Why are people so resistant to climate-friendly behavior? It comes down to psychology. When people don’t like the solutions that are presented to them, or when they feel like their freedom is under threat, they may deny that there’s a problem altogether, Palm said. When the Toyota Prius went worldwide in 2000, it was marketed as a climate-friendly, virtuous purchase, because it ran on gas and electricity. “There was an unintended rebound effect, with certain sectors of the population reacting very hostilely,” Taylor said. Years later, diesel truck owners started “coal-rolling”: removing emissions controls and rigging up their vehicles to spew giant clouds of smoke, targeted at unsuspecting pedestrians, bicyclists, and Prius owners. Something similar might be happening with environmental-friendly advice. In a new Facebook ad from the American Conservation Coalition, a free-market, pro-business environmental group, a blond college student offers a barrage of tips to help you “address climate change on an individual level.” The list includes asking your local utility to switch you over to renewable sources, returning your empty lipstick container in exchange for a new one, and buying lots of “sustainable” products — durable water bottles, reusable sandwich bags, backpacks made from recycled materials, and more. Let’s put aside the assumption that you could somehow shop your way out of the climate crisis and turn to the comment section. The top voted comment asks, “Any chance we could prove the ‘science’ first?” Another says, “I don’t reduce, reuse or recycle anything.” “Once you tell people to sacrifice, deny, be noble, be pure, be vegan, it often triggers the opposite reaction in terms of consumer behavior,” Taylor said. Based on the findings of behavioral science, changing habits might involve more “showing” and less “telling.” Greta Thunberg popularized the idea of flight shame not by actually shaming people, but by example. Instead of taking a carbon-spewing airplane to the U.N. Climate Action Summit last summer, the Swedish activist crossed the entire Atlantic Ocean via boat.
Talking about the environment is tricky, and Palm says that carefully crafted messages are important. People are always saying things like, “If only there was more communication” about climate change, she said. “No no no no! It’s the kind of communication you have.” Taylor said that smart messaging around behavioral change is fun and sexy, not about restricting yourself or denying life’s pleasures. She isn’t the only one to suggest this; last year, Japanese Prime Minister Shinjiro Koizumi also called for making climate action “fun,” “cool,” and “sexy.” As an example, Taylor points to how Copenhagen became a “bicycle paradise.” After the oil crisis in 1973, the Danish city rethought its transportation system and built the infrastructure to make biking safe and convenient. Riding a bike was marketed as something practical, exciting, and even glamorous. Mikael Colville-Andersen, an international biking advocate who helped popularize cycling in Copenhagen, once said that bicycling should be sold as “a multivitamin Viagra pill for the urban landscape.” Copenhagen now has more bikes than people — and five times as many bikes as cars. The pro-biking campaign, in other words, wasn’t bathed in ecopiety and guilt. When a survey in 2010 asked people in Copenhagen why they cycled, environmental concerns ranked dead last at 9 percent. Most people said that it was simply faster, more convenient, healthier, and cheaper to bike. “You’re not trying to get people to bike to work by saying, ‘This is your duty and your sacrifice, denying the pleasures of the automobile by getting on your bike,’” Taylor said.
This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Want some eco-friendly tips? A new study says no, you don’t. on Oct 12, 2020.