Monday, April 26, 2010

Celebrating Sustainable Development - Celebrating ourselves

I had the pleasure of attending the Awards Dinner for Corporate Register this past week. I listened to corporate responsibility report-writers talk about what they do, and, in the end, celebrate one another's accomplishments. It reminded me of how rarely we take time to celebrate ourselves and our accomplishments.

Even in my own life, how often do I stop at the end of a project or even just a week and think, wow, that was really well done? I've For one of the organisations I work for, they are growing like crazy, but the leaders rarely feel they can take even a weekend off. They are just too busy. Burn out is high. For another organisation I work for, if the stress level's aren't shooting through the roof, then people are just really worn out; the 'leader' occaisionally looks like he is about to fall over. These are highly capable, very self-confident men doing work they believe in. To be fair, I think they do take time to celebrate - but not very often, and in general, they are celebrating other people.

And then there was Earth Day, in which we are asked to celebrate the single most important enabler of our existance - the earth itself. For me, that is a time when we do not celebrate things well. Truly celebrating the earth - for one thing, that must be done on a daily basis - and for another, Earth Day always seems, well, cheesy. It does not feel like it is truly a time of honoring our home. 'Happy Earth Day' hardly has the same ring as, say, 'Happy Thanksgiving' or 'Happy Birthday'.

I think many of us engaged in sustainable development are better at saying what is going wrong than what is going right. For the few of us who have managed to focus on positive visions, they tend to be 'in the future' instead of right here right now. What can I think of to celebrate in sustainable development? Well, I think we really are beginning to get somewhere in this field - especially if we don't hold too much attachment to what it is called. I think more and more people are coming to recognise its importance, more companies are practicing embedding environmental and social concerns in what they are doing, and more governments are recognising the imperative of acting, not just talking, on climate change. There are some great adaptation programs around the world. The voices from East and South East Asia are getting stronger, challenging previously dominant voices. Sometimes, that means good things for sustainable development. The green economy is growing. And Africa is changing - the change is too diverse to try to label as 'good' or 'bad' (and I'm not that close to God to be able to really know which one is which), but I believe that there is still much hope for the continent. And every day, we get another chance to work and play with others who are learning to live our shared lives a little closer to our vision and a little further from what used to be considered 'normal' - and that is something worth celebrating.

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