Here’s another reason not to try and terrify people out of conspicuous consumption, aside from the basic flaws in the “eco angel” approach and recent evidence that moralising is putting people off ethical consumerism. Some interesting research by Swiss psychologists found that warnings about death has the ironic effect of making some smokers want to smoke even more! The reason? They derive a self-esteem boost from smoking; warnings about death sent these smokers to a trusty source of self esteem to overcome that downhearted feeling – death-bringing cigarettes! So next time you tell someone that buying too much crap might cause planetary collapse, it’s fairly likely that your nasty nagging well send them running for a standard Western self-esteem boost: shopping.
For your average closet climate change denier or otherwise-stuck-in-the-mud politician, the Balance is a great weapon to deploy against evidence-based policy. “Of course we want to tackle climate change”, the argument goes, “but we must strike a balance between this and [insert contradictory aim here]”. If they understand the science of climate change, and have read the work of the Committee for Climate Change, they’d quickly realise they were asking for a balance between right and wrong, or more correctly and plainly for the wrong policy; you can’t really find a middle ground. So lately we see lots of senior Tories running this trope in an attempt to rein in the green public face of the Conservative Party (despite the party demoting most of its green lights to the back benches). Riding the resurgence of denial in the Telegraph and Spectator, these MPs are boldly defending their right to ignorance.…
A couple of days in Hove at the Green Party Autumn ticked all the usual boxes, though this year jokes about beards were given a fun edge by Sue‘s buzzword bingo game. Thankfully a lot of the unfortunate posturing around Green Party Executive (GPEX) elections died down as it became clear that most members couldn’t be bothered with it, leaving space for some good policy debates.
Science and technology finally got its day, with two fringe events giving the nerd core a chance to work out how we can avoid this kind of (quite valid) coverage. I’ve high hopes that we can begin to overhaul some fairly ancient and shaky policy, not least because we got such strong and wide agreement that policy should be – golly – based on scientific evidence, as should decisions about NHS treatments. But never mind that “on the back foot” stuff, I’m most excited about the possibility of putting out some really strong messages around science and technology that should resonate strongly with scientists, technologists and the general public.