WHERE’S THE HEAT?
I recently caught a PBS news piece on a Northwestern Native American community that was engaged in looking at the future of the natural systems that were at the heart of their physical, social, and spiritual well-being. The salmon fishery and the impact of global warming and sea level rise on tribal lands were of major concern.
The Native American community in question believed that the future of the tribe depended on the health of the natural landscape. Secondly, they believed that it was their responsibility and opportunity to actively engage that future. Early on they started gathering information about the health and future of their resources, including the retention of outside help from dedicated scientists and experts. To this effort they brought a wealth of personal knowledge and experience about how their natural systems worked. With this foundation, the community started to look at opportunities and choices to creatively, not passively, engage their future.
I came away from viewing this piece asking myself the question, “how is the Placer County community engaged in looking at our health and future, not just of our natural resources, but from the Triple Bottom Line of sustainability--our social and economic resources as well? Where is the public dialogue in Placer County around good information about where we are and where we are going? To what degree does our local “culture” believe that our future depends on the health of our local natural, social, and economic landscape, and are we taking on the responsibility here, at the grass roots level, for engaging this future creatively?
A lot is actually going on locally. The Placer County Conservation Plan is looking at wildlife and endangered species habitat in the Western portion of the County. The Placer County Water Agency and the County are engaged in discussions about the future allocation of power revenues from the Placer County Water Project. The County and the Placer Land Trust have launched the Placer Legacy Open Space acquisition program. We have various Watershed Councils that, among other things, are looking at stream system restoration. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy has various sustainable forestry resource programs underway. The Sierra Business Council has been involved with Placer local government climate action plans. We have a health consortium in the Placer Collaborative Network. A Placer Local Food Alliance has recently formed to bring the community together on health and food interests. The Town of Loomis has supported the launch of Sustainable Loomis. The Placer Economic Development Board has supported the formation of a Sustainable Economic Development Network. PlacerSustain has been actively stewarding the emergence of a Placer County Community Sustainability Network. Many more efforts are underway that I have not mentioned.
My question is “Where is the Heat?” Where is the public dialogue on the state of health of Placer County’s natural, social, and economic resources? How is the Community, not just institutions and organizations, but the people, engaging in a dialogue about our future? Where are the community organizing focuses that are openly and actively bringing people together to support an ongoing public initiative to take on our future. Where is the critical information and strategic collaboration about the health of our resources. Perhaps most importantly, how are we bringing the people together who do believe that our future depends on the Triple Bottom Line, and do believe that they are both responsible for and empowered to contribute personally and creatively in that future?
While there is a role for existing institutions and organizations in creating the necessary “Heat,” this is not the main point. These organizations are struggling for a variety of reasons, and this struggle is not going away. The point is to bring new people and resources into engaging our future, lots of new people. This is not going to happen if we continue business as usual: fragmented, jurisdictional silos and turf, filtering everything through organizational allegiances to existing institutions, rounding up the over-extended leaders of existing organizations for another Summit and report or Action Plan, holding another public meeting to get input on plans that have been generated by professionals. If we want different results there must be a shift in the framework within which the work is done. We know a great deal about what this new framework can be.
I conclude with several quotes from Ken Wilber and Peter Block:
As Ken Wilber states in his book, “Integral Psychology:”
The ecological crisis--or Gaia's main problem--is not pollution, toxic dumping, ozone depletion, or any such. Gaia's main problem is that not enough human beings have developed to the postconventional, worldcentric, globals levels of consciousness, wherein they will automatically be moved to care for the global commons. And human beings develop to those postconventional levels, not by learning systems theories [the science of global warming, ecosystem dynamics, etc.], but by going through at least a half-dozen major interior transformations, ranging from egocentric to ethnocentric to worldcentric, at which point, and not before, they can awaken to a deep and authentic concern for Gaia. The primary cure for the ecological crises is … learning ways to foster these many arduous waves of interior growth, none of which are addressed by most of the new paradigm approaches.
Peter Block, from “Community: The Structure of Belonging—
Therefore, the challenge for every community is not so much to have a vision of what it wants to become, or a plan, or specific timetables. The real challenge is to discover and create the means for engaging citizens that brings a new possibility into being. Stated more precisely, what gives power to communal possibility is the imagination and authorship of citizens led through a process of engagement. This is an organic and relational process. This is what creates a structure of belonging. This is more critical than the vision and the plan….
Transformation is about altering the nature of our relatedness and changing the nature of our conversation… What creates an alternative future is acting on the belief that contexts, relatedness, and language are the point, and that traditional problem-solving needs to be subordinated and postponed until context, relatedness, and language have shifted.