If you follow me on Twitter, you could likely tell I was pretty excited about being able to attend the University of Michigan’s (my alma mater!) commencement in early May, where President Obama spoke. It was an incredible experience, and I left inspired to think differently and to see life through a new, more socially just lens. And, of course, I noted the sustainability implications.
Whether we like to admit it or not, as the privileged citizens many of us are, we choose where we live and how our on- and off-line social communities are built. It’s easy to think that racism, age-ism or sexism doesn’t have much to do with our own lives. But not engaging with the idea of the other can lead to long-term misunderstandings and crossed human connections.
Consider the systemic premise of sustainability. All things are interconnected systems. All decisions affect other decisions. What you do today actually does affect the lives of people you will never know generations from now. Oh, yeah…
Operating only in our small personal and business worlds hinders a truly holistic perspective and stunts our own growth as productive citizens. My own professional challenge is a good example. I study and interpret how consumers engage with sustainability. What draws them in, how will they stay interested in sustainability?
You can’ t really begin to understand why people engage with sustainability unless you first understand where they are coming from – left or right, blue state or red, privileged or disadvantaged background, to name a few possibilities. This is certainly true of marketing, in general, but with sustainability the stakes are that much higher. To get to a more holistically functioning world and economy, we’ve got to think and act more holistically ourselves. Seeing through a new lens can help.