SxSW Eco Reflection: What’s next?

By our very own Margot Clarke, Vice Chair of the Lone Star Chapter.

For a week and a half I have been thinking about SXSW Eco, the first entrance by the SXSW juggernaut into the realm of all things environmental.  And I continue to struggle with the same questions: What’s next?  What do we do now?

Don’t get me wrong – the conference was great, a smorgasbord of interesting and pertinent topics presented and discussed by smart, dedicated, and even inspiring people. But I went to several sessions that generally were on messaging and communication, and somehow those left me feeling more discouraged than anything else.  This is because I believe that the single greatest challenge we face in the attempt, the race really, to achieve balance in our species’ presence on Earth is to get that very concept into individual human’s consciousness and daily behavior.

One theme common in the sessions was the need to localize a message, make it pertinent to a particular audience and tap into their concerns and desires.  But for most environmental issues the audience is global – how do we localize those messages, where will we find the resources to have issue-education campaigns in every community everywhere? A few speakers told stories of tapping into the competitive spirit of groups to out-green each other, or appealing to people’s selfish interests.  It’s hard to see how that can work on a large scale, and selfish interests often lead to environmental degradation for monetary gain.

There were hundreds of people attending SXSW Eco, and there are, I guess, hundreds of thousands of people working on eco issues around the world, but there are (as of this month, we’re told) seven billion humans on the planet.  Don’t want to be a big bummer here but, well, I guess the message I heard was, we’ve really got our work cut out for us.

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