A few months ago I was talking to a couple of people who were saying that they understood why they had to cut their carbon footprint and could see what Transition was trying to do but that they didn’t want to be the first in their group of friends to make sacrifices: when other people were making sacrifices then they would too. At the time I pondered about this, wondering what sacrifices they were dreading so much when most people could probably reduce their carbon footprint by a couple of tons by making small tweaks to their lifestyles that were barely noticeable. And I pondered why living a sustainable lifestyle was seen as making sacrifices, rather than living a better, happier, more balanced lifestyle. Perhaps we concentrate too much on the doom and gloom of dark, black carbon footprints rather than having bright green, sparkly footprints.
However, I was reminded of this conversation over Christmas when reading ‘Don’t even think about it: why our brains are wired to ignore climate change’ by George Marshall, and realise I’d got it all wrong. What the people were saying, if I’d been listening, was that they didn’t want to be the first, i.e. to stand out and be different from their social groups. The book argues that fundamentally we haven’t evolved hugely since the stone-age, and that we worry about being ostracised or abandoned by our tribe so we look around and see what other people are doing or talking about. If something is fairly common and accepted, then we’re happy to follow as we’re not putting ourselves at risk of being different. What we all need to be doing, therefore, is dropping topics such as climate change, carbon footprint etc into conversations so that other people see it as normal. The book then goes on to suggest how we should communicate about climate change, and the mistakes/lessons learnt over the years. Anyway, I highly recommend the book as it’s as much as about human psychology and how we hear messages, as it is about climate change.
Then I read ‘The Tipping Point’ by Malcolm Gladwell: although it’s not about climate change it does talk about how messages, diseases, fashions etc spread and what needs to happen before a tipping point is reached and things become mainstream.
And now I’m reading ‘This changes everything: capitalism vs the climate’ by Naomi Klein which explores the myths around the climate debate and how we need to act quickly to stop catastrophic climate change.
So, to me, there is a real theme developing of communicating the issues around climate change in ways that are relevant and appropriate.
And then I saw a review of a novel about the Transition Movement: a book called ‘The Second life of Sally Mottram’ by David Nobbs, the author of ‘The Fall and Rise and Reginald Perrin’, and it suddenly occurred to me that if a keen scriptwriter or producer was out there, they could turn the book into a TV series, make Transition and climate change mainstream, we’d reach a tipping point and could change everything! Easy…