Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Positive Vision Needed to Solve Climate Change

Here at CV Notes, we love to explore emerging ideas about how to improve the success of green messaging for motivating change.

In the case of climate change, notes this post from Treehugger, not only are most messages too negative, but they fail to convey a vision of the world we're trying to create.  What are we trying to create, and why is it something that people should get excited about?

As environmental activists, doomsaying has long been our default campaigning position. As visions of rising seas, expanding deserts and mass extinctions move from sci-fi books to peer reviewed scientific articles, the logic is that when people realise how dark the outlook is, they'll change. If we can just communicate this grim future graphically enough, politicians will legislate for clean energy, couples will stop flying to Prague for romantic getaways, teenagers will turn off their TVs at the plug... and so on...

Except that in the last decade of communicating sustainability in the West, we've learnt that fear only works with small demographics. Study after study has shown that Armageddon scenarios do not motivate most people to change their behaviour.

Where are the positive visions of the future?
So that's what makes the following even more mystifying... a few months ago, I was writing a TV pitch and I wanted to know what 2020 would look like if we get it right. What would my east London street be like in ten years time if we made the necessary changes to keep climate change under 2 degrees? I didn't factor in much time for this research--thought I could just rummage around online, find a couple of scenarios and plunder.

Except it wasn't that easy.

A colossal failure of imagination?
Now this blew me away. If we don't know where we are going how the hell are we going to get there? How can we have suffered from such a colossal failure of imagination?

We're using a roadmap without a destination
With the cacophony of the wake-up calls reverberating in our heads, it is as if collectively campaigners are realising, that using a roadmap without a destination isn't going to take us very far. Earlier in the year, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund convened a multidisciplinary group in New York to discuss Futurama - a vision of a sustainable 2050. Meanwhile, "The Road to Ecotopia", Futerra's "Sell the Sizzle - The New Climate Message" and The Future We Want (that does what it says on the tin) are all projects that have all been launched in the time I've been writing this article. And we are about to see a lot more, with governments and campaigning organisations alike, hurriedly articulating their desired destinations: in the words of Transition Town's Rob Hopkins, "We are only just beginning to scratch the surface of the power of a positive vision of an abundant future..." 

Mostly I'd like to be wrong: I'd love people to respond to this telling me about reservoirs of localised visions for a low carbon future. Asking me how could I have missed XXXX? But just in case these emails don't come, perhaps you, the architects, storytellers, filmmakers, designers, planners, campaigners, entertainers, engineers, lawyers, gardeners, educators, communicators, politicians, students, doctors, artists, psychologists, social scientists, technologists, biologists, ecologists, economists, nutritionists, physicists, chemists, parents, sons and daughters.... can help answer the following question: "How will we create tangible visions of a future in which we get it right? Who will do this? When?"

These are the types of stories we like to convey here daily -- this type of positive vision.

What's your vision of the world you would like to see in 2050?

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1 comment:

  1. We have put a positive spin on climate change.

    I have a newsletter About People that promotes positive, uplifting solution focused news - sustainability in business and people. Next year I am doing a walk/cycle from Melbourne to Brisbane to promote sustainability through workshops. The how what where and when of becoming sustainable as individuals and communities. This is about empowering people to believe that they can make a difference and taking ownership. I am also producing a documentary of the journey and to gather stories About People.

    This is about being positive on what we can do to make a difference.

    What ever the mind of man can conceive and believe he can achieve.

    I am the sort of person that believes that humans are destined to go to the stars. Climate change is just one of the many obstacles in our path. We have to remove the limitations and have a can do attitude

    Ian Cleland
    The walking man