Posted by: Celine Cousteau | January 20, 2012

Society of Environmental Journalists Annual Conference 2011

On the occasion of the Society of Environmental Journalists annual conference in Miami in October 2011, I found myself surrounded by actively involved change makers and information seekers. From the likes of Carl Hiaasen, Ken Salazar, Jim Toomey, Carl Safina, and Sylvia Earle to name a few- the cast of characters was impressive to say the least.

Most of the time when I come to speak at such events, I zip in and then have to promptly leave for another flight, another destination, another event. This time I had programmed my schedule to be able to stay and attend a few seminars…absorbing information and inspiration.

One of the two sessions I attended was “Climate Change as a Cultural Issue” with Shahzeen Attari, Michel Handgraaf, and Kenny Broad. Here are a few comments I jotted down from the panelists: Environmental decisions are a trade off between your own and other people’s outcomes. There are trust issues- how can we trust that people will do what they say they will? This leads to uncertainty and plays on the duality of the analytic vs/ the psychological sides of the brain.

Conclusion- How the movement is framed if key- make it relevant to your audience and follow through!

A good question that came up: “Is there a commonality of purpose between the journalists and scientists?” After all- without each other, there is no message and no audience. The panelists are addressing just these kinds of issues so if you’re intrigued I encourage you to read more about them from the links below.

Another great part of this event was that 5 members of my family were all in the same place for the first time in…well, a very long time. Pulling this off took months of preparation by Jeff Burnside who never waned in his efforts to get us all there. Our respective schedules put side by side must have been like staring at the architecture of the Matrix! Each of us was asked to take 5 minutes to share our projects before opening to the audience for questions. It was wonderful to share how my grandfather has influenced so many of us to carry on a piece of the work forward (and I don’t mean just those of us on the stage). Each has added his/her own interest, focus, and strength to create our an individual path within the one we share

L to R: Alexandra (cousin), myself, Fabien (brother), Jean-Michel (father), Philippe (cousin)


We are often asked why we don’t all work together- something that makes sense based on the shared name – with this event, I hope the answer was evident. Each of us is focusing on a variation of the same theme, a nuance on environmental education and protection. And here goes a cliché…it was clear that the sum of the parts truly is greater than the whole. Our combined strength comes from the unity of individuality with commonality. But we are just parts of an even bigger whole- an incredible army of people doing incredible work to help us all understand and protect this planet and the people upon it. It was not the 5 of us- it was every person there- every scientists, writer, journalist, activist, and participant present. This is the strength- the pieces of the puzzle coming together to create the whole. Without each part, the puzzle is incomplete.

And so I pay homage to my family for doing what they do- each of us a piece of the whole- coming together now and again- that in itself being a piece of an even greater whole. There are a myriad of people out there who are working day in and day out to better understand and share their understanding with others so we can collectively move to action. We count on the communicators to get the word out; without each of you, the message stays quiet.


Shahzeen Attari-

Kenneth Broad-

Michel Handgraaf-