Policy wonks, scientists and academics in the narrowly contained sustainability community are not naturally wired to use a language of emotion. They are fearful of not being taken seriously. Parties like JUCCCE and Best Foot Forward can help broaden conversations around sustainability by building connections between these experts and people in other fields, including advertising, movie production, marketing, behavioral psychology and religion. Such storytellers can be instrumental in lending a personality to the sustainability movement.

Let me show you what I mean. The following are some examples of people who should be engaged in sustainability efforts to push the movement forward.

Investor Jeremy Grantham of GMO stands out because he can passionately and articulately talk about the long-term future of the Earth through an economic lens that helps fellow investors see impacts in dollar signs.

Jim Wallis, CEO of Sojourners and chair of the Global Agenda Council on Faith for the World Economic Forum, recently received a grant to pursue climate advocacy through faith communities. Stewardship of God’s creations in the Bible is a direct link to calls for environmental volunteerism.



Suzanne Shelton, an American pollster and behavior change specialist, talks about how humor may be more effective than education at breaking habits. She says, “Knowing a thing doesn’t mean you will do a thing.” Perhaps the biting wit of TV comedians Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert could be used to make fun of shameful unsustainable behavior.

The make-up-words-and-mix-them-into-mantras master of this generation, will.i.am, can surely put a light and hip twist on sustainable behaviors.

Lastly, could we convert media king Ryan Seacrest, who has subverted the image of success in the American Dream into an orgy of conspicuous consumption with shows like Keeping Up With the Kardashians, into a sustainability advocate? If so, could he bring bling into sustainability?

In pointing out what makes a successful movie, Phillip Muhl, a major movie executive formerly of Disney, says that no one wants to watch a movie where the world is going to end and we’re all going to die. But we all love a good drama that shows us how screwed we can be, and yet the human race still perseveres. We go to movies for hope. How can environmentalists move from climate-weary white papers to magnetic box office–style stories?

The team behind the new Battlestar Galactica was brilliant in the way it allowed glimmers of hope in the midst of so much despair. Similarly, the human drama of everyday life on an Earth being stripped of resources must be told in a compelling way. Instead of the drama of polar bears or rising PM2.5 statistics, we must tell the story of us.

It’s time to start questioning not just what world we will leave behind, but what dreams we will shape for our children. To do that, we need to leave sustainability jargon behind and take up the language of hope. View Ensia homepage

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