Why I shouldn’t write for Elephant Journal

Via Rob Schuham
on Aug 27, 2010
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I’m ‘that’ guy. The ‘centrist’. The one who is happily a Democrat, but only slightly left of center when it comes to business and taxes. The Boulderite who admittedly has varying degrees of eco-bling and eco-baubles including a bunch of bikes, a sustainable house built of reclaimed materials, and yet I love cars, motorcycles and actually do work for a few manufacturers of said items.

Yes, I’m the one that EJ readers like to occasionally take a potshot at. In fact, I took a few tough shots after an article on my really big truck where I was taken to task both publicly and privately. I enjoyed the debate but it did leave a slightly bitter taste in my mouth. Here’s why:

I admit I love do-gooding. I love that consciousness is shifting now. I love that what used to be called left wing rhetoric is finally finding a more mainstream audience.  But I also abhor the attitudes inside many of the social activism circles I intersect with and occasionally participate in.

In fact, here’s my (organically raised) beef:  Goes like this:

WTF people?! The Elephant Journal cannot be about just talking to our own communities and like-minded people. It needs to cultivate outside circles and interests as well. The ones that are not, shall we say, very palatable to many of the readers.

Like my circle of friends who have families with 3+ kids and drive gas-guzzling mini-vans 20,000 miles a year to limo them around to the 5 sports practices per year per kid. Or my constituents who run large companies that have anemic sustainability blueprints at best.

We’re not going to wake up one day, look outside and see the planet cooling back down, everyone on their bikes with their cars left abandoned in the streets, Monsanto miraculously shut down… or electric 747’s humming in the skies, and then pat ourselves on the back that all our rhetoric actually somehow seismically shifted the Universal paradigm overnight because we yelled a lot and/or concentrated really really hard.

The truth as we all know it, is that it’s going to take incremental steps. And incremental steps take hard work. And it will take, dare I say, diplomacy. And diplomacy takes time. Time we know we don’t really have. But alas, it has to happen this way. Anger and finger-pointing ain’t gonna cut it.

So I’m that guy. The one who does a lot of activities and runs businesses that aren’t always 100% environmentally perfect and in line with the EJ ethos. While my cumulative driving mileage is down from 14,000 to less than 10,000 miles/year, given my own increase in bicycle usage, I still fly in polluting airplanes all over the place to get my business done. And I probably buy and consume products that aren’t always locally sourced or produced when I’m on the road. But I’m that guy who just might be able to influence the influencers, and the large companies they run.

My own personal environmentally-conscious gains are in fact incremental, yet they are significant compared to where I was even 3 years ago. And back then I even owned a hybrid. But my own experience is the one that needs to be amplified to a larger audience. And I’ll do it with or without writing for EJ. So people, shall we talk amongst ourselves? Or should we talk to the world? If it’s ourselves, then I submit my resignation. If we want Elephant Journal to face our voice outward, to set an example that we don’t have to live off the grid to prove a point, and that we/you will welcome those who will sign up and commit for systematic and methodical incremental gains, then what the hell, I’m in.


About Rob Schuham

Rob Schuham is a strategist and creative writer whose career has taken him around the world. Rob started AMG, an international agency, 15 years ago to “do what has never been done before” for brands in the interactive and experiential space including Adidas, Nike, Clif Bar, Levi's, Izze, Toyota, The NBA, American Express, ESPN, Warren Miller and many others. Rob is also a founding partner of Undercurrent, a New York and London-based think-tank focused on strategy and applying a digital worldview to the challenges of complex organizations including GE, PepsiCo, Ford, CNN, Virgin and others. Before creating his own agencies, Rob was on the marketing team at Schwinn for several years, but really grew up in advertising at (TBWA)/Chiat/Day in San Francisco and Ayer Chicago and New York.


4 Responses to “Why I shouldn’t write for Elephant Journal”

  1. elephantjournal says:

    Dear Rob,

    Great article. I can assure you ele's ambition is to be a first tier publication, size-wise, and hopefully quality-wise as well.
    Why? Because that's what it takes to influence the greater conversation. And as a planet, environmentally and perhaps spiritually, if we're like those crash test dummies heading toward a wall in a fast moving car, we need media to help inform educate entertain the masses to want to turn that steering wheel.

    Our mission statement has always been explicit about what you urge, above: "sharing the good word beyond our core or choir and to all those who didn't know they gave a care." We were on the verge of being able to do so as a national magazine, but the distribution system was eco-hypocritical.

    We welcome diverse voices (including voices I and most of our readers might disagree with) here–not just yours, not just Democrats but Republicans; Buddhists and Christians, whomever. Why? Because we all "want to live a good life that's good for others and our planet"—in the context of thinking about our grandchildren's welfare, at least.

    An intro I wrote on FB http://www.facebook.com/elephantjournal when I posted this, but then cut so folks could just get to your article:

    Do we want voices on ele that we might disagree with? Or do we want a like-minded forum? Our mission: "to spread the good word beyond our core or choir and to the masses" necessitates that we engage with all—especially those with different, even "wrong" views re women's rights, our environment, eating meat, politics…which, in turn, necessitates a genuine, vibrant, respectful forum and comments. Still, we don't have to condone "unmindful" behaviour or actions, so we wade willingly into controversy, and don't become a forum for happy new age yuppies.

  2. Mary Panton says:

    As a lobbyist for human rights issues, namely the labeling,drugging and stigmatizing of our school children, I have some experience with the problem of achieving the ideal scene all at once vs. the concept that life is improved on a gradient. We should stop drugging children. But the whole economic system of federal money to schools is hinged upon money for students with disabilities. The more disabled children you label, the more money you receive. But my legislators cannot outlaw the practice in one fell swoop. They ding away at it, until the pendulum of public approval swings to meet the ultimate goal.

    It doesn't mean that I need to act as slowly as public opinion. I must live my life with the knowledge I have. Only then will others see the examples and thus follow. My conclusion is that once you know the truth, you cannot unknow it. You are your own moral compass and you must live by the standards you understand at the moment.

    Ele had this same conundrum when it left the world of print. How can you be a magazine about green, sustainability and print thousands of paper magazines? Yet, how can you survive online without the traditional print magazine. Ele stopped the print magazine even at its own peril. The world is watching. How will Ele redifine the medium and survive?

    There is a difference between leaders and followers. And the difference is how willing you are to stand by what you know so that others can actually see the way for themselves.

    But you can't be a leader if you're dead. You must find a way to maintain your integrity while still living in the real world. And that journey is up to the individual. Let's face it, no one has the lock how to do it or we would live in a different world already. I say be grateful to those who take a stab, learn from their successes and throw away the rest.

    We are evolving. Support those whose actions forward that evolution. And leave the gutter-talk for cable news.

    My hat's off to both Rob Schuham and Elephant Journal.


  3. Ramesh says:

    Rob, great points and great writing, as well.
    Your points are well taken. I think we are all, no matter where we are on the green totem pole, just making incremental gains. I live in an eco-village outside hip and green Asheville, NC, and work in a green facility promoting yoga and meditation and sustainability, yet I fell I am still just starting to make an impact. Moreover, I interact daily with not-so-leftist hillbillies that often live more green than most greens like us. They often grow most of their own food, which hardly any Whole Foods yuppies will ever do.
    So it goes both ways, I think:. We need to help each other in the green movement to all improve, while also as, you say, and which Waylon seem to agree with, reach out to those who are not like us.
    I used to live in Ashland, OR, another green yuppie town, and got tired of the talk about "those others", "those who are not so progressive as we are", those who live "you know where." Now I am happy to live in a place where artists, hippies, yuppies, organic farmers and organic hillbillies interact, beacuse we are all neighbors. My hardware store owner listens to Rush Limbaugh, but he lives greener than most greens. And he's the sweetest of guys! But how do we get him to read Elephant?

  4. Brooks Hall says:

    Keep up the good work, Rob! Thanks for writing at Elephant.