cakeI love my local hipster-ish coffee shop, but it annoys me that all the cakes are proudly marked 'gluten-free'. A couple of times, I've joshed that I'd like mine with gluten only for the joke to fall flat in the face of incomprehension. It's long been understood that only those with coeliac disease need to avoid gluten; (in the words of Jay Rayner) if you feel bloated after eating bread it's because you're eating too much bread.

However was only this morning I saw in the paper that avoiding gluten can actually lead to health risks, not benefits (here's one of the scientific studies). In other words, people are damaging their health in the cause of their health – and not for the first time.

As a man who loves his food (especially cake), I can never understand how many people fall for every eating fad going, enriching various snake oil salesmen along the way. Every time one falls apart, qualified nutritionists tell us we should just eat a reasonable amount of a balanced diet and get a reasonable amount of exercise, but a couple of months later everybody is cutting something else out of their diet at the whim of the latest flogger of a better lifestyle.

This madness comes about because we make decisions by feel rather than evidence. Most people who are sceptical about climate science simply feel it is wrong. You rarely if ever see a climate scientist decide that the evidence doesn't stack up and go climate sceptic, however many one-time sceptics make the journey the other way – although it is often an irrational experience that persuades them to check the facts.

The big shame of modern life is the internet gives us unparalleled rapid fact-checking capabilities; yet we're more likely to pick up some dubious meme on Twitter than check who really did say:

"A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes."

[it wasn't Mark Twain or Winston Churchill but it seems to have evolved from a Jonathan Swift quote].

The lesson for those of us trying to change the world is that facts generally don't resonate – you will never out-debate a climate denier as blind faith will beat a balanced argument nine times out of ten. Instead we've got to get inside people's heads, work out what makes them tick and tap into those feelings. Green Jujitsu in other words.

 

Check out our fab new Green Jujitsu: Smart Engagement for Sustainability course here.

 

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