Personal change vs. climate change

There’s a lot of discussion about how people will need to change their behavior in order to stop climate change.

You know the drill – eat less meat, consume less, fly less, drive your car less. Pretty clear and simple stuff.

So, why aren’t people doing these things? 

It is to do with two things: 1) a lack of feeling of urgency, and 2) the scale of change required on a personal level.

Climate change happens gradually. Even though we increasingly see concrete effects, such as intense heat waves, it still feels somewhat distant on a personal level.

The problem is that when we get to a point where the changes are so negative that everyone begins to feel a sense of urgency, it will already be too late.

On the other hand, the things we know we can and should do in our personal lives can feel pretty big, and there are no immediate gratifying results.

For example, if your family’s daily life is built around driving a car, it can be a big adjustment to reduce driving or get rid of the car altogether. And even if you managed to do it, the climate would still continue to heat up. 

So, it is easy to rationalize that there is no point in putting yourself through all that trouble.

In their excellent book Switch – How to change things when change is hard, Chip and Dan Heath argue that in order to get people on board a change process, it helps to create small, easily achievable sub goals.

Now there’s some food for thought! When we cannot wait for a sense of climate urgency to kick in, how do we create simple, easy enough sub goals that will motivate people to act?

I’ll talk more about this in upcoming posts.