Monday, November 05, 2007

Our Perceptions Create Reality


The leaves no longer flitter in the trees, they crunch underfoot as a stroll in the early morning chill through Beaver Brook Reservation. I like the autumn, though once we get into mid-late November and the leaves are long gone and the cold rain starts, it is not so much fun. The loss of ground cover also serves to uncover more garbage that passers by have tossed aside for someone else to worry about. This depresses me, and all too easily rekindles the deeply held cynicism that has developed in me over the last 6 years regarding our relationship with the natural world. Talk about making a leap in assumption, a few people decide to throw cans and bottles in the woods and I am writing off the entire population!? That does not make much sense.
I have nearly completed listening to “True to Our Roots”, the story of Fetzer Vineyard’s journey into sustainability starting in the late 80’s early 90’s from Audible.com. There are many points that I can take from Paul Dolan's narrative about this journey, most of which involve my own attitude, perceptions, and mental models of the world I inhabit. Generally, I think people "don’t get it” about climate change, toxic substances in the environment, sustainable business, and social equity. I all too easily write people off as having no clue about our contribution to climate change, no awareness of what we are doing to the planet that our next generations will inherit. Mr. Dolan repeatedly notices his own preconceptions and judgments about the people he works with and interacts with; he is the one creating the negative space about a particular individual that may inhibit the person’s ability to fully contribute to the organization and to the mission. If I somehow feel that I "get it", am I not obligated to structure the message in a way that engages others? Am I not also obligated to offer my beliefs and assumptions to those around me to uncover blind spots? What if some of the things I "get", or I believe in are patently false? Shouldn't I know that?
In my life and my work, I do the same thing to myself; I label myself as my job function; my job is to search out revenue. In the past six years I have looked for sales & marketing jobs; that is what I am. I sometimes find that I think this way about the people i interface with, they're a purchasing agent or a manufacturing technician or a customer service representative. No, they're brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers. Labels become so limiting and restricting.
I know that the products and services I have sold over the years will some day end up in a landfill and the CO2 emitted from my travels are greater than the average. I am more than likely making more of an impact than I profess to want to make. Certainly there is hypocrisy in this life, and it grates on me. Yet, even as my reality is not in alliance with the future I see for myself, I have the power to take action now, in small ways, and make the effort in other areas to move myself and people around me in a sustainable direction. I recognize the gap between reality and the desired state, and have only to manage the creative tension it creates to work to close the gap.
As Peter Senge says near the end of The Fifth Discipline, ”get started.”

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