I grew up in a subculture where being a steward of the land was embedded, and that meant being aware of how you treated animals, how you feed/cultivated the soil, how you cared for water, and how you conserved things so you always had it. I realize “being a steward to the earth” is a term used in the Bible, so it has always floored me since I live in a largely Christian nation, why this concept translated into, “the earth provides solely for humans, we are stewarding it for our purposes alone”. This is what the actions are saying with the chemicalization and degradation and social inequality we have going on. Is this because when God resides off the earth in the heavens and the religious goal is to get there? That somehow it means that we don’t need to take care of the earth we live on now? I recognize that not all people that believe this religious model are bad stewards. I’m saying that there seems to be a connection philosophically, perhaps unconsciously, and I have heard people say, “Why should I care, I’m only passing through.” “Why should I steward this place, God isn’t here and I won’t be either!”
Who teaches us about stewardship? What does it mean anymore? I mention the religious stuff because, like it or not these ideas permeate our culture and affect decisions, unconsciously at the very least.
Changing minds / behavior change is rough work especially in sustainability, attachment theory, addiction, it’s psychological, it’s the work of time, pressure, inspiration, and stumbling or hitting bottom and having no other choice. It’s important to look at underlining assumptions, bias, and deeply rooted habits that many people, organizations, cultures have and have been taught to have. In my opinion, it is largely about a feeling of safety in an identity, belonging to a group that does these things a certain way and if you do them in that way too, you belong. “Groupism” is incredibly dangerous, especially if the whole human species group doesn’t see its connection to the rest of the aliveness on this planet. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but what I notice is that people identify with the group, role, or power they are allotted and have a difficult time cracking out of that to think differently, to see a problem or themselves differently, or do something new. To open would be a blow to self concept or identity.
This is why I love the creative design process, especially with visuals that speak to the unconscious, because it uses various techniques such as facilitation and mediation skills to get to the hidden unity found in people’s values. Working at the unconscious, emotional, and intellectual level using a process that gets egos out of the way moves us closer to working together so we can problem solve using the collective intelligence that will meld together even with multifaceted philosophical adherences.
The beauty and the curse of visioning a new future together are that we bring our imagination (hopefully still intact) and baggage to the table. It’s a true skill to allow a process that opens one up but checks the other at the door. Acknowledging, being heard, having empathy for ourselves and others, and being vulnerable enough to know when it’s our ego/identity we are protecting or when it’s a sharing of our past experience that raises concerns. Self-awareness and reflective facilitation during problem-solving help immensely to deter from common barriers and open deeper into innovation and creativity that is beyond perceived limitations.
Remember when you are an expert, you are an expert of the past. No one can be an expert of the present moment or the future. That’s a powerful thought for equality, inclusivism, and creativity. Knowing where we came from or what cultural fish bowl we are in is deeply important to know why we are where we are. Designing your life/work/projects to be what you want them to be is wide open if you can step into an identity-less version of yourself / culture, out of ingrained beliefs and into wonder. It's not easy, but something to strive for and be aware of.