I am among those who celebrate the “onslaught” of information communication technologies (ICTs) and media channels and users, not because I have oodles more free time than the next woman to practice send-button finger exercises, but rather because of the possibilities new media present in sustaining communication among individuals and organizations particularly around sustainable development and sustainable living.
We know that the gap between what people think about sustainability and what they actually do about it can be seas apart, but that is intolerable. Some say that by 2050 we will need two Earths to support even our current mode of consumption. Unless NASA has a secret plan to successfully colonize the moon, we better act fast to preserve, repair and grow what we have here. Effective communicators understand the limited effects of mediated messages on people; they know that to mobilize individuals, societies and organizations toward enactment of sustainability measures is going to take a whole lot more work than pressing the send button on the computer, hitting the Tweet, and running glossy campaigns.
Today’s sustainability communications professionals are innovators in communication practice. They understand that communication isn’t just a pillar of sustainability, it’s the cement that shapes the pillars and lays the foundation. And, they know that communication itself is an amalgam of disciplines, or should be–as as journalism and communication departments in universities around the world are discovering, sometimes painfully, as they reinvent themselves. Effective sustainability communication is a stew of journalism, interpersonal and mass communication, marketing, qualitative and quantitative research, media studies, cultural anthropology and geography, public relations, history, and environmental science. I’m grateful my doctoral program in Media Studies at the University of Colorado understood the importance of interdisciplinarity.
We have to meet the people where they are situationally–e.g. where they are as consumers, citizens, parents, workers, and religious. People learn through their networks, be those familial, cultural, historical, political or economic. It’s up to us to figure out how to make sustainability measures fit into those beliefs and practices. Media and ICTs are our tools to move swiftly and effectively.