How Understanding the Human Mind Might Save the World From CO2

Posted by Trish Riley, December 8, 2009

The issue of ‘how to change consumer behavior’ comes up constantly, and I always fall back on the idea that we really don’t need to get Machiavellian about it – that the information itself will do the job, which turns out to be a common assumption. But an example noted in the following articles demonstrates that just giving better options can make a big difference.  Another interesting example demonstrates that talking with people is more effective than informing them through written words. But the fact remains that even if all who understand the relationship between global warming and CO2 made the necessary changes, we’d still only be dealing with about a third of the population. So the bottom line is that no matter how much one tries to change individual behavior, the real changes will come about when business objectives and products address sustainability. Fortunately, businesses are moving in that direction. This takes the consumer out of the picture somewhat (though without the few who do demand better products and systems, the businesses wouldn’t be making the changes), and  the goals will be achieved without having to get them to control their own behavior. Annie Jia reports from ClimateWire:

Participants at the three-day third annual Behavior, Energy and Climate Change Conference, which ended yesterday, in Washington D.C., focused on examining the underlying reasons behind why many efforts toward getting people to adopt more sustainable behavior have had limited success. They also explored ways to design more effective programs to change behavior surrounding climate change.

…a basic principle in social psychology: that people’s attitudes do not translate into action. But most environmental activism remains centered around the assumption that changing behavior starts with changing attitudes and knowledge.

via How Understanding the Human Mind Might Save the World From CO2 – NYTimes.com.

and: PUBLIC OPINION: People are irrational about climate, but teachable (ClimateWire, 11/17/2009)