Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fear Of A Sustainable Planet: Popular Push Back Against Sustainable Society Practices

Environment Friendly News / Anti-Environment NewsImage by munir via FlickrBy Chet Sisk

You can learn a lot about the human experience working at a homeless shelter. I've spent the past 10 years as a volunteer Life Skills teacher at a shelter and introduced Quantum Physics to the students. That's right, Quantum Physics to homeless people. My theory was based around the idea that if you expanded the student's data base beyond what they knew, they would start to search for new and different solutions to old problems instead of going to the same data base and getting the same results.

In an observational study with a class of the students over a 6 month period of time, we found that the students who took this class were 37% less likely to return to homelessness than those who didn't. 37% may not sound like much to the lay person, but in the homelessness world, that's huge. Granted, it was an observational study and needed to be expanded upon, so I went to the city's largest homeless organization to tell them of these preliminary results. Not only were they not interested, they were hostile to it.

Why would anyone, especially an organization dedicated to serving the homeless, be hostile to a concept that actually reduced the number of people in homelessness?

I felt bewildered by the experience and went to a mentor of mine for advice. He reminded me of what was at stake. "First of all," he said, "you were challenging their world view of how things should work, and second of all, you were jeopardizing their income source. The more people they have to serve, the more grant money they get".

I felt foolish, naive and embarrassed that I did not see those things before. That didn't stop me from going forward with the course, however. Which brings me to the criticisms I've heard from several political pundits about First Lady Michelle Obama's desire to see us rethink our eating habits. Like myself, Michelle Obama thought that there has to be a better way in dealing with the crisis of obesity, diabetes and other weight-related health issues with us and our children. Once she introduced a new way forward, the 'haters' came out and became openly hostile to her ideas. Some of these well documented criticisms came from the political Right (Sara Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck) but they very well could have come from the Left. Most reasonable people would never oppose ideas that are meant for the well-being of children or of the well being of people in general. What's really happening is that they are camouflaging deeper anxieties that could include:

1. They are opposing it because they simply don't like the messenger.
2. They are opposing it because it could represent a change to their world view.
3. They are opposing it because it may mean a change in their lifestyle.

Of course, this may seem elementary to most conscious adults, but often we lose this insight when we receive pushback on forward thinking ideas. We take it personal and call the people who criticized us regretful names. This is our way of saying "our idea is right, you just can't agree to them because you're not smart enough to get the concept". We then end up in a cesspool of name calling and petty arguments. This is a particular challenge to Sustainable Society Leaders who must rise above this temptation.

Sustainable Society Leaders, those leaders who champion ideas, methods and plans that provide sustainable solutions to old problems with the environment and society, must recognize that there will be pushback on almost all approaches that include phrases like "less is more" or "sharing" or "empowering the individual" or "protecting free enterprise" or even "inclusive spiritual development". The push back is not only because the initial name callers can have deeper anxieties, but they also can have different interpretations of the same words. Here is a breakdown of interpretations of these phrases between Sustainable Society Leaders and the people who push back based on conversations I've listened to over the past year:

"Less is More": The Sustainable Society Leader sees the development of a less consumer-based society where people live within their means for the sustainability of their household and world resources. The push back people see this as a euphemism for poverty with a smile.

"Sharing": The Sustainable Society Leader sees this as a move away from an "every person for themselves" practice which is unsustainable, and toward a better, more efficient use of resources to the greater good of all people. The push back people see this as Communism, plain and simple.

"Empowering The Individual": The Sustainable Society Leader sees making sure all individuals in a society have access to information, leadership and personally empowering resources as the greatest defense in the sustainability of any Democracy or Republic. The push back people sees this as a pipe dream. You empower yourself through your own initiative. The society will take care of itself.

"Protecting Free Enterprise": The Sustainable Society Leader sees the importance of making sure small to medium sized companies and freelance individuals are protected from Corporatism and have a fair advantage at competing for business and trade around the world. This will keep the markets from being vulnerable to the ebb and flow of a few corporations that are "too big to fail", which is not sustainable. The push back people see this as over-regulation of the market.

"Inclusive Spirituality": The Sustainable Society Leader sees this as a way more individuals can create a more vigorous and sustainable belief system that incorporates respect of other people, respect for the environment and respect for animals. They also see this belief system as a way to create a more sustainable use of resources, the land, the food supply and water. The push back people see this as new thought "mumbo jumbo". We all have our different religions and everybody is not going to heaven.

It's important to understand there WILL be push back on new ideas and a different way forward. Many people are deeply invested in the status quo and would want nothing better than for things to continue as they are, even at the expense of the many and the world around us. The Sustainable Society Leader must manage this challenging land mine by not falling for the bait of an argument, by taking the case for sustainability directly to the people by bypassing some of the usual media outlets, and never take any of the push back personally. Transition can be a more difficult journey for some more than others.

By Chet W. Sisk

Chet W. Sisk is the proud son of James and Naomi Sisk. He is also an author, educator and founder of the Quality Foods For Everyone Program. He also teaches Sustainable Society Leadership online.

Article Source:
Enhanced by Zemanta

No comments:

Post a Comment