Environmental by Accident

We all know how the thing with the pink elephant works: the more I tell you not to do a certain thing, the more you will feel tempted to do it anyway. 

Besides, you are very likely to be fed up with the topic I keep on bringing up. That is what might be happening in the post-inconvenient truth-era we are in right now. People are fed up with being scared about Climate Change. This phenomena is starting to be known as Apocalypse Fatigue: less and less people want to care about Climate Change.

If environmentalists want to stop preaching to the choir and get ready to turn around some of the environmental atheists, there is an important lesson to learn here. People are much happier if they walk out of “The Global Warming Swindle” than after listenting to Al Gore. The latter did not manage to change substantially the public opinion on the long run, so maybe it is time for a change in the preaching style?

Reverse psychology might offer itself as a handy tool. People do not like to be told what they have to do, especially when it means reducing their impact, cutting back on and changing their capitalistic lifestyle. (A friend recently said to me: You know, I really like your blog, but with the straight razor you went a little too far.) So what do we do? We tell them NOT to be green? Not quite, Caroline Fiennes from Global Cool believes, but the solution goes into this direction. “We can get people to live sustainably by not talking about sustainability …” .These words are part of an inspiring talk she gave at TEDxWarwick, called Promoting a Green Lifestyle Choice. You can watch it here:

She is totally right when saying: “it’s not about why people become more enviornmentally friendly, it’s about the fact that they do it.” Her organization, Global Cool, promotes a green lifestyle without mentioning it. Rather, they show people how cool it is to wear warm clothes (and turn down the heating) in winter, how cool it is to travel by train (and not by plane) or how cool it is to cruise around your bike (and not drive a car), etc. In short: Global Cool makes people to become green without noticing it. They call it creating accidental environmentalists.

They explain on the website of the charity: “Global Cool targets the segment of the UK population which can most rapidly initiate changes in mainstream consumer behaviour – a group known as ‘Now People’.” Now people are the ones who know they should change something; all they are waiting for is some incentive. Global Cool is trying to give it to them.

I believe it is about time that psychology and its friend marketing are used for promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle. Let’s stop appealing to people’s conscience all the time. Rather we should care more about their agenda and what they care about. Let us be less pushy about your own just so that people don’t turn the page already after reading only the world “green”.

It is doubtless that the earth would not care why we start treating it better; it would simply be happy that we are. But for me, I guess I’m part of the incurable. I’m telling you the truth: I was already thinking about sustainability again.

Picture by fidothe, thanks.


11 thoughts on “Environmental by Accident

  1. Excellent post. The approach we use to raise public awareness is critical to our success. Much as people learn in different ways (reading, classroom, activity, etc) there are also different ways of making our points as activists. Leaving people shocked and worried for their future is rarely motivational, which is why alternative approaches are important. Simply put, most people are attracted to smiles and repelled by tears. We need to use more smiles in our work.

    • Yes, I agree. We forget about the smiles too often. But I realize it every day, it’s with encouragement and positive energy that people feel good about changing 🙂

  2. OK, I read to the straight razor and had to stop and comment. First, you’re posting too fast for me to keep up with – but that’s a good thing. The wide variety of topics along the same general lines offer enough diversity in my opinion. Second, I loved the straight razor. It was a reminder for me. One of the things on my sustainable agenda was replacing my electric razor (which I’ve had for about twenty years). But for what I spend annually on replacement blades and screens (about $10,) I can’t justify the expense of a good quality straight razor. So, much to my wife’s chagrin, I took your advice and let my beard grow. For a week. That’s as long as I could stand not being clean shaven. But, now I’m on the lookout for a good used straight razor. To me it’s about being responsible – in every aspect of our lives. Which is what you write about. From honey bees to orange juice. All our choices matter. So I’m listening. Good work, thank you, and keep it coming!

    • Kenny! Thank you so much for your amazing comment. It made me smile a lot. I hope my friend gets to read the beard part 😀 You really made my day with your words 🙂

  3. Definitely agree that by promoting environmental change as a new, “cool” thing to do people will be more receptive! We definitely need to find more mainstream ways to encourage simple lifestyle changes that can make a big impact if implemented on a global scale! Great post! Thanks for your thoughts, look forward to reading more!

    Knowles Solar

  4. Rahel, great post indeed! I have no doubt the “Global Cool approach” is a smart one and could also be an effective one, although I doubt this type of soft-steering tools will suffice to reduce the global eco/carbon-footprint in line with the science. Hence, I deem it very interesting to be pursued in combination with other bolder-though-not-freak-greenish approaches.

    • Thanks Adrián! The post was very much inspired by the scary film you showed us in class. I’m looking forward to see those bolder-though-not-freak-greenish approaches!

      • Well, the picture that we need to go back to the Stone Age to live sustainably is not only extreme, but also a wrong one. Global production, consumption and mobility levels were pretty much sustainable around the 1950s (according to economists like Serge Latouche in France, Tim Jackson in UK and Nico Peach in Germany) and welfare was not lower than it is now, probably even higher (depending on how you measure it). That’s what I call a non-freak-greenish view, altough it is bold in the sense that many heavily sedimented economic structures would have to change quite radically.
        As stated, I regard the reverse-psychology approach as a great complement, though not as the only (or even the main) driver for greening behavior, as one would probably not want to rely on “fashion” to guarantee our capability of survival on this planet… Besides, it doesn’t address the distributional justice claims brought up by the developing world around the causes and consequences of climate change.

  5. Pingback: Making people “Environmental by Accident” « Crunchy & Chic

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