The 4 skills environmentalists need to learn are FACT – Forgiveness, Accountability, Clarity, and Thick-skinned.
The first skill environmentalists need to learn is forgiveness, both forgiving others and forgiving yourself.
Some people in the environmental movement demand that others subscribe to their beliefs and are angry and upset when people behave irresponsibly. This leads to frustration and the lack of empathy when dealing with people whom they deem as “destroying” the environment. To change people, start forgiving them for their actions, and don’t put them down or be critical. We need to build trust with humility and empathy.
Some environmentalists put the burden of saving the environment on their shoulders. They feel guilt and shame when they forget to bring their own reusable bag or fail to finish their food. Their whole life revolves around doing the right thing, and being “answerable” to other environmentalists. They tend to burnout or be depressed over time.
We need to forgive ourselves and not take it too hard. We are not perfect so give ourselves a break. Try to focus on systemic actions that has greater impact, instead of beating ourselves over the inability to fit our waste into a jar. We don’t need a few people to do everything for the environment, we need a lot more people to do something for the environment.
The second skill environmentalists need to learn is accountability, being responsible in what we say and do.
We need to be careful in the pursuit of environmental awareness and knowledge, we should not be misled or blinded by false environmental claims or “the sky is falling” scenarios. By learning about environmental issues from reliable sources that are supported with data or references, we can then judge for ourselves on the validity of the environmental problems and the possible solutions. It is too easy to exaggerate facts and mislead the public, especially when it involves technical or scientific issues.
Being environmentalists does not give us the license to exaggerate, mislead, or strike fear among the public. As we state our stand on environmental issues and encourage others to take action, it is important to base it not only on our convictions but also based on facts and adopting a constructive and positive mindset.
The third skill environmentalists need to learn is clarity, which requires careful thought and self-awareness to be clear about the future, what you want to do, and how to get there.
Seek clarity on the sustainable future you wish to see and what you want to do to create that future. Understand that the future is not something that happens to us, we create the future. Have a clear vision, strategy, role, goals and targets, and work towards them over time. Take a long view but still be flexible to pivot and feel the stones while you cross the river.
Sometimes environmentalists are not clear what they wish to see and what they what to do. They demand things to change overnight without understanding the context, habits and process needed. They chase after a “hot” environmental problem one day and move to other “popular” problems the next day, thus never putting in the time and systemic actions required to solve the problem. They want to do everything yet end up doing nothing. They have lots of actions and stories to tell on social media, yet no impact to show on the ground.
Learn to seek clarity by asking yourself these questions:
What exactly is the future you wish to see and what are you trying to achieve? What’s your vision, strategy, role, goals and targets?
How do you measure and track to make sure you are meeting your goals and targets? Do you want to see real impacts? How serious are you? How long are you willing to work on it and commit?
Do you really understand the problems or the solutions that you are proposing? Do you know the difference between the root or symptoms of the problem? Do you understand context?
Do you need a team or money to do it? What resources or advice do you need? Are you duplicating the work already done by others, and how can you add value to existing work?
The fourth skill that environmentalists need to learn is to be thick-skinned, not just take criticisms from people against the environmental movement, but especially against people who believe in the environmental movement and think they have THE solution and criticise your actions as ineffective.
There is no ONE solution to solve our mess, instead there is a portfolio of solutions that demand actions from various stakeholders at different stages. Help those who are along the same sustainability journey. The journey is long, everybody appreciates an ally, not an asshole.