Between the Individual and the Society: families, institutions and networks

November 8, 2018

 

The joyful work of ecotheology, of coming into deeper harmony with ourselves and the earth, is not one we do only as individuals. It is work of healing ancestral trauma in order to, as my friend Anna Mudd says, "become better ancestors ourselves."   Our work inherently engages with families.

 

Families matter in so many ways.  We may reject certain members or aspect of our birth- families and create new friend-families; we may feel close, or far, or even barely related to them; we may not know much about our families beyond our parents or grandparents - if that. But whatever our relationship to them, we are here because of them. Extended families - kinship networks -are the basic social networks that tend to shape how we respond to natural disasters.  And we are part of a whole-earth family which rarely shows up on most family's Family Tree.  The image above should have some non-human animals in it!

 

Families are, in some ways, the most basic form of institutions. Institutions - religions, businesses, non-profits, higher education, governments - are, by and large, all contributing to unsustaianbility. And all have people in them working towards greater sustainability.  The work of shifting those institutions cannot be done by any one person. That is obvious. Designing ongoing support systems for those shifts are not.  Our institutional change work is significantly aided by our partnership with Samanvaya Social Ventures, which is more experienced than we are in this area. 

 

The shifts and changes we need to see in society today will and are happening through socio-ecological networks. (Researchers tend to focus only on human social networks, but we should not discount non-human social networks.)  Most of these networks don't know each other very well even as they are working together to create a more sustainable and just culture.  Part of our work, then, is to support networks in ReMembering - creating 'new' shared histories - shared analysis - in ways that integrate their head/heart/hands and enable stronger inter-relationships.  We've been experimenting with how to do this, and continue to sense that it is a critical component to the overarching shifts to create sustainable cultures. 

 

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