The Moral Obligation of Our New Consciousness
Emanuel Kuntzelman is founder and president of Greenheart International, a global nonprofit that connects people and planet to create a more peaceful and sustainable global community via programs fostering cultural exchange, eco-fair trade, volunteerism, personal development and environmentalism.
What is the present state of environmental awareness?
It has become clear that the general public is beginning to truly empathize with today’s environmental crisis. Many of us, including myself, have successfully grown as individuals: We continually cultivate awareness, we endeavor to maintain balance in our lives, and we consciously choose what practices we will support by making noble decisions about the products we consume. But in the grand scheme of things, what good are awareness and personal practice if we don’t put them into action on a broader scale to create positive social change?
It is important to emphasize that I’m not in any way asking anyone to stop their own personal work when I say we must focus on the good of the whole. As in all transformational modes, we don’t exclude the previous phase, we include and transcend. We can be empathetic of the aforementioned causes, but in our new consciousness, we can do better than just that. In today’s world, where knowledge and resources are but a click away, empathy alone is almost a cop-out for choosing not to actively try to change a situation.
What is the alternative?
In our new consciousness, I believe we have a moral obligation to do our part and transform society. This obligation raises our notion of morality to a new, higher, transformed level of awareness: from the old paradigm of simply being good (i.e. don’t harm others), to the new paradigm of being good for something. In other words, we must put our empathy into action and share it with others.
One issue that we can all relate to, by default of our cohabitation on this planet, is environmental sustainability. In this era of new beginnings and moral obligation, it might help to view our relationship with the Earth as a spiritual source, rather than viewing it simply as a material resource. James Lovelock postulated the original Gaia hypothesis, which showed how many of the Earth’s physical characteristics can adjust themselves to changing conditions, much like our body will respond to severe alterations in the environment.
In this sense, the Earth itself can be seen as a living organism. It is like our own bodies, which need to have all the organs and vital systems healthy in order to survive. Unfortunately, we are weakening the systems that depend on a delicate balance within nature. These systems, if disrupted, have the potential to collapse entire ecosystems.
Where do we start?
As individuals, we understand the important balance of holistic health within our own bodies. Just as we should care about ourselves, we must treat the Earth with this same compassion. After all, the Earth is quite literally our mother, in the sense that it provided the evolutionary crucible out of which Homo sapiens arose. And just as we show love and respect for our biological mothers, we should do the same with the Earth, as she is the mother of all humanity, and all beings, in the historical perspective of evolution.
How can we restore balance to the environment and address these global issues?
These questions can at times feel overwhelming, even to the most socially active of individuals. This is why our previous paradigm of self-growth is so important to include and transcend in these times. Instead of trying to answer these all-encompassing questions in one swift move, we can use the awareness that we have so carefully cultivated to create positive social change.
Ask yourself, what are my passions; what do I feel strongly about? When you can answer these questions, it is time to go out and take action in the world. Whether you choose to help solve the environmental ills I have mentioned or push for social change in a number of other ways, we must commit to being proactive. Society will only evolve if we can share and convey our transformed experience to others. We already have the knowledge and tools to work toward solving today’s global crises. What we need now is the will.
Discover your passions, learn about new leadership models and be empowered to carry these practices out into the world at Leadership Transformed 2014: The Practice of Social Action. Join Greenheart Transforms and ITP International from May 30 to June 2, in Chicago. For more information, visit GreenheartTransforms.org.