On November 6th over 80 people gathered virtually for Living Earth Center's 16th Annual Earth Conference, The New Normal: Intentionally Designing Your Future. They explored what, amidst all we have lost for the past year and a half, have we gained, and how can we use that hard-earned knowledge to move forward in an intentional way.
The three conference speakers examined this question through three different lenses - our relationship with Earth, with Each Other, and with Ourselves.
"I do believe that healing is in the environment," said opening speaker Robert Blake. Blake, a tribal citizen of the Red Lake Nation, founder of Solar Bear, a solar installation company, and Executive Director of Native Sun Community Power Development stressed the importance of slowing down and listening to what the planet is trying to tell us it needs. Using Solar Bear as the example, he shared how he hired inmates to work building the solar installations. "The key is to get people doing work they feel connected to," he said, "then the work you are doing is healing the people and healing the planet."
Mankato resident and founder of Black Excellence Around Minnesota (BEAM), Destiny Owens focused on the importance of collaboration and partnership when she spoke to the conference. "The only way we can move forward is if we are working together," she said, "Simply put - we are better together." She stressed the need for unity, not only during the aftermath of a tragedy like the murder of George Floyd, but as we move forward together.
Owens explained the keys to doing this work are Communication, Planning, and Implementation. She said it is important to make sure there is a diversity of viewpoints from the beginning. "If it is truly a collaboration, people will have been there from the beginning," she said.
Certified life coach Diana Gabriel closed out the conference discussing the importance of finding out how each of us can contriburte in a way that is sustainable over time. "We talked about the how/what to do, but to sustain this work long term we need ot look at our 'why,'" she said. A good starting place is asking oneself: What drives my action? Am I using my time on things I am passionate about? "Before January 2020 how much of our life was on autopilot?" she asked. "Now we have the opportunity to intentionally design our lives from a place of meaning and purpose."
The conference closed with a reading of the poem, "Notes on Survival" by Nikita Gill:
You are allowed to break
The stars grow tired and fall.
The waves crash against rocks and shores.
Trees fall for both storms and wind
leaving behind seeds and saplings
so a version of them may grow again.
Storm clouds part for rain
then part for the sun to come through.
Night must break for day
and day for night in a cycle.
The world is made of broken things
piecing themselves back together
-this is what gives us the most resilient stories.
So why do you think that you were made
any differently than the night and the storm clouds?
You know how to put yourself back together again, too,
just as well as they do.
Take heart that you have managed
to rebuild yourself a thousand times
after every bad day.
That is no small thing.