I missed a couple of blogging days last week because I was participating in a climate risk course sponsored by the Arqus European University Alliance. I mentioned the seminar in a previous post where I argued that currently living people in industrialized nations have a collective responsibility to take immediate and significant action for mitigating the effects of global warming.

In the seminar we discussed that reaching net zero goals will require active participation by all members of society in reducing GHG emissions. All individuals, however, are not able and/or willing to engage in the same manner.

For example, many people have taken to the streets – Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion – demanding change, demanding that somebody do something. But for others, often older generations, such activist movements are difficult to identify with. The demands are too nebulous, the tone too morally self-righteous, and, with the repetitiveness of the demonstrations, many castigate youthful activists as irritating Zweckpessimisten.

Another example are discussions of what humans should eat. Here attention commonly turns towards dairy and meat consumption. This is understandable. Although diverse studies reach various conclusions regarding which diet has the lowest ecological footprint, there is a fairly clear consensus that a vegan diet most effectively reduces GHG emissions.

The ability to go vegan, however, is not equally distributed. A single young student has a lower barrier of entry in opting for a plant-based diet as a family of five for example. By no means is it an impossibility in the latter case. It is, however, more challenging.

Unfortunately, in discussions of personal contributions to reduce GHG emissions there are large demographics that are not being reached. A key aspect of reaching these groups is communicating with them in storylines that they can identify with. While work on the narrative/action relationship in a climate change framework is ongoing, there is a growing awareness among researchers that storylines that include the user/consumer context are an important catalyst for behavioral transformation.

Ignoring this factor can create resistance. Recall the words of the Once-ler on the Lorax’s final visit:

And then I got mad.
I got terribly mad.
I yelled at the Lorax, “Now listen, here Dad!
All you do is yap-yap and say ‘Bad! Bad! Bad! Bad!’
Well, I have my rights, sir, and I’m telling you
I intend to go on doing just what I do!”

What narratives motivate you? Leave a comment.

One thought on “The dangers of Once-lerism

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