Philanthropy Day

Yesterday was Philanthropy Day. I went to a luncheon for 1,300 people in San Francisco hosted by one of my favorite ‘causes’, the Pachamama Alliance. The organization was founded 12 years ago by Bill and Lynne Twist as a partnership between the indigenous peoples of the Rainforest and the modern world. They prefer to say the Alliance found them. The purpose of the Alliance is to create a world that is “environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just”. It would seem to be a bit too grandiose an undertaking but for the fact that a large and growing number of extraordinary people are very committed to it. After all, as Margaret Meade said, “Never doubt the power of an individual or small group of people to change the world—that is the way it always happens”.

Darlene and I had the privilege of visiting the Rainforest with Bill and Lynn a couple of years ago and there is no doubt that Pachamama is making a difference. The key is that the whole project is a partnership, not a well intended ‘helping hand’. One of the organizing principles was succinctly stated by an indigenous Elder:

“If you want to help us, stay away. If you see that your liberation is connected to our own, then let us work together.”

The point is that the culture of these people, principally the 6,000 Ashewar people of Ecuador and Peru own about 5 million acres of pristine rainforest, and are passionately committed to  protecting it from destruction by the modern world, particularly the oil industry.

My daughter is actively involved with Pachamama as well. Lynne and Bill are among the most inspiring and committed leaders I know. Lynne’s book, The Soul of Money: Transforming Your Relationship with Money and Life, is becoming a ‘must-read’ for anyone who wants to have their money matter. It occurs to me that as we get older, for many people, this should be a thoughtful concern. What do we do with our money? While most of us aren’t Bill Gates, even he and many of his peers are rethinking this question. Their Foundations are attempting to reallocate the priorities of where and how we spend our wealth. Do we continue to let our money chase our fears with more security, more guns and bigger fences or do we start investing in a better world?

Obviously, this is too big a topic for a blog, but something to think about. We can’t sustain the consumption machine we’ve built and a world we’d want to inhabit at the same time indefinitely. The Pachamama Alliance opens the possibility that maybe the indigenous people of the world can help us to rethink and reorient our worldview in a way that can build a world that works for all of us, one that is both sustainable and economically viable.

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