What's Your Vision for Sonoma County's Future?
Supporting dramatically reduced health and environmental harm through ongoing information and inspiration. Encouraging increased understanding of and delight in nature's gifts and wisdom in all areas of our lives. Your input on this exploration is most welcome!
What's Your Vision for Sonoma County's Future?
by Patricia Dines
Sonoma County Environmental Impact Reporter, Oct./Nov. 1998, p. 4.
(c) Patricia Dines, 1998. All rights reserved.

When you consider Sonoma County in 5, 10, 50 years, what do you see? What does it look and feel like to live here?

Do you see only human activities, structures, and pavement, or are there rich wild areas and animals, celebrating Nature's form as well? Is the air clear and alive with birds and the hum of life, or filled with toxics, soot, and disease? What's the food like - fresh, imaginative, and vibrant - or bland, depleted, imported, old, and genetically-engineered? Is your day, and your family's, full of enlivening, enriching activities, or mind-numbing, distressing ones?
Often we have a vague feeling that we are powerless to the world we live in, let alone to the world of the future, as we busily manage the daily details of our lives. And yet much of our world's reality is tangibly and dramatically influenced by what we do with our daily lives - by our consumer choices - our activities at home, work, and school - and our community-level action (or inaction) on issues like the environment, toxics, health, land use, business development, agriculture, and food, on local, national, and international levels.
Despite experts' somber claims that "the future will be x", the future hasn't been created yet! We ourselves are creating it in each living moment. Yes, we work within existing constraints - but these are not as limiting as some might think. There are many trends and counter-trends and lots of human resources and energy that can be channelled in vastly different ways, if we choose. We have much more room to create than often we realize. I find that very encouraging.
But perhaps a little intimidating as well. For, if I can influence the future, where on earth would I start? There are so many issues, structures, bureaucracies, processes, personalities - it can be easy to get lost for years on any one path, or in the despair of the enormity of the project. Isn't it easier then to just push it all aside and go along with our individual lives?
Ah, yes, if only we could. But in what world will those lives be led? Does denial and avoidance really make harm go away, or does it only make it worse? Are our individual lives and challenges really separate from the community's? And when these challenges are as large as today's, can we really solve them on an individual basis? Or is the most effective (and sometimes only) solution to join together and choose paths that help create the best contexts in which we can all shape our individual lives?
But how can we work on our community level issues without getting overwhelmed or filled with despair at the challenges?
In seeking to find my way through these feelings and issues, I find that visioning can be a wonderful tool - to put my attention on what I specifically hope to see in our shared world.
For when I see clearly what I most want for this world we inhabit, it helps me then seek the clearest, most effective ways to get there, helping direct my time and energy to what I see as the most useful places. It helps me put the many seemingly separate issues in a larger, simpler context. It helps me find allies and resources for the journey, including unexpected ones, and them to find me. It helps me see past the problems to seeing the problems being solved.
And, most importantly, it means I don't need to wake up and live in the world of someone else's creation - I can have a part in shaping the world in which I, and we all, live.
So, in shaping your relationship to community issues and challenges, I'd like to invite you to include time to consider what you could create if you could create any future at all for Sonoma County and the world. Then I invite you to look at your life and activities and see how you can increasingly help make that happen. Your participation doesn't have to be something exotic, difficult, expensive, or time-consuming. It might even be something fun, easy, joyful, fascinating, and personally nourishing!
Even more than that, you might find that, as a result, your mood of dread about the future and overwhelm at the world's problems starts to gradually shift. You might find that the antidote to despair is acting toward that vision of a positive world that you carry deep in your heart. And if enough of us choose to envision and share those visions together, choose to increasingly entwine this thinking and acting into our lives, we may find ourselves getting better at moving ourselves closer to these dreams.
Because I feel we're at a pivotal time where some key choices are being made about how our world will look, and if we aren't clear about what we really want and act to make that happen, I don't think we'll be at all happy with our experience of our future world. But we don't have to be passive to negative outcomes, and there are also positive scenarios that can occur, if we choose to create, receive, nurture, honor, and support them.
As I see it, we have a choice right now between two very different future worlds.

(1) The world of the transnational corporations' visioneers, with large corporations having increasing centralized control over everything in our lives - our products, jobs, schools, culture, social structures, self-images, values, health care, environment, community conversations, and democracy - where they can change and reconstruct whatever they choose to enhance the profit and power of the few, with disregard to the resulting suffering of the many.

(2) A wholistic, sustainable democracy empowering the many to express their unique gifts while honoring those of others, making community decisions together for the benefit of all, aligning with and receiving the overflowering gifts of nature, and putting first the values of love, relationship, culture, health, environment, and freedom of choice.

I think that many people feel that the first scenario is inevitable - perhaps they even hope that they'll be one of the few elites benefitting from that path, or at least somehow avoid being harmed (though I don't see how anyone will be immune from the downsides).
But I also think that if most people stopped and asked themselves what was in their hearts, they would choose something like the second option - even those with widely differing self-definitions (environmentalist, mother, businessperson, teacher, etc.).
If that is indeed what many of us really want, then what would happen if we increasingly said that vision out loud, joining to act together toward that result? What if our community conversations were not just of problems or escapism from problems, but were instead about working together to shape the future of our heart's dreams? Of course, to do to this we might need to release our habitual cynicism and our beliefs in our powerlessness and separateness. Still, are any of these really in our self-interest?
Once we start sharing our visions, we might then use those visions to help us strategize and coordinate as we work on the various pieces of the puzzle. Still, our visions can help guide us, focus us, join us, and keep us excited about the results we hope to create with our work amidst the challenges we all face.
So I invite you to consider what you'd most like to see, share it with others, and develop ways you can more and more help make it real.
We might all be wonderfully surprised to find out what we together really can create.
A Choice Between Two Worlds - What Would You Choose?

The Transnational Corporations' Worldview
The Wholistic, Democratic Worldview
Land and life only as a commodity. can do anything they want, without any responsibility to the community and our shared experience of and needs from the land and nature - desecrating the shared jewel that is the true source of our survival.
Land and life as sacred and our shared womb. We recognize our shared/communal interest and stake in all land and nature on this planet and what happens with them.

Rampant disease from environmental destruction and broadly-spread, poorly-tested, and untraceable toxics and genetically-engineered organisms.

Humans inventing ways to meet their needs while nurturing and receiving the gifts of the Earth and each other, working towards whole and joyful health.

Elitism, where a few have very fancy lifestyles, with lots of land, mobility, and political and economic power, while the vast majority do the bulk of the vital work but struggle to survive and are cut out of the decisions that make their lives as they are.

Shared power and fair distribution of resources, with all pitching in for the common good, so that we can feel peace and respect for each other and ourselves.

Horrifying food crises, with human-introduced errors in the genetic code of our food and Earth's inter-related ecosystems, leading to crop failures, violence, resource wars, huge involuntary migrations, overwhelmed relief organizations, and breaking the hearts and threatening the survival of both the "haves" and the "have nots."

Food that is grown in systems that are aligned with and respecting of natural systems - with long-lasting, non-toxic, whole system solutions to hunger, disease, and our other survival challenges.

Silence and agony in our souls, yearning for something more, without a name or place, not knowing how to get there. Increased addictions, violence, abuse of power, and despair.

Connecting to the life force, Spirit, in our daily lives, individually and communally, through whatever forms nurture and empower us, and allow us to more and more embody and express the higher forms of human nature - love, diversity, mutual respect, constructive creativity, etc.

(c) Patricia Dines, 1998. All rights reserved.

Patricia Dines has been a writer and educator for 15 years. She is currently founder and president of Community Action Publications (CAP), a volunteer, community-supported organization that supports constructive action towards a healthier, less-toxic, more democratic world for all. CAP has a number of current projects, including "The Organic Traveler's Guide to the Wine Country." She can be reached through the EIR or at PDines@compuserve.com.

This entire website is (c) Patricia Dines, 1998-2007. All rights reserved.
Page last updated 04/05/07