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  • Writer's pictureLara Birkes

The Power of Words

Updated: Aug 12, 2020

Optimism, Inclusivity & Solutions

Words matter, and it’s time to shift the language used to compel climate action.

I’m channeling the wisdom imparted by Paul Hawken, renowned entrepreneur, journalist and co-author of Project Drawdown. Paradise Valley recently had the privilege of hosting him, and his perspective was a timely reminder of the need for optimism, inclusivity and solutions if we are to create the openness required to regenerate the environmental underpinning of society.

In the time we had with Paul he offered a space to reflect, and an astute observation. Humankind must evolve its discourse around climate change to drive the behavior shifts needed to live in harmony with the natural world.

Charged terms like “fight,” “combat” and “tackle” currently dominate the framing of a well-intended movement but are increasingly unpersuasive in convincing the masses to drawdown human impact. The default vernacular has grown to have partisan associations, however inadvertent, so even initiatives that serve the global public commons are met instinctively with resistance.

This provokes "othering" or the notion that something is not part of us, thus separating the natural world from an entity people are connected to implicitly. Self-interest alone would suggest humans are in favor of clean air, fresh water, nourishing food, thriving wildlife and abundant ecosystems. But many feel that social “bubbles” have been formed, with communities and cultures around them, which don’t invite widespread participation.

For these reasons it’s necessary to recast the conversation to one that is inclusive, focusing on collective gains and not singular losses. And to render a picture of the future which presents a vision all people want to be a part of, not one they recoil from in fear.

Like most social transformations, the climate movement has been building for a long time, decades in fact, and has come a long way. Jarring facts and figures were needed to awaken society to the realities of our actions, their causes, the science and how to undo and redo our learned behaviors – as governments, businesses and individuals.

But the negativity and fear-mongering, while motivating at some level, has also led to a sense of hopelessness. Mainstream media is replete with disastrous examples of a world gone wrong, and the onslaught of negative news is desensitizing. We cannot ignore these realities, but we must also recognize and seek-out the host of positive change agents that are charting new paths. Ground In Common’s humble contribution is to highlight such solution-based approaches. We aim to inspire participation in the adventure of a new journey, focusing on social and environmental challenges in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE). The Next Generation of Ranching is a great example of a young leader who is crafting a unique direction by action – inspiring and inviting others to join. Who would not want to be a part of a future which allows us to regenerate our surroundings and pass them on in a better state?

Martin Luther King famously motivated a nation with “I Have a Dream,” not I have a nightmare. We must set our sights on a direction of travel which takes us to a place we want to be, not one that speaks only to our darkest angels.

There will always be those who argue in support of the status quo. We must not waste energy where momentum does not exist. The realm of the possible should be the focus, and Paul’s reminder to recalibrate accordingly is deeply appreciated. Optimism, inclusivity and solutions. Welcomed coordinates by which to set our sights anew.

Thank you, Paul.


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