Why its time to change the "saving the planet" narrative.

I feel complelled to share a recent spontaneous online debate in a Facebook group sparked by an Adani protest discussion. I have long held the view that we need to change the ‘save the planet’ narrative to engage people who are otherwise disengaged in sustainability, and this conversation was a perfect demonstration of why.

Here’s a snippet of the conversation, between me and ‘Claire’.

CLAIRE: I get that people are passionate about saving the environment, we need a balance between economy, people's lives and the planet. I try to see from both sides when I can, I understand the environmentalist views and values. 

ME: I'm intrigued, what is an environmentalist?

CLAIRE: Don't try to bait me. If you really don't know look it up Or if you'd like my definition, people who care more of the planet than their fellow man. Ok that was cheeky but you did ask for it.

ME: no bait promise, I was actually really interested to know. Call it research…

CLAIRE: I actually do have friends that are greenies. They are passionate about saving the planet and all of that and I respect that. It comes down to this I think - we all have different drivers, motivations and values. 

Personally, I care about people. I care that there are starving people in Africa and there is the second worst famine ever, happening there right now. I care there is a massive homeless problem in Aus and NZ. I care that there is an obesity epidemic globally. I care about other things but they are mostly about people. The planet, not so much. Not that I don't think it's important to look after what we have. I just think that looking after our fellow man, is more important.

Some people think the planet is more important than the human race. They can, I just don't. 

It's also like people wanting you to donate to charity. There are so many different causes that you can only help so many, and the ones that resonate with you will be the ones that you support.

Everyone will never agree on what is more or less important and I accept that.

I really wanted to tell her that I care about all those things too, and so many of them are linked? But coming to this realisation is a long journey of learning and understanding, and a midnight online debate was not going to get that across.  The conversation ends with me thanking her and agreeing to disagree.

I really appreciate Claire’s honesty in this conversation. So this is what I took from this:

1.       It is her world view that people and planet are separate, and one matters more than the other. A world view that many share, consciously or otherwise.

2.       She has highlighted the fact that there is a club of ‘Greenies’, a club that many people don’t identify with and have no intention of joining. Whilst we need the greenies, the early adopters we also need them to get smarter at bringing more people along with them.

3.       She sees the environment as another cause’, that she can’t care about, she is full up, caring about other things or maybe she doesn’t think the planet is worth saving?   

4.       She was spot on about having different drivers, motivations and values and that understanding values are a good starting point for ‘meeting people where they are at’.

I love this line the most…’ I care about other things but they are mostly about people. The planet, not so much’.  It made me chuckle…

Talking about saving the planet is more than semantics, by using such language we are reinforcing the view that it is this separate entity that needs saving, instead of helping people to understand the interdependent eco system we all depend on.

I feel we have a long way to go to help people to realise that saving the planet, and saving themselves is the same thing.

It’s definitely time to change the narrative.

It’s time to join the dots.