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It's Time for Matriotism: Love of Mother Earth

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We all know about patriotism, feeling devotion to a particular part of the planet. But now we are developing matriotism: love of Mother Earth.

Why do we refer to our planet as Mother Earth? Because she is the mother we all share, no matter which woman's body you came out of. Your personal mother may have been wonderful or nasty or something in between. But Mother Earth always practices abundance and generosity: she gives you oxygen for your lungs, the beauty of nature for your spirit, and the water and food you are made of. And in return she makes just one modest demand: don't foul your own nest, or you will pay a price eventually.

Becoming a mother involves creating a new life. It is one of the highest acts of creativity. And now, just when we need it most on a planetary scale, creativity and innovation are bursting forth.

We are seeing the growh of a new economic model -- a triple-bottom-line model that puts social equity and environmental restoration on an equal footing with financial sustainability (profit) -- and that economic model will steadily replace the old profit-centric model as the impacts of environmental destruction and inequality get impossible to ignore.

The new economic model sees sharing as the new buying, and Bay Area companies are leading the way. AirBnB allows people to share living space. GetAround allows people to share their motor vehicles. LiquidSpace allows people to share workspace. Yerdle allows people to share their power tools, camping tents, lawn mowers, and every other commodity that only gets used occasionally. Everywhere you look, people are coming together to strengthen the local, resource-sharing economy.

This new economic model undermines the old myth that saving the environment will destroy jobs and slow economic growth. The data are showing us that making money by saving resources rather than destroying them creates more and better jobs than the old model.

A study by the Pew Charitable Trust found that green jobs in the U.S. grew more than twice as fast as the overall job market between 1998 and 2008, and suffered fewer setbacks. The private sector has invested over $2.4 trillion in green companies and technologies since 2007, and the projection is for future investments of $1 trillion annually -- an amount necessary to accelerate a global transition to sustainability.

There is a straightforward supply-and-demand driver of these trends. As the natural resource base gets destroyed, it becomes more profitable to conserve resources and develop sustainable alternatives. A business that finds ways to make more profit healing nature than destroying it is bound to be successful.

There are buildings in San Francisco that are saving tens of thousands of dollars per year in operating costs due to changes promoted by the SF Department of Environment. We are proving that sustainability is profitable.

We Americans have a special responsibility to promote matriotism. We are less than 5 percent of the world's population but we use 25 percent of the world's resources, produce 25 percent of the world's pollution, and have 25 percent of the world's imprisoned population.

Matriotism involves creating a "solutionary" culture where people feel empowered to change the things in their local community that need upgrading: planting more trees, promoting community farming, increasing the rate of composting and recycling, fighting for the creation of good jobs. It means creating a culture of "sustainovation" -- innovation that promotes sustainability.

Matriotism requires that we learn how to become good ancestors. The masons who built the foundation layers of the cathedrals in Europe that took centuries to build knew that they would not see the final product of their work. But they also knew that they had to do very solid, precise work because of all the weight that would eventually rest on the foundations they were creating.

We are the modern equivalent of those masons. We are laying the foundations of a future sustainable global economy that will have no starving children, no clear-cut forests, no wars for oil, and no endangered species. The only questions revolve around how long that will take and how we will muster the courage to save humanity from itself.

Luckily, we already have a prime directive to guide us on this challenging journey, from the green architect, William McDonough: "How do we love all the children, of all species, for all time?"

Dr. Kevin Danaher is Executive Director of Friends of SF Environment, the non-profit ally of the San Francisco Department of Environment.

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