Fear and Loathing in Sustainability
The Sustainability news falls into two polarised camps: ‘climate impacts found to be worse than thought!’ and ‘renewable energy is booming!’. Why these might seem contradictory, due to lags in the climate’s response to carbon emissions (and similar lags in other natural systems), both are very true. There’s a lot of impact built in that we can’t avoid, but we can work hard to minimise the impacts on future generations.
But the question I always have is ‘does scaring people help in any way?’ The problem with presenting people with stark facts is that, instead of inspiring people to act, you can cause them to freeze – or throw them into denial. If you watch how people devoted to particular political leaders react when unpleasant truths emerge, persuading themselves that black is white, you can see how climate denial works.
For this reason I never play the fear card. You are effectively telling people everything they do is wrong, which is a hard position from which to persuade them to do something different. You don’t have to go into that zone to give the message “together we can make the world a better place” and nor should you.