Tuesday 8 December 2009

Sell the Sizzle

I've just read Futerra's 'Sell the Sizzle' guide, it is required reading for whoever thought the Please help the world - COP15 opening film was a good idea! The advice in Sell the Sizzle took me back to one of the '10 minute lectures' I did for Hackney Environmental Education Network back in June. So here it is:

10 Minute Lecture: I have a dream

I began the 10 minuter by playing an excerpt from Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream' speech. Below are my notes for the lecture:

That speech in total is around 15 minutes long, during it he highlighted the oppression black people in America had and were suffering. But, it is one of the most famous speeches ever because of four little words and how those words made people feel. ‘I have a dream’

In 1963, when that speech was made, America was on the cusp of great change. ‘I have a dream’ provided a persuasive impetus. The speech is memorable because it is so full of HOPE and EXCITEMENT.

Messages of hope are far to infrequent in Environmental Education. This is especially true in the mainstream media.

Most messages are ones of fear, controversy and blame. Sensationalism sells.

Climate change, for example, is often described as awesome, terrible, immense and beyond human control. It has been dubbed by some as ‘Climate Porn’ (Ereaut and Signit, 2006)

The problem with sensationalism is that the scale of the problem is presented as so big that people become paralysed into inaction by feelings of insignificance. This is compounded by environmentalists telling people to give things up and to engage in mundane solutions: Changing lightbulbs, recycling, public transport, insulation, renewable energy, composting, campaigning etc etc... to a lot of people they sound like a series of chores.

All of those things are not THE answer, they are a small part of the answer. We need people to change their whole way of life, we need people to enjoy themselves without compromising the ability of others to enjoy themselves. As environmental educators we need to start showing the way and not just in terms of practical solutions. We need to create hope and excitement and not spread blame and depression. We don’t create waste and pollution because we hate the environment, we create it as a by product of doing the things that we hope will bring us wellbeing.

NEF has identified 5 ways to wellbeing: 1. Connect, 2. Be Active, 3. Keep learning, 4. Take notice, 5. Give...

Consumer culture conditions us to try and meet these needs in material heavy, energy dependent ways; we are sold pseudo-satisfiers that promise much but only provide short term satisfaction therefore driving us to discard one product as we buy a shiny new one.

‘Sustainability’ is about doing these five things in socially and environmentally responsible ways.

For this we need two things:

  1. Understanding of how we can and why we need to live sustainably.
  2. Opportunities and inspiration to lead a fulfilling and varied life.

We need more of the first and a hell of a lot more of the second, we need to start showing the way. We can meet all five things in low impact ways, but a lot of people have forgotten, or in the case of my generation, never really learned.


I'm really impressed with the Futerra guide. As it says at the end what we need now are lots of positive visions of the future. It is what we're trying to do with Global Footsteps.

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