Make Climate Action Tasty in 3 Steps
Climate change is happening. It’s happening in our homes, our schools, our offices. It’s everywhere. Yet despite the scientific consensus, there exists a massive spectrum of perspectives regarding climate change, ranging from the activist to the bystander to the denier.
There are layers of reasons that texture our perspective; identity politics and psychology largely inform our motivations — or lack thereof. You can read about the psychological underpinnings to climate inertia and denial here. By using a psychological thread, we can stitch together strategies to both subvert climate dismissal and galvanize people into climate action.
Step 1: Make it visible.
Your lungs probably don’t feel polluted, but that doesn’t mean your air isn’t. In fact, 95% of the world is breathing polluted, unsafe air. So you’re currently (95% likely) inhaling harmful substances, but that won’t energize most of us to join the next Clean Air campaign — or make any change, for that matter. Blame your brain for that.
There is an enduring “I’ll believe it when I see it” mentality that is polluting the environment and your lungs. It is symptomatic of inertia. We experience a disconnect from, and what can be denial of, climate change because it feels intangible, immaterial, and insignificant. We screen out information that appears irrelevant, we are selective and attend to problems that directly apply to us. So even though we’re breathing harmful air, we don’t see the noxious particles and therefore don’t think our headaches are caused by them. Hence, a disconnect. That being said, research has demonstrated how affective, vivid imagery of climate change can prompt action and override cognitive defense mechanisms. We are more likely to perceive a risk that requires action when shown potent, personal imagery. So there’s one stitch in strategy: make climate change visible.
For a company like ClimateOrb, it complements the facts (air quality data) with potent displays (app visuals). Note, there are a variety of ways to make climate change a visual tour de force. But as we’ll get into, a company and product can offer a “co-benefit,” a mutual win-win, that can galvanize the individual and the aggregate.
Step 2: Make it personal.
Not only does climate change need to be visible, it needs to be personal. Essentially, climate action needs to be a flashy, eligible bachelor.
As any community organizer knows, for people to respond, you need to tell them what to do and make it feel do-able. Studies have shown people stop acknowledging climate change when they feel there is no easy solution; people deem issues as ‘serious’ when perceivable action can be taken. And unsurprisingly, it is when people personally experience the effects of climate change — when it impacts them directly and explicitly — are they alarmed. Climate change awareness can’t be sounding the alarms with tapes of dying whales; we can’t hear solutions if we have our fingers in our ears. Rather, we need a provisioning of visible, personal and immediately actionable solutions.
Step 3: Make it profitable.
Even if climate change is visible and personal, the social blade of capitalism and self-interest can undermine progress; they are preeminent motivations that can either slash or impel action. By and large, it would be a naive disservice to the climate change discussion if we bypass our self-serving nature. You can’t expect us to change our worldview just by saying climate change is an issue.
In come “co-benefits.” This involves meeting interests or goals we already have and connecting it to climate action; they are the added, often self-serving and lucrative, benefits from combating climate change. By forwarding co-benefits, politicians, scientists, activists, etc. can align personal identities to include climate action. Capitalizing on pre-existing sentiments of economic and social reward is both easier and more effective. Essentially, co-benefits are about marketing already palatable flavors; trying to change someone’s flavor profile is often a feckless feat. Climate action is most digestible when it serves you.
All together now
The problem is, as humans, we have innate defense mechanisms that fodder cognitive dissonance. We operate to affirm our sense of identity and safeguard our agenda. So when climate change challenges both, it is a battle between the mind and the matter (of facts). Spoiler, the mind towers over the matter. However, we can now aggregate what we know about human motivation and psyche to co-opt stagnation and regression with progress and change.
ClimateOrb can be said aggregation.
For ClimateOrb, they collect and forward air quality data that is directly relevant to the business, the school, the home — the person. But it’s not just about the data. It’s about taking that data and offering solutions; people need perceivable action for change. As such, ClimateOrb has an app that joins information with practical and accessible resources. Suddenly, climate change is visible and personal, action feels “do-able,” and we all stand to benefit. In effect, ClimateOrb neatly packages and delivers climate action to our doorsteps.
ClimateOrb is only one example of commercial progress; economic and institutional climate action can arrive in many different vehicles with many different engines — or lack thereof. Companies such as Newlight, Charm Industrial, and ClimeWorks work directly with technology to combat climate change. In turn, they capitalize on tech ingenuity to engage the market and reverse human emissions. There are also the corporations that have existed and operated outside of a sustainability premise. Once independent of the eco-token, some are now cashing in on the “green market,” flexing their sustainable sensibilities. This is because many companies have recognized the viability and vitality that is green marketing. As a result, even major companies, like Nestle and Ikea, have spotlighted their own eco-friendly schema.
The inflection point
These are only a few microcosms for how profound climate action can take place. This is a realistic tapestry for change — one tapestry of many. It is not one process that can solve climate change; it is not a single wave that creates a sea change; it is not one anything. Our world relies on the collective institution and individual aggregate to take responsibility and action. So what does that mean for you and me? The individual can actuate collective power; our decisions can impel greater action and personal movement can become social momentum. Google “how to take climate action.” Look into companies like ClimateOrb. Start a conversation.