11 July 2011

Reflections on our July 9 event

Posted by Admin under: Community Development; Ecology; Events; Evolution; Forum; Future; History; Inspiration; Leadership; People; Sustainability .

Reconnecting with Nature
Our conversation on Saturday was remarkable in a number of ways: passionate, profound, and thought-provoking, and resulting in a call for us to stay connected. There was talk of Google+ (which is not yet available to everyone),Yahoo groups, and perhaps other tools, such as a Meetup group. I want to make a request that we not limit ourselves to any one system at this point, but look for multiple platforms or media through which to deepen and expand the conversation.

In particular, I want to invite us to form a more robust, multi-faceted community, interlinked with others, and having a way to stay in touch, share ideas, collaborate, and conspire to bring about significant ecological, economic, and social change. The Sustainable Leadership Forum is, in reality, a network of leaders; a vehicle for dialogue and conversation; and an instrument for collaboration. It therefore seems a good time to inaugurate our Sustainable Leadership Network site, as a medium not only for us to communicate with each other but indeed to bring others into the discussion, and to share our own views in a larger, more open, and more public way.

Certainly, if the conversation on Saturday is to mean something it should lead to action, to connection and collaboration, to innovation and empowerment in a tangible form. Whether we choose to focus on the key economic actors—like Jason Clay of the WWF and his roundtables aimed at the top 100 companies who together control more than 25% of all major global commodities—or on reaching 50 million “social change agents,” or fostering a new “billion acts of green,” we need to speak out, to communicate with one another, to build relationships, structures, vehicles, and tools to change the world.

We can begin by acknowledging what we already know:

  • Sustainability involves a shift in consciousness and in our intellectual and conceptual paradigm—how we organize knowledge and what we think about
  • We are amongst the growing number of those who “get it,” who are working to reconnect ourselves and others with nature, who have rediscovered our kinship with everything that is
  • That we need to adapt to and seek to mitigate climate change, loss of biodiversity, depletion of resources, and the cumulative human impact on the environment, because the “business as usual” scenario is leading us over a cliff—it has become unsustainable and, for many of us, simply untenable
  • That we need to create a different sort of community, with new economic, political, and social institutions built on restoring and replenishing the systems of life, health, and human meaning
  • That each of us has a piece of the truth, and that we need to bring these pieces together into a more coherent whole (to, in the words of the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution, “form a more perfect union,” which recognizes our differences yet celebrates our collaboration)
  • Humanity faces a common set of threats, which bring us together in a common cause and a common endeavor; we can choose to disregard this for a while, and exploit as many resources as possible—or we can choose to recognize that we live in a world with finite limits, a world that we share with other humans and other life forms, a world in which there is enough for everyone unless we make things scarce
  • That each of us is only passing through; individually we are mortal beings, and only achieve immortality (on this plane anyway) through the perpetuation of the species
  • That the very possibility of life as we know it is at stake, and along with it the possibility of a human future in which we are remembered and acknowledged, in which our lives counted for something
  • And that our greatest accomplishment is to bring new insight, new understanding, new wisdom concerning the human condition to our shared existence.

I could easily go on, but my point is that there is a bedrock philosophy that self-aware humans share. It is beyond political ideologies, beyond economic homilies such as “faith in the free market,” beyond religious affiliations, beyond the weapons of mass distraction that dominate what we call “the media.” It is to this intrinsic shared knowledge and wisdom of life, this intrinsic coexistence with the forces of natures, that we must turn in order to give our species and our planet a future. Without this, all that we have done, all that humans have created in art and science and culture, will turn to dust; it will not have been worth living and dying for.

I therefore want to invite us to this common effort in a way that gives everyone an opportunity to contribute however they prefer, where privately within the group or publicly through this web site or others. What I invite us to explore is where we stand, what we choose as our commitment in the face of what our species has done and is doing to the planet. I invite us to step up to history, and to the future, by recognizing that our individual actions today shape our common future, our shared tomorrow; that what we think and believe matters; and that how we engage with others determines our destiny.

P.S. On July 10th, a day after our conversation, Christiane Amanpour of ABC’s This Week began a segment by saying “Markets around the world are bracing for the unthinkable, the possibility that for the first time in history the United States will go into default.”

The reality is that, just as a major ecological collapse can cause an economic one, so a major economic collapse can cause serious environmental damage, as well as untold human misery.

The relationship between ecology and economics is a fundamental clash of values, of understandings, and of historical consequences. The monetarily-successful development of the modern global economy is largely responsible for the explosion of human population, of unsustainable levels of consumption and resource exploitation, and of huge and growing inequities around the world. At the same time, it controls the wealth and other resources needed to change course and begin to fix the problems. If it falls apart as a result of greed, incompetence, mismanagement, or political disagreement, it may temporarily reduce the immediate pressure on resources (by reducing demand) and the escalating levels of CO2, pollution, and loss of biodiversity, but it also robs us of many of the tools needed to address these issues.

The only way to restore “economic growth,” to get the economy growing again, is to aim for and achieve sustainable growth, which is not the oxymoron some have made it out to be. It is clear that we cannot have unlimited material consumption on a finite planet, but since economics deals with nonmaterial goods as well as material ones, we can have a high level of prosperity coupled with a regenerative agro-industrial production system; without such a system we will continue to outrun our planet’s carrying capacity until, one by one, essential systems such as food, water, transportation, and habitat will begin to falter and collapse. We have an opportunity to build an alternative, nurturing, life-supporting economy, either alongside the old ailing economy or else eventually  and after much damage and pain rising from its ashes.

PPS. My apologies if I missed anyone’s suggestions. One site that I think people should check out is Wiser Earth, which is another site we could use as a “community” or “social networking” site. I have a profile on the site but have not used it since I set it up.

2 Comments so far...

John Adams Says:

12 July 2011 at 12:44 pm.

Dear Jonathan,
Your reflections on our July 9th gathering are very appropriate, and well stated. Thank you.

I was wondering if there was an attendee list for the event that had names along with the contact information. I only see the e-mails addresses that do not cipher out the names of all the people.

All the Best!

John Adams

Jo Sippie-Gora Says:

21 July 2011 at 4:22 pm.

Beautifully said, Jonathan.
In our attempt to inform & educate the less self-aware, it seems to me we need more visual models. When former astronaut Edgar Mitchell first saw, and photographed, our big blue ball in space, he experienced an epiphany. Soon after, he was advocating for sustainability. http://www.fordham.edu/Campus_Resources/enewsroom/topstories_1739.asp. Imagine that big blue ball on every teacher’s desk, every elected official’s desk, but encircled with a clear spherical shroud that depicts the limited atmosphere. Then, ask them to imagine: population increasing without end, polluting drinking water, etc. Ask them where they might seek shelter on this globe, as they attempt to survive increased hurricanes, drought, fires, flooding, etc…

Leave a Reply

Join Our Email List

Subscribe Here for newsletters and occasional emails.

Latest Posts (see more below)

Past Events

Correction: We'll be hosting this year's holiday potluck — "Bringing Solar Power Home for the Holidays" — on Saturday, December 15, 2012 from 4 to 9 p.m. Click here for more details. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, November 17, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Sustainable Neighborhood & Community Conversations (III).
Saturday, October 13, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods and Communities II.
Saturday, September 8, 2012, 10 a.m. Eastern: Transforming Neighborhoods & Communities.
Saturday, June 16, 2012: SLF Potluck June 16: Sustainable Living Communities.
The Sustainable Haiti Conference took place April 23-25, 2012 in Miami.
"Inside Job" Movie Party. Saturday, February 11th, 6:00 PM, Liberty Ridge, The Hills, Bernards Twp, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920.
2nd 'Buy Haitian, Restore Haiti Conference', January 26, 2012, Karibe Convention Center, Petion Ville, Haiti
Dec 11 SLF Potluck: "Bringing Sustainability Home for the Holidays" Basking Ridge, NJ. RSVP to [email protected].
Saturday, July 9, 2011, 4 p.m. Open House Party & Potluck, Saturday, July 9, 4 p.m., Basking Ridge, NJ.
RSVP to [email protected]
Saturday, May 21, 1-4 p.m. EcoCenter Update. At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960.
Saturday, April 16, 1-4 p.m. "Haiti & Us: The Leading Edge of Sustainable Development." At the Morristown EcoCenter, 55 Bank Street, Morristown, NJ 07960. A copy of the update presentation has been posted here.
Saturday, March 19, 1-4 p.m. "Creating the Morristown EcoCenter." Held at 55 Bank Street, Morristown, the site of the proposed EcoCenter.
Saturday, February 19, 1-4 p.m. Monthly meeting, ""A Profound Transformation in Consciousness," Morris County Library, Whippany, NJ. Click here for details.
Saturday, January 15, 1-4 p.m. Putting Idealism into Practice: Tour of Half Moon House. Click here for details.
Saturday, December 18, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "Reinventing Wealth," followed by our annual "Potluck for the Planet" from 4 to 8. Click here for details.
Saturday, November 20, 1-4 p.m. Challenge & Strategy Session: "How Do We Measure Sustainable Value?". Click here for details.
Saturday, October 16, 1-4 p.m. Challenge and Strategy Session: "Toward a Sustainable Growth Strategy for New Jersey".
Download the slide presentation here, and the discussion paper here.

Please note

In addition to joining our email list, you can also register at this site to receive notifications of new articles and add comments, but because of the number of "spam users," we have implemented a screening mechanism to prevent automated registrations. Please contact us if you have any problems with it. Thanks.


Leadership Quotes

"Nearly every man who develops an idea works it up to the point where it looks impossible, and then he gets discouraged. That's not the place to become discouraged."
(Thomas A. Edison—thanks to Regan Caton)

"Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” (G.B. Shaw)

"There is the true joy of life: to be used by a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; to be thoroughly worn out before being thrown on the scrap heap; to be a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that life will not devote itself to making you happy." (G.B. Shaw)

"Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. It is not an opportunity to satisfy personal greed." (Mwai Kibaki, President of Kenya - thanks to Christine Comaford, Rules for Renegades)