Nearly every effort I see for sustainability use methods that don’t work, that promote resistance. They don’t inspire.
They tools like cajoling (“Here are ten little things you can do for the environment”), coercing (“people will suffer if you don’t act”), convincing (“If you value your kids’ future, you should change”), and authority (laws). Such methods imply nobody wants to do the things. You may gain compliance but reinforce the systemic values causing the problem. Nobody promotes Drinkless Driving Tuesdays or Seat Belt Wednesdays. We say never drink and drive because we believe sobriety always benefits everyone behind the wheel.
I inspire, people tell me. Not all, but most of my podcast guests enjoy the experience, do more than they promised, come back for second episodes, and refer me to peers.
Because I start with their intrinsic motivations. We all love nature. Lecturing about CO2 acting like a blanket or rate of extinction doesn’t connect with people’s passions. You might get compliance but not inspiration.
What happens when you inspire based on their passions and love for nature?
Before our emotions are extrinsic. After they are intrinsic.
Before we are told we have to act. After we get to.
Before we act to save ourselves. After we act to help others.
Before we fear running out of time. After we think we have little time so better act fast.
From “I don’t want to bother people about this” to “I want to share my results so they can experience the joy too.”
From “technology will save us” to “we will save ourselves.”
From guilt about ourselves to compassion for past generations who unwittingly got us here.
From hoping in vain that the rich and powerful will do something to feeling we can’t wait for the rich and powerful to get it and act with their resources too.
From not wanting to be lectured at to wanting to learn more.
From feeling we need to know more before actng to learning by doing, not waiting.
From “what about the most vulnerable?” to “sustainability helps the most vulnerable.”
From thinking “only governments and corporations can act on the scale we need” to “the fastest, most effective way to get governments and corporations to act is for me to start here now.”
From fearing a nightmare future to acting enthusiastically in the present.
From “what I do doesn’t matter” to “I love what I’m doing, my results, and whom I’m becoming.”
From “haven’t I done enough already?” to “What more can I do?”
From helping myself first, even at the expense of others, to seeing that helping others helps me.
From believing that the beauty of the world is elsewhere, in places I have to fly to, to nature’s beauty is everywhere, worth preserving, and worth restoring, and that flying destroys it.
From “we have progressed linearly since civilization began” to “we may have made a wrong turn at some point.”
From believing that our culture must be the best ever to learning from other cultures.
From feeling we have to keep doing what got us here to being open to alternatives.
From fantasizing about a Star Trek future of unlimited clean energy to learning from a sustainable past and other cultures in the present.
From feeling constraints limit us to seeing constraints breed creativity.
From always craving, wanting more, never satisfied to meaning and purpose.
From “I need help” to “I can help.”
From seeing our situation as an unprecedented disaster to finding role models who achieved comparable changes in similar time scales.
From wondering how to coerce, cajole, convince, manage, legislate, and use authority to sharing joy, fun, freedom, connection, community, meaning, purpose, and other rewarding emotions.
From trying to force people to sacrifice and deprive themselves to sharing joy with them.
From “What am I supposed to do about it?” to “How many people can I bring aboard?”
From “More people is always better” to “Overshoot can lead to collapse.”
From “More people means more geniuses who can solve this problem” to “if Jesus, Buddha, or Einstein were born today in a favela or slum, he’d never reach his potential.”
From “How can I save myself and my family, no matter whom I have to abandon” to “How can I help? What example can I set? Whom can I lead?”
From “it’s too late to avert disaster” to “there are levels of disaster and everything we do can help alleviate suffering.”
From feeling that accounting for how everything affects everyone is a burden to realizing that connecting to every living thing creates oneness and connection.
From “whoever dies with the most toys wins” to “stuff is a burden and less stuff creates freedom.”
From “we need clean energy first to reduce using fossil fuels” to “the fastest, most effective way to create alternatives is to stop using fossil fuels.”
From just wanting more bike lanes to first wanting to close car lanes.
From wanting quick fixes enough to fall for scams to changing based on our deepest values.
From seeing my changes as extreme to seeing me as a role model.
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