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Posts Tagged ‘Green Psychology’

It’s that time of the month again, and I am due for the Green Moms Blogging Carnival, this time over at Best of Mother Earth. I am supposed to write about gratitude, specifically three green things I am thankful for.

We behave with nature, the same way we might with a faithful lover, when we are forgetting how much we are being given, and how much our lives depends on such constant love. That’s the irony, we take nature for granted, because it’s so good to us, most of the time.

Take a few minutes and . . .

imagine a world without trees, and birds chirping in the trees, imagine the silence, and the scorching sun, and the absence of shade and coolness,

imagine a world without water, as in here:

imagine the air so polluted that you could no longer breathe freely, and would have to wear a mask 24/7, or stay indoors,

imagine . . .

While we may never know such extremes in our lifetime, we may get dangerously close, sooner than we think, if we don’t all change our ways.

Today, I am thankful for the trees, and the water, and the air.

How about you? What do you appreciate the most in nature?

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I have this love hate relationship with extreme environmentalists. The freegans, the compacters, the treesitters, the slow food preachers, No Impact Man, the tiny house guy, and the no plastic gal. . . they all dare me with their tales of almost superhuman feats, and I secretly envy their resolve. That’s the hate part. More and more, though, I have come to appreciate what they bring to my not so green party. Somewhere in my brain, their extreme stories are making an impression, and providing a much needed counterpoint to the habitual scripts by which I have been taught to live. It looks like this:

Bottom line is, more extreme environmentalists are needed on the right, to bring about the balance that you, I, our whole planet need. One hundred years of industrial revolution, to be dealt with, fast. In our brains.

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Third day of green watching. Lots to observe. I will focus on the dryer bit.

If I was a good green girl, I would unplug our dryer, as suggested by hubby and Green Guru, Prad. And I would quit machine drying, cold turkey. When Prad raised the possibility, last week, I screamed. Absolutely no way, was I going to spend the time, pinning ten – pairs? what was I thinking? it’s underwear, not socks, girl!- underwear, ten shirts, to the freaking line. I’m ok with big items like sheets and large towels. But the small stuff? forget it!

I may be working my way out of conspicuous consumption, but convenience consumption? not any time soon . . .

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When I wrote about the opportunity to align desired green behaviors with individual needs and wants, this is what I had in mind:

Different people will rank these needs and wants differently. Using myself as an example, the primary motivators for me to bike more, are fun and convenience. If I was in a lower-socio-economic group, where making ends meet was the primary issue, I would probably pick money. If I was a mother of young children, the bonding potential would work best. Etc. 

Seems like a no brainer to me! The question is how come so few green marketers and environmental communicators think along those lines? The last time I read something that made really sense to me, was in Steve Bishop’s article, “Don’t Bother With the Green Consumer“. He uses a bike example as well! :) (I also refer to Steve’s article in a recent post I wrote for the Huffington Post)

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From Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr.‘s speech at the Democratic National Convention, in Denver, last night:

“The well being of the “We” depends on the well being of the “He” and the “She”.”

How about the other way around also? The well being of the “I” depends on the well being of the “We”. This is especially true for the global environmental crisis facing us.

Lately, I have been giving lots of thoughts to this:

"I" and "We" Zone

The “I” triangle is inspired from Maslow‘s. I just added a ‘want’ layer on top. This is to account for the fact that much of our Western behaviors are not so much influenced by needs, as by wants.

The “We” circle covers the world’s needs we need to address collectively.

The conventional wisdom states that individual interests are at odds with those global needs. While that may be true to a large extent, let us not forget the space where the “I” and the “We” overlap. This is where I think we should focus our attention. Translating global needs into desired individual behaviors, and see which ones amongst those, can be immediately matched with existing individual wants and needs.

In my next post I will explore what that common space looks like, and what it means for behavioral solutions to climate change and other global sustainability crisis.

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I saw the few raisins left behind, in their original Whole Foods plastic bag. Flashed to Green Guru, and imagined him going through the pain of retrieving each one, so that none would go to waste. Nah! Why bother? A few raisins in the garbage, did not measure up with the inconvenience of separating the plastic folds, unsticking the raisins, one at a time, and sliding them from the bag, into the jar. Out of sight, out of mind. The little raisins went into garbage oblivion.

The next day, I watched without saying a word, as Green Guru pulled out the dirty bag, and collected every single one of the five raisins I had forsaken, and sprinkled them on top of his breakfast.


I have been thinking about the five little raisins. Green Guru and I have different value sets, when it comes to managing resources.

My values: resources are abundant, my time is precious

Green Guru’s values: resources are scarce, someone else is hungry who could be eating those raisins

His come from being raised in India, a poverty stricken country. I, on the other hand come from France where food supply was never an issue.

As more and more people in the world, start competing for limited resources, it is clear that we, the folks in developed countries need to align more with Green Guru‘s values. Next, comes the question of how to make that shift?

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Yesterday, in response to the picture I posted of my grandfather on the farm, Jeff asked,

When you have time, could you tell us more of the story of your grandfather and his family? Where in France was the picture taken? What did he farm? What would he have thought about all this climate change problem that we’ve created?

I lost my grandfather when I was 5. To this day, ‘Pepe Marcel‘ still looms tall in my memory. I realize I owe it to him to care so much for nature, and what’s happening currently. Times on the farm with my him are some of the most precious items in my green memory bank. Like my French blogging sister, Nadine, much of what I write is informed by these early moments.

I started writing a sappy response to Jeff’s question. A romantic interpretation of what I thought ‘Pepe Marcel‘ would be telling me now. Imbued with nostalgia about the old days, without cars, and planes, and supermarkets. Times when his old village was still very much a real community, and seasons dictated the rhythm of people’s daily lives. When organic was a word that did not exist, and yet everything we ate was organic. When tractors had not yet replaced the horse led ploughs in the fields, and the plots were still small and not cultivated to excess. When the bread we ate tasted like the real thing, and was not whitened artificially to make it ‘more enticing’.

Soon, my grandfather’s real voice came through, and it whispered a very different message. If I was living now, you can be sure I would be living just like you and your friends. I would drive a car and shop to Neuville at the supermarket. I would ride a tractor, so I could be home sooner. Actually, I am not even sure I would be a farmer still. Life on the farm is hard. May work instead as a cook in a restaurant  in Poitiers, and drive the 50 kilometers commute every day. I would have upgraded the farm, so that we have all the modern conveniences and your grandmother did not have to do laundry in the big old boiler, and hang it on the lines. I am sure we would have a TV. We may still have a vegetable garden and fruit orchard in the back, but I am not even sure. It’s so convenient getting that stuff at the store. For vacations, we would go on cruises, or fly to America, like all the neighbors. 

That’s when I realized there is no stopping ‘progress’, whether here, or in China, or India, or anywhere else. Moving forward means imagining new ways to live sustainably again, that may appear almost similar to the old. But the motivations, and the awareness are on a different level. Jungian analyst Aldo Carotenuto‘ s image of ‘The Spiral Way‘ comes to mind:

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

Book Cover for The Spiral Way

This time applied to healing not just one woman, but the whole world. 

PS- Jeff, to finish answering your question. My grandfather came from a long line of farmers in the Poitou region of France. The farm is in Champigny, a small village where I spent every summer when I was a child. Pepe Marcel cultivated about 40 acres, most of it in wheat and vineyards. After he died, we farmed it out to other farmers. Now there are only three farmers left in the whole village, and their farms are more akin to industrial enterprises. 

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All the kids are home from their various trips. Yesterday was major grocery shopping time. What to do? Shop at Whole Foods, within biking distance but horribly expensive. Or Trader’s Joe, a lot easier on my pocketbook, but too far not to drive to.

What would you have done?

This, folks, are the kinds of negotiations that take place daily in my life as a Green Girl Wannabe. I will keep you guessing as to what happened . . .

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In “Green, a Dead End for Social Networks?”, I continue to question the legitimacy of green social networks, even going as far as suggesting that they be abandoned altogether. Instead I propose a non direct approach to go around the ‘nice to have, but don’t need’ problem of green social media in general. One example could be a site that helps people manage their personal resources more effectively as food and gas prices continue to rise. Conservation and efficiency measures would obviously be featured prominently on such a site, but always first as a way to maximize personal resources, and only secondarily as feel-good green measures.

Another alternative is to treat green as what it is, a qualifier for all aspects of people’s lives. This is in sync with growing green narrative: green economy, green revolution, green jobs, green media, green homes, green cars, green living, etc. It is also aligned with the psychology of most people, for whom green is only a secondary benefit. Using that logic, it makes sense to not have separate green social networks, but instead green applications that come as a layer on top of existing mainstream networks. Imagine if you had the option of going green on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google, Amazon, Craigslist, eBay . . . seamlessly, at your discretion?

At the heart of both approaches, “roundabout green network”, and “green layered network”, is the recognition of green as a global necessity of the highest order, to be reconciled with the fact that it is only a secondary benefit on the personal level.

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Microsoft just released the results from its massive research on’Planetary-Scale Views on a Large Instant Messaging Network. Two researchers, Jure Lesckovec, of Carnegie Mellon University, and Eric Horvitz, from Microsoft, analyzed 30 billion conversations among 240 million users of Microsoft instant messaging, in search for significant patterns.   Their findings have far reaching implications for social networks in general, and more specifically, green mass persuasion initiatives:

1. The world IS a small-world:

Kevin Beacon‘s 6 degrees of separation theory was confirmed, with a slight correction. Microsoft research found that the average degree of separation between any two  random individuals, is actually closer to seven. This further validates the LinkedIn model, beyond business and professional search applications. 

2. People communicate more with others who are like them:

From the report: ‘We found strong influences of homophily in activities, where people with similar characteristics tend to communicate more, with the exception of gender, where we found that cross-gender conversations are both more frequent and of longer duration than conversations with users of the same reported gender.’ A confirmation of what you and I know from our daily interactions. Humans tend to hang out with people who are like them, in terms of interests, and demographics. The more virtual networks facilitate such connections, the more likely they are to succeed. Think Facebook with its educated college crowd, or lesser known Patients Like Me.  

Next comes the question of how to apply these findings to existing and future social networks. To date so called green social networks have failed to generate substantial and enduring followings. Maybe this will shape a new wave of networks, more effective and in touch with the reality of the people. 

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