Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Staying Positive In Environmentalism

Although I have been away from this particular blog for some time, I have been writing, volunteering and very much in touch with the conservation and environmental world.
Recently, I entered a blog contest from Change Agents UK and Green Futures answering the question:
What is the value of positive communications around sustainability, and why it’s a more effective way of encouraging people to change their behaviour?’
Writing my entry really made me reflect on the importance of staying positive in a world that really does thrive on negativity and scare-mongering. I hope you think that this is worth a read, and all comments are welcome.

My entry was shortlisted to the top 5. The winning entry can be found here and is brilliant:

Here is my entry - I hope you enjoy the read. Please note I was restricted to 600 words for the purpose of the competition - I could have written a lot more!

" Environmentalism links into all parts of life. Eco-tourism can boost the economy. Environmentally friendly homes have high property values - great for the housing market. Entire institutes are dedicated to conservation. Included in this extensive list is human psychology. Everybody is aware of the environment and sustainability, but why do so many choose to ignore and dismiss it? The answer certainly isn't simple or single-veined, but one thing's for sure. Campaigners' pushy and downbeat attitudes, coupled with scientists' bombardment of bad news haven't exactly made people leap up, knock on sustainability's door and scream, "What can I do to help?"

Unfortunately, until the core values of our consumer society change, most people will ask: "What's in it for me?" when asked to commit to sustainable living. Being positive and emphasising the benefits is crucial here. Have you ever seen anybody that was bombarded at a stall with pictures of mangled animals or a scorched earth, followed by a lecture from a campaigner? Maybe you're even guilty of it - I am! How often do you think that person has left and committed to the cause, implementing a lifestyle change? More than likely they've made an embarrassed £10 donation and hurried away angry, moaning about the cause to their friends. The result? £10...

Identifying the values of a person, finding what's important to them, is vital when applying positivity to sustainability. Preaching about the long-term benefits of solar panels to somebody who can barely afford bus fare is just a waste of time. Perhaps they're a family person - great! Outdoor activities can help children deal with behavioural and emotional problems1 . Thrifty - fine! Installing an energy efficient boiler and recycling are two ways to save money2. Approaching any personality-type with a negative and forceful attitude will only put them off and provoke anger. Using negativity as a shock tactic rarely works either. Telling somebody that all our fish stocks will be depleted by 2048 as we don't eat sustainably3 won't change habits, they will merely be overwhelmed and think 'I can't do anything about that'.

Indeed, some people may clearly have no interest in sustainability, even if you put on a 2 hour play demonstrating how the earth will implode if they don't start having a shower instead of a bath. In all honesty, lecturing them will probably not implement change until a) everybody else in the world does, or b) it becomes law. So why bombard them with negativity? It will probably only reinforce their views of 'hippy nonsense'. Positivity is the way forward. I recently took my mother to the Centre of Alternative Technology in Wales, which is brilliant for people both familiar with, and new to, sustainability. There are tips on how to live sustainably and save money, a lift powered by water and all types of machinery powered by clean energies. And all whilst having fun! The place is constantly busy, something I probably couldn't say if activists greeted you at the entrance, handing out leaflets of doom and gloom. What's more, since going there, my mother has come round to the idea of having a composter!

Sustainability CAN be fun and with practice, will come naturally to households and businesses. Growing vegetables with the kids and taking inexpensive nature treks can be a joy in itself. And with more people searching for eco-friendly options, those businesses that adopt environmentally friendly ethos can reap huge benefits and reach a new market. How's that for a positive?

Positivity for our planet works every time. "




3. Biello, David., 2006, Overfishing Could Take Seafood Off The Menu By 2048, Scientific American Newsletters, November 2 edition.

And for the boring stuff:
***Please note : I am in no way sponsored by, or affiliated with, the organisations mentioned in this post. This is a personal blog and opinions here do not represent those of any other parties mentioned. All credit for this blog competition is to Change Agents UK and Green Futures.