Posts Tagged ‘environmental psychology’

Yesterday I gave up on my original idea to take the train and then BART,  to my meeting with the folks from Lucid Design Group. One thing led to the next, and before you know it, I had only one hour left before my appointment. Driving was the only way I could make it on time. To be honest, I was not too keen on this elaborate public transit scheme.  I am ok with just taking the train, but ask me to transfer to another mode, and my interest drops!

Today, no such excuse. I had planned to bike to my hairdresser’s appointment. Several hours working, then swimming, and lounging around reading the paper, once again, I cut it too close. Driving the three miles became the only option, if I wanted to make my 4.15 date at La Belle salon. 

What has happened to my green resolutions? Before I left on vacations, I wrote enthusiastically about my biking escapades. Since I came back two weeks ago, I have fallen off track. Rhythm, interrupted. Old habits, not dead, got the best of me, again. 

More telling than all the green consumers’ surveys, is the reality of my tenuous commitment. Symptomatic of a much broader ill, I believe. While away in France and in Italy, I witnessed the same spectacle: never ending flows of cars covering up the freeways, just like in the US. We the people on planet Earth, have not yet reached the tipping point when our collective consciousness will dictate another way of living. 

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Richard Florida, professor of Business and Creativity at the University of Toronto, and the author of ‘Who’s Your City?: How the Creative Economy is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life‘, was on NPR Talk of the Nation yesterday. Richard Florida had a lot to say about a wide range of fascinating topics. Most interesting to me were the results of his Gallup Survey on Place and Happiness.

What makes people happy?:

  • A job they love
  • Social connections and relationships
  • A good place to live 
Richard Florida added some observations:
  • Beyond a minimum threshold, income does not make a difference. 
  • People are suffering from fewer and fewer close social connections (with one the average)
  • Good places to live all share the following five factors: 1) safety and good schools, 2) economic and social opportunities, 3) good mayoral and business leadership, 4) good across the board for a variety of people, 5) physically good in term of aesthetics, pleasant to live in. 
What I find especially encouraging about this research, is that it supports visions for a more sustainable world as well. This includes the need for strengthened communities, and some ideas such as David Holmgren’s permaculture that could be adapted to living in the big cities. Note that accumulating more stuff, driving more, living in bigger houses, and more generally engaging in activities with a big footprint, are not part of this ‘make you happy’ list.

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Another recent Gallup survey completes and confirms what we already know from the other Gallup survey and other research.

  • There is a core group of people, about 30% who are deeply committed to making environmental changes. As Kyle emphasized in one of his earlier comments here, these are the people we need to work with. They can be evangelists for sustainable living.

  • The environment is a significant concern, but one that comes behind more personal and immediate concerns such as the economy, health care, energy, crime, social security, and drug use. One could say that energy concerns are directly related to the environment, and that from a systemic point of view, other issues are connected as well:

  • Recycling comes out on top, again. Probably the only green habit that is supported with widespread infrastructure and easy, no cost solutions. Let us take note and imagine how the same can be done in the other areas.

  • Last, this particular survey gets into demographics, and confirms prior research. Women are leading the way of the green revolution, and so are the people with more democrat leanings. Mary and Diane, the women part should please you!

I don’t know about you, but this leaves me with a sense of increased clarity, and hope for what can and needs to be done next.

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I just watched two short video clips of a recent talk from Al Gore at the American School in London. Very inspiring . . .

The first video explains why it is so difficult for us to sustain our awareness of global warming:

This is where a national advertising campaign with a thousand black balloons could help us remember.

The second video is a call for action from all the young people in the room and everywhere else:

A while back, I shared a drawing of myself exposing the disconnect I felt between my head and my heart. I love how Al Gore flips that problem around and turns it into an opportunity.

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Continuing our thread of conversations on climate fight messaging, I would like to spend some time discussing possible targeting strategies. While it is true that global warming is a problem that concerns us all, in the interest of efficiency, it makes senses to go after those groups of people who are most likely to be persuaded positively. If we were to use a traditional ‘shades of green‘ segmentation model, the obvious choice would be to go after people who are on the fence, not the minority of green enthusiasts – people like you and me -, not the uninterested, but the people who see global warming as an issue, and who need to be pushed into action. While being the correct target, it leaves us with not enough to go by in terms of executing a campaign.

A more interesting strategy, in my opinion, uses a combination of psychographic and demographic descriptors to identify high potential targets. I got the idea of considering demographic segments, from Mary Hunt. Mary has chosen to focus her efforts on women, the ones in the household who are responsible for 80% of the buying. Makes sense doesn’t it, when like Mary, you are trying to educate the public about sustainable standards for high ticket, high environmental impact items such as flooring and furniture? Of equal importance is the need to communicate with people on an emotional level. The global warming message has made it into people’s heads, but has failed to grab them by the heart. Appeals to morality and civic environmental duty can only go so far. People have to feel moved into action.

Environmentalists have to stop talking to themselves, and need to go out to segments of the population outside of the green landscape, groups of people who because of their natural interests or life situations, are most likely to emotionally connect emotionally with the climate fight. Based on months of exploration and conversations with readers, these are the clusters that seem to make the most sense:

  1. Mothers are programmed to take care of their young ones. Any threat to their children’s health and survival triggers powerful responses. ‘You mean my children may not be able to enjoy clean air, and the good life we have taken for granted so far?’
  2. Believers‘s morality is tied into their faith. If they perceive global warming as the result of man’s sinful handling of God’s creation, it becomes their responsibility to redeem themselves through restorative actions. ‘God has given us this Earth; it is for us to protect.’
  3. Business leaders care about the bottom line, a lot. Once they realize the path to sustainability is also good for their bottom line, they can become some of the fiercest warriors of the climate fight. ‘Green is good.’
  4. Nature enthusiasts have a deep connection with nature. Birders cringe when they read about land-bird species at the risk of becoming extinct, as a result of global warming. ‘Do you know how beautiful birds are? We can’t let this happen.’
  5. The overweight crowd are putting their lives on the line every day with their unhealthy lifestyles. They are getting the message to: eat less, and less processed foods and less meat, drive less, watch less TV, walk or bike more. ‘If not for the planet, maybe for themselves?’

So many ways to slice the pie . . . Which of these people would you be most willing to bet on?

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Today, John Tierney writes about ‘The Global Warming Paradox‘, an account of a  surprising research study from three researchers at Texas A&M University. Here is what they found, after interviewing a representative sample of 1,000 adults:

Directly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less responsible he or she feel for it; and indirectly, the more information a person has about global warming, the less concerned he or she is for it.

Results of the whole study appear in the February issue of Risk Analysis. John Tierney joins the chorus of people in the research: ‘I think it’s (global warming) a real risk, but I’m also confident that we’ll cope by adapting to climate change and/or finding ways to minimize it.

I disagree with John Tierney, and unlike him, am not so sure that ‘we’ll cope‘. It is going to take more than technology and science to come even close to a happy resolution. Leadership at the top, business solutions, technology and science yes, financial incentives, individual behavioral changes, community initiatives, a new code of ethics, international diplomacy, population control measures, lots of goodwill at all levels, . . . the problem needs to be attacked from all possible angles. It is monumental in proportions and requires solutions of the same magnitude.

Back to the study itself, it is important to frame the results within the larger context of the research methodology:

It should be noted that the information effects reported in this article are limited to self-reported information. Objective measures of informedness about global warming and climate change might produce different effects. And indeed there is some scholarly evidence to suggest that this might be the case. In their models of mass assessments of the risks of genetically modified foods, Durant and Legge found that self-reported informedness and objective measures of informedness were almost entirely uncorrelated, and that their effects worked in opposite directions.

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I have noticed an interesting phenomenon over the last few days. My once electric enthusiasm for Barack Obama is waning. Gone the frequent visits to the Huffington Post. Gone, the comments left on any post even remotely connected with my man. Gone, the daily check ins with local headquarters. I am suffering from Obama fatigue. I will answer to MoveOn‘s one click calls to petition the Super Delegates, or their Facebook plea for $2.30. That I can do, will do, still. More, I am just too burnt out. Even the ‘movement‘ cannot carry me on.

The same fatigue factor applies to the climate fight as well. How does one get people interested and engaged, without running the risk of losing them down the road? This is a big problem, particularly with influencers, and people with the most power to impact outcomes. Any ideas?

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Every French kid knows the story of The Grasshopper and the Ant, one of La Fontaine‘s most popular fables. I remember reciting it to my third grade class:

The Grasshopper having sung
All summer long,
Found herself lacking food
When the North Wind began its song.
Not a single little piece
Of fly or grub did she have to eat.

She went complaining of famine
To the Ant’s home, her neighbor,
Begging her to loan her
A few grains to subsist
Until the new season,
“I shall pay you,” she said
“Both interest and principal,
Before next August, on my word as an animal.”

The Ant was not so inclined:
this not being one of her faults.
“What did you do all summer?
Said she to the grasshopper.
“Night and day I sang,
I hope that does not displease you.”
“You sang? I am so pleased.
Very well! Go ahead and dance now.”

Are Americans like the Grasshopper in La Fontaine’s Fable?

La Fontaine‘s wisdom is more relevant than ever. How much longer are we going to keep on singing, and dancing, without worrying about the consequences of our irresponsible behavior? Merry Christmas is right around the corner, and the malls are full, the cars are out in force, and the light decorations are on every house. One day when the party is over, will we be like the grasshopper? Feeling sorry for ourselves, for not having planned and acted as better stewards of our resources?

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The latest Pew Report confirms earlier data from a New York Times/CBS News Poll: that the American public still has not awakened to the reality of global warming as an urgent matter:

Global warming became a much more visible issue in 2007. Former Vice President Al Gore‘s crusade against what he calls a “planetary emergency” won him an Academy Award and a Nobel Prize. Yet the American public is not fully persuaded that global climate change is an imminent problem. Fewer than half rate global warming as a “very serious” problem; among those who view it as a problem, only a modest majority (55%) says it requires immediate government action. For liberal Democrats, at least, the environment is a top tier issue in the 2008 campaign. But it rates as far less important for other voting groups, including conservative and moderate Democrats. However, the 47-nation Global Attitudes poll found rising concern about environmental and pollution problems around the world, with many nations blaming the United States for these heightened global threats.

What this says: the message about global warming is not getting through to Americans. This is in contrast to the public in other countries. Environmental bloggers and environmentalists in general tend to live in a green bubble, and fail to realize the reality of the Not So Green Exposure problem that impacts the majority of the American public. Although, it may seems that the media are getting saturated with more and more dire warnings about global warming, the share of voice for the green message is still ridiculously small. Major contributor to the problem is the substantial amount of disinformation spread by conservatives and our leadership. There needs to be a more thought out green media campaign. In his post today, Andrew Revkin asks his readers for suggestions regarding ‘elevator pitch’ for global warming message. It’s a start.

Any ad agency willing to take on the global warming challenge as pro bono account? I am willing to pitch in, for free. Actually, I may even start to write an advertising strategy brief, just like that.

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In my green memory bank, today I retrieved a moment long ago, with my parents, walking up a  path, in the French Alps. The image is fuzzy, there are pine trees towering over us, and forming an imaginary kingdom. The damp earth is soft under my feet, and I take in the smell of possibility of mushrooms. Drunk from the mountain air, I feel happy, totally.

What is in your green memory bank? How many  moments, stored away, and still potent with the intensity of childhood, can you go back to?  And access the  love you felt in the midst of nature.

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