As we contemplate the next few years, getting mired in discouragement or despair will not bring about positive change. Getting specific about what we want and taking personal action will.
Where to put our energies? First, recognizing the basics of what is not working, and then taking personal responsibility for our role in the change process is central to a shift. Local-level activism through the choices of each individual holds great promise. New Mexico might be considered the “State Different,” and, with our cultural strengths, we have the potential to lead.
Several underlying faulty principles have led to the destruction of family, community and the health of Mother Earth. One is hierarchical thinking. Capitalism is based on hierarchical concepts, with individuals striving to “get ahead” of others—rather than thinking of the good of the whole. The shift from community to the individual over the past few decades is the root malaise of greed and the grasping at never-ending growth. Inequality in the use of natural resources is another example of hierarchical worldview—considering some more privileged than others.
Shifting to egalitarian and communal principles, still very much alive in Indigenous communities, is the only route to economic justice. We have only to look at the daily implementation of these principles within neighboring cultures to see how this works.
The second underlying faulty basic premise is that growth is positive. This direction has led to the overconsumption of resources, Mother Earth’s gifts, resulting now in the suffering of many, and economic injustice globally. Measuring economic health with growth indicators, such as the stock market, only encourages continued imbalance. Ending the growth-oriented era will depend upon the individual. With a wake-up call on the horizon, we can choose to engage, to exercise personal power and be guides of change.
The Ecopreneur Premise
Ecopreneurs are small business owners and producers of goods who use guiding principles congruent with sustainable practices. The shift to small-scale economy, talked about for decades—particularly since Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher—has yet to be substantially implemented. Answers are not likely to be federal; local-level initiatives tend to be stronger and continued over time. This is where we all can play a role. Have hope. New Mexico is a leader in the preservation and continuation of time-honored, sustainable traditions.
Big business will not expand, even with tax cuts, if the following become daily personal principles:
· Not buying the products of big corporations;
· Not consuming or accumulating more than you really need;
· Voicing what you expect in products to ecopreneurs, for them to understand their market;
· Buying locally raised food to create a stable and safe food supply;
· Making much of our own—a return to a few decades ago, which fosters a low-consumptive lifestyle; and
· Not investing in the stocks of large and/or eco-unfriendly corporations, which supports their growth and power over the political system (Hint: look closely at your retirement plan).
As long as there is demand for the products of large corporations, they will flourish and grow. Our cumulative choices will make the difference. Just don’t buy it.
Values and Economy
Values determining beliefs underlie our culturally based daily practices—the most often neglected sustainability factor. Why? Values are the motivating factors to actions; beliefs guide all actions, including economic and environmental. The following shifts will be essential:
· Creating kinship, fostering family and community rather than individual gain;
· Putting cooperation above competition into our daily actions;
· Fostering equality in worldview, extending to all species;
· Respecting our limited resources in daily decisions;
· Breaking the habit of accumulation;
· Sharing abundance, creating true economic strength through an exchange economy; and
· Focusing on economic justice when making daily choices.
Only with a motivating value shift can a true economy be created. Economies consist of systems for production, distribution and consumption. By looking at an economy this way, we can begin to verbalize what is so very unjust in our political system. And creative solutions then begin to emerge.
Production—Shift to local entrepreneurs and energize equitable choices;
Distribution—Strengthen local networks with ready access to locally made goods;
Consumption—Consume less, of higher quality, locally made.
These three elements of an economic system need to be in place and working in tandem to give local ecopreneurs a viable chance in business.
Looking at the successes of other states in linking resources for entrepreneurs can be of use. For example, Washington state government supports a series of Made in Washington stores, where products of local entrepreneurs are sold and distributed effectively on behalf of the entrepreneurs (www.madeinwashington.com). Local residents proudly support these stores. Another example is the Made in Vermont tradeshow (www.madeinvermontmarketplace.com). Makers are able to sell their products on the tradeshow floor, take orders and have a direct link from the show’s website to business websites for future sales. The publication Ecopreneurist (http://ecopreneurist.com) features free helpful articles ranging from “” to “ .”
Be part of the new economy; create it. Be energized by involvement. Be encouraged and recognize the real wealth inherent in our local cultures. New Mexico has many successes to share.
Now is the time to free ourselves from the growth bubble. Now is the time to look deeply at the power of personal accountability. Now, more than ever, the cumulative actions of individuals will determine direction. Speak, write, act and be specific about the changes you want to see in the world. Ultimately, we have only each other—the basis of community values—and our home, Earth. This is why compassion, for ourselves and Mother Earth, matters.
Susan Guyette, Ph.D., is of Métis heritage (Micmac Indian/Acadian French) and a community planner specializing in tourism, cultural centers, museums and native foods. She is the author of Sustainable Cultural Tourism: Small-Scale Solutions; Planning for Balanced Development; and co-author of Zen Birding: Connect in Nature. firstname.lastname@example.org