Monday, November 16, 2009

Sightline Interview of WorldChanging's Alex Steffen

Sightline has an insightful interview with one of our favorite thinkers in the Green Economy movement, Alex Steffen of WorldChanging.

I really liked Steffen's response to the interviewer's question of "How do you convince people that they need to ignite a cultural shift?"

I think we have inappropriately focused on personal behavior when we talk about sustainability. It’s not that personal behavior doesn’t have its place, but we have really privatized responsibility for a lot of these issues—the polar bears are dying and it’s your fault. The fact of the matter is that a lot of people are in situations where they simply cannot live sustainably no matter how hard they try. They can do every simple, small thing that they can get their hands on and they’re still just built into an unsustainable system.

The big shift that I see happening is individual people starting to take responsibility for the systems around themselves. It’s not going to be everybody and it doesn’t need to be. But the people who are really aware of these issues are starting to look more at how their communities are designed and how they can influence that. What transportation choices are available to them and how can they influence that? It’s not just a matter of whether or not they own a car, but do they live in a place that supports a variety of transportation choices for everybody? Supporting businesses that offer better solutions, being more involved with politics, community-based organizing—these things that take us out of our individual abilities and limitations and allow us to re-connect in important ways.

There is a core of people out there who not only get it but who are actively engaged already. The issue is how do we really super-charge the efforts of those who are already trying to do something different. And that’s where there are a lot of really interesting possibilities emerging that we’re going to be talking a lot about in the next couple of years.

Good stuff!

If you follow this blog, you'll know that in spite of the positive developments Steffen talks about -- such as the mainstreaming of sustainability -- recent polls indicate that much of the public remains unconvinced of the urgency with which we need climate change and clean energy solutions.

A big reason for these recent poll numbers may well be that the media has been covering other issues, like Health Care, and utterly failing to help the public see linkages, such as how solving climate change will also slash our health care costs.

As Steffen notes, the storyline is too often focused on the challenges posed by the problems (including the challenges we face in enacting solutions) than on the promise offered by the solutions.

This needs to change.

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