Study Finds That Fear Won’t Don’t Do It: Why Most Efforts at Climate Change Communication Might Actually Backfire

I have to thank my friend, David Eisenberg, Executive Director of the Development Center for Appropriate Technology (DCAT) for this posting and the subsequent comments. This is only one of many stimulating posts that David puts up on FaceBook that a goodly number of us follow, comment on and share farther and wider. Thank you, David, for your presence on FB, in the greening of the codes work and general wonderful worldwide gift that you are… ;~)

Study Finds That Fear Won’t Don’t Do It: Why Most Efforts at Climate Change Communication Might Actually Backfire

Matthew C. Nisbet on November 16, 2010, 12:12 PM

This is an important article about the mechanisms that open or close people’s willingness to accept scary scientific information – and supports the view that many of us have held that without a positive, local, action-based message accompanying serious and frightening news, good, well-intentioned, intelligent people often reject the validity of the information.

David Eisenberg comments:

I have used an expression for years about a way to think about this aspect of change – we have to stop knocking all the handles off these things, and instead start creating as many handholds as we can so that people can grasp their own role… in creating solutions. There are too many people who can find and loudly share the reasons every solution will fail – what I call “knocking the handles off.” Keep finding and developing and fastening handles onto the problems – be they small incremental acts or essential parts of larger schemes and ideas. We also need to be aware of the danger of creating false or weak handles, making sure that what we’re doing or encouraging others to do are actually part of real change and not just greenwash or its equivalent.

This also goes to my mantra – the way to subvert the dominant paradigm is to have more fun than they do and make sure they know it – that without joy and fun and enthusiasm for this work, only the folks who enjoy the darker side of things a…re likely to join in. I don’t dismiss the seriousness of the work – inner and outer – just that if we are serious about building a strong, vital movement for change, we need to get a lot better at celebrating our victories, celebrating each other, celebrating the moment, life, nature and everything else.

Here is a favorite Ed Abbey quote*:
“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a reluctant enthusiast… a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; you will outlive the bastards.”

* From a speech to environmentalists in Missoula, Montana, and in Colorado, which was published in High Country News, (24 September 1976), under the title “Joy, Shipmates, Joy!”

[end of David Eisenberg’s comments.]


The article mentioned above reminds me of work that came out in the Journal of Environmental Education in the mid ’90’s about how teaching children about negative environmental trends without giving them something positive in their own neighborhood or lives actually was detrimental to the kids’ emotional well-being. But few environmental educators or science teachers understood that… which was not serving the kids and their sense of their capacity to be part of the solution.

Believing that we are part of the solution, and having that internal Locus of Control that gives us the confidence that we can have control over the environment around us and be agents of change… this is critical. And to educate or write about these dire environmental trends in such a way to continue to numb people out and fill them with greater despair is not serving what the planet and it’s people really need — Hope.

Hope is one of the resources least in supply these days… and that is what we need to feed. Greatly.

About Mare Cromwell

Referred to as “The Voice of Earth Mother” by a gifted Shoshone elder, Mare Cromwell is a multi-award-winning author, Medicine woman/Lightworker and healer. She has also been told by another gifted elder that her work with Earth Mother is in the prophecies. Her books include: "The Great Mother Bible"; "Messages from Mother.... Earth Mother"; and "If I gave you God’s phone number.... Searching for Spirituality in America". She has studied with Native American teachers for twenty-two years and sat on the World Council for Wisdom Gatherings for three years. Mare leads workshops on our Sacred Planet-Earth Mother, Womb Wisdom and Sacred Silliness and more. She is the visionary and producer of the 1000 Goddesses Gathering in Washington DC. Mare loves to be involved in Ceremony. She is also a former worm herder. She calls Western Maryland home.
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One Response to Study Finds That Fear Won’t Don’t Do It: Why Most Efforts at Climate Change Communication Might Actually Backfire

  1. miedzywodzie says:

    Thanks For This Blog, was added to my bookmarks.

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