Today I attended the Conscientious Communicators symposium at London College of Communication. After a rousing introduction from the Dean of Design Lawrence Zeegen, Richard Hawkins, Director of the Public Interest Research Centre, spoke aspirationally about ‘the extraordinary exponential times’ we are experiencing. ‘We potter along for hundreds of years and we suddenly discover the trampoline’ he says and tries not to labour the trampoline metaphor.
Richard told us that fossil fuels are a gift from the past and the gap between rich and poor is growing ever faster. The talk was fast and punctuated with statistics and scenarios, combined with prophetic quotes whose irony can only serve to make us ponder, ‘the best minds of my generation are working out how to get people to click ads’ says Jeff Hammerbacher, an early employee of Facebook and Harvard compatriot of Mark Zuckerberg. Richard ended his talk, adeptly reciting This is Water by David Foster Wallace, which raised even more questions that it answered.
The second speaker, Ed Gillespie of Futerra was provocative and rousing, energetic and emphatic. His message was clear, it’s not a case of ‘selling the sausage’ it’s selling the sizzle’ is his way of ‘subverting the dominant paradigm’. We are told that Daniel Kahneman’s Thinking Fast and Slow is fantastic and according to value modes 35% of us are settlers, 40% prospectors and 25% are pioneers. Seth Godin’s Purple Cow will help us, says Gillespie, make sustainability remarkable.
Overall, the symposium was a thought-provoking and consciousness-raising endeavor, but it was Foster-Wallace’s This is Water that resonated most profoundly and remarkably for its cognitive behavioral unpacking of the everyday trials and tribulations that ultimately challenge us to change our thoughts and behaviour, perhaps this is the key to making the sustainability agenda remarkable, the requirement for us to challenge ourselves, before we can challenge others?