practicing Ecological Civilization in local settings and daily life
There are two ways to help make the world a better place. You can advocate policies and ideas that help effect systemic global change, and you can brighten your small corner of the world, hoping that your corner brightening might have a ripple effect. Both are important and often they come together.
Global System Change
Here are some examples of the global approach: five public policies and international agreements that can help bring about a more just and sustainable world, along with a sixth that is more philosophical and cultural.
Implementing progressive tax policies and wealth redistribution measures to reduce income inequality and promote economic justice.
Enacting comprehensive climate change policies and international agreements aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to renewable energy sources.
Establishing universal healthcare systems to ensure access to affordable and quality healthcare for all individuals, promoting social equity and well-being.
Adopting inclusive education policies that prioritize equal opportunities and accessibility for all students, regardless of their background or abilities, and introduces students from an early age to their place in the larger web of life.
Implementing fair trade agreements that promote ethical business practices, protect workers' rights, and support sustainable development in developing countries.
Embracing an organic worldview, where public policies and international agreements prioritize global citizenship and cooperation, recognizing the interconnectedness of all communities and promoting mutual respect, empathy, and shared responsibility for addressing global challenges.
All of these are important, but they depend on "movers and shakers," many of whom are more limited than we might imagine. This is where the corner-brightening approach has its beauty. It is more accessible, empowering, and enlivening, It is for people who say to themselves: "I can't change the world but I can brighten my small corner."
How to brighten your corner? Below I list thirty-three practices below that exemplify the corner-brightening approach. The practices draw inspiration from the efforts of youth around the world, ranging from China to the United States, Korea to Italy, Germany to Ecuador, and beyond. They represent the heart of the Ecological Civilization movement, demonstrating that meaningful change begins at the local level.
Ecological Civilization is not simply a matter of big ideas coming down to earth; it is also a matter of local practices giving rise to big ideas.
In the list you find an eclectic array of practices that reflect different aspects of Ecological Civilization. From practical actions to spiritual connections, nature appreciation to fostering human bonds, these practices encompass the breadth and depth of what it means to embrace an ecological approach to civilization. Leading a nature-workshop is a practice, but so it getting a good night's sleep!
The purpose of practicing Ecological Civilization at a local level is not only to help bring about such a civilization; it is not simply to change the world. It is also to enjoy and embody a way of living that will sustain and nourish this kind of civilization, if and to whatever degree it becomes a reality. Gandhi is famous for saying that we must become the change we seek in the world. Analogously, we must become the kind of Civilization we hope can emerge. The thirty-three practices are part of what it means to become Ecological Civilization, expressing it in daily life.
The practices are not ranked in terms of importance, as their significance may vary depending on personal perspectives and contexts. You may discover practices that resonate deeply with you, while others don't seem as relevant. Feel free to add your own practices and adapt them to your unique local setting. All are instances of corner-brightening.
Support Local Farmers and Urban Farms
Support local farmers markets.
Shop at "local food" grocery stores.
Eat in "local food" restaurants.
Purchase fresh produce and products directly from farmers.
Honor the soil.
Cultivate your own household Garden:
Get hands-on with household gardening.
Plant and tend to your own garden.
Grow your own food.
Practice sustainable gardening methods.
Enjoy the process of growing things and sharing tips with others.
Discover the joys of cooking,
share recipes, and learn from others:
Actively participate in recipe sharing platforms.
Contribute your favorite recipes.
Learn from others by trying new dishes and sharing experiences.
Eat healthily. Reduce your meat consumption.
Learn a craft.
Make scarves, sweaters, figurines, flower arrangements. jewelry, pottery, furniture, etc.
Support fellow artisans.
Participate in craft fairs.
Reclaim your hands.
Learn a New Language.
Actively participate in language exchange programs.
Practice and share your language and culture with others.
Foster mutual understanding and build friendships.
Discover the richness of "other" ways of communicating.
Support Community Arts:
Participate in community art projects: community theatre, community music-making, community dancing.
Get involved in the creation process.
Collaborate with others to create meaningful artworks that reflect community values.
Support Exchange Programs for Youth:
If you travel, immerse yourself in the host culture.
Befriend travelers from other nations.
Actively engage with local communities in youth exchange programs.
Foster friendships across cultural boundaries.
Join and Participate in Sports for Peacebuilding:
Actively participate in sports events, tournaments, or friendly matches.
Promote teamwork, fair play, and friendship.
Foster cross-cultural understanding and peacebuilding.
Foster story-telling, meaningful conversations, and book studies:
Actively share stories and films from diverse cultures.
Engage in discussions.
Participate in events that facilitate cross-cultural dialogue.
Use and support renewable energy sources:
Embrace renewable energy sources: E.g., Installing solar panels on rooftops, utilizing wind turbines, or harnessing geothermal energy for heating and cooling systems.
Support initiatives that promote the adoption of renewable energy, such as community solar projects or advocating for local policies that incentivize clean energy production.
Learn to play a musical instrument.
Attend live performances.
Purchase music from local artists, promote their work.
Actively participate in community music events.
Contribute to your community by volunteering your time and skills for local organizations and initiatives.
Actively seek out opportunities to make a positive impact.
Engage in environmental projects, social services, education, or other areas aligned with your interests and values.
Take care of Animals:
Support animal shelters.
Volunteer at rescue organizations.
Promote responsible pet ownership.
Improve the well-being of animals in your community.
Stand Against Discrimination:
Take a stand against discrimination based on race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or any other form of prejudice.
Promote inclusivity and equality for all.
Don’t tolerate bullies.
Participate in Local Governance:
Engage with local governance structures.
Attend community meetings.
Actively contribute to decision-making processes affecting your neighborhood and community.
Foster Intergenerational Connections:
Bridge generational gaps.
Actively engage with older adults and youth.
Promote mutual understanding.
Create opportunities for intergenerational learning and collaboration.
Support Public Transportation:
Use public transportation as your primary mode of transportation whenever possible.
Advocate for improved public transportation by joining local advocacy groups and supporting campaigns for expanding and improving public transit.
Provide feedback to transportation authorities to contribute to transportation decision-making.
Support Public Parks:
Volunteer your time to help clean and maintain public parks by participating in organized clean-up events or organizing your own community-led clean-ups.
Attend park events and programs to enjoy and support these community spaces.
Advocate for park funding to ensure adequate financial resources for park maintenance, improvement, and expansion.
Support Public Financing:
Support local bond initiatives that fund public projects such as infrastructure development, schools, parks, and public facilities.
Attend budget hearings and advocate for the allocation of funds towards public services, infrastructure, and social programs.
Support Local Businesses:
Prioritize purchasing goods and services from local businesses to support the local economy and community.
Participate in "Shop Local" campaigns and spread the word about the benefits of supporting local businesses.
Collaborate with local businesses for events, promotions, or joint initiatives, fostering a supportive ecosystem.
Engage in business mentoring to support and guide local entrepreneurs and business owners.
Enjoy Interfaith and inter-spiritual Dialogues:
Engage in conversation with people of other faiths, other spiritualities, other philosophies of life.
Share your perspectives and listen to others in generous ways.
Foster a spirit of openness, respect, and understanding.
Listen to people with respect and care:
Practice active listening and strive to understand others' perspectives.
Treat others with respect and empathy in conversations and discussions.
Value diverse opinions and foster constructive dialogue.
Get involved in early childhood education:
Support and participate in programs and initiatives focused on early childhood education.
Volunteer at local schools or organizations that promote early childhood development.
Advocate for increased access to quality early childhood education resources and services.
Be an involved parent or grandparent.
Adopt a simple lifestyle:
Reflect on your consumption habits and strive for simplicity and mindful consumption.
Prioritize experiences and relationships over material possessions.
Support sustainable and ethical practices by making conscious choices in your purchasing decisions.
Take care of vulnerable people:
Support programs and organizations that provide support and resources to at-risk youth.
Mentor or volunteer to guide and inspire at-risk youth to make positive life choices.
Advocate for policies that address the underlying causes of at-risk situations and provide opportunities for youth empowerment.
Volunteer in nursing homes.
Laugh, including laughing at yourself.
Embrace laughter and find joy in everyday life.
Share lighthearted moments with others.
Use humor as a tool to alleviate stress, build connections, and create a positive atmosphere in your community.
Recover the arts of solitude, meditation, and prayer:
Carve out time for solitude to reflect, recharge, and reconnect with yourself.
Practice meditation or mindfulness to cultivate inner peace and clarity.
Explore and engage in personal prayer or spiritual practices that resonate with you.
Foster a deeper connection with yourself and find balance amidst the busyness of life.
Be curious, take life as an adventure:
Cultivate a sense of curiosity and explore new interests and topics.
Dive into books and literature that expand your knowledge and imagination.
Embrace life as an adventure, seeking new experiences, and embracing challenges with enthusiasm.
Don't leave anybody out:
Strive to create inclusive and welcoming environments for everyone.
Stand up against discrimination and advocate for equal opportunities.
Extend a helping hand to those in need and ensure that no one is left behind.
Spend time outside with plants, animals, birds, and landscapes around you.
Recognize that the more than human world is a teacher, too.
Know that you are a part of, not apart from, the larger ecology of life.
Enjoy but minimize time spent on smart phones and social media.
Don't fall into the trap of thinking you have to receive online validation from others.
Don't fall into the trap of always comparing yourself to others.
Enjoy person-to-person interactions.
Get exercise and sleep.
Taking care of your body is one way to do all the things above.
You can’t help the world unless you feel fresh.
Sometimes the best thing you can do for the world is to good night’s sleep.
Choose Love over Money.
Avoid the trap of thinking life is about appearance, affluence, and marketable achievement.
Practice love and kindness towards others, fostering compassion and empathy.
Cultivate loving relationships with family, friends, and your community.
Spread love through acts of kindness, understanding, and support.
Love yourself, too.
Dylan Romine: A Corner Brightener
This page emerges from my participation in the 5th International Youth Forum on Ecological Civilization, held from May 25-27. You can learn more about the forum by clicking here. I am inspired by the youth I encountered at the forum, including Dylan Romine from Conway, Arkansas, who is pictured in the top left of the zoom photo. She is a corner-brightener.
Dylan serves as a farm manager and workshop leader at Bell Urban Farm and Local Foods Grocery Store. With a Bachelor of Biology from the University of Central Arkansas and a Master of Biology obtained in 2022, she dedicates her efforts to managing the farm at Bell Urban Farm, which is a Certified Naturally Grown flower farm and local foods grocery store. Dylan is passionate about fostering local community, ensuring food security, and educating others about sustainable farming practices and environmental conservation.
I had the opportunity to meet Dylan when I attended a weed workshop she conducted at Bell Urban Farm. I was impressed by her teaching skills and the diverse group of participants, both young and old, who attended the workshop. Dylan has the kind of passion and energy that inspire me. There are many like her. Take heart!
Philosophy from the Ground Up
Many people say that the most important change needed in the world today is philosophical. The need, they say, is for a new way of thinking: an organic way. Those of us in the process tradition speak of four hopes: whole persons, whole communities, a whole planet, and holistic thinking as our guiding ideal. Holistic thinking is another name for organic thinking. It recognizes our place in the larger web of life, the intrinsic value of all life, and the need for humans to live with respect and care for one another and the more than human world. We in the process world believe that the philosophy of AN Whitehead offers a unique, sophisticated, and inclusive form of holistic thinking, building upon insights from science, philosophy, art, and religion. We find it very helpful. But very few people in the world are inspired by big ideas alone. And many do not begin with big ideas, they begin with practice. They begin in the weeds and come to the ideas from the ground up. The big ideas are present in the weeds themselves, if only we have the eyes to see and the desire to garden.