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Holly Arnold

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Are memes important for our survival? How can we draw on memetic theory to inspire ideas of sustainability that go viral?

Memes are elements of a culture or behavior that may be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means. Dan Dennet's TED talk addresses memes that are powerful because they inspire passionate, extremist behavior based on idealistic notions of freedom, justice, truth, communism, capitalism, and religion. While not always bad, memes can be destructive and result in conflict and death. Yet, memes have great potential benefit to humanity by eliciting behaviors that promote equality, peace, and sustainability. Sustainability in particular has been suggested to be the most important factor in determining the fate of humanity, as discussed by Paul Gildings. How can we harness the power of memes to inspire notions of patriotism, freedom, and justice that elicit a passionate response for the cause of sustainability, rather than a passionate response that leads to conflict?


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  • Mar 8 2012: This concept to me is absolutely awesome and so powerful. I hadn't thought about this till date, but upon reading this I realized how memes have played a huge role in my own personal life. When I recently moved to Eugene and started attending University of Oregon, my one and only goal in life at that point was to get my degree. I never thought of life outside or beyond that, moreover, I never thought of life beyond myself. As selfish as that sounds. I cannot describe to you how much my life has changed since when I first set foot into Eugene. I started to notice numerous recycling bins which I can tell you from personal experience were not as available a couple of years ago. I began to recycle as I noticed other around me being so cautious. Soon, I was working for the E.N.R. (Environmental Natural Resource) department at the U.O. Law School which led me deeper into this field. Before I knew it, I had transformed majorly in my lifestyle and was persuading others to do the same. To me it took more than one meme for me to follow and learn this new lifestyle, but nevertheless it was memes that have led me today to be this environmentally aware person. What worked for me were numerous internet resources but, my biggest influences came from my peers. So how can we utilize the power of memes to educate and spread sustainable practices? By becoming strong memes ourselves. If your one single action is able to change just one other person, just know that it does not stop there. When you think you've reached one, you've really reached an innumerable number of humans beings.

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