I’ve recently begun to use a phrase that’s a much more accurate description of the dangers we face as the temperature of the Earth’s atmosphere continues to rise. Instead of talking about climate change, I now talk about “climate cancer.”
It’s not that the term “climate change” is wrong. The meaning of the word “change” is so vast and nonspecific, however, that it can obscure and normalize the very urgent challenges we face. Choosing the word “cancer” is a variation on the suggestion that marketing guru Seth Godin made more than a decade ago: “Global warming” sounds vaguely comforting, he pointed out. “Atmosphere cancer” correctly names the catastrophic and far-reaching effects that rising levels of carbon and rising temperatures have on the planet’s ecosystems, including increased drought, severe fires, melting polar caps, devastating storms, and declines in biodiversity.
Just as heat waves and flooding have ravaged the lives of millions of people around the globe in 2022, climate cancer has the potential to radically disrupt the business events industry. Our industry has a central role to play in bringing people and ideas together, and in educating and aligning our efforts in both taking ownership of the problem and taking actions to solve it. But that won’t happen if we’re seen as — and act like — an industry that squanders the Earth’s resources. The changes that we make in ensuring that we do business in sustainable ways shouldn’t be counted as costs — they are a necessary investment in the future, not just of the business events industry, but also our collective survival as a planet.
It is my hope, too, that speaking plainly about the climate will positively influence more business event professionals into taking clear-eyed actions to increase their event’s sustainability, and to consider the role that suppliers and vendors play. In our surveys of what members consider to be their most pressing challenges, sustainability doesn’t register as a leading concern. That’s understandable, given all that business event professionals are facing in this present moment, including a talent shortage, the continuing effects of COVID-19, inflation, and the threat of a recession. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not critically important.
There is a positive path forward. In Europe, sustainability goals have moved beyond achieving net-zero carbon to identifying regenerative practices that replenish the Earth, as opposed to merely having a neutral effect. We must become a regenerative society, with regenerative jobs, regenerative industries, and renewable resources. Please join us in changing the global conversation and working together in new and restorative ways. We know that if we expect our industry to transform, we will need to lead that transformation.
Green and Getting Greener
Convening EMEA 2022, which was held in Vienna in September, was not only the most well-attended PCMA event in Europe on record, but it was also certified by the Austrian Ecolabel for Green Meetings & Green Events. That trend will continue in 2023, when Copenhagen, one of the world’s leading sustainable meetings destinations, will be the host city.