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Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Time for a (Sustainability) Revolution?

Tony Juniper’s new book ‘What has Nature Ever Done for Us? How Money Really Does Grow On Trees’ was launched this week.  Juniper, a leading figure in the UK environmental movement for many years, has written a number of books on environmental issues so we’re looking forward to reading the book and adding it to our growing library of inspiring sustainability reads.  ‘What has Nature Ever Done for Us?’ is of course a play on the excellent Monty Python sketch ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?

In a column in the Ecologist published yesterday, Tony Juniper wrote that we need a revolution based on sustainability. “We need ideas as compelling as those that embarked the world on its current competition-driven ‘free’ markets spree,” he said.  Juniper points the finger at the economic crisis, sustainability fatigue and the confusion caused by skeptics as barriers for change. 

We’re also increasingly seeing articles and blogs debating the very term ‘sustainability’, suggesting that it’s over-used or unhelpful.  I don’t believe we should waste time questioning what to call sustainability and we don’t plan to rename Sustainability Consult anytime soon.  I remember an innovation conference where a Korean gentleman told the European Commission that it spends all its time talking about fostering innovation while the rest of the world is just innovating.  We need to get on with increasing the sustainability consciousness of society as a whole. 

So how can we capture the imaginations of the public and media once again to create the sustainability revolution Tony Juniper calls for?  As communicators, we sometimes face the dilemma of whether to push the headline-grabbing scare stories or to take a more moderate line.  The moderate approach is gaining headway and that’s no bad thing.  The consumer isn’t stupid and if we want to affect change, we need to educate and communicate responsibly. 

Short of imposing mandatory climate science education which clearly isn’t going to happen, we have to keep sharing information in a credible and consistent way until there is no doubt about the need to act on climate change and other environmental issues.  The consumer has become desensitised to scaremongering and as the economic crisis worsens, it will only get harder to grab their attention for sustainability issues.  Severe weather, wildfires and floods put the story on the world’s front pages for a few days but how quickly we forget as a society.

As a sustainability community, we need to push for Tony Juniper’s revolution and work consistently and credibly for change.  As we move into 2013, our fifth year of operations, we’re proud to be part of that movement.

Blog by Kathryn Sheridan

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