How Napa County Mirrors World Concerns:United Nations Dialogue
Our land use issues in Napa County are those addressed in the 2016 United Nations Harmony with Nature virtual dialogue.
The purpose of the dialogue was “to inspire citizens and societies to reconsider how they interact with the natural world in order to implement the Sustainable Development Goals in harmony with nature.” 120 experts from 33 countries represented eight disciplines. I was honored to participate in the philosophy and ethics section. Other disciplines included holistic science; Earth-centered law; ecological economics; education; the humanities; the arts, media, design and architecture; and theology and spirituality.
The recommendations made can be viewed fully at www.harmonywithnatureun.org/wordpress/2016-dialogue. They mirror the concerns of Napa Vision 2050, the Water, Forest, and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative, and various other citizen groups. There is an urgent world wide call to recognize “the need for a holistic worldview rooted in respect for Nature.”
We Napa County citizens are working to establish protections for our watersheds, forests, and oak woodlands, and to protect the lives of citizens who live here. Tourism and powerful outside economic interests impact our quality of life. Many of our children can no longer afford to live here. Traffic is burdensome. Our governing officials too often bend to special interest groups.
The experts in the UN dialogues stressed that globally, economic growth for a few has been achieved at the expense of the natural world and of many human populations. They emphasized the need to foster an “ecocentric democracy”. In such a democracy, the intrinsic value of non-human Nature is recognized as equal to that of humans. The recommendations are very much in concert with the principles of Pope Francis’ Laudato Si. “Broad-scale adoption of an Earth-centered worldview, the only way in which the impending species extinction crisis can be averted, advances the concept of humankind and of our activities as integrated with all life on the planet.”
Attorneys in the group say the first step is to include the rights of Nature in our governing systems. Nature is not a resource to be exploited but has “the fundamental legal rights of ecosystems and species to exist, thrive, and regenerate”. I think of our oak woodlands and forests in Napa which have only voluntary protections against the ambitions of corporations and wealthy individuals—to grow a “great cab” and farm tourists in the process!
Expert theologians underscored the necessity of moving from an attitude of “dominion over” or “stewardship” to one of being citizens of the planet, “earthlings”. They also discussed the importance of the spiritual growth in the paradigm shift to an Earth-centric perspective.
Scientists lamented that present regulation is “how much destruction can occur”. This new model asks, “What would a healthy system look like?” Many of the experts talked about the need to return to traditional ecological indigenous knowledge. About one eighth of the world’s forests are held by indigenous and forest people who protect 80% of its biodiversity. This knowledge is critically important in re-learning how to live in local ecosystems. Education develops knowledge of the interconnectedness of our ecosystems, which can lead to the protection of them through legal standing.
I am struck with how we are dealing locally with the same issues that these 33 countries are also addressing, and that how our solutions may well come from our joint endeavors. We really are one when it comes to our planet.