Walking with John

Walking with John

By John deJong

We’re off to gather story ideas.

Sustainability—the property of biological systems to remain diverse and productive indefinitely—is the eco-buzz-word of the decade. Next thing you know, public companies that are eco-challenged or that make huge amounts of money helping clean up after eco-challenged companies will start putting “sustainable” in their company names.

It’s a buzz word for a good reason, though: It may be the truest expression of what environmentalists and non-environmentalists can agree on, the idea of making Earth’s resources serve humanity for the long run. Hopefully, we’re all in it for the long run.

Sustainability implies justness and fairness, because no system can be sustainable without justness and fairness.

“Earth First! We’ll mine the other planets later.” That’s an old bumper sticker that made fun of the 1980s Earth First! movement, while at the same time revealing the delusional nature of conservatives who don’t conserve. From a purely economic perspective, mining the other planets, or even astroids, is prohibitively expensive, as in galacticaly expensive. Earth is at the bottom of a deep gravity well. Which is physics talk for “we’re stuck here, so we’d better make it work.”

In this spirit, we’re heading to Weber State University March 16 and 17 for their eighth annual Intermountain Sustainability Summit. We’ve been there before, and if you’re the least bit nerdy on the subject, you should be there, too. If it’s like past years, you’ll meet good people, have interesting conversations and learn a thing or two. CATALYST is a proud sponsor; come visit Greta and me at our booth.

A Thursday morning pre-Summit workshop features Australian clinical psychologist John Cook, founder of SkepticalScience.com and co-author (with WSU professor Daniel Bedford) of the college textbook Climate Change: Examining the Facts. The workshop’s timely topic is “Responding to Misinformation in the Age of Fake News.” Cook identifies the fallacies employed to distort facts, offers techniques for talking to climate deniers based on psychological research, and will teach us how to construct a factual alternative to replace the myth.

Utah State University physicist and public interest communicator Dr. Robert Davies talks to us Friday morning about “the opportunity for grand achievement; our window for a meaningful response, and the actual possibility to forge a genuinely sustainable world.” As Davies is also co-creator of the Crossroads Project*, a performance art and communication project weaving together information, imagery and music, we have high expectations for his talk.

The keynote speaker is Mary Robinson, notably the first woman president of Ireland and more importantly the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights from 1997-2002, among many roles. Robinson has worked on the forefront of the eco-equality movement. As the Wizard of Oz would put it, Mary Robinson is a world class “phila-, er, er, philanth-er, good-deed doer!” The Summit is fortunate to have her participate.

The afternoon sessions are organized into four tracks: Low Carbon Solutions, Communicating Sustainability, Urban & Community Planning and the Social Side of Sustainability. Some local lights leading sessions include: SLC Sustainability Director Vicki Bennett, on “Addressing Climate Change at the Community Level”; USU’s Roslynn Brain offering “A Primer in Community-based Social Marketing”; Utah Clean Energy’s Solar Project coordinator Kate Bowman, laying out “A Bright Future: 10 Year Solar Deployment Plan for Utah” and Wendy Lee, with Salt Lake City’s Institute for Market Transition, speaking about “Energy Transparency as a Market Force.” We’ll tell you all about it in the months to come.

For complete information, including registration:
* Davies’ group will perform Saturday, March 19, 7pm at the SLC Public Library in the auditorium, presented by Citizen’s Climate Lobby. (thecrossroadsproject.org)
John deJong is associate publisher of CATALYST.

This article was originally published on February 28, 2017.