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Communicating climate change by celebrating nature

Aug 23, 2013 by | 2 Comments

In this guest post, Ralph Underhill, from the Public Interest Research Centre, explains why their new report ‘Common Cause for Nature‘ offers one way of bringing the meaning of cli­mate change home.

Why does cli­mate change matter to me?

It is not that I have an issue with a change in the long term weather pat­terns of our planet, if these had no knock on con­sequences I might be indif­ferent to the human impacts on the cli­mate. The reason I care about cli­mate change is because of it’s poten­tially massive social and envir­on­mental con­sequences. I care most about cli­mate change because of what it will do to the nat­ural world and the wild­life that has provided me with my most inspiring and mem­or­able exper­i­ences.

Importantly I am not alone, although some might not cur­rently share my con­cerns, they do value the same things that I do.

The com­bined mem­ber­ship of the con­ser­va­tion organ­isa­tions in Wildlife and Countryside Link is over 8 mil­lion. People aren’t motiv­ated to join these organ­isa­tions because they think nature con­ser­va­tion con­trib­utes sig­ni­fic­antly to the eco­nomy or because of the eco­system ser­vices that cer­tain wild­life rich hab­itats provide, they join because they love wild­life and want it to be pro­tected. Some of these mem­bers are the civil ser­vants, politi­cians and other decision makers that envir­on­mental organ­isa­tions spend our time trying to persuade.

If a large number of people are motiv­ated by the awe inspiring bril­liance of nature why don’t those in con­ser­va­tion speak about it more?

This week marks the pub­lic­a­tion of the Common Cause for Nature report. Commissioned by the 13 leading con­ser­va­tion organ­isa­tions (including WWF, RSPB and the Ramblers) and drawing on social psy­cho­logy, it provides an ori­ginal ana­lysis of the values being encour­aged in the com­mu­nic­a­tions of the sector.

The research shows that con­ser­va­tion organ­isa­tions don’t talk about how inspiring and enga­ging the nat­ural world is any more fre­quently than the rest of society. If the con­ser­va­tion sector is not cel­eb­rating the beauty and wonder of nature, who is? Social psy­cho­logy shows that exper­i­ences or com­mu­nic­a­tions cel­eb­rating and appre­ci­ating the nat­ural world are likely to strengthen people’s con­nec­tion the nat­ural world and bring about lasting con­cern about conservation.

The find­ings also show that the sector tends to focus heavily on the threats and dangers to nature, some­thing familiar to those working on cli­mate change. Research shows that the emo­tional responses to such com­mu­nic­a­tions can actu­ally reduce people’s motiv­a­tion to act envir­on­ment­ally, par­tic­u­larly when people aren’t given a way of responding that is pro­por­tionate to the scale of the threat. This is not to say that neg­ative mes­sages have no role: but they should be appro­pri­ately bal­anced with actions people can do and framed in a way that illus­trates how it will help address the overall problem.

Another key finding of the report is that many com­mu­nic­a­tions share much in common with those of com­mer­cial busi­nesses providing the ‘product’ of con­ser­va­tion to their sup­porters who are viewed as ‘cus­tomers’. Research shows that appealing to peoples con­sumer side reduces their will­ing­ness to act on behalf of the envir­on­ment, some­thing I covered in more detail in another blog.

CCfN sets out the values theory and how it applies to many dif­ferent work areas – com­mu­nic­a­tions, working with volun­teers, mem­ber­ship, the media, influ­en­cing gov­ern­ment. There should be some­thing in the report that is applic­able to all staff in nearly every role and many of the recom­mend­a­tions should apply equally to those working on cli­mate change as they do to those who are focused on conservation.

What I have laid out here is just a very short over­view. The research and theory of this work, as well as many more find­ings and recom­mend­a­tions are in the full report. I encourage you all to read it and wel­come any feed­back that you have.

I feel strongly that Common Cause for Nature is a sig­ni­ficant step towards under­standing how we can inspire people to work with us to save nature and address cli­mate change.

2 Comments + Add Comment

  • […] Adam Corner (soci­ologue à l’Université de Cardiff) prône la voie du sens. Il ne s’agit pas de repro­grammer les com­porte­ments du con­som­mateur, mais de leur offrir les argu­ments d’aller dans “le bon sens” pour qu’ils se les appro­prient. Ceux-là vont, par exemple, choisir des produits à faible bilan car­bone parce qu’ils ont la con­vic­tion d’un impact favor­able sur le climat et de leur con­tri­bu­tion à la justice sociale. Ils auront vérifié auprès de plusieurs proches les atouts dudit produit avant de l’acquérir. C’est dire que ce groupe de con­som­mateurs est moins per­mé­able et s’étend plus lentement. […]

  • […] Communicating cli­mate change by cel­eb­rating nature (August 23) […]

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