Despite what the psychologists evidence and the psychotherapists cogitate, there’s no getting through to some people, and I really think we just ought to accept that, stop with the guilt trip and the navel-gazing and admit it : the people with leadership authority have got to start telling people that things will change, whether they come along with it or not.
Everybody knows that there’s no secret to persuasion, no “how to win friends and influence people” magic techniques : you just need to have enough money to guarantee yourself the widest possible audience and the dominant narrative, and your product gets all the sales it needs, and overrides “what if” critique. TV was made for it. The Hollywood film industry is its highest and finest embodiment.
Why does the emphasis have to be on me, personally, to change, in order to combat Climate Change ?
Why do individuals need to change their behaviour ? Everyone is doing the best they can. They can’t all be Energy Conservation specialists. They need Zero Carbon solutions supplied to them.
Why can’t the Government and the Big Energy companies offer us the solutions in our own homes ? In the early 20th Century in Great Britain, there are stories told of how public works on a massive scale took place to refit homes with inside toilets and bathrooms. People were shunted from house to house until the refurbishment of a whole street was completed.
Within the last 40 years, a vast number of British homes have been fitted with Natural Gas supplies and heating systems. In the last 10 years, there has been a mass cabling exercise, and this will be continued under the scheme to connect every home to Broadband Internet.
There seems to be a saturation of environmental messaging, particularly about Climate Change.
Nobody wants to preach or be preached at any more, it seems.
The people movements are powerless.
The environmental campaigns are not expanding in their reach.
If I change my lightbulbs and turn down my heating in my own home, the message of that action, this signal, doesn’t reach anywhere. My actions are not causing a message. When I say to people I only use the washing machine once a week, they stare at me open-mouthed. When I talk to them about Climate Change science, they can’t believe my conclusions.
Nobody really wants to accept the worst. Those who want to bury the message find it so easy. Nobody has the time to be an activist these days. And the profit-making forms of human organisation, who have vested interests, have all the cash to keep up the propaganda campaign against serious state-organised action on Climate Change.
“Perfect Storm 2030: Public attitudes : Mark Easton : Tuesday, 25 August 2009 : This post is part of the BBC’s Perfect Storm 2030 coverage, where correspondents explore the forecast by UK chief scientist John Beddington, of a “perfect storm” of food, water and energy shortages in 2030. Ed Miliband says he is in “the persuasion business”. So how do you persuade people when research suggests that many of them don’t trust your message? The secretary of state for energy and climate change told the BBC recently that his job is to convince people “to make big changes” in their lives. Unless that happens, he warns, the planet and our way of life will be damaged for generations to come. But Whitehall research reveals that: “[M]istrust is a critical issue which is potentially a major barrier to people becoming more pro-environmental”. Government is suspected of “using” the environment to increase taxes. What’s more, people don’t like politicians telling them how to lead their lives. There is still deep scepticism. Despite virtually unanimous academic opinion, half of us still believe science is divided on whether mankind’s activities contribute to climate change. And more than a quarter of us don’t think our individual behaviour makes any difference to the environmental crisis. So Mr Miliband needs a much more subtle approach. He hopes to “nudge” us into going green, to change the way we behave without ever realising that we are being coaxed and cajoled by central government. The starting point for the strategy is a document published at the beginning of last year entitled A Framework for Pro-Environmental Behaviours…It advises ministers to: “[U]se ‘opinion leaders’ and trusted intermediaries to reach your audience”. If people won’t listen to elected politicians, get someone more plausible to deliver the message. The most convincing messengers are not boffins or journalists, local councillors or civil servants – we are most likely to believe our next door neighbour…Rather than simply beseeching us to “save the planet”, ministers hope they can convince us in other ways. “Use non-environmental motivations,” their advisors recommend. “Recognise the role of social norms, identity, and status for moving towards greater adoption of pro-environmental behaviours.” In other words, appeal to the things that matter to people right now – their wallet and their self-esteem. That’s why much of the Act on CO2 campaign is built on the idea that saving the planet equals saving money…”
David McGrath of ReGenTech and a member of the Claverton Energy Group Forum notes : “Persuasion, bull. Why can’t the politicians get their heads around this. There is a time for persuasion and a time for command. Or as Ray Eaton of the then DTi put it in grand colonial civil service style, we the public are to be governed by the likes of him and his colleagues in Government. Persuasion, consensus has no part in real government, the model that prevails in Civil service (who do not need to be re-elected, never fired, high pay and obscene pensions paid for by you and I). Whilst I detest his arrogance Government must GOVERN and make the dificult decisions…seat belts in cars, child restraints under 1.35m, cycling on pavements, age before leaving school 16, age of drinking 18, smoking in public places, motorcycle helmets and the other 2500 laws introduced by the [New] Labour government since taking power or was this last year. There was not a clamour from the public for these changes, most could not care less but adapted and accepted when implemented. These decisions were made by government on behalf of society. It is one of the roles of government. Change must happen and people must be forced to change their ways for their benefit and benefit of others, why else the smoking ban [?] Failure to do so is an abrogation of responsibility, or the civil servants/government do not believe the message or are failing to read or interpret the evidence. It is easily done by incremental steps doing a little at a time building towards the ultimate goals. First you have to understand and accept we have a serious condition facing us over the next 20 years. And to the free marketers, markets are reactive except in the hands of enlightened corporations such as in US, Japan, China and Germany and universally absent in the Finance-orientated City. If you focus on short term cash churning for your economy and not things like products and food you can never lead the agenda…”
It’s not enough to believe in, or sell, technological fixes (especially imaginary ones) :-
“Swapping technologies fails to address the root causes of climate change : The environmental and social crisis that threatens us requires deeper solutions than new technology alone can provide : Merrick Godhaven : guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 15 July 2009 : Technology is part of the solution to climate change. But only part. Techno-fixes like some of those in the Guardian’s Manchester Report simply cannot deliver the carbon cuts science demands of us without being accompanied by drastic reductions in our consumption. That means radical economic and social transformation. Merely swapping technologies fails to address the root causes of climate change. We need to choose the solutions that are the cheapest, the swiftest, the most effective and least likely to incur dire side effects. On all counts, there’s a simple answer – stop burning the stuff in the first place. Consume less. There is a certain level of resources we need to survive, and beyond that there is a level we need in order to have lives that are comfortable and meaningful. It is far below what we presently consume. Americans consume twice as much oil as Europeans. Are they twice as happy? Are Europeans half as free? Economic growth itself is not a measure of human well-being, it only measures things with an assessed monetary value. It values wants at the same level as needs and, while it purports to bring prosperity to the masses, its tendency to concentrate profit in fewer and fewer hands leaves billions without the necessities of a decent life. Techno-fixation masks the incompatibility of solving climate change with unlimited economic growth. Even if energy consumption can be reduced for an activity, ongoing economic growth eats up the improvement and overall energy consumption still rises. We continue destructive consumption in the expectation that new miracle technologies will come and save us. The hope of a future techno-fix feeds into the pass-it-forward, do-nothing-now culture typified by targets for 2050. Tough targets for 2050 are not tough at all, they are a decoy. Where are the techno-fix plans for the peak in global emissions by 2015 that the IPCC says we need?…”
“How psychology can help the planet stay cool : 19 August 2009 by Peter Aldhous : Magazine issue 2722 : Editorial: Positive thinking for a cooler world : “I’M NOT convinced it’s as bad as the experts make out… It’s everyone else’s fault… Even if I turn down my thermostat, it will make no difference.” The list of reasons for not acting to combat global warming goes on and on. This month, an American Psychological Association (APA) task force released a report highlighting these and other psychological barriers standing in the way of action. But don’t despair. The report also points to strategies that could be used to convince us to play our part. Sourced from psychological experiments, we review tricks that could be deployed by companies or organisations to encourage climate-friendly behaviour. Also, on page 40 of this issue, psychologist Mark van Vugt of the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands describes the elements of human nature that push us to act altruistically. As advertisers of consumer products well know, different groups of people may have quite distinct interests and motivations, and messages that seek to change behaviour need to be tailored to take these into account. “You have to target the marketing to the demographic,” says Robert Gifford of the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada, another of the report’s authors. Messages that seek to change behaviour need to be tailored to the interests of individual groups…”
“Positive thinking for a cooler world : 19 August 2009 : Magazine issue 2722 : THE threat posed by climate change is all too real, but some of the solutions are all in the mind. That’s the message from work in the field known as conservation psychology, which is beginning to show how people can be encouraged to change their lifestyles to cut greenhouse gas emissions (see “How psychology can curb climate change”). As well as showing what does work, this research also tells us what does not. And in that regard, groups trying to promote action to fight global warming could pay closer attention to what the psychologists are saying. Environmental groups have already learned some obvious lessons: no one likes to be hectored, and preachiness is not a winning tactic. Positive campaigns like “We can solve the climate crisis”, run by Al Gore’s Alliance for Climate Protection, are a better idea. Meanwhile, other research suggests that human nature need not be as rapacious and short-sighted as it sometimes appears: we are surprisingly ready to act in the interests of others and the natural world (see “Triumph of the commons”). But other tricks are still being missed. The website of the “We can solve the climate crisis” campaign features a video by Will.i.am of the hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas. As a backdrop to his song Take Our Planet Back, it shows images of environmental degradation coupled with statements like “Every American generates 2000 pounds of trash each year”. Approaches like this can be counterproductive, reinforcing the idea that heavy consumption is the societal norm and promoting a sense of helplessness in the face of an apparently insurmountable problem. Like it or not, most of us go with the herd. Show people this video and they will find little motivation not to carry on generating trash and burning oil like there’s no tomorrow. But tell them about the steps their peers are taking to make things better, and they may just follow suit. Tell people about the steps their peers are taking to make things better, and they may follow suit…Psychology, often denigrated as a “soft science”, has a vital role to play as humankind grapples with a truly vexing problem. Better to employ its findings now than to turn to psychologists only when we need help in dealing with the distress of occupying a world that has passed some dangerous climate tipping points.”
“Psychology and Global Climate Change: Addressing a Multi-faceted Phenomenon and Set of Challenges : Report of the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change : The APA Task Force on the Interface Between Psychology and Global Climate Change met in 2008-2009 to examine the role of psychology in understanding and addressing global climate change, including efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The task force’s report reviews a wide range of research and practice relevant to climate change, including work in environmental and conservation psychology, studies of human responses to natural and technological disasters, efforts to encourage environmentally responsible behavior, and research on the psychosocial impacts of climate change. Among the topics addressed in the report are: (*) Perceptions of global warming and climate change risks, including people’s tendency to discount the likelihood of future and remote events and the role of culture in how people conceive of and respond to risks. (*) Human behavioral contributions to climate change, such as population growth, energy use, and consumption, and the psychological and contextual drivers of these contributions…(*) Psychological barriers that limit individual and collective action on climate change…”
“Psychology Report Offers Insights Into Motivations And Barriers To ‘Going Green’ : Main Category: Psychology / Psychiatry : Article Date: 24 Aug 2009 : People are more likely to adopt ‘green’ behaviours if they think other people are doing the same, according to a recently released report by the American Psychological Association Task Force on the Interface between Psychology and Global Climate Change. The 2009 report looks at how people understand the risk of climate change, how they cope with the threats, and why people do or do not adopt ‘green’ behaviours, identifying the psychological barriers to action on climate change. Importantly, it demonstrates why single interventions, such as financial incentives, often fail…”
“Monday, August 24, 2009 : The relationship of psychology and climate change : The threat posed by climate change is all too real, but some of the solutions are all in the mind. That’s the message from work in the field known as conservation psychology, which is beginning to show how people can be encouraged to change their lifestyles to cut greenhouse gas emissions (see “How psychology can curb climate change”). As well as showing what does work, this research also tells us what does not…”
“The psychology of climate change: why we do nothing : Tom Levitt : 12th August, 2009 : Well-publicised simple steps like using energy-saving light bulbs may be making it more difficult to prepare people for the bigger changes needed to tackle climate change, argue psychologists : Upwards of 75 per cent of the general public, going by recent polls in the US and UK, say climate change is an important issue. But few of us are doing much to actually tackle the problem and reduce our own emissions. It is a conundrum that we are, perhaps belatedly, realising should be seen as a psychological one. Anxiety and helplessness, argues a report published last week by the American Psychological Association, rather than ambivalence or apathy are the biggest barriers to individuals taking action. The report says that unlike other environmental problems like river pollution or GM food, people do not see climate change as an immediate threat…”
“Jeremy Clarkson and Michael O’Leary won’t listen to green cliches and complaints about polar bears : Let’s talk about global warming in language deniers understand: energy independence and potential for new enterprise : George Marshall : guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 March 2009 : Academics meeting in Bristol at the weekend for Britain’s first conference on the psychology of climate change argued that the greatest obstacles to action are not technical, economic or political — they are the denial strategies that we adopt to protect ourselves from unwelcome information. It is true that nearly 80% of people claim to be concerned about climate change. However, delve deeper and one finds that people have a remarkable tendency to define this concern in ways that keep it as far away as possible. They describe climate change as a global problem (but not a local one) as a future problem (not one for their own lifetimes) and absolve themselves of responsibility for either causing the problem or solving it. Most disturbing of all, 60% of people believe that “many scientific experts still question if humans are contributing to climate change”. Thirty per cent of people believe climate change is “largely down to natural causes”, while 7% refuse to accept the climate is changing at all. How is it possible that so many people are still unpersuaded by 40 years of research and the consensus of every major scientific institution in the world? Surely we are now long past the point at which the evidence became overwhelming? If only belief formation were this simple. Having neither the time nor skills to weigh up each piece of evidence we fall back on decision-making shortcuts formed by our education, politics and class. In particular we measure new information against our life experience and the views of the people around us…”