Going beyond sustainable to regenerative in the jewelry trade. Marc Choyt shows how on Talkback.
By Marc Choyt
I shop our farmers market, eat organic, hunt for my meat, and use my company as social entrepreneurial venture.
Yet my daily activities continue to drain resilience from our biosphere. Hidden externalities in supply chains make alignment between values and actions next to impossible. I muster the courage to face my participation in the collective destruction of Gaia. No matter what I do personally, news of the day— ice caps melting, extinction of species etc...bring up feelings of fragmentation, grief, anger and powerlessness that move through my psyche like a thousand dark pilgrims.
Embracing the dark pilgrims, giving them a place of honor on my alter, working with the truth: if Gaia is being raped by human activities, then I am being raped too increases opportunity to approach issues in a transformational manner. The raw truth of burnout, depression, unskillful anger or other feelings that limit my ability to act strategically are faced directly, filling me with terrible awe.
Beyond Sustainable to Regenerative
As an activist and practitioner in the jewelry sector, I want to create parallel economic models that break free of the linear industrial processes. It is too late to be sustainable. I want my activities to be regenerative—that actually rebuild communities. It helps to see my actions as part of a greater human story.
Sometimes I identify with Odysseus, having to face the one eyed Cyclops, who’s power and weakness derives from singleness of vision. Three million have died over the last twenty years in wars funded by players in the diamond business, which still treats blood diamonds as a marketing issue.
Opposing sociopathic businesses (some of which are creating the new ethical standards for the industry) is personally intimate. I am related to those elements in the human circle that includes even those who express symptoms of separation and disconnection.
I am not trying to save the earth here — I dropped that anthropocentric hubris long ago.
Earth will survive and transform regardless of whether or not human beings begin to understand that we are part of the great movement of all things. The ever-widening permutations of gray between profound acceptance, compromise and this is unacceptable are deeply intimate, soul searching issues guided by the sacred pilgrims. Leaning into the great mystery contained within paradox and polarity, wrestling with the angles in our collective trajectory and personal values is an opportunity for transformation.
My destiny and your destiny.
The 500-year Plan
In this context, the work itself is not enough so I am focusing on a question one of my mentors used to ask me: what is your 500-year plan?
I stand on the shoulders of my ancestors who brought me here. Similarly, our children will stand on our shoulders and look at the choices we are making now for them. The Cartesian model, this notion of separation between ourselves and other, this idea of dead matter, is dying but not without struggle. Whether we are in a collective birth canal or our death-throes is up to the collective us. I do the work that is front of me because it is beautiful and also because if I do not, part of me that I love dies.
Jewelry That Regenerates Nature
Wherever we are, whatever we do, we make a difference by trying to save as much of our bio-reserve as we can for the future by reconnecting fair and equitable relationships shredded by commoditization. People, Profit and Planet has become a somewhat limiting perspective. We need planet, planet and planet, because we are all equally part of one great circle.
We must measure profit in context to activities that are regenerative to nature and community. In practice, this means making connections that require a kind of new eyes wisdom.
When I started my jewelry company I was doing a riparian restoration of land in Northern New Mexico. I realized that the money I was using to fund the project was destroying some riparian area in another part of the world. Jewelry is a repository of culture, rich in symbolism and emotional meaning. Opportunities to create a more beautiful world are around us if we can only see them.
Reconnecting threads for myself entailed helping to build a community with a common vision around ethical sourcing. Five years ago, few thought jewelry could ever be beneficial for human and ecological communities from mine to market. Now I sell my customers fair trade gold. I can tell the story of the cooperative from which I sourced my sapphire.
Nothing will be possible, however, without us. If just five percent of people interested in jewelry went into their store and said, I will only buy jewelry that is traceable and transparent, business will follow money and change will happen.
Expanding consciousness often conjures up goals like bliss or happiness, but bringing attention to issues of how our simple day to day purchases affect the world, embracing the dark pilgrims of discontent, awakens us in ways that are equally important for ourselves. It takes careful listening, self-acceptance and courage to walk this kind of Blessing Way.
Sometimes to change the course of a mighty river, all you need to do is move a pebble on top of a mountain. Even a small act of personal kindness or deciding where to purchase your wedding ring can have cosmic significance.