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Living a new story for a sustainable future

It’s time to move beyond an economic system that views the Earth and its resources as a wholly owned subsidiary of our economy.

By Aug. 2 this year we’d already spent this year’s “budget” of the Earth’s renewable resources.

Are you feeling an underlying sense of anxiety in our nation today? Even if your life seems to be going well right now, many of us can sense the angst that pervades our society. From scenes of hurricanes, fires, floods and droughts to white supremacists marching in Charlottesville or another senseless mass murder in Las Vegas, we’ve had a lot to feel uneasy about lately.

Ann Manning

Many of us know in our bones that we are living on the edge economically, environmentally and socially. The U.S. stock market is at an all-time high, yet most people are not benefiting from what is reportedly a “strong economy.” Meanwhile, we are drawing upon the source of our wealth, Mother Earth, at unsustainable levels to hold up that market.

Mother Earth is pushing back hard.

What can we do?

Sharon Day

We need a new story, a new way of thinking about how to live together in harmony with Mother Earth. That means understanding that we are living beyond our means from a sustainable-Earth perspective. By Aug. 2 this year we’d already spent this year’s “budget” of the Earth’s renewable resources. And we’ve been doing that for decades; in fact, every year the date moves up. We couldn’t do that in our personal households, and we certainly can’t sustain it as a species.

Healthy economy depends on a healthy Earth

It’s time to move beyond an economic system that views the Earth and its resources as a wholly owned subsidiary of our economy. The reality – if you think about it for even a minute – is the exact opposite. A healthy economy depends completely on a healthy Earth, and we are quickly reaching the limits of that.

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One way to change the story is to change what we measure. We measure things based on how industry is doing, for example, the GDP. If we shifted to measuring our common wealth and public health based on how we the people are doing, how healthy the Earth is, we would shift laws, policies and norms quickly – and we’d all benefit. The Earth, humans, oceans, whales, forests, bees and butterflies would start living in harmony with life again. Future generations would call us “Beloved Ancestors.”

What do you think they will call us if we keep living the way we are today?

What can you do in daily life?

What can you do in your daily life to begin living, creating the new story?

  • Become part of the political community. Attend mayoral and governor’s forums. Ask: What is your theory of government? Tell them you want them to rethink the role of government. That it should be to protect the common wealth and public health of all Minnesotans, all Americans, not the corporations and the wealthy. The Women’s Congress for Future Generations has a Companion for Political Change that you can use with your neighbors as a study guide.
  • Every day, give thanks to the water; make a list of three things you will do to clean up our waterways. Acknowledging what is sacred in our lives has great power.
  • Do your homework. Find out what environmental justice is all about. Work with others to actively promote racial and gender justice. March, sing, do good! Attend the Women’s Congress on Nov. 3-5 to learn more about environmental justice and how you can make a difference.
  • Grow some of your own produce next spring. Even those in apartments and condos can often grow a little food on a balcony or patio. Some say putting your hands in the soil transforms the DNA. It will provide a connection between you, the earth and plant life.
  • Get to know your neighbors. Share lawn mowers and other household goods that sit idle most of the time. Be part of creating a supportive, beloved community.
  • Get to know someone who is different from you racially and ethnically. You will broaden your horizons and you will likely create lasting friendships that enrich your life enormously.
  • Dream big and then act on it. Link arms with others. This is not a time to be alone. Try something new!

Last but not least: Do not add to the divide in this country. YES, stand for your principles and your ideals. And at the same time, live by this motto: Be Kind. Be Kind. Be Kind. 

Ann Manning is the director of the Women’s Congress for Future Generations and associate director of the Science & Environmental Health Network. The 3rd Women’s Congress for Future Generations will be held Nov. 3-5 in Brooklyn Center. 

Sharon Day is an Ojibwe elder, executive director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, and founder of Nibi Walk.


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