Following up on my last post, today I want to examine the importance of narratives in getting people – especially Europeans since I’m Austrian – involved in climate change activism.
First, it is important to note that current inaction is not because people reject climate science. Europeans overwhelmingly agree that “the climate is probably or definitely changing” and “that climate change is at least partially caused by human activity.” While it is often voiced that there are too many climate change deniers, at least in Europe, well over 90% of the population is aware of climate change and of its anthropocentric causes.
Second, it is not necessary for everyone to participate in grass roots movements. There is nothing wrong with marching in the streets per se. At minimum it raises awareness of the issue. Ideally, it breaks through the unintentional complacency that is often a consequence of age and routine. Not everyone feels comfortable protesting, however. They may have difficulty in identifying with a given movement or may generally question the efficacy of marching and carrying placards.
As is frequently the case with complicated non-linear problems, the issue may be one of perspective. Often, changing paradigms and approaching a problem from a different angle opens less explored avenues of causality and offers a greater range of possible solutions, which in turn translates into more ways to make a personal contribution.
Reimagine climate change activism as a fast moving consumer good. Because they are targeted to broad audiences, FMCG brands rely on multiple narratives and approaches to reach a wide range of consumers.
While work on the relationship between narrative and action in a climate change framework is ongoing, there is a broad and growing awareness among climate researchers that storylines that include the user/consumer context are an important catalyst for behavioral transformation.
Meeting CO2 emission goals is the ultimate FMCG. Everyone should buy the product and make it a part of their identity. We want one time users to become loyal repeat consumers. We want them to permanently change their habits. This mandates a wide range of narratives, which translate into easy purchase choices – eat less meat, walk more, recycle …
Imagine if the same amount of funding and effort used in promoting Red Bull, for example, was placed in promoting individual climate change actions. What do you think might be achieved? Leave a comment.