Saturday, June 9, 2012

Long Live Growth

the vigil for the cafe racer shootings
Last week I posted an article "Growth is Dead." The next week two things happened.  Five people were gunned down in my childhood neighborhood.  I have lived here for 44 years of my 48, and this is the first time something like this happened my home town.  That taste of how it feels to live in Beirut, Karachi, Nairobi or even our own Detroit or St. Louis did not sit well with me, or many of my fellow Seattlelites.  I went to the vigil for the shootings, and there saw people who wore faces of grief for the victims and badges of compassion for a city where this kind of thing does not happen again.
map of physical and political water insecurity
The other thing that happened was gentler, but in a way, even more horrid. Ryan, a new volunteer to the project, and I were sitting in a cafe talking about the importance of this project and how to better communicate it. He pointed out the connections to natural resource use and the disparity in our world. "I can take a shower for 20 minutes everyday in pure clean water that I can drink for only about twenty dollars extra a week, while in so many other places in the world you can't even get a shower, or like in some areas in Central America, you have to close your eyes and mouth to protect against parasites.  It's just so unfair."
If happiness or well-being in our world is partly predicated on our capacity for compassion, and the science shows we are all happier when there is less suffering around us, then we must recognize and take action towards alleviating this suffering for our own betterment.  This is a piece of this project, the Happiness Initiative, that I think some of us assume, but is not explicitly expressed. It must be understood that a better future means a better future for all, not just some. And this is the growth part.
The term Sustainable Development use to be used to mean growth in different areas than just the economic environment.  It meant that we would "grow"  our natural systems to a state where they were healthy. Our communities and governments too.  It meant we would focus on developing out own internal lives along the many dimensions of the self, such as those identified by Ken Wilber: intellectual, emotional, ethical, social, aesthetic, affective/relationship and many other aspects of who we are and how we grow.
I think now it is so very important to link this work we are doing in happiness to those earlier notions of sustainable development. This is where social justice and equity are interlinked with environmentalism.  This is where my heart lies in this work, so that when it is breaking because of the shootings that happened here, and are happening in other areas, and when I am enjoying cool clear water without worrying for it while others struggle just to have clean water to drink and will never experience a shower, I know that I am doing something to change this for the better of all of us.
We just finished a project that exemplified how the Happiness Initiative can be used for this purpose. It is also heart breaking, and it gives hope.
Post by Laura Musikanski, ED of HI 

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