Did you know that...?
"Sustainability" has a long story to tell
Holding, keeping together, comprehending, representing, supporting, these are the core meanings of the Latin word sustinere commonly used in Medieval times on the French territory. The etymology of the word has remained almost unchanged in other languages though its use had been less and less used until the Seventies of the last century. The 1972 report “The Limits to Growth” on the economic and population growth, in fact, reused this term with a new meaningful connotation, referred to the need to preserve in time the vital resources of Planet Earth so that new generations could sustain them for the future.
Soon after (in 1980) the United Nations Brundtland Commission’s Report formulated the most famous definition of Sustainable Development taking inspiration from that report. It was the beginning of the modern era of Sustainability use with the growing idea of adopting a conscious use of present resources in order to guarantee their existence in the years to come. Being sustainable often implies a shared commitment to fulfil the full achievement of a goal that can improve living conditions, not necessarily linked to development or growth.
With particular reference to the environmental matters, Sustainability has taken on particularly topical meanings. Notably: being productive and using high-tech while respecting the environment, using resources consciously, being resilient, meeting the needs of present and future generations, acting for the well-being of the whole Planet, building up a long-term approach as for ecosystems preservation, being comprehensive in order to find a common ground among economy, environment and social responsibility.
Resilience: a multifaceted background to keep in mind
Are you resilient enough? Resilience is increasingly used in media language, being related to Sustainability. In this sense, its meaning refers to the ability of a living being to withstand an extreme phenomenon by taking preventive action or reducing any disastrous effect which arises from it. However, the two terms are not synonymous, but one cannot ignore the other, as in a symbiotic relationship. The core of resilience lays in physics where it stands for the capacity of an elastic material to absorb energy and then release it at the very moment it comes back to the original shape.
From the etymological point of view, it derives from the present participle of resilire, Latin verb to express the idea of ‘jumping back’ or ‘rebounding’.
Have you ever seen a burnt tree that generates new gems? Have you ever witnessed a desert that turns into a flowery garden as soon as a few drops of rain fall? These are examples of resilience in Nature. More recently, scientific studies have shown that some coral species resist and thrive despite the rising of the sea temperatures in global coral reefs, due to climate change. This shows their resilience but it should not encourage us since other animal and plant species are at risk of extinction because of this. We, human beings, are among the few on Planet Earth to be able to increase their degree of resilience, that is their strength and wellness, through our responsible behaviors, preventing their inexorable end. How? By respecting the environment in everything we do every day. For example, growing edible plants locally can reduce the use of plastics for the packaging as well as the energy consumption necessary for long-distance journeys and the massive supply chain. It can also reduce the use of chemicals and contribute to the local economic and social growth. All this can have beneficial effects on reducing carbon dioxide and pollution on a global scale.
So, unlike Sustainability which is more focused on the process, Resilience starts from a catastrophic circumstance to convert it in an opportunity for rebirth minimizing negative externalities, notwithstanding its being sustainable. Nevertheless, both can work together and create ‘good vibes’ in many areas, like the economic and transport sectors or governmental policies. Resilience plus Sustainability are therefore a win-win combination to make the Planet Earth ecosystem get in a ‘better shape’.
And what if the "Green" change starts from you?
How can we influence people's behaviour bringing them to a greater respect for the environment in which we live in? How to make it effective? Which media are to be used? How to best adapt the 'language' to the addresses' code? How to verify whether the recipient has correctly understood the meaning of our communication? These are some of the pivotal questions that the pioneers of the Environmental Communication have asked themselves.elves.
Officially born from the book, 'Silent Spring' by the American biologist Rachel Louise Carson, the eco-communication techniques spread worldwide boosting the global debate on key matters on how to care and preserve the Earth Ecosystem. A multifaceted ecosystem made of techniques, best practices, projects, start-ups, etc. results from it, giving life to a complex communication process influenced by many factors where reducing any kind of "noise" is a mission possible.
Being guided by skilled eco-communicators and a set of reliable data & sources of information is then crucial. Thus, the need to prevent in advance most of the potential misunderstandings or bias passes by the accuracy of every single detail, both lexical and expressive through a smooth, honest, clear, responsible, objective, flexible communication approach. "Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of people", used to say William Butler Yeats, Irish writer, poet and playwright. Words still have a great relevance even if we live in an extremely digitalised society. All living beings are interconnected each other and communication is the major link which marks every species, including the human. But we, humans, have an extra power. We can really be the builders of our destiny since everything that we express produces consequences in our own ecosystem.
The protection of the Environment in all its forms depends increasingly on the human Media diversity provided that decision making is animated by complete information, listening, pro-active approach and openness to sharing ideas, talents, technologies, knowledge. Each of us can make a difference to push the 'Green change', without stopping human creativity and technological progress. To do so we must first believe in it and be united in improving communication on environmental issues. Comprehensibility, traceability, clarity, usability, these are the founding cornerstones of the new Media dimension. Let's start to practice it every day!