Like most of you I'm sure, our knowledge of the state of the environment has directly translated into action. We know that greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, that resources are finite and that we have reached/are about to reach both Peak Oil and Peak Phosphorus. For most of us this this leads us to do what we can to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, purchase carbon credits, recycling, composting, posting a "no junk mail" sign on our mailbox, eat less meat, signing up with Bullfrog Power, maintaining naturalized backyards, etc. Unfortunately, for a large fraction of the population, awareness of environmental issues is not enough to lead them to sustained action.
I was wondering if anyone out there has any advice on how to get the message through. From my own experience, I have learned that bombarding people with statistics and doom and gloom does not work. Making them feel guilty about their actions is also not productive! More recently my approach has been to simply lead by example, to maintain a positive attitude and to invite friends and family to see environmental movies and volunteering but with no pressure to join. So far, this appears to be a much better approach.
So to me, leading by example is the #1 way of effecting change. Initially, only the most devout environmentalists adopt the new way of doing things (e.g. installing a rain barrel or a solar panel). As more and more people do it, it eventually gains acceptance by the general public and eventually begins to look like the fashionable or cool thing to do. The attached figure illustrates this point (http://www.sustainablecommunities.fcm.ca/Sustainable_Communities_Co...).
Any thoughts or advice on all this? Cheers.
Hi Gabriel and All!
Oh such a good discussion! I totally agree Julie - how can someone not want to do something when they have a great experience doing it? It's something that is starting to be on the radar for those in the transit industry - wanting to make sure that someone's first experience taking the bus is a good one (otherwise you have just lost a customer for life!) Some transit companies are now turning to "individualized marketing" where potential customers, if they show interest, can even request "a guide" for their first trip - to show them the ins and outs - how to read a bus schedule/map, how to navigate a station or pay for a ticket. For the Olympics in Vancouver, access to buses was part of the ticket to an event and transit ambassadors were stationed at all stations to help people get to where they wanted to go. I heard that even if the lineups or crowds were crazy the spirit was still enthusiastic so I think in the end, Vancouver may have been able to showcase their transit system in a very positive way!
Community based social marketing is an approach that many organizations are taking to get messages out. There is a great website and it's Canadian-based: Fostering Sustainable Behaviour (http://www.cbsm.com/public/world.lasso) which has articles, case studies, strategies. There was also a great report that I came across a couple of months ago on how organizations can target different groups when they try to communicate Social Change messages:
Yale's Center for Environmental Law and Policy's Report: Global Warming's Six Americas 2009 addresses one of the first rules of effective communication for those in the environmental field: "know thy audience." The report outlines six American audiences in terms of climate change:
- The Alarmed (18%)
- The Concerned (33%)
- the Cautious (19%),
- the Disengaged (12%)
- the Doubtful (11%)
From their website: "This research provides a solid foundation, grounded in social science, to facilitate the changes required to achieve a transition to a low-carbon future." If anyone is interested, you can download their report here: (http://envirocenter.research.yale.edu/BlankOfTheMonth/34/67)
But on the personal level, it is hard to figure out how best to influence change. I do agree that positive messages, enjoyable experiences and the subtle "exampling change" are probably the best tactics.
One last thought, the Tamarack Institute had a great webinar last week on "The Power of Collective Wisdom" (which is also a book). They talked about six steps to allow more meaningful dialogue and get groups of people to engage and work together towards common goals. I don't have my notes with me but the webinar speaker (John Ott) outlined what was needed to create a solid foundation - a place of connection which would then foster this collective wisdom. It was a great webinar on how to get diverse groups on the same page. I'll see if I can find my notes.
These thoughts are kind of scattered but I hope some of this will help!
P.S. Kyra - would love to learn more about your passive solar greenhouse made from recycled materials!! : )