Don’t make people freeze with climate fear…
I sometimes come under fire for my optimistic, gung-ho approach to tackling climate change and other Sustainability issues. Part of this is my pragmatic, trained-engineer outlook on life – see a problem, think of a solution, try it, assess the result, repeat. But a major part of my attitude comes from painful experience.
I’ve tried the “we’re all doomed, what are we going to do about it?” message, to which people either respond “I don’t believe you” or “what’s the point?”, neither of which helps make change happen. Again, the engineer in me refuses to keep trying what clearly doesn’t work.
Here’s my starter for 10:
First rule: let’s not go beyond the science, the science is scary enough. There has been a worrying trend of non-scientists rocking up to the science and interpreting it in even more catastrophic ways than the scientists – I’m looking at you David Wallace-Wells. Dystopia might help shift books, but it won’t help make change happen.
Second rule: do not preach helplessness. I was infuriated by a Naomi Klein interview at the weekend where she claimed that individuals have little control over their environmental footprint. This is clearly nonsense – we all choose what we eat, what we buy, how we travel, where we go on holiday, how we dispose of our waste, who we vote for etc. These all major factors in our carbon footprint.
Third rule: focus on what can be done. The only way change happens is for people to make different decisions to business as usual – whether private individuals, politicians, industrialists or public servants. Most of these decisions are made by default, so helping decision makers identify those decision points and consider other possibilities is the critical step. In other words, ‘what’ is more important than ‘why’, and is much more fun.