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Game-Changer: Shifting Culture from Consumerism to Sustainability

Sea Change Radio’s new Co-Host Kelsey Flynn and Bill Baue speak with Erik Assadourian and Gary Gardner, senior researchers at the Worldwatch Institute, about the new book, State of the World 2010: Transforming Cultures from Consumerism to Sustainability.

As this past holiday season was winding down, Bill got a welcome gift in his mailbox: an advance copy of this year’s State of the World Report from the Worldwatch Institute.  When he opened the envelope, he was pleasantly surprised to see the subtitle announcing this year’s theme: transforming cultures from consumerism to sustainability.

This perspective reinforced the conclusions arrived at in a panel discussion entitled Future Scenarios: Energy and Economy that Sea Change Media produced and moderated in September 2009 for Audubon which Shell sponsored.  Two of the panelists identified the key role of cultural change in achieving sustainability as their big takeaway from the event:

“We do need that behavior change, but first comes a mindset change,” said Libby Cheney, Shell’s top executive for sustainability in the Americas.  “It’s not all about the science, it’s not all about the technology. You have to join art and science together to come up with some of these solutions.”

“I truly believe that we a culture shift,” said Chris Martenson, a Post Carbon Institute Fellow and an economic analyst who created the Crash Course.  “It requires a vision to be laid out.  We need solutions that go up and down, not left and right.  But I haven’t heard those kinds of statements coming out of the upper levels of our leadership.  The key question is, how do we effect culture change?”

Their sentiments were shared by others, including Audubon Connecticut Executive Director Tom Baptist, who helped host the event in Greenwich.

“It’s nice that you have focused on, among other things, the need for cultural change.”

Choosing cultural change as the focal theme of a State of the World report is very significant, as the choice of theme is no light matter.  Bill has some first-hand perspective on this, as he contributed a chapter on sustainable investing to the 2008 State of the World report, which focused on sustainable economies.  He also came to realize the incredibly broad influence of the State of the World report, as it’s published globally and used in college classrooms around the world.

Before the official unveiling of the book on Tuesday, January 12, Bill and Kelsey spoke with Erik Assoudarian and Gary Gardner. Kelsey began in radio a few years ago when she heard that Rachel Maddow was leaving a local radio station, WRSI, to join Air America – Kelsey immediately applied and filled the slot vacated by Maddow. Now, Kelsey hosts and produces Sustainable Valley on WRSI, focusing on many of the same issues we cover here on Sea Change – so it’s a natural fit for her to step in as Francesca Rheannon steps back to focus on her Writer’s Voice program, while continuing to produce the Back to the Future series for Sea Change.