[Coral-List] "Educating the Masses": Leading by Example

millerm at umd.edu millerm at umd.edu
Sat Aug 2 13:55:45 EDT 2008

I've been following the discussion about "educating the masses", and it occurs to me that we are part of the masses. Are we getting our own message? Are we individually finding alternative forms of transportation? Spending our earnings on transitioning to renewable forms of energy? Shifting to earth-friendly (vegetarian) diets and making seafood choices that remove pressure from overfished populations?

Humans frequently function like pack animals, and as such we respond to genuine leadership. We learn through example. Babies carefully watch their mothers and fathers for clues about what's right and wrong. We all need to be examples for those around us -- search for cleaner, more efficient ways of conducting our everyday work and personal lives. Challenge the conventional thoughts on how we live and work.

I'm not saying stop the ad campaigns. But let's not expect anything to change overnight. A series of clever ads, a new environmental policy, a new technology will not be what causes a major culture shift. A major culture shift will happen one person at a time, and there are a lot of people out there. 

Any of you remember the shampoo ads in the 70's -- "and they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on..." Even if not, the point is that if you tell two people something, and those two people each tell people something, then the word gets out. Exponential growht. I'm reminded of this ad from some of the discussion on coral list about talking to the guy or girl next to you on a plane about what you do. Great idea, but my question is this: is it hard to sell your position while sitting on a plane, burning carbon emissions going back and forth to seminars that could be more efficiently conducted online in a webinar, or meetings that could be done virtually?

Michele W. Miller
Undergraduate- University of Maryland
Environmental Science & Policy
  -- Marine & Coastal Management

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