- 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.
Earth Project process
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)