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Integrating Individual Well-Being with Environmental Systems
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Integrating Individual Well-Being with Environmental Systems

Illustration showing people integrated with the environment, riding a bicycle, recycling, watering a tree, eating fruit
Illustration showing people integrated with the environment, riding a bicycle, recycling, watering a tree, eating fruit

(Illustration by Helena Pallars).

Well-being can seem like a private pursuit in the context of market economies and fragmented societies that they often produce. Yet as the articles in this series, “Centered Self: The Connection Between Inner Well-being and Social Change” have articulated, we are coming to understand this is not the case. The ability to support the inner well-being and collaboration of changemakers can increase innovation and collaboration. Organizational well-being can increase staff resilience and help solve social and environmental problems more effectively. Individual and community health can be improved by recognizing and processing intergenerational trauma. Expanding our definition of economic growth to include environmental sustainability and collective well-being can help support system-level change. It is not possible to compartmentalize in an interconnected world. Nor can we separate our social, political and economic systems from their larger environments.

The teachings of peacemakers such as Martin Luther King Jr., who famously said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” encapsulate this understanding. Drew Dellinger, a speaker and writer, points out that this insight also expresses an eco-sensitivity. King’s philosophy. “Is it possible,” Dellinger asks, “that recovering the ecological and cosmological dimensions of King’s vision could help inspire our present work to link issues, connect ecology and social justice, and build a culture with a viable future?”

Centered Self: The Connection Between Inner Well-Being and Social Change

Centered Self: The Link Between Inner Well-Being & Social Change

This series is presented in partnership with The Wellbeing Project, India Development Review and The Skoll Foundation. It explores the important, but often overlooked, connection between inner well being and effective social change.

Here, the idea of “integral ecology” can be useful. As a mathematics professor Dave Pruett observesWe are confronted with profound social problems that are inherently linked:

Integral ecology starts with the recognition of the existential crises facing humanity on multiple fronts: extreme economic inequality, increased competition for resources, a severely degraded natural environment, failing nation states, and an unstable climate. … The fates of all peoples are linked, and they are linked ultimately to the fate of the earth. We all share in the fate of the earth.

This observation reflects the growing awareness that we need a structure to interweave personal, social, and ecological perspectives when we think up and implement social change strategies. If everything is interconnected, then it is possible to address all conditions within the system.

Integral ecology, at its broadest and most dangerous level, is a world where we see our well-being as interconnected to others’ well-being, to the structures and system that bind our cultures and societies, as well to the sustainability and overall health the ecosystems we depend on (and are a part of) on both local and global scales. Integral ecology, as it sounds, is the deep integration between human pursuits and all levels of environmental systems.

Integral ecology can be used to help people working for social change think and act systemically instead of symptomatically. It can help to focus social change efforts on structural and root causes. Integral ecology can help to align the essential work of addressing social conditions with the larger goal of transforming the underlying causes. Helping a neighborhood combat Asthma at high levelsWe must provide immediate relief (such a health care support) as well as redress the causes of the condition (such a disproportionate presence of pollutant).­

Rooting and Sprouting – Foundations and Extensions for Integral Ecology

Traditional ecology is the origin of integral ecology. Values and world views. Many people are also conscious of the importance of the connection between environmental and individual well-being. Faith traditions, and environmental theories. These include the Writings of historian and priest Thomas Berry in the mid-1990s that sought to integrate science and spirituality; the core ideas of philosopher Ken Wilber’s “integral theory”; and the work of theologian Leonardo Boff,As detailed in a 2013 articleThe origins and evolution of this concept. Scholar Sean Esbjörn-Hargens and environmental philosopher Michael E. Zimmerman built on these roots and formulated a working Overview of integral ecology, describing it as “a way of integrating multiple approaches to ecology and environmental studies into a complex, multidimensional metadisciplinary approach to the natural world and our embeddedness within it.” Esbjörn-Hargens and Zimmerman expanded on this methodology in their 2009 book Integral Ecology: Unifying Multiple Perspectives on Nature, which argued for an expansive orientation that “contextualizes and includes the partial truths of all traditions” as a mechanism for addressing environmental issues.

More recently, Pope Francis’s landmark encyclical Laudato Si’ (“Praise Be”) amplified these notions of inherent interconnectedness. The letter calls on us to embrace a “broader vision,” in which we see ourselves as deeply connected to one another and to our “common home” while focusing on concrete challenges related to health care, housing, technology, and climate change. Recalling King’s quotation above, the encyclical urges the cultivation of an integral ecology framework while reminding us, “Nature cannot be regarded as something separate from ourselves,” and “what takes place in any one area can have a direct or indirect influence on other areas.”

These concepts are being applied by change leaders in the sector who put theory into practice and take action to address the many ways that human involvement has affected and disturbed the environment. Climate change is a global issue, but the lever points to address it often lie in our daily lives. You can address a generalized concern about the loss of freshwater for farming by implementing strategies like Rainwater collection and drip irrigationTo particular regions

Integral ecology is about integrating people with nature and locality with global. It also aims to address crises with possibility. The 2021 Agenda United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate ChangeReport highlights how human activity continues accelerating climate change and how drought, flooding and wildfires threaten individuals and entire ecosystems. Data from the CDC shows that weather emergencies have caused approximately 21.5 million people to move each year since 2010. United Nations High Commission for RefugeesDocuments show how climate change can lead to increased poverty, hunger, and the inability to access natural resources. The connection between social and environmental impacts allows for a more nuanced analysis and policies that maximize social action.

Branching and flowering: From comprehension to action

International organizations such as the World Humanitarian SummitIn 2016 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals2015’s integral ecology framework is the foundation of their strategies, and their actions. As ideas take root, they begin to branch into other domains. This is evident in the rise of new fields.

Climate justice,” for instance, focuses on solving the overarching problem of carbon emissions (and associated environmental impacts) while remedying its inequitable impacts on communities of color and low-income communities. Similar to the field of Environmental justiceSince long, it has been recognized that factors such as pollution, toxic substances, green spaces, and resources are directly related to the outcomes and opportunities for education, work and health in a community. It is becoming more evident that sociopolitical policies, practices, and environmental sustainability are inextricably connected.

If we don’t cultivate it sustainably and consciously, infrastructure and economic growth can pose a threat to ecological well-being. For development to be sustainable, it must take into account equitable distribution and not just aggregate amounts. Indeed, critics like Jove S. Aguas Have observed that unchecked, inequitable development can “lead to the total collapse of our natural environment and the essential ecosystems.” Just as human choices as diverse as roadside littering or warfare impact ecological systems, tangible policies and operations (such as the lack of regulation of toxins and the prioritization of short-term profits) impact equity, both in the present and intergenerationally. It is important to consider how we can connect individual practices with ecological outcomes in a world that we have damaged. This requires pragmatic action at all levels.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s cooperative approach to restoring environmental health uses Nature-based solutions (such as ecological restoration, integrated water resources management, and ecosystem-based adaptation) to address food and water security, climate change, and poverty reduction. Its cost-effective, sustainable farming approach increases ecological resilience and human connectivity. Programs like the Ecological Literacy Program are a key component of these efforts. Planet Protector AcademyFor more information, please visit the following link. The academy uses story and music, interactive media and theater to teach environmental literacy in class, remind people about our dependence on the environment, and help families reconsider their energy and transport habits.

As we create strategies and take action, “reinhabitatation” may be a useful concept to consider. It emerged as a response to classical forms of environmentalism from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, which idealized pristine landscapes and oftentimes pitted people against nature in the name of “preservation.” While experiences of pristine nature can invite us to reflect and reconnect, we are also keenly aware of the historical and contemporary impact of what researcher Irma Allen describes as “the troubling link between nature conservation and colonial attempts to control populations.” Reinhabitation can serve as a mechanism for resisting displacement and dislocation, as Alexa Scully observes, bolstering efforts to redress the ongoing impacts of colonialism by fostering “healthier people and land in a way that honors and respects interrelationship.” These perspectives are especially important given that many indigenous societies embody values and practices consistent with integral ecology, providing opportunities for “Building bridges” between faith communities, science, and wisdom accrued through deep connections to place, or Traditional ecological knowledge.

Reinhabitation is about reconnection with all of creation, and not just the parts that are iconic or pristine. In the early days (circa 1970s), poets, essayists, and environmentalists were involved in the creation of the modern environmental movement. Gary Snyder, activist wrote about the practical and spiritual lessons we learn from spending time in nature, and how it can help us reconnect to a sense of place—and to All places. This is called the “Process of Nature reconnectingCan promote psychological, physiological and spiritual well-being. This can help people cultivate ways to be relevant and appropriate for local ecosystems.

It is possible to become deeply connected to a place and foster values of collaboration, connection, and constructive action. Integral ecology has been built upon a strong connection between patterns of thinking, practices of being, and its early roots in the quest to connect science and spirituality. Grounded in common concerns and shared origins, the multiplicity of perspectives (historical and contemporary) that constitute a “Diverse ecologies” becomes a foundation for well-being and acting well in a complex, interconnected world, as described by the editors’ introduction of the book The Variety of Integral Ecologies.

Harvesting and Healing: Connecting Values & Visions

These deep roots and their many flowers can provide us with several insights that will guide our efforts to promote well-being for both individuals and the environment. These points of reflection are only one attempt at combining the lessons of integral ecologies in a way that can facilitate their application in daily life.  

  1. Wellness is a continuum that includes illness and crisis.
  2. We cannot separate human flourishing, which is achieving the best version ourselves in a healthy society, from environmental sustainability.
  3. Inherently, social and economic justice are linked to environmental justice.
  4. Both the individual and the ecological levels of healing are mutually beneficial.
  5. Integral ecology is a framework that addresses the root causes of ecological destruction and promotes social justice.

These values-based statements can be used to bridge theory and practice. They reflect the essence of “Being ecological,” which emphasizes how the values and norms inscribed in a community or space (such as a classroom or workplace) can implicitly or explicitly impact access to those spaces and the outcomes that individuals attain within them. Built environments, which are built environments that humans create for living, working, or other purposes, can also address social injustices and contribute to community wellbeing, resilience, experience of belonging, and community well-being. Designing Justice + Designing SpacesTo help communities develop pilot projects that can change the justice system from punitive towards restorative,, for example, uses a trauma informed architectural design process.

Equity and sustainability can be based on principles and practices that focus on connection and belonging. The following are some of the principles and practices that can be used to promote equity and sustainability. Deccan Development Society, for instance, has created a successful working model of cooperative community development by integrating biodiversity conservation with agricultural livelihood—a model that provides farmers with food sovereignty and economic security as it works to reverse environmental degradation. These efforts explore other economies as viable and necessary tools for building peaceful communities and fostering just and sustainable worlds.

These and similar efforts show how important it is to address the root causes of society’s problems, rather than treating the symptoms. Through an integral ecology lens communities think and behave holistically, with equal regard for sociopolitical as well as ecological issues. A social problem like HomelessnessCommunity has the chance to show empathy AndOrganizations such as the urged that inclusive public spaces be made accessible and accessible to all users. National Coalition for the Homeless.

Planting seeds: Lessons and Continuations

The ongoing global pandemic and disruption caused by climate changes remind us that social change and collective healing often involve a response to crises. Integral ecology is a framework that allows us to envision and implement effective, collaborative actions that will improve human well-being as well as ecological resilience. It encourages us all to work together to build a constructive vision for a world in which we see ourselves as connected to each other and collectively to nature, and where individual and social pursuits are strongly connected to ecological ones.

When we think of ecological well-being, we might be thinking about ecologically sensitive areas and ecological challenges that have a significant impact. Human and environmental health. There are opportunities to address the root causes and consequences of environmental injustices. Flint, Michigan – Contamination of municipal waterTo encourage wellness and to actively promote it. In areas such urban planningAnd International policymakingWe can find promising developments along this line across a wide variety of perspectives, practices and organizations.

Moving forward, Georgetown University and The Wellbeing Project—in conjunction with a global, multidisciplinary panel of experts—will continue to research the ways in which we are connected to one another and the larger environment. This is the integral AndIntegrative sense of ecology is where each component of a system plays a vital role in the well-being of all parts. Integral ecology is not a way to heal, but rather a recognition that all levels of the system can be healed. It reminds us that we live in an interconnected world and that our individual well-being is tied up with the whole.

Randall Amster & Linda Bell Grdina share more stories.


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