SXSW Eco Baby

Feelings associated with attending the SXSWEco Conference. 

There’s nothing like a giant conference on environmental sustainability to make you feel like one small (somewhat uneducated) piece in an 8-million-piece puzzle. It’s like going from a high school where you’re at the top of your class to a college where you are one in a thousand others who had a 4.0. I feel like an eco baby all of a sudden. Like a total “noob” in a community of eco experts who could school me on topics like rainwater harvesting, media campaigns, food sustainability, this list could and does go on forever. These people know their stuff. This stuff is serious, life changing, world saving stuff. And the people are inspirational green leaders from all over the world and from every discipline you can imagine.

I met a lovely woman in the ladies room earlier today (her name is Princess and she moved to Austin to reinvent herself) who expressed to me her intense feeling of being overwhelmed. My initial reaction was, “I hear ya, honey.” But then I felt the need to calm Princess down. I gave her my unfinished theory on how those feelings of being overwhelmed can transform themselves into the actions that all the SXSW Eco leaders talk about in their breakout sessions and networking chats. Here’s my attempt at articulating that theory:

Feelings of being overwhelmed –> a desire to make a difference –> a search for an area or population to impact (normally right under your nose) –> a search for a tangible/realistic way to educate people or change infrastructure –> action (this could take forever… patience is essential) –> change –> share with field/public –> start cycle all over again and apply to a new cause

Princess and I reviewed this process for a moment, took a deep breath, and said goodbye and good luck. I took an additional moment to thank the higher power who brought Princess and I together because a) she had fabulous shoes, b) her name was Princess, and c) she reminded me to spend my remaining time at SXSW Eco searching for tangible actions I can take at home instead of getting distracted by the overwhelming feeling that the earth has gone to shit and humans are responsible for the destruction of our natural resources.

One moment while I take a deep breath. 

No matter what your field, I encourage you to do the same. At conferences, workshops, beer gardens, cubicles, wherever, spend time learning from others so you can do good where you can do good. We can’t save the world by spreading ourselves too thin and overlooking the smaller, but higher quality, opportunities to actually and realistically and positively change the world.


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