In our personal lives, crisis can give rise to the opportunity to expand spiritually in order to make meaning of experiences and garner the strength and wisdom to meet the challenge. In the similar way, the current crisis on the planet of such extra-ordinary proportions as climate change and environment toxicity can lead to disasters of monumental proportion if we don’t go to a higher level of consciousness to solve them. Like Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”
Some indigenous people such as the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy held such a consciousness about the earth in their commitment to consider the impact of any decision on the seventh generation to come. There exists at this time, I believe a huge opportunity for an awakening to this kind of spiritual awareness through the social-environmental crisis we face. The kind of thinking emerging in the business literature around sustainability has started to echo concepts that had here-to-for been heard only in spiritual and philosophic discourse. Creating a sustainable planet, one that considered the good of all including future generations is more than a set of practices. It is a consciousness, and one that is based in its core on spiritual principles. We don’t have to approach the world’s issues from a place of lack, fear, apathy or hopelessness. We can embrace this issue as a supreme opportunity to learn what the earth experience is designed to give us as a school for the evolution of consciousness.
What are some of the spiritual principles that we can learn and use in approaching this global crisis? First, there is the awareness that in dealing with global issues like climate change and renewable and non-renewable resources, world health, etc. we are in this together. As one notable business strategist, Gil Friend put it, “ It is clear that it’s key to all of us which way China goes because China’s decisions effect the air quality in the United States.” 1 This awareness of our inter-relationship has always been a spiritual reality but these kinds of environmental issues are forcing that reality in concrete, measurable ways.
Since we are all one in essence and inter-related in what we do on the planet, it is essential that we take responsibility for our actions and their effects, a second spiritual principle. In traditional economics, whatever the “cost” of resources which are usurped from our earth without thought to giving back, whatever the ill effects on the lives and health of products or manufacturing processes are all considered “externalities.” They are not part of the equation in traditional accounting because they are not considered the “responsibility” of those who initiate them. In a consciousness of sustainability, the total effect of actions are measured—the “triple bottom line” of profit, effects on people and cost to the earth and/or the environment. This becoming less ego-centric in how we are accountable is part of becoming more in touch with the “we” that transcends our smaller ego boundaries and pushes us to identify ourselves more with the ‘oneness” that is our deeper reality.
From this less egocentric perspective, we start to consider not only what will serve us, but also what the “highest good” is of all concerned. Solving the planetary issues we face may involved sacrificing personal gains for the more universal health and prosperity of everyone and everything if we want to “sustain” a planet we can live on at all.
When we see ourselves as part of this bigger whole, we start to see how we can become more conscious co-creators and better stewards of what we have been given as resources and what we create with them, a fourth spiritual principle. Having a 0 negative impact on the environment, manufacturing and taking care of things so that they last –rather than break down so that more can be sold– is good stewardship. On a personal level, overcoming our need for consumption that feeds our addictions rather than our real needs is a part of this consciousness.
One idea for products becoming more sustainable that has been proposed is moving to a more service oriented economy. If a company could provide a service such as “flooring” such as the sustainability oriented company Interface does, and charge for the service of that rather than sell a “product” that will wear out sooner so that more sales will be generated, then both supplier and consumer are more invested in longevity of the product and less resources are wasted. Using this kind of “thinking outside the box” mentality to find innovative ways to do business in sustainable ways assumes that there is a positive solution rather than being stuck in limitation.
Using creativity and inspiration is another way of drawing on spiritual principles to guide us to a sustainable future. When we put the criteria of the heath of the planet and it’s inhabitants into the equation of how we invent things, the creativity that comes forward is tremendous. It is not for lack of creative ways to design things in a sustainable way—it is the willingness to do so. Some recent creative innovations I have seen are materials to substitute plastic from oil, to ones that are biodegradable and bricks that are made without using fossil fuels eliminating potentially millions of tons of carbon emissions. When we set an intention, in this case to be more environmentally aware, my experience is that Spirit brings forth solutions.
Being the peace and abundance we seek in the world, visioning that outcome and seeing the planetary crisis as an experience bringing potential for expanded awareness can help us create a world as we can imagine it.