Lea Simpson

Sustainability vs. Scientology. Can you spot the difference?

In I went to this thing, Sustainability on January 13, 2009 at 6:34 pm


Let's consider how we appear to the rest of the world.

Sustainability in business is a big passion of mine. I often find myself at green gatherings where like-minded entrepreneurs and activists get together to talk about all things environmental.

I love these get-togethers. I invariably meet amazing people. Indeed some of my closest friends and some of Unchained‘s closest collaborators are part of this amazing, global, growing, green community.

Can you feel my love? Good, because that’s where the gushing ends.

Sometimes, just sometimes, I can’t help but think the sustainability world (and by that I really mean those at the forefront of the most progressive ‘new green’ thinking) let themselves down by allowing their passion to undermine their good sense.

Put a bunch of us in a room and it’s not long before we start sounding like we’re selling a religion. To prove the point I suffered through that cringe-worthy film of Tom Cruise harping on about the joys and responsibilities of Scientology.

As I suspected I found phrases in the film that I’ve often heard at my sustainability hook ups:

  • You’re either on board or you’re not on board
  • They want help and they’re depending on people who know
  • One day it’ll just be like that and they’ll read about it in history books
  • Now is the time
  • I wish the world was a different place. I’d like to go on vacation and just play and just do that. There are times I’d like to do that but I can’t, because I know.
  • Once you know, you just have to do something about it
  • There’s nothing better than going out there and fighting the fight and suddenly you see things are better.
  • It’s our responsibility to educate, to create the new reality
  • You know the spectators who are like, “well it’s easy for you”
  • We need more work, but I need more help. We gotta get those spectators.
  • We’re going to clear this place up
  • We have an opportunity to help
  • Once you have the tools and you know how to use them, it’s not good enough that I’m just doing OK

Sound familiar? Seriously guys, we need a new lexicon. Our language is old and off-putting. And though I’m not suggesting that our lexicon causes people to feel the same way about green issues as they do about Scientology, I am suggesting we can learn something from Scientology about how not to do things. So to start with, I’d like to suggest that we:

  1. Stop congratulating ourselves on being right about the ills of the world
  2. Stop being so intimidating (we’re not approachable to companies and people who may want to start doing the ‘green thing’. Even less so if they’re petrified we’ll call them greenwashers when they do)
  3. Stop patronising everyone who isn’t us
  4. Stop letting our passion undermine our sense. I know you care, but try to think about how it feels and sounds to the other person.

If you’re green and attend these meetings I’d love to know if you feel the same. What works for you when talking about sustainability? And what do you hate? If you’re cynical about sustainability then I’d really like to hear from you in particular.

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  1. How can he go on for all that time about Scientology and NEVER actually state what they believe in?

    Please don’t compare yourself to this video. While environmentalists do have a reputation for being a bit self-righteous, the rest of us not-so-committed people understand it comes from a good place and a sense of urgency. This video just shows Tom Cruise as an incoherent wacko.

    I would suggest some re-branding strategies as it were. First, environmentalists really need to call out the greenwashing tactics that many companies are using. While you may know the difference, the mainstream only has the mainstream media to inform them. And secondly, do real grassroots campaigns which means going into places that might not have grass. The working poor are less invested in the current system and therefore more willing to adapt green practices if you take away the notion that the green movement is all about white, college-educated, limosine liberals nominally giving up their privileged life to tell the rest of the world what they’re doing wrong.

    • Thanks swandiver, you make some brilliant points.

      My comparison to Tom “crazy-man” Cruise was simply to highlight how off-putting language can be and that a ‘re-branding’ is needed. Your suggested strategies are very interesting. Especially your insight into targetting those who are less invested in our flawed system. Cunning :-)

  2. Hi Lea, the scientologists are brilliant at recruiting though. Obviously what they actually believe and slowly reveal to recruits as they move up the ladder is completely crackpot if you come to it cold (google “scientologist core beliefs” for a sample). Instead they set their stall out behind things like management effectiveness seminars, kicking addiction courses, stress & personality tests. For all I know those Bootlaw events are probably a scientology front just you wait and see! ;J

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