Great party. People laugh, drink, dance, hug. I laugh, drink, dance, hug.
“So what do you do?” The beautiful curly woman asks me, while we wait for our drinks.
“I am a researcher and author,” I mumble.
“What about?” She looks at me with those big brown eyes.
“Oh, … about how to live in the face of social and ecological challenges.”
“Ah, super interesting”. She says.
We get our drinks. She turns around.
“See you later,” she says. And leaves.
The story is a summary of many situations I have experienced when bringing up challenging topics such as climate change, social injustice, mass extinction… especially when people want to have fun. I became aware enough of the change in the atmosphere that I am smart enough to not talk about it unless asked. If you don’t know what I am talking about, try it at the next party (especially when sustainability is not people’s job). They probably react in a mixture of feeling slightly uncomfortable, followed by a ted of defensiveness, ended by an awkward silence, before it’s tense enough to change the topic. A very likely reason for this is that we are all somehow “to blame” and we know very well that we “should” do things differently. Moreover, it’s f*cking scary. The easier route – and a lot more fun – is to deceit ourselves. Hence, the topic kills the joy.
I noticed that it is a very different story though with people who are very familiar with these topics. They either embrace the opportunity to talk about it or just smile and keep dancing. Usually, they have already worked through the guilt and grief that is part of the process towards sustainability. For people new to the topic though, a bit of finesse goes a long way.