If you’re trying to save the Earth, you’re not supposed to talk about it?

Photo Credit: NASA
Photo Credit: NASA

Yesterday an article on Grist caught my eye. The headline: “Want everyone else to buy into environmentalism? Never say ‘Earth.’”

Here we go again, I thought. But then I got to reading.

Midway through the piece, veteran environmental marketer David Fenton explains how tough it is for people to wrap their heads around acting on climate change. People really can’t do it, he said, unless they know what can actually be done about it. In other words, the environmental movement, he contends, hasn’t put forward a clear solution.

“Go out on the street and ask people, ‘What can we do about climate change?’ They won’t know,” Fenton says. “So we have to make this a lot simpler.”

Though his insight rings true, it’s tricky to implement. Not to defend the environmental movement’s penchant for poor communications, the fact remains that there are no easy solutions. To say otherwise is to contribute to the ever-growing fury pointed at environmentalists’ alleged hypocrisy. To paraphrase David Roberts, while a carbon tax is the best answer to climate change on a blackboard or in a spreadsheet, in the real world, power and special interests matter and anything that alters them in the right direction is desirable.

This truth, put simply, is why I believe so strongly in the work of NWEI. Our understanding of the problems and our choice of solutions do not lend themselves to simple slogans or taglines. Rather, it’s up to us to nudge the power and interests in the right direction, and to spark the change in our own communities. To quote David Roberts:

“To fight for a sustainable path is not a discrete task, it’s a life, an orientation, an enduring context in which smaller, discrete tasks unfold. There is no ‘beating climate change’ or ‘solving the problem.’ There is no policy unicorn. There are only degrees of better or worse, opportunities claimed or lost, steps forward or backward.”

I submit that this idea reflects the exact reasons for supporting NWEI. While our communications are, like many in this field, a work in progress and there is no unicorn in sight, together we recognize that our small acts are significant and do change the world for good.

In other words, we’re the unicorn we’ve been looking for!

Danny Lampton is Communications Associate at the Northwest Earth Institute. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of NWEI, though he always hopes they do.

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