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My recent blog post, Declining $10,000, was my most popular post to-date. It was re-blogged, shared on facebook, forwarded and re-twitter– reaching thousands more people around the world! I have received many (primarily) supportive comments, which has caused me to reflect even more on the experience. I have attempted to organize these thoughts into two primary concepts:
1. Everyone is welcome at the table!
My objective with my last post was to create a “teachable moment” about the environmental, social and health issues related to drinking bottled water. I did not intend to vilify the company that made me the offer and have in fact removed their name from both blog posts on the subject.
This experience helped me to clarify my belief that our problems need to be solved by working together and that the energy used to create “us versus them” scenarios hinders our ability to find long term solutions to the many critical issues facing the world today. I believe that everyone brings something to the table, and that INCLUSIVITY is imperative.
During my TogetherGreen Fellowship retreat, sponsored by the National Audubon Society and Toyota, we spent a whole day talking about diversity and exploring the biases (filters, lenses, perspectives, and histories) that can impact the effectiveness of creating solutions to our numerous worldwide crises. When we think about diversity we often think about gender, race, nationality or religion, but diversity is about inclusion, and inclusion means EVERYONE! But can I work with everyone, NO… that is where the fine art of exploring our individual truth comes in.
Watching coverage of the Earth Summit in Rio this year, I am also really appreciative of the voice of the most radical environmentalists who ceaselessly push the issues representing the voice of the animals, the plants, the children and the earth itself. Yes, every voice is needed at the table!
2. Embracing Complexity
In Santa Fe, where I live, we are having a film-festival of the great Japanese animator Miyazaki, Spirited Away and Ponyo are two of his films you may have seen. I love the duality of his characters, one may at first appear to be “bad” only later to reveal a loving heart with good intentions and actions despite other questionable activities.
It is so easy to categorize a person, entity or situation as good or bad, but life is much more complicated than that. Right and wrong are relative to numerous factors and most decisions in this world are quite complex.
Yes, all of my sponsors could be questioned for various reasons, but the companies I have chosen to work with have tremendous influence and the environmental (and social) initiatives they have started and funded have had far reaching positive effects. Like a Miyazaki character, they are neither 100% malevolent or benevolent.
Also, corporations are made of people, many of whom are working on the inside to do what they can to reduce the carbon footprint of the products/services that their company provides. I don’t want to negate the good work that these folks are doing, I want to recognize it.
I was able to reflect on these issues with some of my colleagues at the TogetherGreen retreat and many of them had faced similar sponsorship quandaries and agreed that these decisions are never easy and are always based on numerous circumstances. This is true for each of us in our daily lives as well because we have to make choices such as what we eat and buy, where we shop and live or how we get around that carry the same complex dilemmas.
I did not feel comfortable endorsing the use of bottled water and turned down the generous offer. I received a lot of praise for that act, however tomorrow I may make a different decision (on another topic) that is right for me, but wrong for you. Heroism can be very short lived!
I have a good friend whose initial response to everything is always: “interesting”. I am learning to use her simple reply, “interesting”, as a way to look more closely at the multi-faceted nature of situations and remain open to options that might have more inclusive, deep and long term outcomes.
Thank you for taking the time to read my philosophical musings on the nature of right and wrong and how this influences our daily decisions. Tell me about similar decisions you have had to grapple with, I would love to hear your experiences too!