Saturday, January 21, 2017

Thank you, Women's March and Sister Marches!

First, I wish all success, safety and joy to all those participating in, or supporting, a Women's (or Sister) March. My preferred candidate for the past presidential election was a woman. For her own reasons, she refused to run. I had to respect that. We eventually ended up with a president whose personal behavior and values engendered the need for today's marches. As I've thought about how we ended up in this situation, some of the more recent thinking from the green building and sustainable living leaders has sifted into the mix of my thoughts. In honor of today's marches and marchers, let me try to share some of those thoughts about how we might try to make even our politics more sustainable.

There's a growing recognition in sustainable development and green building that "less bad isn't the same as good." There's a qualitative and quantitative difference. What we need for "good" to occur are  practices that support regenerative and restorative development. That's certainly more than true of our politics also. In fact, for too long and by too much, we Americans have been lowering our standards for politicians. That, to my mind, explains a good part of why there are hundreds of thousands of people participating in Women's Marches today. Maybe, as a society, we're "hitting bottom" and getting ready to change?

Water Is Life, there is no substitute
Water Is Life, there is no substitute
Photo by J. Harrington

For a long while, I considered the possibility that the issues we face have to do with differing priorities rather than different values. No longer do I believe that's the case. For example, our "Common Core State Standards" make reference to students acquiring "knowledge and skills," but not to any values. Our politics and cultural wars are all about values, and whose values and ethics will prevail. Our classrooms have become battlegrounds for our politics. Our children are becoming collateral damage. I believe that's a major back story behind today's marches.

Here's part of a list of values I recently read about in Orion magazine. How many of these are taught in our schools, or, for that matter, in our homes?
  • Humility
  • Spirituality
  • Cooperation
  • Compassion
  • Knowledge of language
  • Sharing
  • Family and kinship
  • Humor
  • Respect for elders and for each other
  • Respect for Nature
These basic values are very similar to those I was raised on. I'm some Americans today might find one or more of them suspect, but let's start with at least one or two that should be above question. Without respect for each other, we have little, if any, basis for peaceful resolution of our differences. Without respect for nature, we'll soon enough learn that "there are no jobs on a dead planet." Women, much more than any man I know, live by most or all of the values listed. I believe it's because listed are values that support Life and women are much closer to the source of life than are most men. I've been in the room for the delivery for two of my children, and I know it wasn't me doing most of the heavy pushing that brought forth new life.

One of my heroes, Aldo Leopold, in his writings about a Land Ethic, talks about life using different words when he tells us that we should:
“Examine each question in terms of what is ethically and esthetically right, as well as what is economically expedient. A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
The Land Ethic, A Sand County Almanac.
Today's Women's March and Sister Marches are, it seems to me, trying to remind the new administration, and the rest of us, to "do the right thing," and support life. Without it, what do we have? I just wish we could get our new president to take part in a Nibi Walk. Perhaps then he could understand the concerns many are expressing today. Carrying water is much like

Making Peace


By Denise Levertov


A voice from the dark called out,
             ‘The poets must give us
imagination of peace, to oust the intense, familiar
imagination of disaster. Peace, not only
the absence of war.’
                                   But peace, like a poem,
is not there ahead of itself,
can’t be imagined before it is made,
can’t be known except
in the words of its making,
grammar of justice,
syntax of mutual aid.
                                       A feeling towards it,
dimly sensing a rhythm, is all we have
until we begin to utter its metaphors,
learning them as we speak.
                                              A line of peace might appear
if we restructured the sentence our lives are making,
revoked its reaffirmation of profit and power,
questioned our needs, allowed
long pauses . . .
                        A cadence of peace might balance its weight
on that different fulcrum; peace, a presence,
an energy field more intense than war,
might pulse then,
stanza by stanza into the world,
each act of living
one of its words, each word
a vibration of light—facets
of the forming crystal.



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