Letter From the Founders
Michael & Margie Baldwin | July 18, 2009
Change is in the air.
It became the focal point of an entire political campaign. It resonates in the language of Wall Street and Main Street. And it appears on bumper stickers, in TV commercials and in speeches by politicians, CEOs and civil society leaders.
Change, however, is not new to the Marion Institute.
For almost two decades now, we have been at the forefront of the change movement.
With the generous support of our members, the Marion Institute has helped promote some of the most important change agents of our time.
For many years, the Marion Institute was the sole North American funder of Kenyan environmentalist Wangari Maathai – helping her to plant over 30 million trees in Kenya and other parts of Africa. Dr. Maathai went on to win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004.
We have illuminated the work of Dr. Thomas Rau, Frances Lappe and Jeremy Narby – pioneers who are revolutionizing the way we approach health, food and habitation.
We have helped nudge Paul Hawken, Ray Anderson and Gunter Pauli – men who are creating new business paradigms – into the mainstream of American corporate thinking.
Four years ago, we identified John Holdren and Van Jones as key thought leaders on climate change. Holdren and Jones are now hugely important figures in President Obama’s administration.
And every year, during our “Bioneers by the Bay: Connecting for Change” conference, we profile the world’s most transformational environmental, social justice, spiritual and business leaders. This gathering has become a platform for the planet’s most influential change agents.
The Marion Institute has long believed that change – deep and positive change – is the most important action we can take to help save the planet. Of course this is not quite true. The planet will be quite fine, no matter what we do or don’t do. But it is the planet as we know it and humanity that we are out to help preserve.
And the planet as we know it is on the brink. Yes, this heartbreakingly beautiful ecosystem known as Earth is almost impossibly intricate and interwoven. But there is one, central root cause that has led to the crisis: it is that we [the humans] have become disconnected. We’re lost. We’ve forgotten what we are and who we are. We think of ourselves as separate, above, beyond. And we’ve altered the balance of our ecosystem in ways we never imagined possible.
In this age of broadband and 24-hour news, we often find ourselves leaping from seeing to doing without pause for thought, without making time to connect with a deeper wisdom. We’ve become accustomed to the quick return, the convenient, the genetically modified, the ‘cure-all’.
And where has it gotten us? A global population of almost 7 billion people, set to top 9 billion by 2050. An unquenchable thirst for fossil fuels that has unleashed chaotic climate change, ice-melt, sea-level rise, drought, flooding and disease. We are witnessing unparalleled species extinction. And we have set about mass deforestation of the Amazon in order to produce $1.00 hamburgers. And there is a growing sense that although we have more – we have less.
So how do we find ourselves again? How do we get back? How do we reconnect?
One thing is for sure: we will not create the transformation we need by tinkering around the edges. Incremental change – the change of campaign slogans and marketing taglines – will not be enough.
Before making any decisions, the Iroquois contemplated the impact that change might have “on the seventh generation.” We must find a similar resolve. We must slow down, contemplate and consider the longer view. We must address the deeper, underlying root-causes not just the symptoms.
The ‘bottom line’ is no longer sufficient to guide us. We must make decisions based on the ‘triple bottom line’. We are consuming at an insatiable rate without understanding where stuff comes from and where it goes. We must see waste as a design flaw and adopt more cyclical, harmonious systems thinking. A re-tooled healthcare system will not make us well. We must learn to embrace preventive and holistic medicine. Our diet is creating an obesity epidemic while stripping the planet of precious natural resources. We must abandon fast food for slow-food. Our belief systems have created a dangerously false sense that we are somehow superior to the natural order of things. We must explore our beliefs to see how they affect our behavior – and then have the courage to change course.
This won’t be easy. Real change never is. But it is possible.
Margaret Mead’s timeless rallying call still urges us onwards.
“Never doubt that a
small group of thoughtful,
can change the world.
Indeed, it's the only
thing that ever has.”
We must connect. We must re-connect. With the carrot pulled from the rich, dark soil. With the next seven generations. With a sense of community. With the murmur of the breeze through aspen leaves. With the rhythms of the planet.
And once we connect, we will finally be able to enact the change our hearts ache for.
We hope you will join the Marion Institute and our small group of thoughtful, committed citizens.
Michael & Margie Baldwin