Stop frightening people about climate change
One of the basic principles of psychology is that, despite millions of years of evolution, we are still instinctive animals at heart. We fear fire, which we have lived with and used for at least 300,000 years, but we don’t, as a species, fear climate change which poses an existential threat. Yes, we do some logical analysis, but when the chips are down, logic gets bumped by emotions.
Many Sustainability practitioners and activists have made it their life’s mission to make other people fear climate change. But the problem with fear is its very power. It can make us freeze and watch the threat bearing down on us like an out of control articulated lorry. Or it can make us run to the (apparent) safety of what we know. The last thing fear does is encourage us to sit down and objectively assess the options available before making a rational choice.
My preferred method of engaging people in Sustainability is to involve them in the process of delivering it. When I’m helping a client develop a Sustainability Strategy, I involve key decision makers in creating it. When implementing a Sustainability Strategy, I challenge each group of individuals to develop the plan to do so for their team/division. That creative activity evaporates the fear of change and gets people excited about a Sustainable future, as they’ve designed a little bit of it.
‘Feel the fear and do it anyway’ is a great title for a self-help book, but in practice ‘Just do it’ is a much more useful cliché.