#5 Changing the Conversation on Conservation

In Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk, he discusses the importance of presenting your ideas through the lense of emotion and values first rather than practicality or logic, also known as the “golden circle”. Whether it be selling a phone or starting a revolution, the public will buy into your idea if you make its purpose something they believe in.

In Sinek’s comparison between Langley and the Wright Brothers tactics for discovery, he discusses how knowledge and funding can only get you so far but passion is what brings people to be their best selves. I think the most important thing I took away from this anecdote is that others will invest as much in you as you invest into your idea. This example is also a reminder that doing things because you have a moral and emotional connection, not just because you think change is necessary, is vital since “what you do serves as the living proof of what you believe” (Sinek).

The last anecdote Sinek gave about MLK Jr.’s influence in the civil rights movement really made his idea clear in my mind. I think it’s very interesting, and true, that the civil rights movement itself wasn’t MLK Jr.’s belief but rather, the beliefs that inspired him to be a part of the movement were what made people want to follow him. He talked about how people who believed in the same things as MLK Jr., “took his cause and made it their own” (Sinek) and ultimately, that’s what we want to achieve through our topics.

I’ve decided to concentrate on cross cultural communication with a specific focus on environmental issues in different communities. In a sense, the goal would be to spread environmental awareness to students since they have the resources and time to make change. I’m going to focus on this topic until I feel that I’m drawn to a different one, but hopefully this will help me find some direction in my research.

First, I came across a Ted Talk called Kids Helping Kids by Tyler Page. In this talk, Tyler, a young student, describes why he first saw a need to help people and then how he brought about that change. Tyler was struck by how kids in Africa were living and he wanted to help change that so he started fundraising money with bake sales, lemonade stands, etc. but even when he made over 1,000 dollars, he realized he could never help every kid so he just kept raising money, reaching over 100,000 dollars. Because he had found his “spark”, other people felt the beliefs that Tyler put behind this project and inspired them to help too. As Sinek said, “there are leaders and there are those who lead”. Tyler by no means had any tangible amount of authority but because of the morals he had behind the work he was doing, he led the way to remarkable social change.

As I continued my research, I found an article about a group of eighth grade students who fundraised and wrote grants to get solar panels at their school in Montana. Claire, a fourteen year old girl who was the leading force of this effort, did not take “no” for an answer when the school board said they couldn’t afford to get solar panels. Her purpose was to “connect nature and school” and create a more sustainable future which helped them reach their goal. Her whole community got behind her and her classmates and eventually, they gathered enough money for their school to agree to install panels. To me, that shows how the power of hard work and passion can get you just about anywhere you want to go.

As for my own topic, I’ve thought a lot about how I would frame my ideas in the format of the “golden circle” and ultimately this is where I ended up.

We live in a world that is changing, most of the time for the better since we are more aware of what’s going on around us than ever before. The environment is one of those key parts of life that we have become more aware of and in order to have a safer, better tomorrow, we need to take advantage of the knowledge we have to make changes today. Even the state of Vermont is struggling to preserve our natural resources that we are depend on for our economy and way of life. From overgrazed fields to dead bodies of water, changes are not impossible to make but in order to make them we need to all work together. The more people keep up with what’s going on in their own communities, the more change is starting to happen, but I think we can do better; if we collaborated with people in a different community, state, or country than us and shared the environmental struggles in our area, we could create a supportive network of innovators to bounce ideas off of and take action with confidence. We each understand parts of certain issues but if we combine our knowledge and communicate with the goal of change in mind, we can all take the action our communities need. Be a part of that awareness, be a part of that change because when you get involved in the conversations going on in your community and around the world, you are creating a better future. 


Schontzler, Gail. “Kid Power Brings Solar Power to a Montana Middle School.” Great Falls Tribune, USA Today, 28 May 2017,  http://www.greatfallstribune.com/story/news/2017/05/28/kid-power-brings-solar-power-montana-middle-school/352597001/

Page, Tyler. “TEDxRedmond – Kids Helping Kids.” YouTube, YouTube, 4 Jan. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M82bntIVzc0

Featured photo is from Public Domain Pictures


3 Responses to “#5 Changing the Conversation on Conservation

  • Diane Bahrenburg
    4 years ago

    It sounds like you have landed on a topic that reflects a “spark” for you. The connection to your local community sounds powerful. Do you have any ideas yet about how you will have meaningful conversations about the environment in your own neighborhood, town, county, state? Do you envision spreading the word and connecting with students from different communities within Vermont? (After all, we have a wide range of cultural differences within our tiny state.) I look forward to following your story. Let me know how I can help.

  • Rachael,

    I think it’s so cool that you combined your ideas. I can tell you are very passionate about both of them and I’m glad you are sticking with both of them. Your golden circle is clear and easy to follow and I think it’s a cool direction that you are taking. In one of your previous posts, you mentioned that environmental issues seem unattainable at times but when you focus in on a smaller community, you can really make change. I’m really excited to see the shape that your project is taking.


  • Rachael,

    Wish I’d read this before bumping into you at PA! Sometimes when I read a student’s emerging thinking about an idea there’s a moment when things click into place. I had that experience reading yours.

    I got such a kick out of your synthesis of cross cultural communication and environmental issues. I think the kick of it is it doesn’t feel like you’re piling on; it feels like a coherent and strong approach, one with the potential for local and world wide change.

    Makes me so happy to hear you describe Sinek’s ideas in ways that informed your approach to choosing a topic. We’re all familiar with the idea of being the change we want to see in the world, and Sinek’s take unpacks this some by connecting it to the biology of our brains. The much older, larger parts of our brain (limbic system) determines much of our decision making, even though we feel like our cerebral cortex (newer part of brain with capacity for language/abstract thinking) is rationally figuring things out. (It’s a mix of the two, of course, but we can underestimate the power of emotions.) We need inspiration in order to bother with the required perspiration needed to do great things. When we’re moved, we move.

    The Bread Loaf / Middlebury College network is world wide, and this can be helpful to you as you seek these cross cultural conversations about environmental issues. I wonder if there will be patterns, and whether choosing one of these might be the way to go, or better to keep things wide open? Regardless, a deep dive by you (and others) about a VT environmental issue will be key, I think.

    Just heard this extended VT Edition yesterday, Breaking Down Vermont’s Latest Clean Water Funding Plan (http://digital.vpr.net/post/breaking-down-vermonts-latest-clean-water-funding-plan). I found it informative.

    You’re on your way!


Leave a Reply Text

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *