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Collective Wisdom

I think of myself as, basically, a good person.  I want positive things for not only myself, but also my family, friends, and community.  When there’s a community problem, I see it as being out of place and I want to help correct it.  I might not know exactly how to resolve a problem, but I know I need to try.  The people in my community and I face many complex environmental problems requiring action, but at times in the past, I stopped even trying.  I usually stopped trying because of two interrelated problems – not trusting myself and not trusting others.

Due to past failures, combined with being told my ideas were not good enough, I stopped trusting myself. I might have good ideas to help solve current problems, but instead I look to the “experts” for leadership because I do not fully trust myself.  Therefore, I remove myself from the conversation of finding solutions, I put the responsibility on others, and I complain when I think no positive progress is being made.

The other problem stems from when I see people who have different ideas from mine as always being wrong, and we have absolutely no common ground.  The only solution is to show the other people how they’re wrong and convince them to join my side.  These thoughts make me radicalized with no middle ground, and it’s really my way or nothing at all.

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One of the Unitarian Universalist seven faith principles respects, “The inherent worth and dignity of every person”.  I was drawn to the UU faith, in part, due to this strong inclusiveness. It teaches what I had been learning on my life journey; that people are whole right now.  Nothing special is required for them to be able to participate in the discussion of what is healthy for themselves and others.

Another principle is, “A free and responsible search for “truth and meaning”. The lowercase “t” in truth is used because I cannot ever know the full absolute “TRUTH,” as I recognize my ideas are based on a partial understanding of the world around me.  I don’t know everything right now, I’m always learning, and I try to be moving in a healthy direction for myself and others in my thoughts and actions.

For me this caused a big shift in my thinking.   I now see everyone has the opportunity to teach me something and can help me grow towards a fuller understanding of myself and the world around me. I apply this to my main focus, which is to help combat climate change. There seems to be many solutions out there, but not much progress was being made.   So I mostly focus on breaking down the barriers to action.

We often fail to make large scale healthy changes because most solutions seem like they are crafted without consulting the whole community.  When a solution leaves my perspective out, I tend not to support that project because it seems to help other people and not me.

Here’s where we need to pull on our collective wisdom and craft solutions that help the vast majority of people in the community.  If we do this, then enough people will help make the healthy community solutions we envision for our new reality. We can only do this through large scale participation, and that means more people like you and I should get involved and help the people crafting solutions who understand what healthy changes look like.

I’ve learned through working on large environmental projects and programs that they can always be modified to help meet more people’s needs. Most people working on solutions want what is best for the entire community, including us and our family. They just need to know what our needs are.

I used to think ideas like trusting you and I to find climate change solutions were absolutely crazy and only the experts should be involved. But that’s exactly what we need, and why I volunteer with The Climate Reality Project, and other environmental groups whose main goal is to educate and inspire people to take action to combat climate change.  I saw solutions were available right now; I just needed to get engaged, tell lawmakers and decision makers which solutions work for me and the majority of the community, and ask others to do the same.

I strongly believe it is only through sharing what is healthiest for ourselves and others, that we find the collective wisdom to create complete solutions that most people will fight for, in order for long lasting healthy changes to become our new reality. Wouldn’t it be nice to share what healthy solutions look like to us? Only then we’ll have true collective wisdom!

– Dan Huntsha

Dan Huntsha first joined Faith in Place in 2014 as a volunteer working to gather grassroots support for the EPA Carbon Rules, and later the Illinois Clean Jobs Bill. In 2015 he joined outreach staff to help with smart energy programs in the western and northwestern Chicago suburbs. By living his philosophy, “Try to learn something from everyone”, while spending time with many climate organizations, Dan has been able to develop a creative climate communication style that produces action. He strives to be a catalyst for positive healthy change by connecting people’s existing passions with Faith in Place’s action focused programs.


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