Next month I will be giving two talks at St. Thomas University in Minneapolis. I’ll be focussing on how environmental communication needs to help build a culture of sustainability (or whatever you prefer to call an ecologically and socially just future) while it tries to address immediate issues. Here are the summaries.
Achieving sustainability will require more than just clean energy sources, protecting the oceans, eliminating poverty and the rest of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. To support all of these, we need a transition to a culture of sustainability. That means our beliefs, values, aesthetics, worldviews, and institutions – in sum, our culture, must change. For that to happen, communication about ourselves and our place in the world must necessarily evolve. We need a new story about who we are as a species.
In the short to medium term, environmental communicators urgently need to find more effective ways to convince people and organizations to act to protect the Earth and its inhabitants. That communication must also cultivate the kinds of values and perceptions of the world that will support long-term ecological and social sustainability. That’s “talking like a mountain.”
Mark S. Meisner “Consciousness Raising,” in Achieving Sustainability: Visions, Principles, and Practices, Vol. 1, Ed. Debra Rowe, pp.155-158. Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2014.
“As a strategy for social change, consciousness raising can be defined as a form of communication or any activity aimed at increasing people’s awareness of specific conditions and/or ways to address them. In the sustainability context, this means raising awareness about social and environmental issues and problems, as well as about sustainable alternatives. For example, consciousness raising can mean educating people about the risks of biocides and the industrial food system as well as promoting local organic agriculture as an alternative. Either way, the purpose is to get the broader public interested in the cause and then engaged in doing something about it. Consciousness raising is thus a crucial first step in solving social problems….”
IT SEEMS CRAZY to me how often environmentalists try to dissuade people from ravaging the planet by appealing to their self-interest. Do you know what I mean? Don’t pollute because you’ll be poisoned; think of the money you’ll save by not driving your car; protect the rainforest for it might contain a cure for cancer. Environmental discourse is rife with arguments based strictly on narrow individual and collective human welfare.