There are a lot of niggling details being argued over in climate change and environmental circles. 350 ppm. Peak oil dates. Number of species gone extinct.
But, I've come to the realization that many of these details are, for the most part, irrelevant. We've got a much bigger problem. And it's called apathy. Actually, it's much worse than apathy because apathy suggests something more hopeful. No, what we've got is distrust, disbelief, the desire to prove wrong and more, importantly, hatred.
Until these issues are addressed our message (whatever it is) will just bounce off the heads of those we are trying to educate or encourage. Take my low-heat challenge for example. Plenty of news agencies have covered it and, what I'm suggesting isn't that people totally turn off their heat. I think the message is pretty tame - turn your heat down a few degrees and save money and lower your carbon footprint at the same time. Does it sound nuts to you? I don't think so - it sounds intelligent.
What's the general reaction?
Well, one group goes nuts claiming that there's no such thing as anthropogenic warming (human caused global warming). Their eyes get so crossed by their ideas about it, they don't see the underlying message: reduce your expenses and reduce your energy usage. Instead, they see the suggestion as a threat. By participating in lowering their energy usage, it might seem like they agree with climate change.
The next group takes great pride in doing the opposite. In other words, they state they will turn up their heat just to make up for us idiots who are lowering ours. They are happy to dig their heels in and spend more money just to prove a point.
Another group is the nitpickers. They relish pointing out errors (or perceived errors) in the message without acknowledging that generally interviews are comprised of quotes taken from a much broader conversation or, in many cases, taken completely out of context. The message is lost on them because they are too busy trying to find fault and too busy self-congratulating to listen.
The last group feels threatened. Somehow, reading about how others haved changed the way they live threatens their way of life as if it's some sort of conspiracy to force them to do it too. Just offering the information = "communist environmental takeover". I find it quite confounding. I'm not enacting legislation. How is lowering my thermostat a threat to your lifestyle? Because it just might become more socially acceptable?
It's easy for all of these folks to relegate environmentalists into a hippy, dread-locked, patchouli-wearing, non-shaving group of people that they can ignore because they are easy to spot. So, when the idea is presented by someone mainstream looking, is it even more threatening to them? I would imagine it's easier to ignore someone who fits the stereotype but not so much if we look like them. I think there's a fear that we are infiltrating their camp, disseminating a plot to take over their consumerist lifestyle.
Now, it's not like I'm suggesting that these people start peeing on their plants or doing anything outrageous. Just turn their heat down a tad. If we can't get even a simple message across to the masses, what hope is there for more complicated behavioral changes that actually cost money or take more time (rather than saving it)?
Just when I think I'm sending out a milquetoast message that should be acceptable to the average Joe, I'm taken aback by the vociferous resistance, both social and emotional. So, how do we reach these groups and their knee-jerk reaction to environmental/energy issues? Any suggestions? Do you see this as hopeless or not?