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I don’t know how to do this

But I’m going to do it anyway

Photo taken by me on a(n unusually warm) run the other day. This was at the start of the pedestrian path on the Champlain Bridge. It was indeed open, though the path was not clear.

I don’t know how to change the global industrial complex so that it works in service of life. It seems an unfathomably daunting task to tee up for a given Tuesday afternoon.

But I’m going to do it anyway.

Otherwise, any corner I might paint myself into leads to the same place: a stark realization that the current system isn’t serving. The corner where I work my life away at a comfortable job, the corner where I step into some off-grid homespun heaven, the corner where I keep believing the sustainable business initiatives aren’t co-opted by the very things they pretend to change, the corner where I become an artist or housewife or waitress. So I perceive those corners, lean backwards into those walls, and dissolve my way outside of them, into a vast and unwalled world.

I’m going to do it anyway, even though I don’t really know what I mean by leaning through walls.

What I do know — what I believe we know — deep in our bones, our collective memories, our tourist brochures, our church sermons, our orchestral arrangements — we know there are other, better, more life-serving ways of being, beyond those corners.

We know that the business school curricula aren’t going to solve for this, though they might tack on a sustainability course or two. Those courses grossly under-contextualize and over-financialize the path ahead, if the professors and students who’ve been reaching out to me for input are any indication.

Yet students of these programs will largely flow into businesses and be stuck in the paradigm, not empowered, incentivized, or even heard should they choose to resist it or change it.

We know that many ecosystems around the world have been gently and not-so-gently asking us to change our relationships with them, so that they can restore and protect themselves — even so that they can continue to share their diverse offerings with us. And of course there are incredible shifts and efforts underway in this regard (a favourite read on this is Judith Schwartz’s The Reindeer Chronicles). But this is not industry changing its ways. It’s non-industry doing its thing in spite of industrial norms.

Meanwhile industry continues pricing “natural capital”, environmentalists police these efforts, and the industrial beat goes on.

I don’t know how to change this. But I know it needs to change. And I know that it can change — is changing already in ways that can be seen, heard, and maybe even influenced.

So I will keep looking for places to loosen the mortar, remove a few bricks, let the materials be repurposed for other more purposeful things.

I will keep listening for — and sharing evidence of — those new (or old) life-affirming ways becoming attractive to industry. Attractive not as “opportunities” but as relief from the constant nagging tension of a shortening rope that prompts hoarding and little else. Relief into a space where the right moves beget more of the right moves — the opposite of hoarding.

I just noticed that relief is an anagram of “relife”.

Also, it’s Tuesday but in my English dialect this sounds like “chooseday”.

I will keep asking questions of the accepted norms we use to measure and decide what is successful, desirable, and effective. I will share what I find out. I will receive the ideas and inputs handed my way with the best of my discerning abilities.

I will keep doing things that no doubt seem a bit hors piste if not downright weird. Such as guiding a global company run by mostly older white Europeans to listen more to Cows, because it’s what the Water and Plants suggested. Such as hosting virtual Mistressclasses this December (register here and here) exploring how to compare corporate purpose in relation to industrial healing, because I have an unusual mix of business and ecological skills.

I will keep doing these things and more, listening for guidance (got any?) and staying open to camaraderie (want to join me?) as I go.

I don’t know how to do this, but I’m going to do it anyway.

Photo taken by me on that same warm run the other day on the other side of the Champlain Bridge. It was easier to see the path, although it is windy (both in the “blustery” and “twisty” senses of the word).


This piece originally appeared on my Medium page on November 22, 2022. There is also an audio version, here:

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