Monday, February 13, 2006

Let's Better Manage Our Nation’s Eco-Capital

For the past 30 years I have advocated for conservation measures in the D.C. area. Each year, do-it-yourself motorists dump the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill just from their discarded motor oil, car filters, and anti-freeze in the metro area. It is, indeed, a slippery slope; if we can shift from rampant consumerism to resource conservation, we may be able to safeguard human survival.

Just read the Washington Post’s Sunday, January 29th front page article, “A Debate on Climate Shifts to Issue of Irreparable Change,” about Global Warming. Some experts warn that we may be reaching a point of no return after which it is too late to act. In the meantime, Exxon Mobil announced record-breaking profits for 2005 to the public -- $36.13 billion, the largest profit ever recorded by any corporation in America. Yet, a few weeks ago when I was at the Department of Energy, one official told me that no funds are presently available from the government or the oil companies to address consumer oil loss.

The good news is that more Washingtonians are recognizing that sustainability is not only essential but enhances our well being. When the insurance industry predicts increased environmental disasters for the future, it seems to recognize that man's activities are detrimental to the earth: changing weather through global warming and destroying nature's protective mechanisms such as wetlands. Recent hurricanes and other severe weather phenomena is an eerie reminder that we will suffer if we separate ourselves from our earth. Is our well being as important as our material wealth?

And what about future generations? An "out of sight, out of mind" mindset has arisen in our "wasted mentality" culture. This way of thinking threatens our well being. We must track our disposal of waste more completely and responsibly and document its consequences. Yes, more people recycle than vote in the U.S., but we still tend to value "ending" over "mending."

A new American Revolution will be founded by those who care for their grandchildren and will define what economy truly means. A new environmental seed is sprouting that will uncover a cloak of darkness that befalls us now. There is a silent war where increased disposability represents a form of terror. Can excel science and politics recapture and better inventory the 11 billion tons of resources yearly Americans use, not including nuclear and hazardous waste? The renewal of the American spirit will happen when we demonstrate that recapturing resources illustrate that that non-violence works. Let’s celebrate things that support life. Clean renewable energy, efficient transportation, non-toxic production and measures that protect of our forests, oceans, grasslands and wetlands are all ways that will liberate us. As we show greater respect for people, places and things, we will feel better about out future.

Can there be a tipping point here in DC where we see the opportunity in new sustainable ways? I have seen this happen assisting various area recycling efforts for paper, oil, computers, fluorescent lamps and other recyclables.

The Federal Electronics Challenge is one example where the government is leading by example to recover the 10,000 computer per week that is discarded. Especially, when you think the fed’s 2006 IT budget is $36.5 billion or seven percent of the worlds entire IT market share. Presently, numerous federal agencies are accounting $16.5 billion in environmentally sound management practices.

Our very freedom is in question until we awaken from the myth that we have a limitless supply of goods. We must awaken from the violence of our mismanagement. Let’s show we respect our community and manage our resources more safely for to give hope to our world. In return we find such leadership gives us greater freedom and a peace of mind. Responsible action equates to greater possibilities. Creating sustainable business is a critical democratic challenge demonstrating that conservation matters.

Better managing and accounting for our nation’s eco-capital must become “tenor” not the “terror” of our time. Remember we made a policy over the weapons of mass destruction “better safe then sorry.” Certainly global warming warrants such prudence since there are much graver consequences of ignoring Mother Nature as Hurricane Katrina proved. Once recapture our discards we can show our greater regards for life. Yes, we care for ourselves and the world. Washingtonians as future stewards, let’s not prey on the earth but rather pray and act together. Courage comes when we take the “h” from the front of "heart" and place at end so to spell "earth." Walk softly and act with wisdom and compassion so to enjoy greater liberation!

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Reconnecting to Our Home, Earth

We may be approaching a crossroads today in the emergence of the human spirit. Those aware may question if our future is ecologically more endangered each day. Given the exponential growth of our human footprints our world’s survival depends upon sustaining life. As we become more sensitive to how delicate the carrying capacity of our eco-systems we can see a direct connection to our very soul. This is reflected by diverse spiritual and religious leaders appeal to one common universal concern- the fate of our beloved planet earth.

Simply we depend on our environment to live. Everyday you see increased evidence of how people of all walks are sensitive whether our distant generations are left a legacy. Without investing in our future a pandemic of despair may erupt among the young and cause unprecedented societal problems.

Developing more sustainable ways of living are becoming critical. For example European agricultural subsidies now are economically encouraging farmers to become better land stewards. In other parts of the world two-thirds of water goes to irrigation sparking an enormous debate on what make the best overall sense. Quickly, we are finding how important our environment is with everything we do instead of isolating this as just another societal concern. The canary in the coal mine is beginning to look for air.

Increased attention by all religious organizations is awakening humans to the divinity of our ecological interrelationships. This is a powerful force to shape new lifestyle and attitudes regarding the ills of over consumption of natural resources. Spiritual leadership also is supported by increased scientific findings that the earth is requiring not just increased care but such mending is essential to preventing global destruction.

The real question is can interfaith alliances work together to converge people to unified efforts toward conservation and preservation. Many misperceptions and divergent worldviews require not only dialogue but religious involvement to overcome the barriers for the human species to act. Also there are numerous success stories such as the Sri Lanka- Sarvodaya movement to moderate consumption.[1]

One striking fact is that in religious institutions are responsible for 34 percent of the United States volunteerism.[2] This human capital is focused on how they can best serve to better society. What better way to show our ecological gratitude. One potential showcase is the almost 300,000 American houses of worship ( 5 percent of the commercial building floor space) shifting to more energy efficient upgrades reducing 6 million tons of CO2 saving these sacred locations roughly a half a billion dollars.[3]

However, there has not been a rocky marriage between conservation/ environmental groups and religious organizations in speaking a common language to develop such partnerships.[4] Even though similar values may be shared these two groups in many instances are not singing to the same sheet of music.

The Dali Lama in the last few decades has stressed environmental protection as a central theme starting with the Earth Summit in 1992. Also of note is that the late Harvard Scientist and world expert, Stephen Jay Gould remarked that this battle to save the environment requires… forging an emotional/spiritual bond between nature and ourselves”[5]

David Orr cites that what is missing is love to engage the many polarized organizations to champion a relationship emulating the compassion of Greek God of nature, Pan. Our ultimate question is when and how will religious and spiritual groups going to awaken a significant amount of humans toward collective action. Can we as human invest in making our tomorrow more promising? Finally we will need to pray together not on each other and ask for divine forgiveness since we may have trespassed upon something more grave then our final resting place.

"We join with the earth and with each other

To bring new life to the land

To restore the waters

To refresh the air

We join with the earth and with each other

To renew the forests

To care for the plants

To protect the creatures

We join with the earth and with each other

To celebrate the seas

To rejoice in the sunlight

To sing the songs of the stars

We join with the earth and with each other

To recreate the human community

To promote justice and peace

To remember our children

We join with the earth and with each other

We join together as many and diverse expressions

of one loving memory: for the healing of the earth

and the renewal of all life."

- U.N. Environmental Sabbath Program

[1] Gary Gardner, “Invoking the Spirit” Worldwatch Institute, Dec 2002 page 6

[2] Ibid page 20

[3] USEPA , “Energy Star for Congregations,”

[4] Ibid page 25

[5] David Orr, “For Love of Life,” Conservation Biology. December 1992, pg 486

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Time to Lead by Example

Currently, we suffer a shortage of gifted leaders. There is a lack of skillful gatekeepers who both provide us with future direction and motivate us by their example. Many in leadership positions lack the courage to tackle today's tough issues. This because they are unable to be emotionally present and act from a source of fear rather than love. Both governance and democracy are in question. This crisis forces us to each of us to lead by example. We, the people, must respond to our current crisis of despair by each one us acting mindfully. Also we must deeply explore how we feel. This process can awaken us to make more compassionate selfless choices becoming both more gentle and kind with all things. I believe that once I respect all things I find a form of grace and psychic well being. Also becoming apart of my community gives me both insights that helping others helps me. Making greater connections allows me to become a more engaged leader.

In 1989, in “Seven Habits of Effective People,” Stephen Covey defined pro-activity as how we focus our energy so as to influence and/or change our surroundings. Yet at the same time real change only happens within. It begins as a self-awareness process through which we come to understand our wider circle; our wider range of concerns—family, health, work, environmental issues. These are the things in our lives that make up our Circle of Concern. Accepting our world as it is does not mean we have to become detached from it.

Within the larger world is a smaller one which is our individual selves. Such an inward awakening defines those things we can exercise our true liberation. Those things we can enjoy our personal freedom are called the Circle of Influence. This concept depicts three areas of control: direct control of our own behavior; indirect control regarding other people’s behavior; no control of past or situational realities.

The optimal solution is to proactively interact with these three kinds of control within our Circle of Influence. This means to be smart, value driven, and interpret reality in order to best deal with the given situation.

By concentrating on efforts in the Circle of Influence, individuals positively magnify what they can do something about; this, in turn, widens this Circle of Influence.

What distinguishes these two circles from one another is that the Circle of Concern includes actions with “have” as their motor (If only I had more money; if only I had not said that; if only I can have this job…) while the Circle of Influence is about being (I can be wiser; I can be kinder; I can be happier…)

When we believe that a problem is ‘outside ourselves,’ we mistake this to mean that it is out of our control. By changing our perspective, we can change ourselves instead of trying to effect change on what is external to us.

Covey further clarifies that in the Circle of Concern what we are free to choose are actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions. He refers to this as picking up the other end of the stick. We make the choice, yet the resulting consequences may not be to our liking. So we may either learn from our mistakes and correct our actions or rationalize and deceive ourselves. The latter will cause deeper self injury. How we respond to our mistakes affects whether we empower or defeat ourselves.

To be proactive, we must awaken to our areas of weakness, improvement and strengths. Next, we must act on this awareness to control our lives by either making a promise or setting a goal. By achieving inner commitments we develop the basic habits of effectiveness and personal integrity while building greater self-honor.

Developing these skills requires daily practice to be mindful of how we respond to all things. For example, when you see something happening attempt not judge it, however, observe it. Instead of telling someone what to do, it may be more skillful to act as a role model. Empathize and look at the faults of others with compassion. This will also allow us greater kindness in our own self- examination.

Developing greater insights so that our thoughts may determine our response is critical to changing our mental frame of reference. By becoming more aware of what is happening in the moment instead of what we think is happening, we become more proactive. The key is to develop a mind-set that allows us to respond and identify how we normally react. The key is to not be controlled by reactive responses. When we become “RESPONSE-ABLE,” we become more responsible and effective.

Now, all of us can benefit when we each lead by example. Let's not become of a society of followers like a dog who chases his own tail. This is a critical time for every individual to explore within what freedom and happiness is all about. Otherwise we suffer a form imprisonment. Also such indifference is a form defeat. Such complacency with the status quo threatens our prosperity and the future of liberty. Let’s take a risk and show action by example in a peaceful and productive way. Leading is liberating once we understand we all matter.

"You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour.

Now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour.

And there are things to be considered:

Where are you living?

What are you doing?

What are your relationships?

Are you in right relation?

Where is your water?

Know your garden.

It is time to speak your Truth.

Create your community.

Be good to each other.

And do not look outside yourself for the leader.

This could be a good time!

There is a river flowing now very fast.

It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid.

They will try to hold on to the shore.

They will feel they are being torn apart, and they will suffer greatly.

Know the river has its destination.

The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of

the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above the water.

See who is in there with you and celebrate.

At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally.

Least of all, ourselves.

For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!

Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary.

All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.

We are the ones we've been waiting for."

The Elders

Oraibi, Arizona

Hopi Nation"