Share with your children how you consciously spend your money on products and services from socially and environmentally conscious businesses. Let them see what is in the products that create a regenerative earth versus the ones that add to the toxic conditions of global warming and climate change. We had our sons accompany us on shopping trips as young children and teenagers. We showed them how to read labels and how to check on the impact of the ingredients on the earth and animals. Now in their twenties, our sons often send us texts with info about a new product or service that is regenerative to people and to the earth. Children watch what you do more than what you say.
As part of my series about what we must do to inspire the next generation about sustainability and the environment, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anita Sanchez.
Anita Sanchez, Ph.D., Aztec and Mexican-American, is a transformational leadership consultant, speaker, coach and author of the international bestselling book, “The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times” (Simon & Schuster). She bridges indigenous teachings with the latest science to inspire and equip women and men to enjoy meaningful, empowered lives and careers. For more information and to download the free song that is based on the book, visit www.FourSacredGifts.com. For information on Anita’s diversity, inclusion, and unconscious bias training, see consulting website www.SanchezTennis.com.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
Being of Mexican-American and Aztec heritage, I grew up economically poor. However, I had rich learning from my Aztecan grandmother and my mother about the importance and sacredness of all beings, the people, the earth, and spirit. When I watched my grandmother and my mother cooking, they would always give blessings of gratitude to the earth, water, sun, all the elements, and to the people who grew the food that was now at our table. We were taught not to waste anything, from the water we drank to the friendships that we made.
Was there an “aha moment” or a specific trigger that made you decide you wanted to become a scientist or environmental leader? Can you share that story with us?
It is clear to me that there were two major “aha moments” that compelled me to become a social scientist engaged in the study of human systems and an environmental pro-activist.
First, there is a recurring dream that began when I was three years old. I saw the earth covered with lots of stick people of different sizes and colors, and we had our hands on one another’s heart. It created this beautiful web of love and connection. When I grew up, I knew that I was to do just that, so I studied behavioral science and organizational development.
Second, in 1995, I was teaching indigenous youth about visionary leadership behavior and tools to help them be successful in business. I had become dismayed with the slow progress I was seeing for business leaders to embrace diversity, inclusion, and the earth. While volunteering at the AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Society leadership) conference, I learned the Eagle Hoop Prophecy that changed my life. Years before, a Mohican Elder, Don Coyhis, had a vision and a call went out around the world. Twenty-seven indigenous Elders from the Four Directions around the world in Fall of 1994 answered that call. They built the Eagle Hoop from a branch of a tree, bent into a hoop, and from that hoop they hung 100 eagle feathers. On that weekend, there was no fighting or disagreement. They prayed, danced, chanted, and meditated, and at the end of the weekend, they placed four gifts into the hoop for all humankind to remember how to be “in right relationship” with themselves, other people, the earth, and all beings. The four sacred gifts are:
The Gift of The Power to Forgive the Unforgivable,
The Gift of the Power of Unity,
The Gift of the Power of Healing, and
The Gifts of the Power of Hope in Action.
Ever since learning of that prophecy, I have woven indigenous wisdom with modern science to aid business leaders and their teams all over the world. My purpose, my why I was here, became clear: I am to inspire people to discover and trust their gifts so that they become a life-giving connection to all people and the earth.
Is there a lesson you can take out of your own story that can exemplify what can inspire a young person to become an environmental leader?
It is essential to dream and to remember what power you have in being a whole human being, by examining your worldview assumptions and actions. A whole human being embraces a worldview with the understanding that we are all intimately interconnected. It is what the Lakota people call “Mitakaye Oyasin” or “All My Relations.” We are related to everything: to people, all the animals, plants, earth, water, air, fire. When a human being understands that we are not “alone,” we are not “separate,” then we are able to accept the great responsibility and power to create harmony among all of us.
My awareness continues to grow of what it means to be and to act as a whole human being. I will say that I have much more happiness, less suffering, and more meaningful relationships in my personal and work life by living lessons from indigenous wisdom-keepers from around the world.
So, I continue to dream and continue to learn more about dreaming through scientific research and through learning from indigenous wisdom keepers from various tribes around the world.
Can you tell our readers about the initiatives that you or your company are taking to address climate change or sustainability? Can you give an example for each?
We are a full-service organization development consulting firm with a particular focus on diversity, inclusion, equity, and large-scale change. To address climate change, or more specifically to reverse global warming, my company does the following:
- We donate our time and financial support to organizations that share our mission. Specifically, I am a member of the Board of Directors of the Pachamama Alliance, which inspires people to contribute to an environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling, and socially just human presence on our earth. In addition to giving monthly to the organization, I lead an annual journey of business leaders and their families into the sacred headwaters of the Amazon to learn about the importance of the rainforest, the lungs of our earth, and of the indigenous people, the Achuar and Sapara tribes, who live in harmony with the forest, protecting it for us and future generations. I am also a board member of the Bioneers Organization , an innovative nonprofit organization that highlights breakthrough solutions for restoring people and planet. Founded in 1990, we act as a fertile hub of social and scientific innovators with practical and visionary solutions for the world’s most pressing environmental and social challenges. Bioneers connects people with solutions and each other. Our acclaimed annual national conference and local Bioneers Network events are complemented by extensive media production including a vibrant online media presence, award-winning radio and podcast series, and book series.
- We offer our clients and the community the Awakening the Dreamer, Changing the Dream Symposium, a powerful experiential seminar from the Pachamama Alliance that enlightens participants about the crisis of sustainability, justice, and spirit we face and generates realistic hope for a future grounded in action. We focus on:Where We Are, How We Got Here, What Is Possible, Where Do We Go From Here? Get Into Action.
- We introduce community members to Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, through a Pachamama Alliance seminar that explores 100 of the most substantive solutions to global warming. All solutions modeled are already in place, well understood, analyzed based on peer-reviewed science, and are expanding around the world.
- We have 40 solar panels, generating 10Kw of electric power, installed for our home and home office, supplying our needs and contributing electricity back into the larger grid.
- We weave indigenous wisdom and modern science in our work with businesses and communities. Both indigenous wisdom and modern science show us that we are intimately interconnected.
Can you share 3 lifestyle tweaks things that the general public can do to be more sustainable or help address the climate change challenge?
- Only take what you need to eat. Reduce food waste. “A third of the food raised or prepared does not make it from farm or factory to fork… Hunger is a condition of life for 800 million people worldwide… The food we waste contributes 4.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent into the atmosphere each year — roughly 8% of total anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. People who need food are not getting it, and food that is not getting consumed is heating up the planet.” (Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawkins)
- Consume mostly a plant-based diet. There is a huge cost to our Western diet that is heavily meat-based. It is estimated that raising livestock accounts for nearly 15 percent of our global greenhouse gases each year. And, the most direct and indirect emissions say more than 50 percent. In addition, our health suffers from overconsumption of meat protein leading to health problems including certain cancers, strokes, and heart disease. (Drawdown, edited by Paul Hawkins)
- Regenerate the earth by not using toxic chemicals on your yard or in your neighborhood, purchasing organic food whenever possible, and limiting your household use of bio-toxic cleaning products.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview: The youth led climate strikes of September 2019 showed an impressive degree of activism and initiative by young people on behalf of climate change. This was great, and there is still plenty that needs to be done. In your opinion what are 5 things parents should do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement? Please give a story or an example for each.
Five things parents can do to inspire the next generation to become engaged in sustainability and the environmental movement are:
- Donate your time and money to non-profit organizations that are creating and using sustainable and environmental solutions to reverse global warming. Share with your children where and why you donate your time and financial resources to create a present and future for your children. Our sons began participating in our Pachamama Alliance work at a young age with a journey into the Amazon rainforest and attending the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium; ever since, they have been committed supporters of our ongoing efforts to foster positive change in communities around the world.
- Share with your children how you consciously spend your money on products and services from socially and environmentally conscious businesses. Let them see what is in the products that create a regenerative earth versus the ones that add to the toxic conditions of global warming and climate change. We had our sons accompany us on shopping trips as young children and teenagers. We showed them how to read labels and how to check on the impact of the ingredients on the earth and animals. Now in their twenties, our sons often send us texts with info about a new product or service that is regenerative to people and to the earth. Children watch what you do more than what you say.
- Serve meals that are nutritious and primarily plant-based. We’ve moved more and more toward plant-based meals, and now our sons are leading us in buying and cooking these healthier meals.
- Share your enthusiastic support of movements like #FridaysforFuture by actively marching with the youth and donating to youth environmental and sustainability initiatives. We join in on marches to show support for reversing global warming and protecting the need for science. Actively show interest in topics that impact sustainability and environment by sharing what you read in print and see in movies and television. Also, there is up-to-date information about positive solutions to major environmental problems on the Bioneers website, videos, and radio series.
- Listen to your children’s concerns and hopes for their future and for our climate future. After you listen, and listen, and listen some more, be in conversation with them about what you plan to do, and how you can support what they want to do, to take action. Listening is perhaps the greatest gift that we can give someone.
How would you articulate how a business can become more profitable by being more sustainable and more environmentally conscious? Can you share a story or example?
We are at a stage where aligning with consumers’ values can be the critical key to business success. Young people are increasingly choosing what to buy based on the environmental footprint and organizational values of companies. For instance, Patagonia is the go-to outdoor gear company of choice for millions of people because of their sustainable manufacturing practices and their very public stance on repurposing and recycling outdoor clothing This is an essential factor in the company’s short and long-term growth and profitability. It demonstrates that consumers have the power to drive business sustainability practices.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
In 2007 I met Jack Canfield, author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and The Success Principles, in the sacred headwaters of the Amazon in Ecuador. In 2009, I took his first Train-the-Trainer Success Principles course. It was there in a community of people who desired to fulfill their purpose that I began to write my book. I built my confidence to intimately share my story, wisdom from indigenous elders, and the impact on leaders of families, corporations and communities. The Four Sacred Gifts: Indigenous Wisdom for Modern Times was published in 2017 by Simon & Schuster. It is an international best-seller and the 2019 International Latino Book Award winner in three categories: Best Self-Help Book, Best in Spirituality, and Most Inspirational Non-fiction Book in English. It was with Jack’s gentle, persistent encouragement to be clear about what I want that I became inspired to share my gifts with the world. I am joyfully inspiring people to discover and trust their gifts so that they become a life-giving connection to all — people and the earth.
You are a person of great influence and doing some great things for the world! If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
A movement that would embody and enact the indigenous wisdom that we are all intimately connected to each other, every living being on earth, the land, the air, the water. It would be a movement that gives us a foundational understanding of our impact, and our responsibility, for respecting and contributing to a healthy, regenerative biosphere and human society.
Do you have a favorite life lesson quote? Can you tell us how that was relevant to you in your own life?
I often draw on the wisdom of indigenous elders and science. Three of my favorite quotes that remind me to take a pause and reflect on who I am, what are my unexamined assumptions, and how my thoughts and behavior will impact seven generations out, are:
- “Human beings forgot how to be present when they invented time.” Ilarion Merculief, Unangan Elder
- “You Can’t Google Wisdom.” Dr. Anita Sanchez, Aztec and Mexican-American. “Put down your cell phone and computer periodically and go inside yourself and listen to your heart; go into nature and go to true wisdom keepers to learn.”
- “Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them.” Albert Einstein
What is the best way for people to follow you on social media?
This was so inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!