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Published by Antoinette Siu on 29 Mar 2012 at 03:28 pm
Capitalism, Communities, and Communication


As the Spring of Sustainability series wraps up its first week, I reflect on some talking points from our environmental leaders.

Hosted by Betsy Rosenberg, today’s talk on the Spring of Sustainability series featured Emmy award-winning journalist and host of Sundance Channel’s The Green Simran Sethi.

Earlier this week, author Hunter Lovins spoke to us about finding a way out of capitalism. She urged each of us to delve deeper and question where the basic necessities in our lives come from.

On Tuesday, Duane Elgin explored the topic of volunteering simplicity and the importance of living with balance. As he puts it, “There is no cook book about simplicity.”

This Thursday, Simran Sethi speaks to us about where the environmental movement stands in our current media sphere. Her topic, “Why Sustainability Isn’t Getting More Traction–and What We Can Do To Change It,” was a good segue to a question many of us may be wondering as we approach Earth Day this April.

Sending an important message on such a massive scale requires incredible drive. Over the last several years, the movement has gained powerful momentum but has been losing traction at the same time. What happened? Simran Sethi couldn’t have put it better when she responded, “Things got really deeply politicized and convoluted. There are a number of reasons it didn’t gain traction… This is just the way we’re wired.”

On a very basic level, our human brain is programmed to react to immediate danger. The difference between telling someone what is going to happen to him or her in twenty years versus what is affecting them right now, Simran explains, is really in the framing.

Reflecting on what a journalism student once proposed, Sethi remembers being challenged herself to reframe the question of what sustainability is to focusing on what sustains us as people.

“We have to work with existing cares. It’s about igniting people in a place where they already care, meeting people where they are.”

Back in October 2011, Wiser had the honor of hosting a WiserLocal event with Simran in la Ruche, Paris. That night, Simran and the community discussed what was holding us back from going green. Moving beyond the “one-size-fits-all” idea and approach is urgent, she mentioned. We need to push past dropping alarming statistics and bring the environmental conversation back to the level of the people. What does it mean in our day-to-day lives?

Five months later, she speaks to listeners this afternoon about what works with environmental communication and perhaps—our greatest fear—what isn’t working.

Simran’s message hasn’t changed, and neither should ours. It’s easy to be deterred when the sustainability message is losing its hold in the midst of mainstream media. In the end, however, it seems like what is at stake isn’t the message we’re trying to send. It’s the way in which we’re sending it.

“Taking one step is a part of a bigger journey,” Simran Sethi reminds us.

Indeed, the movement and dialogue surrounding sustainability hasn’t lost its traction. Maybe the real challenge is figuring out how to hang on to it.

To take part in Simran’s latest project, visit the blog Metamorphose.

The Spring of Sustainability series continues. Tomorrow, ecotourism expert Hitesh Mehta will be talking about “Pioneering Methaphysical Approaches in Planning and Design” at 12pm PST.