(3BL Media/Justmeans) — Here are some more takeaways from Sustainable Brands17 Detroit.
If we are to realize any kind of vision of a sustainable society, we must confront the idea that truth is negotiable. As author and consultant Andrew Winston said, “We need a working democracy, checks and balances, a free press.” We need the truth. But what is the truth? For scientists and judges, the truth is found in facts. For most of the rest of us, the truth lies in the stories we choose to believe. As Upworthy’s Jennifer Lindenauer said in her “Trust is Tribal” talk, “facts fade, stories stick. Donald Trump tells stories that stick even though they are lies.” Why do they stick? How does a liar get away with calling the bastions of journalistic integrity fake news? According to Lindenauer, it’s because the opposite of fake is authentic. Trump may have a myriad of deplorable qualities, but he is authentically Trump, and for better or for worse, for many, that authenticity begets trust. What that means for us is that we need to confront self-serving lies, with authentic stories of a sustainable future, that people will trust.
In 1987, Ronald Reagan said, ‘trust but verify,” with respect to a nuclear-arms deal with the former Soviet Union. Author Andrew Zolli described an ongoing effort by Planet Labs to take a complete, high-resolution picture of the entire Earth every single day. This will allow us to not only verify, but discover countless things that are happening on Earth, both as a result of human activities and the everything-else that we refer to as nature. For example, the images were able to detect a rapidly expanding illegal gold mining operation in Peru. As a result of the discovery, the operation was quickly shut down. While some might consider this type of truth and its consequences a form of “burdensome government regulation,” most of us would applaud it as a win for the planet. These photos could also be used to track deforestation, the growth of electricity, agricultural productivity, the growth or decline of deserts, rivers and lakes, the expansion of refugee camps, and with the help of sophisticated algorithms-- the loss of carbon due to land use changes. All these facts, could be used to fuel new and urgent stories that could potentially cut through the ideological fog. For example, as Zolli said, once we have a price on carbon, we can put a value on the forest that is being lost every day. At a time when EPA administrators are making policy that could impact the future of the entire biosphere, based on rumors and amateur science, such as the notion that there was a leveling off of warming over the past two decades, we need to verify before we can trust, as a number of scientists just did.