Everybody is speaking about the link between flooding and climate change, and many are saying it is time to 'act' on this understanding. The trouble is, as I've written before, this injunction to act on climate change is often simplistic and painfully generic, which serves to dissipate political will.
With this in mind, the Guardian's behavioural insight blog features my latest thoughts on how to improve the quality of our thinking on climate change, following up on our report at the end of last year: A New Agenda on Climate Change: Facing up to Stealth Denial and Winding Down on Fossil Fuels.
The point of this particular piece was to begin to flesh out what it might mean to think of climate change as being distinct from more general 'environmental' concerns, and to explain why that reframing matters. The following is an abbreviated version, so if you feel you have another click in you, please go here for the fuller version and leave comments or tweets there, but if you're happy with 'the gist', read on:
"We need a form of simplicity that rejects the lazy conflation of climate change with environmentalism by presenting a more energising set of associations. ... Second, the right kind of simple would offer a vision of human behaviour informed by political consciousness, so that calls for “behaviour change” connect with the deep roots of the problem in fossil fuel production, rather than a misplaced emphasis on energy efficiency...Third, the right kind of simple would promote systems thinking, such that the climate problem is not viewed as having discrete independent elements, but rather multiple inter-connected dimensions that co-exist in the same space...
1. Science matters because it is the closest thing we have to an objective reference point for debates that might otherwise lack grounding.
2. Law matters, because it acts as a powerful constraint at scale...
3. Money matters, because capitalism is the planet’s operating system, and given the time constraints, we will need to respond to the climate change problem from within the system that created it...
4. Technology matters because we need innovative forms of creating, storing and transporting energy urgently...
5. Democracy matters because it is a mechanism for making collective decisions, and climate change is the biggest collective action problem of all time...
6. Culture matters because our response to climate change is informed by everything from its place in formal education to implicit consumerist values in advertising to how the media frames judgments on systemic risk as scientific “uncertainty”.
7. Behaviour matters because while our choices are shaped by the facts (science), the rules (law), the resources (money), the tools (technology), the institutions (democracy) and the ideas (culture) around us, it is ultimately what we individually and collectively choose to do (behaviour) that matters."
I hope you can read the fuller version in the Guardian, but based on the gist here, what do you think?
Too simple? Not simple enough?
Dr Jonathan Rowson is Director of RSA's Social Brain Centre. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Blog: Trying to behave myself - a Social Brain Odyssey
In his final blog, Jonathan Rowson looks back on his time at the RSA and our behaviour change work.
New Report: The Seven Dimensions of Climate Change
A talent for speaking differently, rather than arguing well, is the chief instrument of cultural change – Richard Rorty
Seven Serious Jokes about Climate Change
Comedy is simply a funny way of being serious - Peter Ustinov
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Put that in a movie and maybe your message will get across http://vimeo.com/16328721