Last month, I wrote about how we are stuck in a bad relationship with planet Earth.
A good relationship is built on respect.
A good relationship demands that you listen to your partner.
But we, as a society, have not been listening to planet Earth and the signals she is sending. Our relationship with our home is in desperate need of therapy.
One of the ways we can rebuild our relationship with the Earth is to reclaim our role as citizens.
We must not allow ourselves to simply consume.
We need to call for a nation of citizen entrepreneurs: people who love their home, who love the earth, and who can connect the dots regarding the global challenges we face.
On my journey in life, I have been fortunate enough to meet and work with people who connect those dots and take action. One person, Pam Dashiell, was an amazing activist from the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans.
I met Pam after Hurricane Katrina, when I led Global Green on a journey, armed with a vision to help rebuild New Orleans green. We responded to the crisis immediately after the storm, and we were determined to help pave the way for a brighter, greener future.
We set a goal of greening homes, schools, and adopting a neighborhood, while creating sustainable models for climate-friendly communities and cities. In short, forming a response to the threats and realities of climate change.
Pam was with us on this journey. In fact, it was Pam’s beloved neighborhood that we adopted, and partnered with: the historic Holy Cross in the Lower 9th Ward. Pam was an advocate for and a beloved leader of her neighborhood.
Pam loved her neighborhood, her home, and planet Earth. And what Pam did for her community was inspiring: She led her neighborhood to make a commitment — a crazy idea — to create the first carbon-neutral neighborhood in the United States of America.
Sadly, Pam passed away two years ago. But thanks in great part to her determination and vision, there are more LEED-certified green homes in the Lower Ninth Ward than any other neighborhood in America. It is quite a legacy she left. And she took big steps toward creating that carbon-neutral neighborhood she dreamed about.
So what do we do? How do we mend this bad relationship we are stuck in?
What if we valued and celebrated people like Pam who love their home, who love their neighborhood, who love planet Earth?
And what if Vanity Fair created the new establishment list of citizen entrepreneurs? What if Forbes 400, rather than listing the 400 richest people in America, created the Forbes 400 of citizen entrepreneurs?
I’m not just talking about the people who are fortunate to run nonprofit organizations or CEOs of corporations that have a commitment to social change. I’m talking about people we all know: teachers and nurses; farmers and small business owners; and mothers and fathers in their neighborhood who care and have a crazy idea and do something about it, however big or small.
That’s what citizen entrepreneurship is all about.
So, what if we were committed to loving our home, loving our neighborhood, and loving the earth? What if we decided we wanted to listen and make a difference? And we wanted to make sure our relationship with our planet was healthy and strong and built to last?
To be a good relationship with Mother Earth, we need strong leadership in Washington and in corporate board rooms. And we also need to work at the local level to foster a nation of citizen entrepreneurs.
Maybe you’re a citizen entrepreneur? Do you know some one like Pam? A neighbor, classmate, co-worker, friend, or family member — a local green hero who deserves to be applauded and could benefit from support in their efforts?
We want to shine a light on these local green heroes with Global Green’s Citizen Entrepreneur Contest. Nominate someone before March 21 and we will choose 10 finalists before opening up the voting online to the public. A winner to be awarded $1000 to help fund their green project — and get a chance to join our delegation to Rio for the UN Earth Summit in June 2012, where we will share the inspiring stories of citizen entrepreneurs on a global stage.
But we don’t have to enter a contest to be a citizen entrepreneur — it’s in all of us. The creativity, the resourcefulness, and the can-do attitude. We can all take responsibility for a corner of our world.
Together, we can all reclaim our role as citizens, and mend this bad relationship.
(Cross-posted on Huffington Post. This is the second part of a two-part blog and is based on a talk I gave at TEDxWomen on Dec. 1, 2011.)