Reflections on the Sustainability Dialogue–and a Manifesto for a Green with Heart

Now that the proverbial dust has begun to settle from my recent discussion with Caroline Savery on defining “sustainability,” I have been reflecting on it all with great appreciation and pleasure.

The main realization I have come to is that Caroline and I seem to be focusing on different audiences in most of our posts. (Caroline, if you are reading this, please feel free to correct me if you disagree with what I say here!) That is, most of my posts feel more appropriate for and geared towards “beginners” in sustainable living…those folks who are taking their first steps on the path of Green. Having done a lot with various methods of sustainable living and environmentalism (as an “-ism”) so far, I have felt called to use my experiences along the path to help others with little or no experience.

At the same time, and by doing so, I have been most dedicated to celebrating all the things in nature that I believe are sacred…and that so often get overlooked, even by us environmentalists! It is easy to forget about the sacred things in nature that are all around us, wherever we happen to be, and it has been a joy for me to sing their praises with all my heart and voice.

Caroline seems to be focused a bit more on speaking directly to the more experienced members of the sustainability crowd. Her Sust Enable experience/experiment of living off the grid, in my mind at least, is largely something that people would look to in order to take the next step in adapting to a more completely sustainable lifestyle. These sorts of folks would be more acclimated to that lifestyle already and so ready to, and likely more successful with, inching closer to being 100% sustainable. (Of course, much of what Caroline shared is also relevant for beginners in green living, just as what I have written is useful for anyone at any stage. But her sort of life off the grid as a complete life experience seems to me more appropriate for the seasoned sustainabillies.)

What these things show me is that it is truly wonderful to have so many people at so many points on the Path of/to Green. I envision it as a long chain of individuals holding hands and encircling the Earth, chatting and sharing with each other…and almost giving the Earth a “hug” in the process! So wherever you are in the chain of sustainability, you are contributing your efforts and energy to something that has true benefits and definite impacts. And while you can (and definitely should) keep on walking along the path, you should also take joy in being where you are–and be sure to ENJOY all the things in nature that are around you!

These thoughts lead me back to the concept of Green with Heart that I have been advocating at various points…and practicing in all of my posts (I HOPE!). I think a Green with Heart ultimately is and will continue to be the most successful, most effective, most dynamic method of sustainability that we humans can employ.

At its heart, a Green with Heart is about recognizing your place as a link in the chain of Life on planet Earth…and even in the entire cosmic chain, now and into the future. A Green with Heart means being mindful, kind, compassionate, honest, grateful, respectful, and filled with praise as an Earthling.

That chain is also a living body, and so every link is like a living cell that is dependent upon and interconnected with all the others. If you are sick, then others will get sick; if you are well, then others will be well. If you release noxious chemicals, then the other cells will absorb them and suffer; if you release disease-fighting agents and nutrients, then the entire body will be healed and strengthened.

And if EVERY CELL, if EVERY LINK, works to promote the strength and welfare of the entirety…then just think of how durable, how sustainable, it will become.

So yes, I have a dream of a Green with Heart. I have a dream of a long living chain of healthy living beings, standing firmly on the soil of this Earth, gazing with wonder at everything around them, and chatting and singing in joyous praise of the sacredness of life. Now you may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one….

All we do, if done with Heart, can help to keep ourselves, others, and the Earth as Green as can be.

  1. Alison Wiley

    I try to marry my heart with my head as I work and write for sustainability. Lots of people respond better to practical approaches and problem-solving than the heart-felt, web-of-life approach (though I too am full of heart). I agree that we need to appeal to both ‘beginners’ and the people who are farther along the path.
    Alison in Portland, Oregon

  2. Justin Van Kleeck

    Thank you, Alison. And yes, I agree with everything you said…in particular using both head AND heart when speaking to others about sustainability. Sometimes, though, it seems the head gets more air time than the heart…especially at a larger, social and institutional level.

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