A New Independence Day for America and the Global Community

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

So goes the preamble of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America, dated July 4, 1776 and signed by the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.On this day 233 years ago, the American colonies declared independence from Great Britain and committed to shaping a future of their own design.

While the country has failed in numerous regards to deliver on the founding principles set forth in the Declaration, the power of its promise is worth pondering. What does life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness mean in 2009, and not just for Americans, but for our global community?

There are countless ways to answer this (and I’d love to hear thoughts from the Justmeans community!). Achieving environmental stability and creating viable local economies are two factors that come to mind for me.

At one point in time these two conditions were more commonplace across the world than they are today.As social innovators, one of our challenges is to recreate that place, all while balancing the needs of a vastly greater population.

Pursuing investment strategies that help local economies thrive and bring us back to ecological balance are one of the many commitments we can make to ensure opportunities of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are widely available.

Sustainable, local economies can create stable communities when they are able to meet people’s basic needs.

Heather White, founder of the global fair labor organization Verite, discussed the importance of local food production and the dangers of over-reliance on the global financial structure in View from the Common.  The democratization of finance through micro-lending and other programs have made important strides in this area in virtually every corner of the world.

Pursuits of life, liberty, and happiness are futile if we remain on a collision course with our environment. Without clean air to breathe and water to drink, there can be no such thing as life, let alone loftier aspirations of liberty and happiness.  There are small things we know we must do on the individual level (recycling, taking pulic transportation...) and big things on the policy level (support renewable energy, curb CO2 emissions...) to reverse course and begin healing and revitalizing our planet.

Sustainable finance is just one patchwork in the quilt social innovators are crafting to improve opportunities for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness in the 21st century. What you think the most important elements are to achieving these unalienable rights today?