|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.
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 perseveredand
wonand launched a chapter in history that altered the world
The challenge of altering the course of global environmental degradation
seems similarly insurmountable, and yet three renowned speakersBill
Browning, Bob Massie and Winona LaDuketalked 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 wasnt 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. Massies
candid comments hit home:
The bigger the problem, the smaller you feel, the more the
temptation of despair. Its actually okay to feel that as an
individual for awhile because were human, but I think it is
a real sin for a community to despair. Were 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, thats okay. I think
hope is a gift. We give it to each other, and thats how were
going to keep this thing going.
It doesnt matter that this warm and fuzzy message may not
strike a chord in the rough and tumble business world (see Paul
Gildings column on page 16 for more on that subject)because
the future of the sustainability movement doesnt rest on logic,
it rests on passiona 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 sustainabilityarguments 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 didnt
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?