Ten Highlights and Ten Thousand Thanks from Twenty Ten

Here it is: The final post of 2010. The year went by so very quickly, but before it’s over, I want to give thanks for all the help I received spreading the message of State of the World 2010—the message that to create a secure future, those of us who understand the finite nature of Earth will need to get into the business of cultural engineering, making it as natural to live sustainably as living as a consumer feels today.

So, THANK YOU. Thank you to all those who made the book possible: the authors, my colleagues, our publishing partners, and everyone we thanked in the Acknowledgments. But THANK YOU also to all the individuals and institutions that played an instrumental role this past year in getting the word out around the world, helping to create 12 additional translations of State of the World 2010 (with two more still to come). Thanks also to the media who shared the report, the many groups that invited me to present, and the sustainable consumption practitioners who invited me into their conversations and gave me additional fora to discuss the findings of the book. And of course, THANK YOU to all those who read the report, this blog, and my Facebook updates, and who shared the ideas they contain with friends, colleagues, fellow students, and wider social networks and communities.

When I sat down to write this, I thought I’d create a blog-style acknowledgments to thank people personally. However, the list became very long, and I know that no one will read a list of 500-plus names. So instead, I want to share 10 highlights from 2010 that really made the year special and that hint at just how much work by so many people went into making this effort a success.

1) Of course, we have to start with the January 2010 press launch, which spurred the first round of coverage of the report—with the great help of the Worldwatch media team—and paved the way for broader coverage throughout the year. Rush Limbaugh’s discussion of the report was definitely a funny way to start the year.

2) Then came the State of the World Symposium in Washington, D.C., where along with a fantastic series of speakers, we served roasted grasshoppers to our audience of supporters in order to challenge their cultural assumptions (in this case, about what is and isn’t food) and to open them up to the idea of proactively and intentionally reshaping cultural norms.

3) Starting in February, I commenced my own fossil fuel binge, traveling to and around Europe to share the findings of the report. The total emissions tally at the end of year for the travel (for all authors) was about 15 tons, which I hope will be offset by the new wave of cultural pioneers that jump into the fray. The good news is that I kept the total about 5 tons lower by combining trips and doing some couch surfing instead of returning home. The first highlight of this travel was the United Kingdom, where I received wonderful support and hospitality from Earthscan, our British publisher, and did a series of fantastic events across the U.K. (thanks to the help of many). The day-long Transforming Cultures workshop at Findhorn Ecovillage was especially exciting, giving me the chance to see a leading ecovillage in action and to discover that when given the chance, I can talk for an entire day on this topic!

En route to Scandinavia, I stopped in Serbia and met many young pioneers (pictured above) working to embed sustainability into their organizations and cultures. Definitely an inspiring weekend.

4) From the U.K., I headed to Scandinavia—first to Finland, where with the help of Gaudeamus, our publishing partner, we launched the report and had the chance to debate with several ministers and elected officials—as well as to visit a fascinating recycled clothing producer. From there I went to Norway, where I shared the report in Oslo and a few other cities, as well as with the staff of the prime minister, all thanks to Worldwatch’s former board chairman Øystein Dahle. I owe a special thanks to him for all his work to get the message of the report across in Norway—and to live it.

5) After Norway, the pace picked up with a series of jaunts around Europe. In Germany, perhaps the highlight was presenting to a packed house at the Heinrich Boell Foundation, where I ended up debating with the head of the foundation about whether technology or cultural change would save us. You won’t be surprised by which side I took. But you might be surprised at how often I had to work over the course of 2010 to dispel the myth that technology will save us. Too many in the sustainability community have become technological cornucopians, believing that renewable energy, carbon sequestration, nuclear power, or some other magic fix will allow us to maintain our consumer society without destroying the planet. Curing them of this delusion should be a priority of the community.

6) Then on to Spain and Catalonia. Here again, I had great opportunities to share the report’s findings with influential people and groups. I also got an indirect opportunity to influence the United States, the world’s biggest consumer culture, since the U.S. Embassy helped support the trip and played chaperone. I have to admit that this was a bit surreal, especially going to the embassy for a video interview.

Two inspirational highlights of the trip came when I saw a library that was based inside a metro station—ingenious!—in Madrid, and when I attended the Degrowth Conference in Barcelona, where I briefly met a modern-day Robin Hood, a true cultural pioneer who is taking great risks to his liberty and security that few of us are bold enough to take.

7) After wrapping up the European launches, I turned my attention to North America, giving a series of presentations in Vancouver, California, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New York City, and Washington, D.C. But the highlight had to be joining a series of sustainable consumption meetings, where I helped brainstorm new pathways forward. The meetings came in many shades of green, but the most interesting was attended by corporate sustainability officers. Here, I pitched the idea of designing products that lead to less consumption overall and encouraged companies to use their advertising power to shift cultural norms (which advertising does quite effectively). I did have some success. But convincing General Mills to launch a new product, “Veggie Helper,” failed miserably.

What fun it was to present in a castle!

8: Continuing the North American circuit, I found myself in Mexico, thanks to our partner there, Africam Safari. I presented in the two most beautiful locations of the year: the rooftop of Chapultapec Castle (now a museum) in Mexico City and the Africam Safari park in Puebla. More importantly, many influential people were again present, including the Mexican Environmental Minister, who joined the press launch. And best of all, the bug theme continued, with grasshoppers and ant larvae being served to guests in Puebla (but these are specialties there, not taboo foods).

9) In October, I returned to Italy where I joined an international group of journalists at Greenaccord’s annual conference to present the Transforming Cultures message. While there, I continued my Italian outreach, presenting in Feltrinelli bookstores in Genoa and Torin with the help of our Italian publisher, Edizioni Ambiente.

10) The last leg of this odyssey brought me to Greece, where I presented the findings of the report at the launch of Organization Earth—definitely a highlight, as I predict the organization will do great things, as it was created by some incredibly dedicated individuals. The group has exciting plans and is building an Ecomuseum (“The Center of the Earth”—what a perfect name) in a beautiful park in Athens, which hopefully will inspire many new cultural pioneers over the coming decades. Also, I have to admit, seeing an entire set of shelves in the organization’s Eco-bookstore devoted only to State of the World 2010 was quite exciting.

"Hmm, which book should I choose…"

Finally, after much outreach, the year draws to a close. Thank you again to the many who have helped make the year such a success, and I hope to continue spread the Transforming Cultures message out there in 2011 and for many years to come, and hope you will do the same. Happy New Year!

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