This is probably the biggest challenge people experience when they “wake up” to the dream of this “Business As Usual” and start thinking on how they would engage more on the Great Turning, they ask: How should I live my life?
It is also a blind spot, usually ignored by many trainings and practices: people are supposed to become “activists”, or “advocates” or engage in different social, political or ecologic realms to become empowered, build resilience and empower others. They are also expected to have an inner change that would revolutionize their worldview, stories and thought patterns, or to engage in co-creating the systems and structures that are needed for a truly resilient, regenerative and ethical world…but when doing so, they still hold the old jobs, businesses and patterns of relationship with money and stuff, including psychological and emotional patterns of how security, safety, leadership, ownership, governance and so on happen…
But in most cases, this is not what happens: people choose one or two areas for change (such as food and energy source) and forget about the rest or ignore them because they are complicated.
That’s how we have permaculturists who travel the world round, vegans working in oil companies, highly spiritual people working for mining and coal companies, food gardeners who drive to work every day, permaculture and sustainability teachers who treat people badly, compete with each other and pay low salaries, designers who fight for ownership and copyright of a design that could change thousands of lives and the list is endless…
Moreover, if you consult with a career or life coach, they most probably will apply the old learned patterns (with the best of their intentions!) but won’t help you to address deeper concerns about the future of the planet and humankind and your role on all this.
Those who have this “figured out” talk down to all the rest as if we don’t change because we are lazy, dumb or don’t care.
The guilt, blame and shame game wins, while Gaia and all of us, continue to suffer…
Livelihood is not only what you do “to earn a living”, but also what you do with what you “earn”: how you live, relate, spend and invest all your capitals: energy, time, relationships, health and so on…
It includes not only “jobs” and “careers” but also any entrepreneurship initiative. It includes “income” as we know it under present systems (from capitalism to socialism to any other “ism”), such as “financial”, or “money” and other “assets” such as building, land, tools and other “stuff”, but also “liabilities”, such as how much you owe and to whom, the “life” of things and their “depreciation” and so on…
Livelihood has been a huge challenge for me, because it has also allowed me to discover other big blind spot in those engaged in the Great Turning: oppression and privilege and the use of power through other ways such as judgement, self-righteousness that compares and bullies people away, and so on.
Livelihood, like many other challenges of the Great Turning people face, is subject to a lot of guilt, blaming and shaming.
So let’s start with that: people won’t be “empowered” and do “the right thing” re climate, dwindling resources, pollution, injustices and the like until they know how to navigate their own livelihoods and are not given tools and resources to make that giant and painful but necessary shift/transition from working at exploitative, degenerative, unethical and unsustainable jobs, businesses etc. and moving away from a consumerist pattern to one of co-production, co-creation and sharing…
This shift is a BIG one for most people: it is not (as so many privileged people say) a matter of consciousness and “choice”, it is a matter of sacrifice and commitment, as well as a collective matter that makes each one of us individuals and every institution, organization and group fully responsible:
If you are not engaging in some way of advocacy, activism, support or training for this to happen (creating new systems and structures and paving the way for all to have a regenerative livelihood, including yourself) in your community and beyond, you are not living the Great Turning.
You may be doing all “perfect” for yourself, but you are being unaware of your own privilege and you may even being selfish and judgmental without intention.
As you can see for my previous words, I feel strongly about this.
That is why regular career planning programs, books and the like won’t work: they are all coming from that big old story. We need to start thinking, feeling and embodying this differently: we need to address livelihoods as our human way to create change in the world.
Livelihoods have the potential to influence other systems so much that they can create the Great Turning by just addressing “Livelihood”: let the way you “make” and live your life be the tool you use to change the world!
That is why I:
But you may wonder at this point, why is this so important (is it more important that changes we have to make on the way we produce food, energy, clothes, other stuff; or that the way we travel and move around, the type of shelters we use or how we use natural resources?) and you may also wonder: what is, then a “regenerative livelihood” or, how Buddhists say “Right Livelihood”?
Why is important:
All the other systems (from water to food to waste to shelter, transportation, social, etc.) are interconnected. They also are all interconnected by a “story” and an underlying system that goes beyond capitalism: is a system that puts a “cost” on everything and that makes people to need to “pay” for anything they need, want or use.
This means that, while
We will need some sort of jobs, businesses or exchanges systems. In nature, this means “niches”: everything, even the humblest of pebbles, has a niche and one or more functions to fulfill.
All the systems collected and shared or encouraged by permaculture, transition initiatives and the like (such as LETS, alternative and local currencies, upcycling, reusing, free markets, etc.) are great and smart but sadly not enough and not realistic: there are limits on the things we can exchange, make ourselves, save, grow and so. These limitations are more evident when we live in cities and suburbs and when we are still subject to by-laws, zoning and all kind of “rules” and “laws” about what can and cannot be done.
It is also important because all what we are and do are currently connected to livelihood: if we can make changes to how we live and “make a living”, we will automatically make changes and influence those systems we want to change: water, food, transportation, and so on!
What is, then, a regenerative livelihood?
This is an evolving concept, but a regenerative livelihood, I have come to realize is one that:
Is it a dream? Is It impossible? Is this too full of privilege from my part?
I want to believe the response is “no” to all those questions.
As this is a complex topic, I would like to disentangle, share what I have tried (and has worked for me) as well as open the discussion to know what others are doing. This will take a few posts, not just one.
For now, here are some things you can do:
Gaia Education: https://gaiaeducation.org/elearning/design-for-sustainability/
Gaia University: Ecosocial Design certificate: http://gaiauniversity.org/ecosocial-design/
Wait for my blended program for assessing and designing regenerative livelihoods (will be alive in 2019!) Hint: my program will be different from all the programs suggested here, yet similar in many ways…curious? Stay tuned!
Disclaimer: I strongly believe we are all needed, that we can collaborate instead of competing. The “competition/mine/ownership/copyright” mentality comes from the old story of scarcity.
The “right program” or “right pathway” is the one that matches your and your community needs and current circumstances.
I didn’t create nor claim the words “regenerative livelihood” and, as far as I know, nobody owns them or should own them: that is not how this works!
Follow your own instincts when choosing a path, a coach and a program: what are the intentions behind? How is it delivered? Is it considering all the angles? Is it humble and unfinished? Is it addressing both privilege and shared responsibility? Is it considering all the capitals? Is it focus on “earning money” or in facilitating the Great Turning?
For me, crafting a regenerative livelihood is a sacred work that needs to be taken seriously by both you and whoever you choose to partner with, receive mentoring or guidance.
That is the test for a true regenerative livelihood. If it is not sacred, it is not regenerative!