Three Ways to Influence What World We Leave Behind

April 22, 2019

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Treat the earth well: it was not given to you by your parents, it was loaned to you by your children. – An ancient Native American proverb

This adage hung on my wall at home as a teenager, a decade before I had children of my own. It was meaningful to me then, but ever more so now that I am a parent. With the 50th anniversary of Earth Day just one year away, I wonder what the planet will be like half a century from now, when I may no longer be here. The answer depends – on me, on you, on all of us. So, this Earth Day, I share three ideas for how we can approach sustainability communications to yield better results.

1. Make communications more solutions-oriented. Focusing exclusively or primarily on the magnitude and urgency of problems like climate change and clean water can have the inverse effect of what we need: people decide not to act because doomsday reports make them think it’s too late or the problems are too vast to have any chance of effecting change. As communicators, we need to think about how we not just scare, but motivate. (Recommended reading: Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming)

2. Give voice to the voiceless. The Earth cannot speak for itself, and therefore we must advocate on its behalf. Plus, issues like climate change will have the biggest impact on those who are already the most vulnerable. Yet even so, environmental causes are among the most underfunded of any area from a philanthropic perspective; the environment (a category which also includes animals) receive a mere 3 percent of total charitable giving.

3. Promote awe-inspiring beauty. There are so many paradisiacal places in this world that have the power to move people to action. Let’s better capture and share the visuals and stories that can awaken souls and remind us how fortunate we are to live amidst so much magnificence. Here are a few favorite images from National Geographic from the past year.

This Earth Day, let’s remember that we all have the opportunity to influence what kind of world we will leave for others to live in.