Talking ecoLogical is a set of 40 cards that can be used by anyone to open up reflection and conversation about environmental sustainability. In the year since they were first published I have watched the cards used by teachers in Swan Hill, community in Warrnambool, local government in Bendigo, state government in Melbourne, grade six environmental leaders at Quarry Hill Primary school, a hospital green team, sustainability professionals and pharmacy owners in St. Kilda and I am always intrigued by where the conversation goes.
Here’s a mash-up of some of the conversations I have heard running workshops with the cards. You never know where it might lead…
1. Pick a card and have a conversation in pairs...
"I am offended at this 'Imagining the Future' suit Food card!"
“Because farmers have been doing amazing things to improve soil quality for years!”
“But they’ve been adding too much fertilizer and chemicals and feeding cows pellets and caging chickens and removing vegetation."
“That is a very simplistic and stereotypical judgment to make. Farmers care a great deal about their land and are always thinking about the next generation. ”
“But couldn’t you say the same about businesses in the city? They are wrecking the planet for different reasons even though they have people who care running them. Farmers might care, but they are doing damage.”
“Some are doing damage. Many are doing wonderful things. And the examples you just used are not black and white. There are a lot of grey areas. Define free range for example? And cows are mostly grass fed in Australia. I think businesses in the city and farmers are facing the same issues. In many ways it’s the big systems we’ve set up that are the problem. Fossil fuels, global companies, politics and media slogans make it feel too hard for farmers and businesses run a good business without ignoring the environment. I just get sick of people going off at farmers when they have no idea how hard they are trying.”
“So wouldn’t getting back to local help if the big companies are the problem? I’ve heard about Food Hubs in America that set up to supply their local area first and to keep the profits local. If local people were more connected to local food and local place wouldn’t that in turn help farmers care even more for their land? They would know the people buying their food and visa versa.”
"I guess so. I haven't heard about food hubs …”
“Are you still offended at the food card?”
“Yes. But I guess given our chat it’s done its job …"
2. Each small group decide together which card in the pack is the most important...
“I think the toxins card in the 'Our Challenges' suit has to be the most important. 500 toxins in our bodies! That is extraordinary and everyone needs to know that.”
“Well we all think that the Guide Beside card in the ‘Processes of Change’ suit is the most important. We hadn’t thought about change in that way before. If we’re going to change the world we need to understand how to enable others to think and act differently.”
“But knowing that we are polluting our actual bodies will make people change. It’s so scary.”
“Well, the Guide Beside card is about respectful collaboration, not telling people things. It’s about going on a journey together rather than delivering information.”
“But knowledge is power isn’t it?”
“It is good to know things. But smokers know they a most likely giving themselves cancer and that doesn’t change their behaviour. The ‘facts’ about climate change haven’t stopped the political far right from denying its existence.”
“So where do the Challenge suit cards fit then? Do we ignore them?”
“Definitely not. They are a major reason why we need to change. But knowing our challenges is not enough for people to change who they are. I think the Guide Beside card is a powerful thought: in the end we only change ourselves don’t we? And that process is helped by our friends and family helping us to think …”
“Ok, I can go with that. I’ll be a guide beside who is inspired by toxins though …”
3. Meet and Greet: pick a random card and introduce yourself …
“Hi, I’m Rachel.”
“Nice to meet you. You’re from finance yeah?”
“That’s right … and you?”
“That’s right. And you helped run the ride to work day didn’t you?”
"That was I. Good turn out!”
"Twas. So what card did you get?”
“I picked the Water card in the Imagining the Future suit. ‘Like a forest, we cleanse water as it flows through our society’. Not sure what that means …”
“Well forests clean water. I remember reading about the forests above Melbourne and how they clean our drinking water so we don’t need to treat it as much.”
“Ok. So it’s asking if we’ll be able to clean water as it flows on our buildings and roads. That would be a big change. The colour of rainwater in the drains isn’t good. And the rubbish in our creeks.”
“Not to mention the sewage system. Some of the things businesses and homes put down the sink and the toilet are not good.”
“No. So this card is asking us to imagine what our city would look like if it did clean water. I’d imagine there’d be a lot more greenery.”
“I think so. I’ve seen some of the grass lined drains in the new developments. The water runs off the roads onto stone beds and grasses. That must be what those are about.”
“And I love green roofs and walls. I don’t know how they build them though. Some of them look a bit funny, but some are beautiful too.”
“Too true. Hey, what are you doing after work? Did you want to grab a drink?”
“That would be nice (*blushes*). We could talk about revegetating our local creek …”