Wouldn’t it be nice if it turned out the choices we must make together to survive together are the same choices we must make to create the very world most of all the world’s people want? If that were case, then we should be able to just get together and make it happen. Wouldn’t that be cool? Maybe we should start a conversation to find out what people truly want…
Actually, that conversation started quite some time ago. One of the most profound experiences of my life was participating in the civil society portion of the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I was part of a gathering of some 15,000 people representing the vast variety of humanity’s races, religions, nationalities, and languages. Our discussions centered on defining the world we wanted to create together.
These discussions were chaotic and sometimes contentious. But at one point it hit me like a bolt of lightening. For all our differences, we all wanted the same thing: healthy children, families, and communities with healthy natural environments living in peace and cooperation—and not just for ourselves. We wanted it for everyone. Out of our conversations grew our shared dream of a world in which people and Nature live in dynamic, creative and ultimately cooperative and balanced relationship. The Earth Charter, which is the product of a continuation of this discussion, calls it Earth Community.
I’ve lived in a lot of exotic places: Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Indonesia, the Philippines, California, Florida, and that place in outer space called Washington, DC. I’ve experienced a lot of different kinds of people. As I reflect back on that experience, I realize that, for all our differences, with the exception of a relatively few people who suffer from some debilitating psychological dysfunction, we are a lot more alike than we generally realize. Most of us want to breathe clean air and drink clean water. We want tasty nutritious food uncontaminated with toxins. We want healthy, happy children, loving families, and a caring community with a beautiful, healthy natural environment. We want meaningful work, a living wage, and security in our old age. We want a say in the decisions our government makes. We want world peace. This doesn’t seem excessive.
But, you say, what about here in the United States? What about our division betweenred states and blue states?
It turns out that for all the talk of red states and blue states, polling data indicates we have substantial agreement on many key issues even here. We are more purple than we realize. For example, 83% of us believe that as a society the United States is focused on the wrong priorities. Supermajorities of more than 80% want to give higher priority to the needs of children, family, community, and the natural environment. Seventy-two percent of us agree that big companies have too much power. Put it together and we find out thatAmericans want a world that puts people ahead of profits, spiritual values ahead of financial values, and international cooperation ahead of international domination.
Note that none of these are distinctively conservative or liberal values. They are widelyshared human values. What if all of us who live in this country were to wake up one morning and recognize that we are one nation yearning for healthy children, families, communities, and natural environments?
So where do you stand? Do you believe that as a society we are focused on the wrong priorities? Do you yearn to see greater priority given to the needs of children, family community, and Nature? Do you think big business has too much power? If so, you are part of the leading edge of a national and global supermajority, and it is appropriate for all of us to speak and act accordingly.
I want to note something else here I find significant. The idea that beneath the surface of our wondrous cultural diversity most humans want the same thing is consistent with recent scientific findings that our human brains are wired for compassion, caring, altruism, and cooperation. Engaging in helpful loving acts of cooperation and generosity stimulates the release of our bliss hormone, the same hormone released when we’re having good sex. Isn’t that stunning? Think of the possibilities.