5 July 2011

Stepping Up to History

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

(The following is a background for what we’d like to talk about at the Open House on July 9.)

As we continue to think about the role and the mission of the Sustainable Leadership Forum, it seems increasingly clear to me that, as a society, we are not moving fast enough or broadly enough to address the multiple challenges we face in the 21st century.

The most recent analysis of the evidence for this is Lester R. Brown’s World on the Edge (2011), the latest in his annual series of reports from the Earth Policy Institute. The first half book is a reasoned, thoroughly-researched, and compelling argument for recognizing that a worldwide environmental, ecological, and social collapse could occur at almost any moment. The second revisits the EPI’s prescription for preventing this, which Brown calls “Plan B” (currently in version 4.0, available free in digital format at the Institute’s web site).

To begin with, we know that—as extensively documented in Jared Diamond’s Collapse, 2004—many previous civilizations have failed because of their poor ecosystem choices, and that in many respects we are repeating and even compounding these colossal failures. We have overshot the Earth’s capacity to restore itself by at least 50%, and at any time the world’s food and water systems may simply collapse, bringing down the global economy. Sea level rise, which no matter what we do is likely to continue for decades to come, will create hundreds of millions of climate refugees, destroy as much as a third of the world’s wealth, and shrink the available habitable and arable land at a time when the world’s population is projected at over 9 billion. The mass extinction of species is reducing biodiversity and furthering weakening the earth’s natural capacity for regeneration.

If we allow these and other trends to continue, the outcome must be a disaster of global proportions, in which large numbers of individuals will be affected, governments will collapse, and societies will crumble. There is an alternative, but it requires a massive shift to an alternative, sustainable, and regenerative economy. There are huge risks if we do not change; yet there are also huge opportunities for those who recognize and respond to these changes in a profitable manner. (Actually, this is what business is supposed to be good at: identifying the points of greatest pain, and profiting from impending disasters. And if we’re smart we’ll fund this transition to the new economy and reap huge rewards from it. But that’s another essay.)

The crux of the matter, however, is that we cannot rely on business or government to alter our ecological trajectory in time. Previous civilizations failed because their leaders could not foresee the outcomes of their own actions (or inaction). Individuals must increasingly recognize the peril to society, and take action to meet the historical challenge. This means coming together as “the greatest movement in history,” as Paul Hawken describes it in Blessed Unrest (2010?) and taking a stand for a truly sustainable future for all.

As Hawken puts it,

“If you look at the science about what is happening on earth and aren’t pessimistic, you don’t understand the data. But if you meet the people who are working to restore this earth and the lives of the poor, and you aren’t optimistic, you haven’t got a pulse.”

We are therefore issuing a call for people to “step up to history” and take a stand for what they will do for the future. If each of us declares our contribution to the preservation of all life, to continuing the human journey of stewardship and exploration, and to the protection of the rights of all creatures to continue to thrive on this small blue planet—in this declaration, I believe, we will discover a symphony of human voices that can lead us, democratically, to a more sustainable world.

It’s this concept, and its implications, that we’d like to explore on Saturday.

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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.

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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)