There are powerfully compelling elements to sustainability which have been largely ignored. Part of making the transition to a greener way of life involves embedding a more responsible world view into our individual psyches and collective cultures. To get there we need to foster interest in ecology so that it is seen as both desirable and sacred.
Sustainability needs a new language that is more accessible and more compelling
to the average person. Business, government, and other organizations are making
strides advancing sustainability but we need wider involvement and faster
growth. Although we are seeing increasing levels of environmental activism, we
need to expand the message to reach a larger circle of people.
We must do more than preach solely to the converted. The number of committed
environmentalists is insufficient to induce the required changes. At present,
environmental communications are geared toward an elite group not the general
population and for those that do get the message, it often fails to resonate.
For those on the outside, the language of sustainability is a confusing jumble
of fear-inducing figures that ultimately prove to be both polarizing and
We need government legislation and regulation, but if we are to bring about
lasting results, we must augur change by speaking to the hearts and minds of
average people. Fact based approaches have not worked and fear based approaches
may make matters worse by breeding avoidance and apathy.
Making green advocacy more compelling to larger numbers of people demands new
strategies that are based on more than fear, facts and figures. While the logic
of sustainability is overwhelming, reason alone has proven insufficient to
change consciousness on a global scale.
Finding ways of communicating the value of sustainability to the masses is
one of the most prescient issues of our time. To disseminate the message on a
truly global scale, we need to tap into the positive emotional and spiritual
elements of the human psyche.
The use of such positive emotional and spiritual communication is far more
likely to induce people to act.
What we can learn from branding and
We can learn a lot from branding and marketing experts. Whether or not we
agree with the products and services they promote, we cannot disagree with the
fact that many big brands have succeeded in changing both attitudes and
behaviors. We need to harness this power and put it to work for the planet.
We must do a better job of communicating and marketing sustainability. We
need to benefit from an understanding of the effective marketing and
communications strategies employed by the big brands. As explained in a May 15
“It is officially time to pass on, or at the least share with marketing, the
baton of sustainability. It is also time to re-brand that baton. Reducing
complex science to simple science in attempts to mobilise mainstream behaviour
change has failed to deliver…”
We need to communicate in a language that is accessible to all. To
successfully communicate sustainability to the average person we need to employ
language that resonates. As any marketer will tell you, consumers are more
interested in what is sexy then what is reasonable.
“[A] sustainable society can be one where people enjoy high well-being and a
rich culture, where we can all reach our potential and have an incredible time
along the way. We need new and compelling consumer aspirations – ones that can
be achieved within environmental limits, of course…The opportunity to frame a
future that is sexy (and yes, of course, sustainable) is right
We need to show that sustainability can be fun in addition to saving lives
and radically enhancing our quality of life. To do this, we must understand that
people are much more likely to respond to communications that speak to universal
aspects of the human experience. namely love and desire.
Love and the desire to act
Cultivating love in ourselves and in others may seem like a tall order, but
we are all born into the world hardwired with a capacity to love. We already
have proof that love works to augur change. Love for the planet and each other
is mobilizing environmental activists in unprecedented numbers all around the
world. Eco-communities are popping up everywhere as more and more people are
looking for ways to express their positive regard and make a difference. These
passionate environmentally minded people are motivated by love, they care deeply
about the planet and are prepared to act to lessen their impacts on the earth.
Love for the earth makes us good stewards and tireless activists. Love endlessly
motivates us to take the message out into our communities and into our
Love is the most powerful motivation and it can help us to overcome both
apathy and materialism. It is easy to feel helpless in the face of the threats
posed by climate change. However the best way to combat paralysis is to care.
Caring is neither difficult nor complex and it is within all of our grasps. If
we really want to forge a better world, even more than the tactics we employ, we
need to cultivate the love to make the effort.
Love is an antidote to rampant materialism. Although material concerns rule
the day, love ties us into a value system that runs far deeper than money. Being
part of a cause greater than ourselves offers a purpose and a sense of meaning
to life that material pursuits do not. Acting with an awareness of the planet
connects us to our world in a deeply fulfilling fashion.
Although the benefits both personally and collectively far outweigh the
sacrifice, making a more sustainable world may entail a decrement in money,
power, or position. These types of sacrifices are far more readily made out of
Love is a primary motivator that causes people to think beyond themselves and
consider the needs of future generations. Without the impetus of love it will be
difficult to move beyond self interest.
Accountability through spirituality
Spirituality is a powerful tool to help people be more accountable and this
will increase environmental engagement. While organized religion is dying,
belief in a higher power remains strong with more than 9 in 10 Americans calling
themselves believers. What is even more interesting is the fact that belief is
strongest amongst those who are most likely to deny climate change
(conservatives and Republicans). The inference here is that spirituality may
offer an inroad through the impermeable dogmatism of climate deniers.
It is important to understand that we are talking about spirituality and not
religion. Religion promulgates certain fixed beliefs while spirituality in the
context of this discussion is about soul-searching and the pursuit of truth.
Spirituality commonly transcends the practice of religion. The distinction is
important because we need to get beyond the polarization we have witnessed with
environmental evangelists on one side and climate deniers on the other.
As explained by Mark C. Coleman, author of
“The Sustainability Generation: The Politics of Change and Why
Accountability is Essential NOW!,” one of the keys to getting people
environmentally involved is fostering a greater spirit of accountability.
“Being accountable by being present and in the right frame of mind for sound
decision-making is essential for (1) recognizing our behavior; (2) understanding
the impact of our behavior on economy, environment, and society; and, (3) being
able to take action through personal accountability to modify behavior to effect
Spirituality is is an ego transcending journey that cultivates a sense of
purpose beyond ourselves.
“Being able to think beyond ourselves requires patience, humility, a strong
capacity for listening and learning, and an ability to separate ego from our
true ‘self’,” Coleman explains. “Understanding that spirituality goes beyond the
practice of religion, and that we all are part of a generation living within a
context of time and fate which is requiring more accountability from each of us,
is a perspective toward how people can begin to embrace sustainability from
personal point of view.”
People are suffering from widespread disillusionment. Add to this the anxiety
inducing reality of climate change and people are more likely to avoid rather
than engage. People are detached from themselves, from each other and from
“The underlying power of humanity is that we are resilient and can adapt to
change. But in the act of being resilient we rely on spirituality, being caring,
and finding connections among one another and the world that foster sense of
self, resourcefulness, and community.”
According to Coleman the answers to spirituality and sustainability are
“The sustainability of our generation, and the earth, are intrinsically tied
to our capacity to delve individually and collectively into spirituality.
Individuals have the power within themselves to be the stewards of their
behaviors, to set the standard for accountability within society, and represent
a generation of enlightened individuals that can not only be resilient, but be a
force for creating a better world. The generation living here and now is the
Sustainability Generation. This generation will be measured not on its ability
to wage war, land on the moon, or build financial wealth…From here on out the
Sustainability Generation will seek out harmonizing its relationships with
nature, among one another, and with God.”
The convergence of sustainability and spirituality can foster accountability
and increase the will to act. Spirituality can also enable us to avoid falling
victim to hopelessness and selfishness.
A direct offshoot of sustainability, deep ecology includes a spiritual
element, and as such, may be a better vehicle to communicate the value of green.
Deep Ecology brings together cutting-edge science, philosophy, action and
spirituality. It is arguably the most holistic school of environmental thought
as it is largely concerned with ecosystems and as such, it is a study of
This environmental philosophy is characterized by its advocacy of the
inherent worth of all living beings regardless of their instrumental utility to
human needs. It further advocates that societies need to be restructured in
accordance with such ideas. It holds that human destruction of the natural world
poses a threat to all organisms in the natural order.
Deep ecology’s core principle is the belief that the living environment as a
whole should be respected and regarded as having the right to live and
flourish. Deep ecology is providing a foundation for the environmental, ecology and
green movements and has fostered a new system of environmental ethics.
A new approach to communicating sustainability must engage people on a
spiritual and psycho-emotional level. Ecological awareness must be communicated
as a heart-felt mind-set that people embrace and practice everyday. If the sustainability revolution is to expand and achieve critical mass, it
must be embedded into our core values.
Source: Global Warming is Real
© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.
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