Published by Camilla on 27 Oct 2011 at 08:15 am
This week, I was delighted to welcome Simran Sethi, renowned journalist and academic to our WiserLocal gathering at la Ruche in Paris. Simran shared some of the research she’s been doing for her forthcoming book focused on the Psychological Barriers to Environmental Engagement, or in short, “what’s stopping us all from going green?”
Named one of the top ten eco-heroes of the planet by the Britain’s Independent newspaper and lauded ‘the environmental messenger’ by Vanity Fair, Simran’s latest message is that the environmental movement urgently needs to move beyond the ‘one-size-fits-all’ climate change campaigns and scare-based tactics centred on cities falling into the sea by 2050, to the framing of issues based on the real concerns of people in the street.
“Researchers at Yale talk about the finite pool of worry” she says. “When we start talking about climate change and all the problems going on in the world, people start to tune out because we can’t hold it all in our heads. It’s the same when we start talking about what might happen a long time into the future. The person in the street is just thinking ‘OK, I have to walk my dog today’. However, when you start taking some of their daily worries away, people start listening […] So, if we say that by reducing pollution we also reduce childhood asthma, people get it. In the end, it’s all about framing”.
Simran also talked about the power of social media in creating social and environmental change. “The tools are here, we just need to know how to harness them”, she says. She explained that crowdsourcing is one way to do this. One example she gave is a site called Loudsource which is helping people to crowdfund PR campaigns. It’s currently being used by people supporting the Occupy Wall Street campaign, so that people in the street can get help from PR professionals in designing and printing banners for their local campaign. The Enabling City is another example. It open sources information on urban planning.
“Researchers from Yale reminded me that we’re still working with the same minds that we had 200,000 years ago”, says Simran.
Our challenge now is really to understand what that means when we frame the issues we care about to those around us.
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