
  • We can ask our friends in all of the different movements to distill and share the philosophy underlying their many activities. We can ask the same of participants in any given workshop.
  • We can frame each new synthesis as an experimental basis for a new paradigm to be pursued - to see where it goes, adapting and letting go of it as necessary.

In doing this, we will be using our collective authorship to rewrite the basic narrative of life on this planet.