Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Is Spiritual Connection Necessary to Save the Planet?

From CC nasrulekrom
One of the great mysteries I continue to wrestle with is the contribution of individual spirituality and spiritual institutions to creating an environmentally sustainable and just world economy.

Pretty minor topic, right?

This has come up for me at a very personal level as I seek out my own spiritual connections.  I define spirituality/religion as - wherever there are deeply felt connections between people that share a concept and/or belief.  This desire sneaked up on me over the past few years as I sensed I had  become distant, disconnected, and pessimistic about the state of the world and my ability to contribute in a positive way.  I painted the whole of "developed world" humanity (myself included) as base organisms seeking enrichment through material wealth with nary a care about the social and environmental injustices these actions inflicted upon the rest of the world.  Let's just say that this world view was not working.

With that as background, I'd steeled myself to emotional and empathetic connections, yet found myself moved to tears in situations involving spiritual gatherings (as I defined them) and wondering what I was missing in my intellectual Cave of Agnosticism. The last time I felt connected to something was when I attended BGI a few years ago, only now do I appreciate what that connection meant to me.

Considering that many definitions of sustainability involve the concept of systems thinking and earthly interconnections - I wondered "how does my individual spirituality connect with sustainability"?  Or, more directly, how can it NOT?

I started reading on the topic again looking for answers (that's dangerous!) to my questions. I picked up "Spirituality and Sustainability" by John Carroll a few months ago.  I immediately connected with the writers ideas - what we pursue as "environmental sustainability" is woefully inadequate - more of a quarter-measure to make us feel better about maintaining a growth-centered economic model that tolerates social injustice even though we know something is wrong but we can't collectively deal with the massive shift needed in our thinking. The author posits that there is something missing in our conversations about what a sustainable business needs to be, and the something is spirituality.

Imagine the Pope coming out and saying that members of his Faith are damaging the Lord's Creation with their actions and that they are bound to take action to make amends.  What would happen? Anything?  Would individuals of this faith take action?

The next question becomes - if we experience a desire to build a sustainable and just world through our individual spiritual pursuits, why is it that these desires are "checked at the door" of most businesses (that are comprised of individuals)?  Is the business world operating in a sphere that we have collectively agreed is in its own space devoid of our shared morality and values with the overarching goal of increasing monetary wealth?  If so, how might it be shifted to encompass the values we profess in our personal spirituality reflected at a societal level?

Do B Corporations, hybrid non-profits, L3Cs, and social enterprises hold the key?  Do they go far enough?

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