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green@work : Magazine : Between Blue & Yellow : May/June 2003

Between Blue and Yellow
"Magnificent" Prospects

by Katie Sosnowchik

“I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death.”
— Thomas Paine

The idea of successfully overthrowing the English government must have seemed somewhat insurmountable and, therefore, illogical to theoretician Paine and his fellow colonial rebels when they first conceived the actions we now know as the American Revolution. Yet they persevered—and won—and launched a chapter in history that altered the world forever.

The challenge of altering the course of global environmental degradation seems similarly insurmountable, and yet three renowned speakers—Bill Browning, Bob Massie and Winona LaDuke—talked about specific actions that are doing just that at the recent EnvironDesign®7 conference. Their divergent perspectives on activities in indigenous communities, on the international business front and in one of the most populated nations in the world addressed what is happening to improve the state of the world as we know it.

At the end of their discussion, one that was initially meant to engage the intellect, I wondered if there wasn’t another message that this trio wanted to convey; a message meant to impact the heart rather than the mind. It struck me especially when their dialogue turned to the notion of losing hope for the future: too much to do, too little time, too many overwhelming problems. Massie’s candid comments hit home:

“The bigger the problem, the smaller you feel, the more the temptation of despair. It’s actually okay to feel that as an individual for awhile because we’re human, but I think it is a real sin for a community to despair. We’re here to help and reinvigorate each other, re-imagine the future, bear each others’ burdens, and to carry forward. If somebody has to sit down, or if we have to carry somebody for awhile, that’s okay. I think hope is a gift. We give it to each other, and that’s how we’re going to keep this thing going.”

It doesn’t matter that this warm and fuzzy message may not strike a chord in the rough and tumble business world (see Paul Gilding’s column on page 16 for more on that subject)—because the future of the sustainability movement doesn’t rest on logic, it rests on passion—a passion for doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons. Great minds are working diligently to make a business case for sustainability—arguments we need and happily use to convince those who need convincing. But never forget that those great minds are fueled by the resolve of their principles or, as Paine would say, the firmness of their hearts.

I, for one, will take the heart over the head any day when it comes to getting the impossible job done. For only the heart can don the mantle of unbridled and relentless optimism. I remember once riding in a New York City taxicab with green guru Bill McDonough and asking him if, upon looking up at all the hundreds of skyscrapers, he didn’t sometimes give up hope of painting the landscape green.

“I find the opposite,” he said. “There are so many opportunities that the prospect is magnificent.”

Hmmm . . . how in the world would you argue logically against a notion like that?

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