June 29, 2010

Raising awareness - let's get emotional

I recently found a book Chapter by Jo Thakker about psychological responses to climate change:
“psychological approaches offer a range of interesting insights into the issue of climate change. Similarly psychology offers a range of possible responses to the problem”…“we need to design strategies that take into account what we know of human behaviour rather than expecting human beings to behave in radically different ways. If people are generally focussed on their own and their children’s wellbeing then strategies that are designed to ameliorate climate change need to incorporate this. For example, people need to know how global warming will affect them, their children, and their grand children and the effect needs to be made clear and palpable. If people can see how a malevolent trend will directly affect them then it is more likely that they will make any necessary changes in their behaviour. Such an approach is likely to be more effective than an approach which requires people to think beyond their own small world” …”if the future is easily able to be discounted because it remains abstract and uncertain then it needs to be clarified”

Above is the painting I created People Yelling for Help to express the plight of islanders whose houses are disappearing under water but have no voice because they are too far from the centers who create the problem in the first place (Acrylic on canvas, 120 X 70 cm). See image here.

Thakker proposes to distribute information to clarify the future and inform audiences about the “possible adverse outcomes, in detail, so that they can develop an understanding of the information. This is not to be confused with scaremongering which seeks to use a person’s fear response as a motivator for behaviour change. Rather information should be presented in a clear and readily digestible fashion so that individuals can form reasoned opinions.”

This is where I offer a different contribution: I feel there is already a lot of information out there, but it has failed to result in significant action. I want to create an emotional response with images of the future. What will happen when the sea level rises? Houses and land will disappear under water for ever! 75% of the world population lives within 10 km from the shores... I especially drew a thin line for the earth on this painting - to show how fragile this balance is.

(Ref. Thakker, J, 2008). The role of Psychology in the Response to Global Warming. Some Preliminary Observations, in: Beyond the Global Village: Environmental Challenges Inspiring Global Citizenship, Eds: Hillerbrand, R and Karlsson, R: Inter-Disciplinary Press, pp. 215-226. The book can be downloaded at this link.

See the interesting post on the sustainability blog from Michael Field, North Shore Sustainability Manager about the role of cognitive dissonance and behaviour change.
Post written in collaboration with Annick Janson