Sunday, November 21, 2010

Communicating Community Values

Human Needs and Finding the Right Words

People and collectively- communities are greatly diverse. And in so, trying to find collective agreements amongst multi-stakeholders are not always easy. However, considering the very humane nature of people- what we all share, our universal ‘human needs,’ we can maybe easily find a middle-ground, and draw attention to the common thread that binds us all together- our human needs. Afterall, we all are people who generally want the same things. Here I list the nine universal, fundamental human needs from Human Scale Development established by Chilean Sociologist Manfred Max Neef (recipient of the Right Livelihood Award):

  • Subsistence (food, shelter, clothing)
  • Protection (safety)
  • Participation (our social nature of wanting to ‘belong’ and have relationships with others)
  • Idleness (the ability to rest and recuperate)
  • Affection (experiencing care, love and nurture)
  • Understanding (being understood and understanding the world around us)
  • Creation (to be creative and exploring the ability to create things)
  • Identity (identifying with people and the world around)
  • Freedom (being able to act and live with freeness)

This post was instigated from facilitating, in part, a recent public input forum for introducing our community's climate and energy action plan, which heavily communicates the effects and importance of regulating our local GHG emissions. This initial forum was to introduce our community's action plan including GHG emission reduction targets, strategies and actions to help us enhance our community, local environment and support a new energy economy.

Well, I found out fast that some people do not respond well to certain weighted words like "climate" and even "sustainability." These are the new buzz words that carry a lot of different meanings and sometimes can scare people in their multitude of meanings. And depending on your political stance, they may instigate resistance out of misunderstanding and fear.

However, instead of focusing on 'climate' or 'green' anything, it may be more effective to communicate "community values," as in a 'strong economy,' 'thriving community,' 'self-reliance' and 'healthy and productive environment'- even more 'clean water' and 'healthy people.' These may be a little easier to hear and understand- because, after all we all want those things and they come across pretty straight forward, not weighted with mysterious political agendas.

We all do want the same things for ourselves, our families, our community and hopefully the world, we just often get caught up on verbage- rhetoric and linguistics. Trying to define and communicate the importance of climate change, adaptation, mitigation and sustainable development is difficult, however, if we can identify and simplify in rhetoric those things we all want and cherish in life- it becomes a little easier to find our commonalities and agree to disagree on all other things.