Tag Archives: soul of sustainability

You are because I am, by Isabel Rimanoczy

We love rituals. We think that rituals mark the rhythm of life, create spaces for breathing and pausing, like the rhythm given to a melody. Four years ago we at Minervas.org invented a ritual, which is to go to downtown Fort Lauderdale in February, and connect with the many people lingering in the square, most of them homeless. Why February? Because reflecting on the many messages related to Valentine’s Day, we couldn’t help but thinking of where is love for those that are the ‘unseen’? So off we go, with one purpose: to connect.

We see connection as a sacred moment. With words, through the eyes, in silence or in a smile, the moment of connecting is expressing: I see you, you see me, I am because you are.

It Could Have Been Me

This year, it was even more special. A block away from the square there was a large gathering of families, parents, teachers, and students expressing their feelings for the recent school shooting. Sadness, pain, anger, and rage claiming attention from the political representatives to protect the schools, the children, the population. We want better gun laws, gun restrictions, and safer schools. We the people, was the message in the image of hundreds of mothers, fathers and children holding up homemade signs with their simple and powerful words. It could have been me.

I am because you are. You are because I am.

Saved from Clothfabric.com

If that is so, then there are no strangers here. What is our personal responsibility, our contribution to the situations we face? If we are all connected, like spots on a large fabric, how may we –unintentionally- be part of the problem? One answer may be in how we participate in democratic processes, in the civic life. Are we paying attention, speaking up, expressing our outrage or our values, or are we silent bystanders? Or living room complainers?

Who are we electing, and how are we helping to keep the elected officials honest, accountable? It is clear that the proliferation of guns is part of the problem. Guns call to be used. But there is more than guns.

In a recent school board session one person shared about an organization that trains teachers and school staff to notice behaviors in children, starting with first graders. Trained to pay attention to absenteeism, to introverted attitudes and to angry behaviors, teachers learn to identify children who may be going through difficult situations. They then engage psychologists, social workers, and they establish spaces of dialogue with the children. Teenagers don’t become violent one morning: they carry a long history of emotional pain, to which others have been deaf and blind.

There is much that we can do.

Starting with noticing to what we are protectively deaf and blind. If we were a small community, of, say, a dozen of homes – would we be equally deaf to the pain of a neighbor?  Would we walk by oblivious of the difficult circumstances someone is going through? Urban living has a way to promote anonymity, isolation, with individuals ‘mending’ their own business. How does that contribute to the unseen sadness, the lack of love, the cultivation of pain that has to grow louder, until it catches the attention of the whole block, the school, the media? How large must be the pain, that paying with the own life or freedom becomes an acceptable price?

Each gunshot is a cry, a tear exploding in desperation. It creates pain and more tears, in an unending cycle of grief.

I am because you are.

When we start developing empathy and compassion not only for the grieving families, but for the lost lives on both sides, we may be closer to seeing and listening with the heart. That is when we really stop being part of the problem, and begin to be part of the solution.

Sustainability Advocate, EarthSayers.tv, Voices of Sustainability, February 28, 2018, Portland, Oregon.


About the Author

Isabel Rimanoczy, Ed.D. has made it her life purpose to develop change accelerators. She developed the concept of the Sustainability Mindset by studying what inspired leaders to act in a business-as-unusual way.  She created the UN PRME Working Group on Sustainability Mindset, a network of professors on five continents, is the Global Academic Ambassador of AIM2Flourish, the author of several books, among others BIG BANG BEING: Developing the Sustainability Mindset, and STOP TEACHING, and has published more than140 articles and book chapters.

Dr. Rimanoczy is a Fellow of the Schumacher Institute, UK, a  Strategic Sustainability Adviser for One Planet Education Networks (OPEN) Senior Partner with  Leadership in Motion and co-founder of the charitable organization Minervas: Women Changing the World. Isabel earned her doctorate at Columbia University, has her MBA from Universidad de Palermo and is a Licensed Psychologist from the Universidad de Buenos Aires. She can be reached at isabelrimanoczy@gmail.comwww.isabelrimanoczy.net


The Soul of Sustainability and the Opioid Epidemic

I haven’t posted anything to this blog for sometime.

My commitment has not waned to increasing sustainability awareness and advancing the voices of those acting on behalf of Mother Earth and her children.  We continue to add these voices to
EarthSayers.tv and are seeking partners to expand the availability of our content on websites that share our commitment. 

Rather, my sustainability work turned out to not only include ten years of curating the voices of sustainability from across the globe, but five years of living in a caring community, learning,  getting involved in addressing the issue of safety for all of us, and reframing the neighborhood from an “entertainment” district to caring community.  A second project is intended to change a negative image of our residents to one that is diverse and caring. It got me out of the office and into the streets taking photos of and meeting my neighbors and their dogs. They are published here. It’s also about getting support for an urban dog ballpark in our neighborhood.

Early in 2017 I came to the realization that the soul of sustainability lies within our interdependence or oneness or kinship. It was a
lesson I was learning locally within my community where I identify as a sustainability advocate.  I live in Portland’s Caring Community, Old Town Chinatown, where a majority, 57% of the housing is dedicated to the homeless in the form of supportive care housing and shelter beds.  Adopted in the 1970’s the housing landscape reflects a model of care that works and is overworked as homelessness increases. 
This is also a place with a high crime rate for narcotic/drug offenses and assaults in a time when our police force is understaffed and those trained to “coordinate the response of Law Enforcement and to aid people in behavioral crisis resulting from known or suspected mental illness and or drug and alcohol addiction” are too few. In Portland this is the mission of the Behavioral Health Unit within the Police Bureau.  A model of policing that works for the situation we find ourselves in – the solution is recovery not jail.  They too are overworked. 

“The biggest deficit that we have in our society and in the world right now              is an empathy deficit. We are in great need of people being able to stand in somebody else’s shoes and see the world through their eyes.” – Barack Obama

Under the banner of sustainability advocate I began to integrate the personal with the professional and in the process discovered that interdependence is the foundation, the principle for acting on behalf of future generations and getting to the heart of
things be they local or global.   I came to think of it as the soul of sustainability.  It also places empathy at the center of all action-taking as we express compassion through our work.

“This problem of addiction is not only a health crisis but a spiritual crisis.

The situation worsens when society sees addiction as a shameful condition — those in need don’t reach out to others for help; the community doesn’t provide treatment services.”  – Paul Steinbroner

Health and Spiritual Crisis
And then came this opioid epidemic. My filmmaker friend, Paul Steinbroner, needed some marketing help in getting his latest film project, Called From Darkness, into distribution.  Paul heads up a publishing and distribution company specializing in multi-media projects related to addiction, neuropharmacology, and brain chemistry. 

“The torrent of people who have died in the opioid crisis has transfixed and horrified the nation, with overdose now the leading cause of death for Americans under 50.

The Epidemic
There is a great need for increasing awareness about the epidemic and educating people who may see themselves as disconnected, but know by feel that the situation calls for all hands on deck. Nearly all of us are connected to someone – family member, friend, colleague – who is directly affected by addiction and often homeless on the street.  One doesn’t have to live in a neighborhood that cares for the sheltered and unsheltered to know that a majority of our homeless have a mental illness and/or drug addiction.
In Portland, of the 4,177 homeless people counted, 2,527 (60.5%) reported living with
one or more disability, including a mental disability, chronic physical condition, and/or a substance-use disorder. The number of people with disabling conditions increased by
16.1 percent between the 2015 and the 2017 Point-In-time counts.
Addiction as a healthcare issue is in the realm of social sustainability. It’s of sizable proportions: an epidemic, possibly resulting in hundred of thousands of deaths with economic repercussions that could bankrupt our communities; making the poorest of neighborhoods unlivable; and turning family life into a nightmare.  The New York Times article1 Son, 4 Overdoses, 6 Hours, makes this point:Drug deaths draw the most notice, but more addicted people live than die. For them and their families, life can be a relentless cycle of worry, hope and chaos.”  

Start Here
I have observed that to start from the point of “not me, but them” or to draw a line between the personal and the professional, leaving “solutions”  to those in the healthcare sector doesn’t lead to furthering sustainability principles.  I find framing the challenge from the principle of inter-connection and thinking of it as going to the soul of sustainability works. It works for not only knowing what to do next, but having the confidence to move forward despite inexperience or feelings of being overwhelmed or to hear yourself think,  it’s not my problem.

To start, here is a trailer of Called From Darkness by Paul Steinbronner as part of the Called from Darkness film project entitled A Home Boy’s Joy Ride.  It features the voice of artist Fabian Debora and the work of Fr. Greg Boyle the founder of Home Boy Industries and author of Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion.

Future blogposts will continue to explore the Soul of Sustainability and the associated topics of the opioid epidemic, homelessness, and livability in our communities including housing and public safety.