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Posts Tagged ‘we campaign’

Maybe I will change my mind about the “we” campaign?

Their latest “Oil and Coal” ad is getting at the main issue, at last:

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by Edouard Stenger

As Marguerite most kindly proposed me to write an article for her blog, here are a few lines on the French counterpart of the “We” and “Together” campaigns, which were discussed respectively here and here.

The “Défi pour la Terre“, or “Earth Challenge”, was launched in May 2005 by the famous French journalist, TV personality and environmentalist Nicolas Hulot. With his show Ushuaïa, he has been presenting the marvels of the Earth to French people for twenty years and increasingly stated that these wonders are threatened by mankind. The Nicolas Hulot Foundation was created as early as 1990 to enable people to discover nature and protect the environment by exploration, education and communication.

The “Défi pour la Terre” wasn’t the first communication campaign launched by the Foundation, but it has been the most fruitful as already more than 840,000 French people joined it and pledged to decrease their carbon dioxide emissions. Many celebrities also supported the “Defi“. Total actions by members would account for reduction of 420,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases emissions.

During last year’s presidential elections, he asked the twelve candidates to sign a pact stating that once they would be elected, they would act on environmental issues and climate change mitigation. It was a major success as the elected President, Mr. Sarkozy, included elements of this pact into his own plans. Indeed, the Grenelle de l’Environnement“, the central part of environmental actions in France, included several parts of Hulot‘s plan.


Now, let’s review the “Défi pour la Terre” itself. As most things nowadays, the website is the central part of the Défi. People by logging to the website can access a lot of data on climate change and its mitigation. Visitors can also decide to act and are proposed ten possibilities. They can :

  • Sort out their waste and avoid excessive packaging ;
  • Prefer environmentally friendly products ;
  • Switch off appliances instead of simply turning them off ;
  • Choose energy efficient appliances and light bulbs ;
  • Take a short shower instead of a bath ;
  • Insulate and not over heat their houses and appartments ;
  • Install a solar water heater or a wood boiler to heat their place ;
  • Use less their cars ;
  • Drive in an efficient way and lastly ;
  • Choose the train when going on holidays.

As you can see, these actions cover the vast majority, if not the totality, of behaviors and lifestyles that can harm our environment.

Now let me be critical – a bit – and tell you what I think could be improved. After three years of existence, the Défi is getting old and would need a new start as the actions to be taken can’t be exactly accounted for, and are more relying on goodwill than on anything else. Indeed, CO2 cuts can’t actually be accounted for as no follow-up is done. Let’s hope improvements will come. Knowing how Nicolas Hulot has been working hard on raising awareness on the protection of the environment, I am confident such changes will occur…

Edouard has an international blog. If you want to follow what is happening on the environmental scene in Europe, go visit him at Sustainable Development and Much More . . .

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In my mailbox, this morning, news from my friend Luc Hardy, on his latest expedition in the Artic:

An international coalition of children exploring the high Arctic witnessed firsthand the latest dramatic development of climate change on Tuesday, July 22 as a huge chunk of ice was observed drifting off the Ward Hunt Island main ice shelf, forming two ice islands totaling 20 square kilometers. The children, assembled as The Young Ambassadors of the Arctic, are part of the Global Green USA and Green Cross Pax Arctica ’08 expedition.

I have followed from a distance, all the media reports on the Arctic front. My friend’s mail brings that reality closer to me, somehow. Climate change is no longer some abstract, future notion. It is happening NOW, and I feel moved. Turning global warming into  a personally relevant issue continues to be a challenge.

This morning’s experience with Luc’s email, confirms the power of word of mouth in persuading people:

Something to consider for the “we” and “Together” campaigns . . .

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These past two weeks spent traveling in France and Italy convinced me even more about the role of culture and society in shaping individual behaviors. Most interesting was to observe how both I and Prad adapted our behaviors to fit the different customs in each country. Prad, who usually protests vigorously the slightest whiff of cigarette smoke back home, thought nothing of taking strolls on the smoke-filled Parisian sidewalks. In Italy, we quickly learned to conform to the practice of drinking bottled water at the restaurants. Two examples of the power of social norms, relative to individual environmental choices.

This raises the question of how to bring changes in normative behaviors, that will support sustainable lifestyles, across cultures. According to Horne, “New norms are thought to emerge when costs of compliance with existing norms become too high relative to the rewards“. Montgomery weighs concerns of costly normative actions against concerns of morality or social opinion. Though unlikely to change their behavior when norms become costly, individuals will praise those willing to do so; after a few have tested the waters, a domino effect of individuals who harbor less fear of social sanction will follow. If these innovators receive social approval, individuals will continue to participate in new strategies in order to gain recognition. Christakis‘s research similarly points to the social nature of behavioral changes.

On the green front, several trends are emerging that should give us hope. First, is the growing acceptance of the idea of green as universally cool and no longer the claim of a few treehuggers. The social sanction for behaviors such as biking, recycling, carpooling, using mass transit, recycling, to name just a few, has tipped towards the positive. Concurrently, rising gas and energy prices, are making it harder and harder for people to maintain their old behaviors. SUVs, boats, superfluous driving no longer make sense for the majority of Americans. Other adaptive behaviors are stirring, as in urban gardening, and driving more slowly.

Because time is of the essence, we would do well to consider strategies to accelerate this movement:

First, are opinion changing strategies, including all mass media and communication campaigns. Every green drop counts. What I write here in this blog. What you write, either in your own blog, or as a commenter on others’ blogs. What you say in casual conversations to your friends and coworkers. What you ask from your elected representative. What you communicate through your example, as in here and here. What the “we” and the “Together” people do. What Barack Obama, and other leaders declare is important. What the New York Times, and the rest of the press put on their front page. What Arianna Huffington chooses to promote. It all matters.

Second, are cost raising strategies, in relative terms, either through the offering of new, lower cost options, or the raising of the costs of existing options, whether volitional or not. Rising gas and energy prices are an example of the latter. And so are various forms of carbon tax. Smart technologies such as more fuel efficient cars or home energy efficiency solutions work on the other end, through the promise of higher financial rewards, and social acceptance.

Third are direct behavior shaping strategies such as evolved from Pierre Chandon‘s research. Chandon‘s study, ‘When Does the Past Repeat Itself? The Role of Self-Prediction and Norms.‘ tells us that ‘by predicting our behavior, we can actually reinforce good habits and break bad ones‘, a sophisticated twist on the power of self-fulfilling prophecy. What this means for our problem, is that by asking people such simple questions as ‘Do you bike, do you carpool, how often and how long do you walk, do you turn off your lights, do you hang your clothes to dry, do you eat fresh food?’ chances are it will increase the likelihood of them engaging in these behaviors. Conversely, by not mentioning other negative behaviors such as driving, using dryer, eating processed food, etc, they will be less inclined to perpetuate those. 

This is just the beginning of a long list. My main point is, thought leaders on climate change and other global environmental issues with a human factor component, need to spend more time exploring such behavior shaping strategies, based on the available body of research on normative behaviors.

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Back from another one of my triumphant bike rides to downtown, this time to pick up pizzas at Il Fornaio, our favorite Italian. So glad I was. The three pizza boxes fit neatly into my side basket, not in the recommended horizontal position. The thought quickly brushed my mind, that maybe the toppings might slide, in protest. Oh, well, the risk was well worth taking. Off, I rushed back home. Again, sheer pleasure of being just me, with Pervenche, and the warm breeze. And plenty of times to savor the comings and goings inside my mind.  

Ah ah, just I was going over the bridge, it hit me. What had gotten me on my bike was not carbon calculators, not injunctions from Green Guru,  not my green conscience, not the sinister prospect of global warming. No, what had moved me to pick up Pervenche, was the memory of how fun the last ride had been, and the knowledge that it would take me about as much time to bike, as to drive. Physical satisfaction plus convenience, all at no cost. The personal benefit was obvious. 

Forget the “we” campaign. What’s going to get people from ‘business as usual’, to leaving their cars in the garage, and not shopping as much, is the realization that such moves are not only good for the whole world but for them personally, also, in a very direct, immediate way. The recent gas crisis is another validation

Hence the value of looking at personal motivators. Here is my list:

  • immediate gratification
  • convenience
  • cost savings
  • personal health

These are the big four on my list. Can you think of others?

PS – Do not transport pizza with the box on its edge in your side basket. The outcome ain’t pretty. Bare dough, with all the toppings squished against one side. We had a good laugh. 

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I will be following with great interest the progress of the recently launchedTogether” citizen engagement campaign on climate change.

A UK import from The Climate Group, “Together” comes on the heels of Al Gores disappointing “we” campaign. I like that it is a true collaborative effort between environmental organizations, major American cities, media organizations, and big businesses. Whether the citizens will respond is another story.

Also, I couldn’t help but think, what would happen if the “we” people, and the “Together” team worked towards a single, unified campaign? Environmental organizations have this deplorable tendency of fragmenting their efforts.

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Don’t get me wrong, I love polar bears and I want them to survive for a very long time. However, on my list of climate actions, saving the polar bears comes after many, many other more important priorities, starting with limiting our greenhouse gas emissions and averting the world food and water crisis.

Al Gore’s “we” campaign has made saving the polar bears its first initiative. Every other day I get a mail informing me of ‘Progress on polar bears‘. Never mind all the research saying that you’ve got to make global warming personally relevant . . .

Al, when are you going to get this one right?

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