Stop talking about sustainability. Cut your chatter on energy-efficiency. Take carbon offsets off the table.
This is the message of Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) of Vermont. But before you raise your voice in protest, Shumlin does not want “green” professionals and advocates to abandon their efforts, but rather, the way they talk about them.
“There are two things we need to do: One, agree that we need to talk in language people understand. I’m always struck by how good the other side is. They are so good at marketing what is so bad, and we are so bad at marketing what is so good,” Shumlin told participants at the Opportunity Green conference in Los Angeles last week where he received the 2011 Green Governor of the Year award.
Vermont has one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and is making serious investments into renewable energy with a goal to derive 90 percent of the state’s power from renewable sources by 2050. According to Shumlin, for every dollar spent on renewable energy in Vermont, $4.60 is gained.
“’Energy efficiency’ means nothing to my people. ‘Sustainability’ means nothing, frankly, to my people,” he said. “I talk about this simple fact: I’m convinced that as we move from a society that’s driven by oil to other ways of powering the world, this thing is going to make the industrial revolution and the tech boom look small.”
Shumlin also added that he has to “tell the whole story” about how energy affects every aspect of his constituents’ lives, including transportation, food security, safety and health.
“It’s the way we talk about it – we need to be enthused about the economic opportunities that we all have. This is an exciting thing; we [Americans] are the most innovative people in the world.”
Shumlin, who says advocates are “very scared of articulating the truth, we’ve been beaten and muzzled for so long,” calls for communication that relates to basic human needs.
“I’m convinced that all of us […] if we can speak with conviction about what we believe, speak in plain English instead of the terms that we use, about the challenge that we have ahead and how high the stakes are and speak with more passion about the opportunity economically to drive the engine of this country, we will all find that it is the most single important work we can do.”
Editor’s Note: Earth911 received complimentary passes to attend the 2011 Opportunity Green conference, where it was an official Media Partner