Small Individual Actions vs. Changing Govt. Policies?
"Convincing people to live greener lives makes them less likely to support real climate policy" concludes a new study published online at https://apple.news/Ay6CQyxupQfy1UnGe6DUjYw.
This study plus an experience with a field trip discussion among Audubon members have convinced me that I need to re-examine the focus of my climate education efforts. The discussion was about the pros and cons of wind vs. solar energy. When I asked about insulation, noting that for my own home, adding insulation and sealing my townhouse led to a 40% reduction in energy consumption, the group's consensus was that it would be impossible to reduce consumption by increasing the use of insulation because "that would take money." To be fair, one person mentioned that perhaps the money could be found by reducing or getting rid of subsidies for oil and gas production; but that idea fell flat as "something that would never happen." While a field trip setting is probably not the ideal place for a deep dive into this, it was clear to me that a concerted effort would be needed to delve into the systemic policy changes required to reverse GHG emissions and the collective strategies necessary to move our political system to implement such changes.
As the study discovered, in the face of a challenge as massive as climate change, it can be daunting to try to figure out what you as an individual should do to help. Should you focus your efforts on getting learners to change their light bulbs? OR ...take transit to work? While all those things are important, changes in government policies are going to be necessary for the world to rapidly decarbonize the economy over the next decade. Now researchers have found that when people are encouraged to make small personal sacrifices to help the climate, it can actually make them LESS likely to support policy changes (like a carbon tax).
Materials to support groups in both informal and formal education settings have been developed by the Kettering Foundation’s National Issues Forum, titled “Climate Choices” – see https://naaee.org/eepro/learning/webinars/naaeenif-climate-choices-moder... -- could get you started.
By promoting collective societal action at the local level (e.g. in terms of building and renovation regulations requiring standards for insulation) one can accomplish lots. And my community’s pride as we move forward with those kinds of policy changes at the local level generates not only climate change success, but also a sense of camaraderie that brings our town together. And, within that larger context, we also do little things like changing light bulbs.
I hope you’ll share with all of us the ways that you/your learners and larger community have achieved policy changes that are moving us towards achieving meaningful reductions in GHGs. We all need to double down on BIG reductions to achieve our 2030 goals.