J500 Media and the Environment

Going green is people! by jseverin


When I wrote my first piece for this site, I had little experience with blogs and had certainly never written a blog post. I had a definite aversion to journalists due to way too many misquotes and misrepresentations in the local papers. And although I have worked in the environmental field for over 7 years, I wasn’t sure just how to reach people that weren’t already part of the choir.

Three months later I am starting to get the hang of things. I’m no pro, but I think I’m starting to find my voice in the blogosphere and discovering the tremendous impact this sort of dialog can have. In the process of reading, watching, listening to, and discussing environmental media, I have learned to appreciate journalists for the difficult task they have to present a balanced and unbiased picture of what’s going on in the world and the huge responsibility that comes with that. Most importantly, I have learned that there is no magic message that is going to help put an end to our environmental woes.

I suppose I knew that all along, and it always bothered me. But the conversation we have engaged in over the past several weeks amongst ourselves and with others from around the globe has put that once disappointing realization into a positive light.

Something Adam Werbach mentioned during our discussion with him on April 24 really resonated with me. He pointed out that in an effort to solve our planetary problems, environmentalists have ignored the challenges that people face in their own lives by focusing on a “new exotic challenge of saving the world”. (My apologies if I misquoted you, Adam.) In other words, it isn’t just about this one overarching problem, but all the individual pieces of that problem. We all have a role to play in creating a more sustainable future, and that means something different to everyone. The goal is to find what that something is.

As the authors of this blog went around the room trying to define “sustainability” this week, it was evident that environmentalism isn’t about polar bears, rain forests, CFLs, wind turbines, organic food, chemical-free products, or all the green “stuff” that is starting to show up on magazine pages and The Oprah Winfrey Show (sorry, Simran).

It’s people. It is people forming relationships with each other, with the environment, with local farmers, and with the processes that bring all that “stuff” into their homes. It is people understanding and re-establishing the forgotten relationships, which probably got us into this mess in the first place. It is people – whether part of the choir or not -communicating with each other to help create the best planet we possibly can. Whether we call it Green, Blue, environmentalism, or sustainability, it is still about people.

It has been an honor writing with and learning from all the people involved in this conversation, and I look forward to continuing the dialog. Afterall, we still have to go about the dirty work of saving the world.

– Jeff Severin


5 Comments so far
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It’s been an honor working with you as well (and everyone else, of course!). I agree whole-heartedly with your points about making this a movement that includes people. I think this gets back to some of our early discussions about how we view nature: if we take nature to include humans, then the environmental movement does not exclude the human movement, and vice versa.


Comment by jkongs

Adam’s idea you mentioned resonated with me, too.

I hadn’t quite refined the thought on my own yet, but it fell right in line with what my roommate had told me when I got really frustrated that she wasn’t recycling, in spite my incessant requests, both polite and otherwise. She said everyone has their issue that sits deeper with them than most, and what if she went around yelling at me every time I walked into my apt. on my cell phone, saying it made me x percent more vulnerable to attack? If she followed me to my car in the morning and reminded me to check underneath and in the back seat? That I had to understand that with all noble causes in the world– breast cancer, world hunger, ending the war, being an informed judge of American Idol– if she wasn’t biting my ReduceReuseRecycle bait, then I’d have to cease and desist.

And I said, Huh… that’s a good point. The debate continued but I felt slightly hypocritical since I understood completely, which felt like admitting that I hate the Earth.

But that is the difference- All things “green” fit pretty readily into the realm of living a happy life. Sustainable happiness. That’s an easier sell. It wouldn’t hurt to look for some answers there, at least as a start.

Dynamo title, I have to add.

Sonya English

Comment by Sonya

Jeff, You are in a leadership position and have the potential to take this information to a larger audience through your work and online engagement. Your understanding that things are slippery, complex, and human is so important. As Sonya said, people resonate with different messages. The key is deep listening and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone and your agenda to meet people where they are. Thank you for these insights.

Comment by j500

The key is deep listening and a willingness to step out of your comfort zone and your agenda to meet people where they are.

I have spent much of my short career in environmental education working towards a specific agenda, trying to get specific information into the hands of the public. After this experience, I know I will take a different approach at what I do. Of course there will be times when I feel the need to preach, but I am committed to being a better listener.

I had an email conversation with another concerned member of our community just today. It ended with a message from him that was one of the most rewarding I have ever received. He simply said: “Thanks for listening”.

– Jeff

Comment by jseverin

My work is done here. . .

Comment by j500

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