Friday 27 April 2012

a green ABC fling

If you're like me, you were glued to your TV last night for ABC's climate change double header of I Can Change Your Mind About Climate followed by a special Q & A program set up to discuss the documentary that featured Anna Rose, AYCC Co-founder and climate advocate, pitted against Nick Minchin, former Liberal senator and climate challenger. (The Twittersphere was also going off with many outraged greenies venting their frustrations.)

Anna Rose and Nick Minchin. Copyright ABC Television.

I'll admit there were times I had to focus on deep breathing so my frustration with the climate deniers didn't cause me to turn off the TV altogether.  But despite my dislike for giving sceptics airtime, and the fact that Rose and Minchin, plus the film crew, flew all around the globe to make the documentary, I think it was time well spent in front of the tube.

Not surprisingly, I associated the most with Q&A panelist Rebecca Huntley, social researcher and writer.  Huntley shared a few trends that I have also seen during my time researching and writing about climate change and personal behaviour:
  • Most people want to do the right thing by the environment, but don't want to give up their entire lifestyle to do so.  
  • The majority of Australians (and Americans) are sitting on the fence; most likely accepting that the science of anthropomorphic climate change is a reality, but unsure to what extent to believe the damage will be. 
  • Many people are turned off by extremist, fear-inducing messages that pop up in many environmental campaigns.

These issues are precisely why I wrote my book (yes, another shameless plug, but this is totally relevant).

I'm a great example of someone who shunned the idea of swapping my lifestyle for a stereotypical hippy one that (for me) meant dreadlocks, eating only homemade soy products and mung beans, and wearing shapeless burlap frocks.  In our culture we place a lot of value in our identities, and we create these identities through the way we look, what clothing we wear, what our homes look like, our pastimes, our cars, our jobs, our friends - the list goes on.  I definitely wasn't prepared to give up my stylish existence for one I didn't identify with, no matter how great the cause.  And if there is anything I'll ever agree with Clive Palmer on, it's that people in developed nations don't want to give up their comfortable lifestyles for the sake of the environment.  The truth is, the majority of Australians/Americans don't identify with the 'hippy' lifestyle associated with environmentalism, and there will be a huge cultural shift required in order to get mainstream America/Australia on the environmental bandwagon, which is what we environmentalists will need if we really want to generate positive change.

After watching the shows I was left with an even deeper conviction that we need more social and cultural research on climate change. The science is in (whether the sceptics choose to accept it or not), and now the challenge will be understanding people better and how we can ease the transition into a less carbon-intensive future.  Our messaging needs to steer away from doom and gloom statistics.  Instead, let's help people understand where they can make the biggest changes in their lives, how they can maintain their unique identities and lifestyles in a sustainable way, and continue celebrating examples of real people making a real difference.

I'd love to hear your opinion on last night's shows, drop me a line or share a comment below!

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