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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

“If not you, then who? If not now, then when?”

Guest Post by Polly Chandler

Hillel, a Jewish scholar scribed this great question.   I believe this questions pulls at the edges and core of sustainability.  It also pulls at my own sustainability champion self-identity.  As a person that has chosen a career of service, I am often pushing myself to fearlessly enter into the most challenging areas of an organization.  I am not afraid of asking the hard questions if it will push justice, change or equity for people in my community and workplace.  At the individual level, this question gets at the root of my calling. I can, with some reflection, answer at a very personal level why I step in and why I feel urgency on different topics, particularly advocating for the environment. This is not about my career, this is about my calling.
Do businesses and organizations have a calling?  We talk about their mission but I”m not sure that really gets at the essence of this issue.
I have recently attended a few conferences where there were great profiles on large corporations stepping up.  The stories of UPS, Proctor and Gamble, Waste Management, Xerox and others can be quite inspiring.  They’ve asked the tough questions, or the “heretical questions” as Andrew Winston of EcoStrategies calls them.  He speaks of Waste Management, a waste hauler, and the shift towards helping people reduce their waste stream instead of hauling it.  As he says….Can you imagine the discussion where someone asked: ”what if our business model was to help people reduce their waste instead of hauling their waste?”    These types of heretical questions are the ones that get that core of  “if not you then who?”.   He also gives the example of a floor cleaning company that asked the question…..”what if we offered a floor cleaning device that used no soaps or chemicals?”  Tennant has done just that; they have designed an industrial floor cleaner that relies on water and UV lights.     These two companies answered the question…If not you, then who?
“If not now, then when?”   The urgency of social and environmental challenges makes the timing of responding to the needs of individuals, communities, and regions even more imperative.   Proctor and Gamble has done ecological footprints on their products and found their greatest footprints is in the homes of their consumers,  in particular hot water for shampoos and detergents.   They see the need for reducing energy consumption and the shift towards more sustainable water use.  They are launching a campaign to get people to take shorter showers.   Who would have thought that Breck shampoo’s message would be take shorter showers!   P&G saw an urgent need and stepped up; ultimately this campaign may result in people using less shampoo.
The cynical side of me is climbing out of my chair about now.  These are massive corporations that are making giant shifts but their footprints are still enormous and they are dependent on consumer patterns.  They are dependent on an economy of growth. But that’s another blog.
When I deepen my pondering of the question, (“If not you then who?  If not now, then when?”) I am struck by the importance of the actions, behaviors, choices, and decisions of the individual.  Someone at P&G and Waste Management had to ask the question.  He or she had to step up and ask the hard question.  If we are to shift the way we communicate about sustainability, it’s critical that we create workplaces and communities where the tough questions are asked and addressed.  We need to look those tough heretical questions square in the eye. We need to create spaces where they are encouraged as part of the culture of communities and organizations.
So, I wonder if there is something else to add to these questions.  “If not you, then who?  If not now, then when?”   How about: ”if not fearless, then what?”   How do we make this statement a mantra for sustainability champions? What should we add so that more people feel free to ask these questions and to boldly champion a change forward?

About Polly Chandler

I am the Chairperson of the Department of Management and the Program Director of the MBA in Sustainability. Our goal is to help our students develop managerial and leadership skills to build sustainable organizations and communities. Ultimately, we hope our students will champion the changes needed leave the next generation with a healthier planet, a stronger global economy, and a more just society. Antioch University Website   Linkedin 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Dividing Ourselves by Judgment

by Tom Pappas

Gary told our coffee group about the reunion of Faye’s family where over 120 of nearly 180 potential members came from as far as the two coasts to Texas.  He smiled as  he recounted a few anecdotes and indicated it was a pleasant good time. Still smiling and possibly exaggerating he said that his family would likely amass 8-10 – mostly people who do not get along.

I grieve over the Zimmerman verdict. Right? Wrong? I don’t know. My observation is that it makes America more like Gary’s family than Faye’s. ( And likely “guilty” would have done the same.) I grieve that “good people” are unwilling to expend the energy and hard work to keep our country and churches from dividing themselves. It’s unlikely that we as a country were ever a big happy family, but I feel like in my lifetime we have put on the back burner the impulse to honor and respect “good people” who see it differently. It would be an improvement if the first sentence out of our mouth was, “Oh, that’s another way to look at it.” Too often, it’s, “Fool.” “Idiot.” “Far-left liberal.” “Right-wing bigot.”

A foundational tenet I learned early as a Christian is, “Always believe the best about others.” Sounds easy, but not so much when “judgment DNA” is dominant.  Paul tells us in I Corinthians 5 .   .   .   we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. (The Message)

Many years ago I was a member of the church where I learned about believing the best about others. I felt called then, as I am called now to redouble my efforts to resist the instinct for judgment and division.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Prayer for a Week of Changed Plans

by Angier Brock

This week, the second week of July, had shimmered before me, filled to the brim with an amazing promise: six days of free time. Sandwiched between two happy but busy summer weeks of houseguests and celebrations (Fourth of July, birthdays), it was a week I had deliberately kept clear of commitments in order to have blocks of uninterrupted writing time. Yes, this blog was due, and yes, a friend was coming for lunch on Monday. But otherwise, nothing. No meetings. No volunteer work. No bell choir rehearsals. No appointments, not even so much as a haircut. Even in retirement, a week that is essentially devoid of interruptions is as rare as it is desirable.

But plans change. Last weekend, my just-turned-eight-year old granddaughter broke her foot and therefore cannot attend the camp her working parents had counted on to keep her occupied this week. Her mother called Sunday night with the news, and the question: Can you help? (Gulp.) Of course.

And so yesterday morning, while she and her mother made the 75-minute drive from her home to mine, I began taking stock of the art supplies and books on hand as well as checking nearby libraries, museums, and theaters for activities that do not involve running, jumping, or swimming. Instead of working on this blog, I worked on filling my formerly clear calendar with possibilities. Monroe the Magnificent Magician will be at our library branch today. A Thursday afternoon children’s program about digging in the dirt and growing things sounds promising. Monsters University is playing nearby in 3D. I have ruled out The Lone Ranger (too high a body count, too much blood and gore according to on-line parental guidance reviews), but I just may take her one evening to see a live performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III (also violent, but in a less graphic and more literary sort of way).  

Plans change. Sometimes they shift in inconsequential ways, sometimes in significant ones. Sometimes we welcome those changes; sometimes they lead to disappointment. I would be untruthful to say that I was thrilled to sacrifice the highly anticipated spacious and uninterrupted time of this week to run Camp Gran. But after dinner last night, as my granddaughter and I sat on the back porch and sang some of the rounds I learned at Girl Scout camp in Bon Air, Virginia, when I was close to her age, something happened.  

Here I should say that for me, the singing of rounds (even the silly ones) is a precious thing. I have long believed that kind of singing, seated on logs in a circle around a campfire in the dark woods of Camp Pocahontas, shaped my deepest spirituality. Our backs to the dark trees, our faces lit by firelight, the sparks wafting up into the mysterious night sky, our voices rising and falling, the harmonies diverging and converging but ultimately blending as we entered the song in different places and sang the different parts—those are the ingredients of my earliest felt holy times, times set apart.

Last night, Lucy and I began with “White Coral Bells,” which I had taught her another summer when she was here with her sisters. From there, we moved to the orchestra round and then to “Seek Ye First.” It wasn’t quite dark, and we didn’t have a campfire, but the memories of singing at camp rose up in me the way the sparks from the fire used to do. And something other than my plans for the week began to change: It was not space on my calendar but space in my heart that began opening.

I have been called to do work that is different from the work that I had expected—and wanted—to do this week. It is nevertheless important work, good work. My prayer is that I rise to the occasion. Whatever else we do this week, perhaps one night we will build a little campfire, and I teach her another of my favorites, “Rise Up, O Flame.” Perhaps she, too, will one day look back and remember this week as a kind of as holy time.

PS: You can hear the group Libana singing an exquisite version of “Rise Up, O Flame,”:     


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

You May Be Called When

by Doug Wysockey-Johnson

Anger is a signal and one worth listening to.

                                                            Harriot Lerner, Dance of Anger

“You May be Called When…..” is an occasional series from Lumunos exploring the variety of ways we hear God’s call in our lives.  From the quote above, you have already figured out that today’s topic is anger. 

Anger can get us in all kinds of trouble, no doubt about it.  I have experienced the down side in relatively small ways (destroying the project I was trying to fix in a fit of frustration) and large ways (saying something in anger to someone I cared about).  To state the obvious, anger is not fun.  But anger can be a positive thing as well.  When anger helps us to hear our call, it is worth listening to. 

Just one example:  Have you ever had the experience of seeing someone do his or her work poorly, and felt anger rise up in you?  I have heard this kind of frustration when:
  • Efficiency experts witness inefficiencies….
  • Teachers see other teachers use their knowledge to bully others….
  • Leaders experience other leaders using their power inappropriately…..
  • Accountants witness other accountants doing sloppy work….
  • Religious leaders see other religious leaders turn devotion into fear and hatred….

When we experience these things, we may want to (in the immortal words of Anne Lamott) “drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” 

But there is an upside.  Anger can remind us what we care about. We know the potential of our profession to do good in the world because we have seen it.  We are invested.  We care.  Our frustration is because this good work is not being stewarded. “This could be done better.  This should be done better,” we fume.  We don’t have this same level of intensity when looking at other professions.  Our anger tells us that this work really matters to us.

Anger doesn’t always mean we are called to this work.  There can be many other factors at play.  But it may be a signal, and it is definitely worth listening to. 

Reflection Questions:  Have you felt angry at the way someone was or wasn’t doing their work?  What does that anger mean?