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Going green: becoming a system of influence.

August 27, 2007 by Lightwaves
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Vanessa Reid wonders how you change the world. Her concern about sustaining the environment, people and organizations inspired her to take action on this question.

There is always uncertainty that comes with change, but it isn’t long before the shaky steps into the new become an accepted way of being. Vanessa notes that new norms are continually being accepted and they influence our choices. Email, for example, is now a normal form of communication, and searching the Internet for information is commonplace. She asks, “What if sustainable agriculture and new ways of healing became the norm? By coming together and using these new ways of being we become a system of influence.”

Vanessa worked several years at Santropol Roulant in Montreal. Santropol provides meals for socially isolated elderly as well as employment and social engagement for the young volunteers who deliver the meals. Through this service the organization addresses issues around food security as well as emphasizing sustainability.

She explains it this way: “Delivering 90 meals a day translates into 90 human interactions a day that would not otherwise take place. These interactions are meaningful for the receiver and the giver. We were also growing food on rooftops, not that we could grow enough food to meet our demands but it was an educational opportunity to connect the food with the human and environmental aspects.”

In 2005 Vanessa started working with Berkana Exchange, an international organization that brings leaders and groups together to make sustainable choices according to local knowledge.

She says, “We want to nurture what is already rich and wise … when we come together we exchange practice areas. We exchange ideas on things like organic or sustainable agriculture – asking how do we feed ourselves? We also talk about local medicines and how we take care of ourselves – asking how do we heal ourselves as people in this community? As well, we discuss up-cycling … not only how do we reuse and recycle but also how do we create new things out of things that might be seen as old? In other words – zero waste practices.

“So there’s a whole bunch of different practices that each of us are doing in our local places, and we exchange this information across localities. Through this trans-local exchange, we want show people that this stuff is happening and working. What would our world look like-what would it feel like-if this happened on a much larger scale?”

In her work with Berkana in North America Vanessa meets with groups where there is “energy around sustainability.” In the four weeks she has been at the Ashram she has noted that “sustainable practices are taking place here and where there is such an obvious integration with spirituality.”

“Sustainability,” she says, “is a practice. It’s about the choices you make day to day. The Ashram offers an example of a place where people can come, learn the practice and then take it out to their homes and communities.” Vanessa remarks how the integration becomes evident in the practice of karma yoga where the work, its purpose and the reflection on work sustain everybody.

In 2008 the Ashram is offering a new program called “Doing Inspired Work-The Yoga of Sustainability-a six-week program that integrates karma yoga with yoga workshops. There are three sessions, one each in the spring, summer and fall.

Swami Radha would say that as we change so the world changes. Thanks to Vanessa’s inspired work, many people are being touched in a way that they can make positive choices with confidence – and the world changes with each choice.

Santropol Roulant (http://www.santropolroulant.org/2006/E-mow.htm)

Berkana Exchange (http://berkana.tomoye.com/ev_en.php?ID=1515&ID2=DO_COMMUNITY)

To learn what the Ashram is doing in regards to food and sustainability click here (Food and sustainability video, 128 meter diet, Sustainability Initiatives)


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  1. Yes Sustainablility of our communities envirement and humanity is a most poplur converstaion these days. Not to just do lip service but to participate in ones family, neighbourhood, community and the world. I was particularly struck with the words in a recent article in my newspaper reading a week ago. ‘I had certain expectations put on me and of me, by me. I had decided not to pursue some of the things that I had always thought I had wanted in my life, including my spirtiual life. We all want our lives to be significant, not successful. It is about transfomration, not just about progress’. What a powerful phrase: ‘We all want our lives to be ‘Significant, not Successful.’ In my circle of persons I facilitate and speak to in Sustainablity of community and self this thought of letting go of life possessions in searching for meaning and solitude that leads to more peace of mind and significant of self peace and worth is gaining popularity over successfu endeavors that lead to someone’s ownership of your self and time. The phrase ‘to be significant not successful’ certainly sums up the state of our society times at present in seaking sustainability to the stae of our society times at present in our communities world wide. Now sustanablility certainly may and can create significants in our now throw away society which now includes the human spirit. Let us not fear that their is hope for alll of us yet in the practice of sustainablity.

    Comment by Lise Storgaard (Spirit Woman) — August 28, 2007 @ 9:41 pm

  2. Vanessa Reid!!!
    Darling- it’s a blast from the past and i hope you read this so we can connect somehow! trace pecora here…from our Mcgill film days! i’m not at all surprised that our paths are alligned!
    The issue of sustainability is Huge here in Revelstoke BC with the new mega- ski resort being built… an interesting mix of good folks fleeing (moving away) and others moving in to grab a piece of the very expensive pie. Luckily, discussions about growing food locally and implementing a barter system are offering a balance to the hype…
    It is a great opportunity for this community to come together , clarify values and take real action for the benefit of all…

    Comment by trace pecora — September 2, 2007 @ 4:23 pm

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