Thursday, 15 December 2011

New metaphors for sustainability: teenaged sex, Tatiana's 'Weather Speech' and advice to the dude


Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure.  Photo: Copyright 1989 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.


Solitaire Townsend, co-founder and director of Futerra, the sustainability communications agency, draws on sex, Shakespeare and the party spirit for three new metaphors for sustainability.

I’ve heard hundreds of definitions and metaphors for sustainability. For a decade my company Futerra has been communicating this precious, complicated, simple idea in communities, through brands and across continents. So I’ve picked three favourite metaphors which sandwich the sublime between two moments of the ridiculous.

The first is courtesy of my co-founder at Futerra the guru, professional comic and activist Ed Gillespie. This one comes with humour warning...

“Sustainability is like teenage sex. Everybody says they are doing it, but very few actually are. And those which are doing it – are doing it wrong.”

Ed loves opening conference speeches with that one.

The second isn’t really a metaphor but rather a poetic description of climate change. It’s the famous ‘Weather Speech’ by Titania from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Act 2, Scene1):

The winds, piping to us in vain,
As in revenge, have suck'd up from the sea
Contagious fogs; which falling in the land
Have every pelting river made so proud
That they have overborne their continents:
The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain,
The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn
Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard;
The fold stands empty in the drowned field,
And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;
The nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud,
And the quaint mazes in the wanton green
For lack of tread are undistinguishable:
The human mortals want their winter cheer;
No night is now with hymn or carol blest:
Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,
Pale in her anger, washes all the air,
That rheumatic diseases do abound:
And thorough this distemperature we see
The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts
Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,
And on old Hiems' thin and icy crown
An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds
Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,
The childing autumn, angry winter, change
Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,
By their increase, now knows not which is which:
And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

That in the 1590’s Shakespeare wrote the most chilling description of climatic upheaval inspired Ed and I to shoot a short film of the speech. Called ‘The Season’s Alter’,  it stars a young Keira Knightly.

The final example is my most often used. When asked to define or explain sustainable development I don’t call upon the great Bard, but rather upon Bill S. Preston, Esquire and Ted Theodore Logan:

“Be excellent to each other, and party on dudes.”


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