Communicating Sustainability is a book of evidence-based strategies for making sustainability vivid, accessible, and comprehensible. To do this, it brings together research from a range of specialties including cognitive psychology, visual perception, communication studies, environmental design, interpretive exhibit design, interpretive signage, wayfinding, storytelling, courtroom litigation, information graphics, and graphic design to illustrate not only what approaches are effective but why they work as they do.
The topic of sustainability is vast and complex. It interconnects multiple dimensions of human culture and the biosphere and involves a myriad of systems and processes, many of which are too large, too small, too fast, or too slow to see. Many people find verbal explanations about all of this too abstract or too complicated to understand, and for most people the concepts of sustainability are regarded as quirky, peripheral, and not essential to everyday life. Yet the challenges of sustainability concern the very survival of most species of life on Earth, including the human species. In order for life as we know it to survive and thrive into the future, sustainability must become broadly understood – by everyone, not just activists or specialists. Communicating Sustainability offers tools to help make complex systems and nuanced, abstract ideas concrete and comprehensible to the broadest range of people. The goal of communication, and of this book, is to build understanding.
PART I Perception and Communication
1. Context: Why It Matters
2. Perception and Cognition
3. Communication Principles
PART II Making Sustainability Visible
6. Interpretative Exhibits and Signs
8. Visible processes
PART III Practical Details
9. Graphic Design 101
11. Graphs and Diagrams
12. Reporting Tools
13. Digital Media
15. Communication Tools
Margaret Robertson is a member of the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) and teaches at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon, USA, where she coordinates the Sustainability degree program. She is the author of Sustainability Principles and Practice (second edition) and Dictionary of Sustainability.
"'Sustainability' is an elusive concept. It's vague, and fully comprehending it requires us to envision what cannot readily be seen. Yet communicating about it persuasively is one of the most urgent challenges we face. In Communicating Sustainability, Margaret Robertson takes a very solid step toward achieving that lofty goal."
– Sam H. Ham, Professor Emeritus, University of Idaho, USA
"Communicating anything effectively requires understanding not only the content you want to convey, but also your target audience: how they perceive, learn, and think, as well as what motivates them. Communicating Sustainability provides, in one easy-to-read resource, the knowledge you need to enable you to explain sustainable practices to your audience, and to motivate them to follow through with action."
– Jeffrey Johnson, University of San Francisco, USA
"Margaret Robertson's book provides an in-depth examination of the many methods used to present sustainability and contains a new and relevant perspective on how sustainability is explained. This comprehensive and thoughtful work engages all readers and describes a range of tools used to effectively explain sustainability. The reader leaves with a new-found understanding of the subject."
– Michael Meister, Director Of Exhibition Design, American Museum of Natural History, USA
"If sustainability is the major concern for people in the 21st century, then communicating sustainability is one of our biggest challenges. This book is not only timely, but critical in generating the level of public involvement necessary to move towards a more sustainable future. The book integrates and then applies existing communication theory and practice to the complex situations that underpin sustainability and should be required reading for all sustainability practitioners."
– Gianna Moscardo, Professor, James Cook University, Australia
"Margaret Robertson has synthesized an impressive amount of interdisciplinary research into a fascinating and readable book. To achieve sustainability, we need to understand how complex ecosystems and organizations work. But to communicate beyond the bubble of the converted, we also need to know how people work. Importantly, Communicating Sustainability draws on state-of-the-art research in human cognition to suggest methods of communication between communities with widely divergent values. Such a comprehensive and scientifically grounded approach to a multifaceted problem makes this a truly exceptional text."
– Rebecca Todd, University of British Columbia, Canada