Humanity is undergoing an alarming crisis of trust and human dignity. Pompous politicians, hidden hackers, and unaccountable executives are, unfortunately, actively shaping our world this very moment. They are unapologetic as they put forces of fear and coercion to use as weapons of manipulation, control, and obstruction of truth. Often these ‘weapons’ are masked within political rhetoric that is working to undermine progress, by pitting humans against ourselves.
Apathetic to the fate of humanity, these fear mongers are willing to forego any sense of the greater good for their own personal vengeance, political or economic gain, or sheer ego. Perhaps most disturbing is the fact that greater society sometimes falls victim, allowing the self-destructive behaviors and persuasion tactics of a few to permeate into our own beliefs and values, leading to a state of perpetual distrust. When this happens, we all fail.
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The time of grey suits is coming to the end – business now strives to be more innovative, creative and inclusive. To achieve that, we can look towards something that’s already all these things – the arts.
Some years ago The Arts Council (England) said that art:
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- Helps people “understand, interpret and adapt to the world around them.” To ensure long-term success of the business, it is essential that our strategies include understanding the world around us and our communities. We need to constantly adapt to survive – art can help.
- Brings “colour, beauty, passion and intensity to lives.”
- Builds people’s skills, confidence and self-esteem.
What do we mean by a liveable city? Perhaps the sum of the factors that add up to a community’s quality of life: housing options, decent jobs, robust neighborhoods, mobility, vibrant public spaces, and affordability. But really, couldn’t that apply to any town, of any size? What makes a “city” so special? For me, it is the stimulating cultural life… Entertainment, enlightenment, recreation, inspiration—those things that help us step beyond the bounds of our day-to-day pragmatic existence and fire up our sense of possibility, collectively and individually.
Diversity plays a key role here. Through the eyes of San Francisco’s huge range of artists, for instance, I can experience radical differences among us and discover surprising affinities. I can imagine myself walking in different shoes, speaking a different language. Through art I can thrill to the beautiful or strange, surrender to the ridiculous, or struggle to comprehend the darkness. Art is the door to a million feelings, a cultural landscape that literally and spiritually brings people together. When we venture into foreign territory together, we bond. We share the same experience, we are on the same team. We cultivate empathy, and empathy is surely the deepest root of tolerance.
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Since publishing my first book seven year ago, I have spent much time speaking before a diversity of audiences on the subject of sustainability. Over the course of hundreds of conversations, people have opened up about the role of individual citizens and consumers in creating and manifesting a “better world” for themselves, their children, and future generations. I have found that a “sustainability generation” has been awakened and has mobilized as force for good, to better themselves and the world.
Increasingly, people have become more knowledgeable about the complex and interrelated dynamics of the communities in which they live. Although not all people define or validate sustainability the same way, there is a fundamental and advancing understanding that humans and our behaviors, represent the common denominator for a better future. The context of sustainability has deep roots in environmental conservation and management, however, people are now understanding and validating the entrenched realities for social equity and economic prosperity.
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