I have so many posts I’ve wanted to write these last months as I transitioned jobs and made big life changes to a shiny new city. This is the thing I wanted to say that tipped the scales (never fear though, Pope-est with the Mostest and Laudato Si will be coming in hot. Soon.) And it’s all thanks to a communications lead at Monsanto.
Last year I came to SXSW Eco and sat in the panel session when Monsanto underwent what I can only describe as a live feeding frenzy of pent-up anti-GMO fervor. A courageous woman from Monsanto did one of the bravest things I’ve ever seen from a sustainability professional: she invited more conversation in the heat of the moment. Which is exactly what these most thorny issues desperately need the most. Real dialogue. But how do we get there? How do we increase everyone’s personal responsibility to listen better?
But this post is not about the issue. It’s about listening. And why we don’t do more of it. Ultimately that all comes down to the harsh truth that has led us all to soundbites. All of us. Every person likes to think that they deep dive into issues and are above the fray of soundbites…and yet none of us have enough time *to* dive into issues to the extent we should. Case in point, who reads every label of the products they buy? I’m *in* sustainability and I don’t (I do buy from brands I trust to be more eco, but then like a normal consumer, call it a day).
In the wake of the overwhelming amount of issues and the intensity in which people often scream about them, we all do one thing consistently. Listen to people we trust. This is the reason why Facebook is so powerful on the whole and why marketers always strive for that precious word of mouth. Except it has one big gaping risk: the echochamber. People who agree with each other often segregate themselves into a subcommunity that agrees with itself, ad infinitum.
So it’s important to listen to the other perspective and to find ways and hacks so that you become truly open to new information. Mine? I thank my lucky enviroish stars that the first weekend in college I met the woman who would become one of my best friends. She is a conservative from a sheep and cattle ranch in the northwest of Colorado and one of the most intelligent people I know. The issues that crop up in her life of agricultural law challenge me to think about my progressive environmental stances. In the last week, her family’s ranch was a story on NPR Marketplace regarding pay and I know that because I know her, I listened more deeply on this issue. I cherish our relationship all the more because we don't always agree and can be respectful about it.
I’m here at SXSW Eco again, and yet again it’s my favorite sustainability/environmental conference. Kind of this small-d democratic counteroffering to the traditional big sustainability conferences. Example. Yesterday in a panel about how tech is helping on palm oil, the panel is Rainforest Action Network (activist NGO), WRI (solutions/big NGO), a major chocolate company, and a palm oil plantation company. Points were debated and refined in real time among these various stakeholders and it was amazeballs. Challenge. Your. Thinking. Then rinse, repeat.
Last year at this conference, I sat in the audience at a panel on GMOs that put Monsanto in the crosshairs. And how did they respond? They brought their CTO this year and committed to engaging with consumers in conversation on these issues. Acknowledging that they are scientists that talked to farmers but not the public at large and need to do better at communications. The correlation to climate scientists is obvious and real. And I admire the backbone of their company culture to stay engaged in the conversation. The power of Legal inside corporate America is a very real factor that can impede open dialogue, and so I take a huge hats off to Monsanto for deepening their engagement in this conversation. That’s what the world needs. That’s how we’re going to find solutions. Enviroish kudos to that.
I started enviroish on the principle that everyone can take actions – big or small – to be mindful of their impact on others and the planet. To not let the label “environmentalist” get in the way of actually doing good things that make sense. Learning to listen to each other is an extension of that credo, this belief I have that at our cores everyone is good and cares. Because I believe that the ties that bind us together in trying to do good will always be greater than the ties that divide.
I look forward to being a small part of this conversation. What do you think? Who or what do you rely on to challenge your thinking?