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Changing the World with Effective Communication

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What kind of world do we want to leave to our kids? Where will all of our plastic and styrofoam be in 20 years? Will we be strong and healthy, or chemically dependent? Will our food be nutrient dense and abundant, or packed into monocultures on shrinking farmlands?

It can be hard to see it this way, but as a whole, I’m a firm believer that the human race always has the best of intentions. We take calculated risks, we weigh the pros and the cons, and we do what makes sense at the time.

However, this short-sighted thinking has landed us in some hot water, as the ecological impacts of our excessive lifestyles have become impossible to ignore. More and more of us are looking at the foods we eat, the products we buy, and we’re asking ourselves, are we part of the problem?

It’s a humbling thought, the kind that makes you want to stare at your feet in shame, that you could be a part of those floating islands of trash in the Pacific, or the once fertile lands that have been hammered flat and barren by years of industrial agriculture, and are quite literally becoming dust in the wind.

We’re only human, but in this, the greatest age of information mankind has ever seen, word travels at the speed of a click, and more and more people are turning off the drone and humdrum of everyday life to stop and examine their lifestyles. It’s happening, and we’re all part of it.

As someone who works on the (insert ominous music) marketing side of things in this niche, though, I can tell you that there is something of a tug of war between folks that want to live a better life, and people that would rather not change. Something happens when people get and share information, and if it’s not what someone else wants to hear — it can stunt education, rather than enlighten people.

All too often, there seems to be this sort of social issue occurring, wherein the people that do things like plant dandelion seeds and make their own clothes look like crazies to what we’ll refer to as "mainstream society" (though I use the term very loosely). There’s this social disconnect between what the norm is, and what someone else is doing, and for many, it becomes hard to even take their point of view seriously.

I mean look at this chick - dirt under her nails, no bra, a baby on her back — what a weirdo. (And yes, that weirdo is definitely me).

The Wheaton Eco Scale

My boss over at Permies.com dreamt up this idea for what he calls “The Wheaton Eco Scale”, a successive model in which the higher the level, the more conscious someone’s efforts are to be kinder to the Earth, but the crazier they look to the people back at the other end of the scale.

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So how we do change this? How do we effectively communicate with each other, and with people that are just at different points in their lives, without coming across as having a screw loose?

There is no perfect answer, but the first step is just acknowledging that perception is everything. To some of us, it may seem like people on level one are uneducated or don’t care about the environment, when it could be a simple matter of them just having never considered or questioned the way they do things.

I know it took me a long time to look at something as simple as the stuffed animals I was buying for my son, and when I realized what a horribly wasteful production process went into creating those loveable creatures, I finally dialed it back.

Education as a Journey of Experience

But the point is, I had to come to that conclusion on my own, because if someone had attacked me and called me a thoughtless idiot for buying those things, I would have dug in my heels even harder, and dismissed their claims as a result of them being psychotic jerks.

Yea, I’m just that stubborn. And as it turns out, so are a lot of people.

If we explain our thought process and don't dismiss people as just being inherently thoughtless, maybe we won't get dismissed as being completely nuts.

So if this cute, cartoon scale that Paul put together tells us anything, it’s that this life we lead is a journey in education and experience, and we’re not all going to be at the same level, and need to understand that communicating with people in this space is going to take being tactful and respectful, and understanding how they might be perceiving us.

You can check out the full image of The Wheaton Eco Scale here.

Have you ever had a difficult discussion with someone that resulted in them thinking you were super crazy? What did you learn about communication?

Destiny Hagest is personal assistant to Paul Wheaton, founder of  Permies.com and RichSoil.com, as well as a content curator and freelance writer. You can catch Destiny hanging out in the forums at Permies.com quite regularly, and visit her LinkedIn profile, and follow her on Twitter. Read all of Destiny's MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here. 


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