By: Guest blogger Bailey Stanard
“I told you so” is the first thing that came to mind upon reading the recent article stating “an estimated more than 500 birds killed annually…” in the flyway above U.S. Bank Stadium. As I read further, my blood began to boil. I shouldn’t be surprised that when I mentioned the article at work (in finance), my coworkers were more interested in the views, seat prices, and concession options than the accountability of the owners, banks, and construction companies to create a structure safe for all creatures. I shouldn’t be surprised that companies are more interested in cost analysis and net profit than populations of migratory Ruby Throated hummingbirds. I shouldn’t be surprised… but as I sit here with my mouth open… I am.
What are we willing to sacrifice to make a change? What are morals and ethics worth? What does integrity cost?
Environmental stewardship isn’t easy, it IS sacrifice. Those working with environmental organizations know personal sacrifice starts with the little (emphasis on little) monetary benefit received every two weeks. Many of us, including myself, work part time, seasonally, or volunteer for the chance to make our voices heard. We tell stories, hoping to establish an emotional connection and instill some kind of response, to affect one single person or child to remember a place, a species, or a feeling. We operate on the notion that this will enact action (monetarily or otherwise) that trickles into change.
Any good storyteller knows that the perspective and language used to communicate the story is essential to the audience remembering it. With maple syruping in full swing, I am reminded of one of the greatest storytellers ever from my Master Naturalist Course, Brett Sieberer, retelling an oral history of the discovery of maple sap. The story was memorable because of the passion and feeling Brett had telling the story. But, how can you impact others that don’t share the same values with stories to invest in environmentally appropriate actions?
Interacting with naysayers feels like screaming to be noticed, heard, or seen. Communicating with those with power and influence that make decisions on our behalf can be exhausting. I realize I cannot ignore that appealing to a construction company to care about the population of snow buntings is a fool’s errand. However, I can take on a perspective that appeals to both parties and addresses concerns from both sides of party lines. I can tell the story I need them to hear by using the language of financial management. I can support my ethical and moral integrity with data and facts.
There are times when I want to revert to the girl in the hemp beanie with strong convictions about the forest community, but the woman with spreadsheets and business acumen can make a difference too. My personal mission is to improve the world that I live in. As environmentalists, we’re exceptional storytellers; we just need to get creative with whom we’re telling the story. Maybe “I told you so” is the wrong approach; maybe the story needs to start with “Once upon a time”…