Sustainability in an age of unreason
I was very taken with Nick Cohen’s column in yesterday’s Observer bemoaning the rise of conspiracy-theory-driven, narrowly nationalist, identity politics around the globe. Cohen rightly singles out climate science as one area where the denialist fringe now has a seat at certain top tables against all rational argument.
Those of us who cling to a credo of liberal, rationalist enlightenment values seem stuck with an unenviable choice: hunker down until the cycle swings back as it has always done, or fight back, slaying the beast of gut instinct with the sword of logic and evidence. The problem with the first is that many of our environmental challenges require change now; the problem with the second is that human psychology is set to favour emotion over logic.
There is of course a third way, if we can liberate that phrase from its association with venal political chameleons of the 1990s. Despite all the noise of Trump, Putin, Modi, Xi et al, the world is still largely moving in the right direction – the Paris Agreement still stands, carbon emissions are stalling, and clean technology is hitting new records on a monthly basis. Instead of throwing our hands in the air, we have to find clever ways of keeping that momentum building.
My Green Jujitsu approach to behaviour change is based on one fundamental principle: everybody is an environmentalist deep down, you just have to find the right button to press.
Take the Daily Mail – it may be a nest of climate change deniers and cyclephobes, but they are also leading the populist battle against plastic pollution in the oceans. Instead of deriding their inconsistency, we should be leveraging that message to the public to get real change happening. More recycling = less plastic in the oceans + fewer carbon emissions. If we have to focus on the former rather than the latter, then so be it.
Now more than ever we have to fight smart rather than fight hard.
Join us next week for our annual Green Jujitsu webinar – full details here.