Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Making the Case for Self-Sacrifice


Here dead we lie

Because we did not choose
To live and shame the land
From which we sprung.

Life, to be sure,
Is nothing much to lose,
But young men think it is,
And we were young.
-A E Housman

Let me begin by noting that most of what I’ve done to live more sustainably has been enormously pleasurable, not that stressful, and has generally led to a happier, more relaxed, healthier, better quality of life. I think it is fair to say that most people who make major cuts in their energy usage find such quality of life benefits as more time together, more exercise, better, healthier food and fewer toxics in their lives to be enormously positive.

But it would be complete and utter bullshit for me to suggest that cutting back our energy usage by the percentage necessary is always painless, convenient, comfortable. Sometimes it is inconvenient, and occasionally it sucks. Sometimes it means being hot or cold, or not eating what you want to eat, it means turning down things you’d like to do, or not going places you’d like to go. It means missing family instead of travelling a lot, doing more things by hand even when you don’t want to, getting on that bike or out to take the bus on the cold, wet day. That is, sometimes it means real and meaningful sacrifice. And being an early adapter to the necessities of global warming and peak oil means that you don’t even have the comfort of everyone else being stuck with the same strictures.

I say this because I think It is intellectually dishonest to speak only of the positives of the lifestyle changes we’re engaged in. And I say this because I’m an ordinarily selfish person who sometimes just doesn’t wanna do it, and I know others feel this way. But I also mention this because I think that if we’re ever going to achieve a critical mass (which we may not – but we have to try) to people committed to remediating the problems we face, we’re going to need a whole host of persuasive techniques.

That is, we’re going to have to tell all the truths – persuade people with visions of better lives and also scare them with the reality of the cost. And we’re going to have to find a way to sell self-sacrifice – because minimizing the cost will make people feel we’re lying to them. We have to convince people that the price is worth the prize.

That last one has been a hard nut to crack - a lot of people feel we should never mention sacrifice, or ever give anyone the impression that they will have to do anything hard, or given anything up. But there is no possible way that we can make the necessary environmental cuts without sacrifice - 90% or more over 10 years is a big deal, and some of it will hurt - period.
There are thousands of people who really don't want to hear that part - they think that if we just elect the right leader or we just do the right thing we can make everything easy and place all the burden magically on someone else. But we can't. 90% means 90% across the board. That doesn't mean that it can't be made better and easier, but it does mean that this will cost us.

How do we make that idea palatable? Personally, I think denying the need for self-sacrifice is a huge mistake, and so is apologizing for it, or minimizing it. I think the absolute opposite strategy is called for - we have to make it a challenge, an honor, a gift to do this. That is, of course, how we have gotten people to make sacrifices and endure hardship before - whether giving their lives in wartime or climbing big mountains - we've emphasized how exciting the challenge is, and how lucky they are to participate, how doing so makes them exceptional and heroic. The more we tell people that sacrifices won't be required, the more we make them nervous about the very idea. I think we should be telling people that they shoud feel privileged and honored to make this sacrifice. Does that sound totally nuts? Bear with me for a moment.

During most of human history, we’ve had a policy of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children. War is the most compelling example – in wartime, the policy and diplomatic failures of old men and women are visited on their children and grandchildren, who put their bodies in front of bullets to protect a “way of life” or simply the lives of those too old, too young or too wealthy to make similar sacrifices. Young men and women die for us (and for stupid false causes, but for today we will speak of actual necessities) – to keep us secure. Sometimes this is even genuinely necessary. But every single time, the children pay for the sins of their fathers and mothers, often to the tune that this is a noble sacrifice, an honor to serve their nation. Dulce et decorum est.

And this isn’t limited to soldiers – children are the victims of every war, failure of social policy, and inequity we create. Children constitute the largest single group of poor people in the world. Many wars have child civilian mortality rates that vastly exceed the number of soldiers who suffer and die. During America’s embargo on Iraq, up to half a million children died. Children pay the price for our limitations in every conceivable way – they go hungry, they die of preventable diseases, they are cold, they suffer in utter disproportion. We always make our children pay the price.

Global warming and peak oil represent just one more passing of the buck. There are plenty of victims of climate change already all over the world – from the 60,000 that the World Health Organization reports die of climate change related disease every year to the victims of hurricanes and floods everywhere. But the real victims will come among those who are children today as they grow up (or don't), and their children. Those are the vast majority of the 1.5 billion people who may be made refugees by 2050, the 3 billion who will lack adequate drinking water, the 1 billion potential deaths from climate change by mid-century. Some of them will be far away children, the ones we say we care about – but don’t always.

And some of them will be our own children and grandchildren - those of the people reading this on computers mostly in the rich world. It is impossible that such vast disasters could fail to harm even the most carefully protected children of the Global North – they too will suffer natural disaster after natural disaster. They too may be made refugees, run out of safe drinking water, know hunger, cold, heat and loss. Some of them too may die from this. And if this does not shake most of us down to our cores, that’s only because we’re kidding ourselves.

The reality is that the climate is changing here too. We depend on fossil fuels too. And we’ve already proved we’re willing to send young men and women off to die in pointless resource wars – in a decade, when my boys are of age, they may come for my sons, for your daughters, in the name of the latest great, tragic war. They are coming now for other people’s beloved sons and daughters.

But as terrible as climate change and peak oil are, they also represent an enormous opportunity – for us to change the pattern of placing the burden of our failures on our children. They represent a chance for we parents and grandparents to bear the worst of the burden ourselves, to take it off the backs of those who love, and carry it on our own shoulders. It is in our power to soften the blow, to minimize the harm. It is in our power to do what parents are supposed to do for their children – shield them from harm.

We tell them we love them. We tell ourselves we’d do anything to protect them. Well, time to put our money where our mouths are. Because if we were to rapidly (over the next 5-10 years) cut back emissions by 90% and more, we could actually prevent the worst depredations of climate change. We could put energy aside for future generations so that they could have necessities like antibiotics and heat and light – not perhaps as much as we’ve had, but some.

I do not claim that doing so will always be easy or pleasant. Some of it truly will be enjoyable, will make us happier. Some things will improve our lives. And some things will be hard and painful. There will be real losses, real personal suffering and inconvenience. It will hurt us to do with less. It will sometimes be cold, sometimes be sad. It will often be damned hard work, an enormous challenge for us. We will lose things we loved and give up pleasures we’ll miss. It will involve real self-sacrifice.

But that sacrifice is an honor, a privilege that every parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, or any person who loves a child or cares for future generations should take up with gratitude that it has been given to us to spare our beloved children some suffering, that this time, the fathers and mothers can take responsibility for their own sins. We have been granted a rare gift – the hope of taking responsibility for our actions, and the actions of our own parents and grandparents. Instead of passing the buck, it can stop here, with us.

We do hard things all the time for far lower stakes - we run marathons to see if we can. We climb moutains to prove something to ourselves. We fast for religious convictions, we push ourselves to the limits to meet a deadline or to win a competition. Now we have the chance to push ourselves to our limits for the thing that we say we care about more than anything else - the lives of our children. How can we do less for them than we do for a medal?

And if we succeed, we will spare not only the lives and futures of the next generation and those that follow, but we will also spare ourselves. Because as hard as it must be for a young man, barely 18, to pick up his gun and march away to die in a war, it is equally hard for a father to watch him march away. As difficult as it will be for our grown children to watch their own sons and daughters weep because they are always hungry, it will be as bad for their grandparents who know that in their lives, they threw away enough food to have fed those children. As hard as it is to make sacrifices ourselves, if we truly love our children, it will be harder to watch them have no choice but to make worse ones.

I will not pretend that I always like giving up air travel, or getting up in a cold house in the winter. I will not pretend that sometimes I don’t want to go somewhere, and can’t, or don’t feel like I miss out on pleasures I once had. I will say that generally speaking, the net gains are far greater than the losses, but I cannot claim that I never feel my losses. I won’t claim that sometimes I wish that prior generations to my own had taken up the burden (and yes, I know some of them tried, and I honor them for that) when it was lighter, when we could have made fewer sacrifices, when it would have been easier. All of those emotions are real, and I do not deny them - I merely suggest that they can exist and still be overridden by our deep commitment to preserving the future at any cost.

But if previous generations passed the buck, it is our right, our gift, our obligation, our privilege, our responsibility, our honor to do better, to stop the buck here, now. It is a gift to be able to spare future generations the price of our folly- a gift beyond price. We should be grateful.



Brian M. said...

Dolce et decorum est
Pro patria abstinere

kathirynne said...

I totally agree with you that "Dulce et decorum est", and "the prize is worth the price", but if someone were to ask me what they could do today as a first step toward a solution, I would not know what to tell them. Drive less? Buy less stuff? Bottle your own food? Eat less meat? These are all things I do, but I'm not certain that I'm even making a difference myself, let alone that what I am doing is the right thing for anyone else to be doing...

Any advice?

jewishfarmer said...

Nice, Brian.

Kathirynne, that's a hard question, because it is so specific - a guy who takes the bus to work and eats a lot of meat might do best to concentrate on meat consumption, whereas the woman who drives a lot but only eats organic meat and not so much of that might need to concentrate on driving.

It would be really nice if there was one easy answer, but the real truth is that there are a bunch of them - generally speaking, if you live in a Western country, driving less, eating less meat, turning down your heat, turning off electric appliances not in use, buying more goods used or not at all, and voting for change is a good start. But it does take time and practice.


Richard said...

If you are trying to guide yourself or others on the right behaviors for protecting the climate and forestalling peaking of resources, first find out which behaviors also have an obvious side benefit. "The Theory of Anyway" is the best treatment of this I have seen. I started biking to work mainly for environmental reasons. But look - I no longer need to waste time at the gym, I'm saving money, I get to enjoy being outdoors in the face of a career in front of a desk. No Impact Man speaks of appealing to people's desire for health, happiness and security instead of simply saying "it's for the good of the environment." Smart strategy, IMHO.

The idea that we sacrifice regularly for our children, sometimes with only the vague hopes of future benefits, strikes me as a great parallel for those pro-environmental activities that don't present an immediate return.

homebrewlibrarian said...

Making reductions to spare your children only works if there are reductions that can be made. When the only food some folks can get comes from convenience stores, telling them to cut back on those sorts of purchases will get you, at best, a quizzical look. The least of these, the poor and destitute, can barely help their children to begin with so telling them to cut back on driving dozens of miles daily for multiple jobs or buy only fresh, organic foods is not going to help. So a "think of the children" campaign will only have minimal impact on those with nothing to spare.

I'm all for promoting self sacrifice to those of us who can afford to lavishly waste things. But I believe a different approach needs to be developed for those for whom just having enough is a daily challenge.


Ani said...

Seems to me that the even bigger problem is the multitudes who still don't see any problem. I am regularly told by people who know of my interest and work in this area that their brother-in-law who is a physicist has determined it is all just cyclical or solar cycles, or their son has determined it is all just hogwash and just a natual cycle or it is just the jet stream or whatever-on and on.

The issues of oil/gas are just temporary they say- just oil companies trying to max out their profits, greedy OPEC nations, etc and they have heard there are mega oil fields out there that we will be able to develop.

And of course, they know that plug-in hybrids and biofuels wil save us in any event.

So seems to me that on the one hand we've got to find a way for those who do believe we have a problem to take some concrete steps towards alleviating it,but what on earth do we do with the large numbers who just want to believe otherwise? And I'd have to say that I fully understand why they would want to believe all is well as to do otherwise is too scary a prospect for them, so they will resist doing so at all costs. I think the numbers of these folks might be rather large in truth.

jewishfarmer said...

Kerri - I agree with you that the truly poor and desperate don't have a lot of choices - although even they can turn out the lights when they aren't in the room. The truth is that while they may not be able to give up everything, there are things almost everyone can do.

But those aren't the people who most need the message of self-sacrifice. If all of us lived like the very poor, who generally use considerably less energy than most of us, simply because they can't afford to buy more, we'd be much further along. Around me, the poor already consolidate housing - because they can't afford to buy a house for every 1.3 people, and they already take care of their own elders, and they already keep their driving to the necessarily minimum, because they can't afford the alternatives.

So I agree with you, but I also think that beyond observing that the bottom 15% may need a different message, I think we can legitimately focus on the top 85%, no?

Ani, I agree - I don't claim to be able to cover all the ground there is in any single post ;-). My focus here is on one thing - how could we sell self-sacrifice. I take it as a given that *before* we started selling self-sacrifice on any large scale, we'd have to do a great deal of education work. I know those people and their brother in laws too ;-).

The reason I write about this is because I think the "only talk about the positive" narratives are just wrong. Once we do the basic educational work (if we do), we're going to need a next step.


Anonymous said...

"Saving the world" is a good goal and all, but it's simply not going to happen. Why do I say that? Well, it isn't happening now, when many of the serious and deadly situations being faced by peoples all over the globe are much, MUCH less complicated and costly to remediate than peak oil and climate change will be. If we can't even fix small-scale political conflicts, regional famines, and the myriad serious inequities going on within sight of our own backyards - well, that certainly doesn't leave much hope for humankind pulling together to solve anything even more complicated. Yes, things will definitely change on a grand scale - when reality forces those changes down our unwilling throats - but not one minute before that. This is who we are as a species, it is how we got here in the first place. Denying that fact will send you off on a million wild goose chases for hopes and dreams that will never become reality.

However, that having been said, I am in agreement with you and others on the things that should be done, and we are doing as much of it as quickly as we can. But I'm not making the sacrifices you speak of because I think I'm saving the world, or even some small part of it - I'm doing it partly because it's the right thing to do even in the face of certain failure and partly because by getting started now, I have a chance to teach my children and their children how to live in the new world that IS coming, whether we like it or not.

void_genesis said...

I disagree that the poor have so few resources and choices that they are hopelessly stuck. That is just too fatalistic for my tastes. Everyone has some time and some money and they choose to spend it in certain ways. Everyone has some opportunity to make changes and throwing our hands up and walking away from the poor because it is a sensitive issue isn't helpful. The poor like most people spend a portion of their resources on things that come back to bite them in the longer term (smoking, gambling, TV, alcohol, convenience food).

We need to spell out how we have all been short changed by our modern fast paced life. The food is unhealthy, the homes and clothes poorly constructed, and the entertainment on offer is causing us to lose our connections to each other.

Learning to cook from scratch is a good example- there are benefits on so many levels. But it requires practice to make it really work and investment in basic equipment. Focus on transferring practical skills and you fix the problem. Perhaps our "church" should be a kind of basic but sturdy community kitchen where the poor are taught to cook for themselves? Would this kind of initiative attract government support as more urban poor and hungry become a problem?

Alan said...

In 1975 Sydney Pollack directed Robert Redford in an excellent thriller called, "Three Days of the Condor". Redford plays a low-level employee of the CIA who stumbles upon a plot within the Agency and whose life is imperiled by that knowledge. Near the end, he has occasion to discuss his actions with an Agency higher-up.

The higher-up tries to set Redford's character straight about the American people. He says, "It's simple economics. Today it's oil, right? In ten or fifteen years, food. Plutonium. Maybe even sooner. Now, what do you think the people are gonna want us to do then?"
Redford's character (naively) suggests, "Ask them?"
The higher-up cynically replies, "Not now - then! Ask 'em when they're running out. Ask 'em when there's no heat in their homes and they're cold. Ask 'em when their engines stop. Ask 'em when people who have never known hunger start going hungry. You wanna know something? They won't want us to ask 'em. They'll just want us to get it for 'em!"

This was in between the "oil shocks" of the 1970's when there were a lot of people convinced that the U.S. could work its will on the oil-producing countries just with spies and subterfuge. They were convinced that the American people would allow -- even demand -- their government to do anything, however morally repugnant, dangerous, or dishonorable to keep the oil flowing.

Redford's character wanted to believe that his boss was wrong, but he wasn't at all sure, and the film ended ambiguously.

Today, plenty, maybe a majority, of Americans have shown themselves willing to allow their government to do anything at all to keep the oil flowing. When gasoline prices really do start skyrocketing, the clamor to use whatever means we have to secure as much petroleum as we think we need, regardless of the cost in lives, treasure, or honor will be immense indeed.

I (like Redford's character) want to believe that Americans have enough moral fiber to learn to share the world's resources fairly and refuse to bludgeon and murder our way to comfort and prosperity. But modern America doesn't do a lot to confirm that belief.

Anonymous said...

We do our bit...recycle, compost, heat with wood, share one diesel-powered car, grow most of our own vegetables, conserve electricity, have low energy bulbs, don't fly, make do and mend, stay out of debt, support local farmers for the little bit of milk and meat we do have. But most of the time we face folks who think we do it because we are poor (not the case), crazy (maybe a little), or naive.

People are inherently selfish, Sharon--they are programmed to be evolutionarily. They think of survival for themselves, and then maybe their kids, in this present moment. Trying to get many folks to be altruistic is not an easy task.

I honestly don't know if appealing to the future of their children is going to work, because I'm not convinced at least in the States that children are valued that much. Women struggle to parent when working, many corporations only give lip-service to the need for good child care, and children don't even have any guarantee to see a doctor when they need to. You are right--kids are the poverty-stricken, so why is an appeal to their welfare going to be effective if folks care so little about them already? Is it because there is no other way to go about it?

I think what you are trying to do is admirable, but I gave up a long time ago thinking what we do is going to change anybody, apart from ourselves.

Anonymous said...

I honestly don't know if appealing to the future of their children is going to work, because I'm not convinced at least in the States that children are valued that much.

An RV bumper sticker I often see comes to mind here - "I'm spending my children's inheritance."

I think that pretty well sums up the way many folks have lived their entire lives. We've seen this in our attitude towards the environment, we've seen it in our choice of political leaders, we've seen it in the management of our finances, we've seen it in the mismanagement of our supposed social safety net programs (Social Security comes to mind here.)

I think part of the problem is we like to think of ourselves as making considered, rational choices based upon reliable facts and data. Most folks don't - frankly, there are studies that seem to show that none of us really do. We take what we already want to do and then work to build elaborate fantasy justifications around it so that we don't *feel* like we're being irrational, because feeling like we're acting irrationally feels bad.

I personally don't know if I'd go quite so far as to say that's the way we all always make our decisions, but I think it does explain a lot of what I see going on with people in general. I think even the most rational of us operate that way much of the time. The majority of us probably operate that way most of the time. We pick and choose in the idea marketplace only those facts and theories that best fit the decisions we've already made that we need to justify to ourselves and others. If you think about it, it really explains a lot about how our political, religious and social systems actually operate.

Unfortunately, I have to agree that if we had the capacity as a species to fix the problems created by our own selfish short-sightedness, we'd already have some half-way decent track record of actually doing it. But we don't. We don't as individuals, we don't as nations, and we don't as the world in general. That lack of a decent track record doesn't give me much hope of the masses "seeing the light" before the runaway train smacks us down.

Rio said...

On a similar note see "Essential BBC documentaries not shown on US TV" on Daily Kos.

Anonymous said...

On a similar note see "Essential BBC documentaries not shown on US TV" on Daily Kos.

Whooooo. Interesting vids. If they are right, and "consumption is the sedative of the masses," we're in for some... interesting ...times when the economy goes south.

Anonymous said...

I concur with the "anonymous" entries above.

I have been a peace and environmental activist for 30 plus years and I have reluctantly (one never wants to admit it to oneself or to others) come to the sad conclusion that the majority of people as individuals, as cultures and nations, do not want to or cannot change or be enlightened.

Of course, a few individuals will always seek the "good" and be enlightened, but not enough people will pursue the "good" in order to truly change humanity's collective conscience.

The problems we face today as a civilization regarding climate change and violence and war, for example, are too enormous for the "flawed" human species to properly address and correct altruistically. We definitely need a change in our collective conscience to be able to correct the immense problems that confront us.

Sharon, thank you for your work. I shall continue my work as well because it is the right and ethical thing to do for myself, for my family, for the Earth and for every sentient being and living thing (forests included).

"There is such a thing as being too late ... Life often leaves us standing bare, naked, and dejected with lost opportunity. ... Over the bleached bones of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: 'TOO LATE'." MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.


Ani said...

You know, I come to this site not just for Sharon's writing but also for the wonderful conversations and thoughts expressed here, I just wanted to note that it seems that most of the people who post here are really thoughtful, intelligent folks-and if the world was full of more of this-well-maybe we wouldn't be in the pickle we are in....

But seriously Sharon- besides the masses with the brother-in-laws-(maybe they all have the same brother-in-law;) ) how do we sell austerity indeed? Hard to do I think. Marketing seems to appeal to lots of people's inner desires, instincts, baser qualities or whatever but a desire for austerity isn't one of them. And yes, I'd have to concur that it seems as if most people jumping on the "green" bandwagon are trying to show that you can be green and still have it all- the political message where I live seems to be that we will make all sorts of money being green and of course there is job creation. This is true to an extent- but nowhere is there talk of cutting back, using less, etc. Just the zillions to be made by carbon offsets and new technology jobs.....So I'm afraid that austerity is not a message most people, even the eco-aware, want to hear. That is likely why such things as "eco-tourism", carbon offsets for your vacation, etc are becoming so trendy- allows people to still consume and not feel guilt.

riverbird said...

i agree with 'anonymous' and others in that trying to motivate people to altruism or to saving the planet or stopping global warming is beyond most people, especially those living beyond necessity. i believe a more practical and effective approach is putting it in terms of personal benifeit, how they can take care of themnselves.

the problem now though, is that most folks don't see the problems as applying to them, it's all happening 'somwhere else'. my best advice to about anyone is to start thinking about putting a garden in, this is the first step. it will help poorer folks right off, folks who already are don't need talking to because they are on the path already.

those momre affluent who dismiss the notion of gardening themselves will be hit hardest. the primary reason to start a cottage garden now is that it takes a good five years to get going with it. you won't be producing your own food this season, you need a good head start. so for those whoh do nothing, the day the supermarket closes and they have the idea, "hey i could put a garden in" will be too late.

as the economy continues to turn down and down and down, more and more will catch on and for me,. the first step is leaning to get food growing - add in driving less, more efficient elec use and heat, etc, and that person is well on the path, then onto the next. helping neighbors get started would be the next layer.

riverbird said...

also, on asceticism, Sharon, you're right on. in fact i believe that monastic environs are great models for sustainability. they live in near poverty, use as little as necessary, eat sometimes only one mean a day, don't own many gadgets, generally have gardens, no cars, shared housing, etc. in fact modern herbalism was starated by monks.

what people need to understand is that our current lifestyles far exceed actual capacity - this is the bit that most miss, even the eco-minded. they think they can still have all their green goodies and be okay. truth is we all consume too much of everything. those who chosse to cut back will get used to it and adjust well; those who do not will be in for a real shock. so, selfish as it may sound, take care of yourself and your neigbors who are open. those not open to listening or changing will begin to when they get whacked and they'll be coming to your place beggins for carrots and firewood.

jewishfarmer said...

I agree with those who have praised the level of discourse here - I have to say, the comments I get here are always enlightening, always thoughtful, always fascinating - thank you all!

I agree that the odds are good that we'll never create a mass movement to self-sacrifice. I don't agree that the odds are nil. People are indeed selfish. They are also unselfish - and the two things can and do exist simultaneously. Our motivations are extremely complicated - and include not wanting to be seen as a bad person, and a whole host of other things that can be played, if that makes any sense.

Personally I don't think it is either practically or morally wise to give up on larger scale solutions yet - that doesn't mean I think they are especially likely to work, but there are a whole range of definitions of "work" here - at some point, self-sacrifice will become involuntary, and if we have a strategy for enabling people simply to feel better about their suffering, that's worth something. Or perhaps we'll move a tiny bit before that involuntary suffering, and we'll make things a little better, save a few people.

As I write these pieces, it isn't because I believe a full scale coherent narrative of our perfection is ever possible, but that we need to do the work that is necessary for large scale solutions, at the same time that we acknowledge they are likely to be of limited (but not no) value, and work on other levels at the same time. So I garden now, and I write pieces like this one, and I write practical pieces about what to eat when there's not much, and I try and get people to organize groups, and I write the occasional policy piece... it all needs doing.

But my concern is that if we allow our (backed up with lots of evidence) view that what is possible is quite limited at some point we may underestimate what is possible - because periodically people, even large groups of people, exceed the worst (most reasonable) expectations of them. Our reach, so to speak, must exceed our grasp.


Anonymous said...

A point to always keep in mind:

By definition, half the population is below the median for intelligence!

And, intelligence doesn't seem to correlate to common sense or the ability to learn from other people or to not be a jerk. My ex-brother-in-law is a fine example. A lawyer, well educated, whose three wives divorced him (for abuse), a drug addict for more than 35 years, now in jail for abusing and robbing his 95 year old father. You could NEVER tell Ken anything, everything was someone else's fault and he does not have a problem.

There is simply no dealing with people like him. If they learn at all, it has to be the hard way and they resent you for trying to teach them; or succeeding where they fail. Self sacrifice and austerity? It has to be done, I suppose, but teaching pigs to sing may be more fruitful.

Teresa from Hershey

Ani said...

OK- maybe what we're talking about here is the concept of "Social Marketing". If as you note Sharon, nobody wants to be seen as a "bad person", then using the whole concept of "social norms" we have to position over-consumption and associated behaviors in the undesireable category and conversely, promote the concept of earth-caring behavior as the desired "norm".

This would in effect have to be the near total reverse of what we have now- so someone driving a huge SUV with lots of bling would feel ashamed to be seen in it while someone riding the bus would be looked on with approval. There's a good book on Social Marketing-I'm blanking on the title- I once owned it- but maybe that would help.

Anyone know any marketing agencies with a conscience who wants to do some pro bono work?

Anonymous said...

Our motivations are extremely complicated - and include not wanting to be seen as a bad person, and a whole host of other things that can be played, if that makes any sense.

Yes, I know what you are talking about. I have serious reservations about marketing in general, especially social marketing. Yeah, caring more about the environment is a good thing, but I think deliberately and covertly manipulating people's emotions and subconsciouses to get them to do it is not. (*insert standardized priggish slippery-slimey-slope lecture here*)

Rosa said...

Anon, how do you feel about peer pressure? Because that's just person-to-person marketing (as the viral marketers of crap know very, very well.)

Brian M said...

Often times in politics, what looks utterly impossible in one year, has actually happened 10 years later. Look at the US in the 1850s. There was a vocal minority of abolitionists calling for the end of slavery on MORAL grounds, calling for the US to live up to the dictates of its own conscience, and highest principles. And everyone wrote them off as unrealistic idealists, betting on altruism. No one in the US thought it would happen.

But the economics was shifting. Factory work was becoming more important than cotton, and Indian and Egyptian cotton was hurting the markets anyway. There was political turmoil. States rights issues. Slavery got bundled up in industry vs ag fights, and north vs south, and states rights vs central control. And there was war, and the slaves were freed. And people used lots of moral language for it, even though it was bound up with politics and economics too. Or look at 1770 and 1780, US. Or at Russia in 1982 and 1992.

And modern self-sacrifice and austerity IS a moral issue, being cried out by a small minority appealing to altruism at the moment. But there are large political and economic issues just under the surface here. The case is based on conscience, but not JUST on conscience. And soon it will be clearer and clearer how conscience and economic pragmatism go together.

Getting the US as a whole to buy voluntary self-sacrifice for the greater good, is absolutely impossible THIS YEAR. But it will become rapidly possible soon, and we need to lay the groudnwork now, by trying to do it even though it is currently impossible. More and more people are cutting back out of necessity, and will do so soon. How will that be perceived? As people who didn't make quite enough money to keep up the lifestyle of success and thus as failures, or as noble idealists sacrificing for the greater good? We are just about ready to start making virtue of necessity, and that will become more and more tempting in the next few years. The case for voluntary self-sacrifice sounded absolutely insane in Britain in 1933, when people were tired from WWI and wanted no more war, at almost any cost. But Churchhill, began saying war is coming one way or the other and we need to be ready, and by 1939 the rhetoric of sacrifice for the good of Britain didn't sound insane anymore.

On human nature I favor Confucius. Humans are neither naturally good, nor naturally bad, but are naturally ADAPTABLE. In a time of American plenty, and a culture of extreme affluence and status, Americans will adapt to affluence, and many will be selfish spenders. But as the affluence goes away, some will stick to old ways, and some will adapt to new ways. Even today's spendthrifts, will try to find SOME way to justify their (comparative) poverty, when they become much poorer in a few years. And the line that it is a moral statement will be tempting. As will peer pressure. When many people are undergoing austerities other will do it (or at least pretend to) so as not to be targets of other people's anger. As median American's real wealth decreases, people will adapt, and they will change their value systems in the process. It could be ugly and full of class-hatred, or it could be noble with people struggling together to adapt, we'll see. But just because something is impossible now, and has been for the last 40 years, does not mean it will be impossible for the next 10 years too.

Indeed, that is the whole heart of the idea of unsustainability. The system that renders some things mandatory and others forbidden is in the process of passing away, because it CANNOT SUSTAIN itself. Much that is impossible while this system can still pretend to function, will become possible as it becomes clearer and clearer that the system cannot continue in the same way. We may not be able to correct problems ahead of time, but we CAN adapt to the conditions created by those problems, that is something that humans are good at.

-Brian M.

Anonymous said...

If as you note Sharon, nobody wants to be seen as a "bad person", then using the whole concept of "social norms" we have to position over-consumption and associated behaviors in the undesireable category and conversely, promote the concept of earth-caring behavior as the desired "norm".

This would in effect have to be the near total reverse of what we have now- so someone driving a huge SUV with lots of bling would feel ashamed to be seen in it while someone riding the bus would be looked on with approval.

Sigh. Do you have any idea what sort of mob monster could be unleashed if someone were to actually be successful using shame and ostracizing as a behavioral lever on a psychologically vulnerable population within the same time frame that it is also experiencing an economic collapse? During such a time people are going to be looking for scapegoats, and their reactions toward folks who are seen as not being green enough may not stop at mere disapproving looks. Psychological manipulation of the masses is a very dangerous tool.

Btw, figuring out who the "bad guys" are that should be shamed and ostracized is not as simple as it may seem. I have an overall carbon footprint right now of less than half the US norm and am working hard to decrease that by a bit more every month. And I drive an SUV.

jewishfarmer said...

Yes, psychological manipulation of the masses is a dangerous tool - but that isn't the same as saying "and we shouldn't use it" - the reality is that it is going to get used one way or another. If we're to control the discourse at any point, we're going to have to use even the dangerous tools carefully and well.

Think about how powerfully the civil rights movement mobilized psychological manipulation - so much so that any acknowledgement of racist thought is utterly taboo. Making certain actions and ideas utterly unthinkable is simply part of culture change - and it can absolutely be misused.

My guess is that 20 years from now if you are still willing to admit you owned an SUV (and I'm not attacking you on this - I own a minivan which isn't great on mileage - I just don't drive it much, but it is the only way to haul hay and deliver vegetables)you'll be among a very tiny minority - just as now, if you ask in Alabama or Boston, everyone's family was always opposed to racism, and if you go to Germany and ask people what their grandparents did during the war, you'd think there were four Nazis in the whole party. I suspect most people will be convinced that they *were* early adopters, and will conveniently forget the SUVs, the heat at 74, etc...

I'm not arguing that tarring a whole group is problematic - but "problematic" doesn't mean "we can't risk it for fear someone might get inaccurately hurt" - that's not to say we don't have an absolute responsibility to articulate what consequences are appropriate, and be the first people to speak up and draw the line when the scapegoating crosses it, but we have to use public disapproval, even if some environmentally sound owners of low mileage cars suffer a little emotional inconvenience. I'm tough, I can take it.


Brian M. said...

BTW I usually drive a moped (or bike) rather than an SUV, I don't even own one, but an SUV with 6 people in it, going the same place together beats the tar out of my moped for cumulative gas mileage. The problem ISN'T SUVs, its SUVs being used primarily for single passanger trips. Even when gas is much tighter, there will still be a noble environmentalist role for SUVs to play - SUVs packed with people. Indeed, you can kill 2 birds with one stone: gas efficiency, and making connections with neighbors, by organizing SUV pools.

The psychology will change, one way or the other. SUVs are already beginning to be demonized. If environmentalist SUV owners make the case, and actually use them for good, maybe they won't get scapegoated too much. More likely, many forms of conspicious consumption that were major issues of status in the 90s and early 00s, will be targets of censure in the teens. It will be interesting to see what the symbols wind up being.
-Brian M.

Anonymous said...

Yes, psychological manipulation of the masses is a dangerous tool - but that isn't the same as saying "and we shouldn't use it"

Actually, "and we shouldn't use it" was exactly what I meant to say.

We're where we are right now partly because of psychological manipulation by selfish commercial interests, and partly because we are just so darned psychologically manipulate-able. We allow ourselves to be manipulated into wars and pogroms, we allow ourselves to be manipulated into buying stuff we don't need, we allow ourselves to be manipulated into destructive personal behaviors, we allow ourselves to be manipulated into childish cultish behaviors. I think it's getting about time to stop the manipulation. Maybe I'm just a silly naive dreamer, I don't know. But it seems that we're just going to go from one serious mess to another until we finally start growing some mental backbone.

I believe the difference between morals and manipulation is true morality leads by example. I believe we can lead by example the behavior that we believe is right, without the burden of manipulating others into doing our will - and still get better results in the long term. I believe that's a more "sustainable" solution to the problem than trying to micromanage other people's thoughts in response to an impending short-term (in the grand scheme of things, that is) crisis.

Anonymous said...

Brian, I have a gas efficient (in terms of US standards)Toyota Echo that can carry and has seatbelts for 5 non-obese people. No one needs an SUV to carpool or carry stuff. Let's not sugarcoat SUVs!

99.9 percent of SUVs that I see are occupied by one or two individuals. Their use is for frivolous purposes, of course.

Certainly SUVs or their equivalent have always existed and will continue to exist when needed by workers and others. This is o.k. However, these days SUVs are trendy vehicles purchased by arrogant fools in our narcissistic culture.

louise said...

Talk is great, but we need more ideas how those of us at the lower levels of the money scale can actually cut corners. I tried real hard to lower the heat, but I hurt so back I couldn't walk, so the fuel oil stove got set higher....I wear warm clothes, double socks,etc. But, I have the energy saving light bulbs, wash full loads in cold water, just started making my own yogurt, am baking bread, and am canning as much of my food as I am able. I know neighbors and friends think I'm a crazy old lady for canning dried beans when they are so "cheap" in the store. But I also know that they will know where to come when they need food someday. Even handicapped, I have tall raised garden beds in my front yard and try to buy locally in season and preserve all I can get my hands on. Recycle as much as they will take locally. I don't drive, and thanks to neighbors who will take me shopping, I make it a full trip, doing as much as possible while out. Thanks for this column, Sharon and the information and ideas you present.

Anonymous said...

However, these days SUVs are trendy vehicles purchased by arrogant fools in our narcissistic culture.

We purchased our SUV because:

1) We wanted to be able to seat 7 people when we go places with our family and friends, so we didn't have to take two vehicles just to go on an outing.

2) It has all-wheel drive, and also handles well on icy roads, something that is important where we live.

3) It has a five star safety rating.

4) It allows me to make fewer trips to the store, since we always combine errands as well as buy our garden supplies, pet supplies and groceries in bulk.

5) It was available locally, used, at a price we could afford.

You will please note that ostentation, narcissism and arrogance are not on this list of reasons for our purchase of an SUV.

Anonymous said...

If environmentalist SUV owners make the case, and actually use them for good, maybe they won't get scapegoated too much.

No such luck. Stones are already a'flying. Duck!!! ;-)

riverbird said...

on social marketing:
i believe a tthe end of the day what we're really getting at is is a spiritual transformation. one cannot come to altruism throuugh reason or from an outside lecture or even shame. maybe the behavior would look similar, and that would be a start. but ultimately, this is a transformation that can only come from within oneself. so if we really want to steer people toward altruism, we maybe best steer them toward a spiritual practice - of any flavor is better than none.

jewishfarmer said...

Anonymous, I get that you are saying this, but I'm a bit lost - how is it that we lead by example with perfect non-judgement. That is, how do we combat racism without saying "racism isn't ok, and we're going to put social pressure on you not to act like a bigoted creep." Can you explain what it is you are envisioning?

I admit, the tragedies of SUV (or other high mileage vehicle) owners being misjudged as polluters isn't high on my list of "worst tragedies of the global warming debacle." But perhaps I'm not understanding you fully.


Brian M. said...

A Toyota Echo is plausible for a family of 4 or 5 but a bad solution for a family of 6 or 7. (Heck, my family still drives something much cheaper than a used Echo when we drive). Often a minivan can do better than an SUV even for many people. Heck these days even that "non-obese" is a pretty big assumption, a really depressing percentage of Americans ARE obese. We can decry it, but that is the reality we are working with.

SUVs are overwhelming driven when not full in our culture. I agree. However, we already have a lot of them, and they CAN BE DRIVEN FULL. They actually DO get good collective gas mileage WHEN THEY ARE DRIVEN FULL. I am not trying to sugarcoat SUVs, I am trying to talk about how to make the best use of them.

Our suburbs are poorly planned housing units designed to values that I do not agree with. But we have a LOT of them. If we give up on suburbs we will not cope well with the coming problems. Instead we need to find ways to retrofit them to be more viable in low energy lifestyles. We could convert some of the larger houses into commercial facilities so that suburbanites could walk/bike to some of their destinations. We could subdivide some dwellings into multi-family units. We could use the huge lawns for grazing goats or horses, or cut the trimmings and feed them to rabbits, or rip up many of the lawns for gardening. I am not sugarcoating suburbs, I am saying that that is what we have, and that is what we will have to find uses for. In the same way, we will have to find uses for the many SUVs we have already built, regardless of what the motives for building them were, or for buying them used.

As for the other anonymous "going from one serious mess to another" is a pretty good description of what History is. We are working on the mental backbones, we are, but it is slow going, and the powers that be weaken backbones at least as often as we strengthen them. Expect plenty more messes before that process is complete. Besides leading by example sure looks like manipulation to me, you are trying to get others to follow you right? It may be one of the most moral forms of manipulation, but it still looks like manipulation to me. Giving up on manipulation requires a fair bit of wu wei, and the fast of the heart (see Zhuangzi chap 4). Very few people are willing to go there, much less live there.

jewishfarmer said...

I think Brian has put his finger properly on it. The idea that we will have the choice of completely recreating our infrastructure - transport, housing, even methods of making social change - is, I think, fundamentally false. We don't have time. We're going to use what we have - not demolish suburbia and rebuild perfect new urbanist models. We're not going to get monorails to every town, we're going to get 10 people in those SUVs, some of them sitting on other people's laps, as we find it more and more necessary to sacrifice perfect security for being able to afford to get around.

The thing is, peak oil and climate change combine to make us poorer - so we're going to be more like poor people all over the world, who pretty much have to make do with what they have.

And we have the same tools we always had for getting people to do things - and one of them is social pressure. The reality is that all moral judgement depends on social pressure - "thou shalt not kill" doesn't work just through role modelling, but with a host of strong disincentives to hack annoying people to death. This is not evil - that is, all judgement and social disapproval are not evil.

Now it is true that some people may get caught and unjustly, imperfectly be judged. So what? I get judged all the time for a whole host of things, some fair (in my estimation) some not (again in my estimation) - I'm a grownup, and while I'm not immune to whinging about it, I don't think it is that big a deal. The reality is that sometimes we all have to take one for the team ;-).

Frankly, I'm writing a position paper right now about how we should disincentivize people to have as many children as I do. I'm not a total fool - I realize that the politics I'm engaging in will probably, if they succeed, make my choices look even worse and draw even more trolls down on my head. So? Do we really have the luxury of using only pure, perfectly untainted methodology (if such a thing exists)? My own take is that I'd rather use the dangerous tools, risk losing something, and succeed a little, rather than fail and remain pure.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous, I get that you are saying this, but I'm a bit lost - how is it that we lead by example with perfect non-judgement. That is, how do we combat racism without saying "racism isn't ok, and we're going to put social pressure on you not to act like a bigoted creep." Can you explain what it is you are envisioning?

Social pressure from conscientious individuals isn't the same as deliberate psychologically manipulative social marketing crafted for the purpose of controlling the behavior of the masses. The first honors the right and responsibility of the individual and society to make moral choices, the other treats people as beasts to be conditioned and herded onto the "right path" by those who think they know what the "right path" is.

I admit, the tragedies of SUV (or other high mileage vehicle) owners being misjudged as polluters isn't high on my list of "worst tragedies of the global warming debacle." But perhaps I'm not understanding you fully.

You're thinking too narrowly.

What I'm trying to say is that social marketing is a two-edged sword. Yes, it can produce some change - at least on the surface. But it can also unleash some pretty horrific behavioral demons, especially during times of stress. When you stir frightened people up and give them a "righteous cause" and a target to hang their hidden aggressions on, you get demonization, stereotyping, verbal abuse and witch-hunting. You also get people who are even more conditioned to and susceptible to manipulation by others with perhaps less altruistic motives in the future.

What you generally don't get are people who have learned to think for themselves and make good choices about how to live. And that's what we need in order to have a sustainable change. I think Riverbird has the right idea.

Anonymous said...

My own take is that I'd rather use the dangerous tools, risk losing something, and succeed a little, rather than fail and remain pure.

Well, that's a choice we're all going to have to make - and then live with the consequences, including those intended and unforeseen. So, may your consequences be small and your success great.

Anonymous said...

"Problems cannot be solved by using the same instruments that created the problems." -Albert Einstein

jewishfarmer said...

Fair enough, Anonymous. Honestly, I haven't advocated social marketing, and don't have a strong opinion on it myself - that was someone else's idea.

But I do think that we have a nation of people trained to respond to advertising - I'm an ambitious sort, but I tend to think that completely overhauling that part of our collective consciousness may be too big a project in the short time we have left to adapt. And since the opposition will use marketing, I'm reluctant to lose. The problem is that the moral high ground hasn't always gotten us very far.

And yes, all sharp tools have multiple edges.


Ani said...

Look-I'm not advocating using marketing to urge people to stone those who drive SUVs or something. I AM pointing out that it is a very effective tool- we are advertised to all the time- look at the results-they're all around us. People obviously respond to being marketed to in one way or another so if we can use it to encourage people to live lightly on the earth instead of just having it used to sell potato chips-why not?

And yes- social norms is somewhat manipulative- but if we do it for good? Consider how it is used to for instance help college kids recognize that their peers are NOT all dead drunk every night- that it is NOT the norm to do this, etc. It can be used very successfully to reposition people's thinking- to realize that what you assume everyone does is not necessarily the case for instance. So too it could be used for good to advocate for environmental change as we have to change people's basic way of looking at their lifestyle and the impacts of the choices they make.

I don't have a problem with using it for these purposes.And just as was mentioned, should we have a problem with for instance conveying the message that racists are not OK, or homophobes or sexists or wife-beaters or pedophiles are out-of-line? Society sets these standards all of the time.

Anonymous said...

So moral standards can be set for not driving gas inefficient cars -- SUVs being the ultimate symbol of American affluence and waste. Just ask a foreigner suffering under the tentacles of the empire.


"America is a Bully"

Brian M said...

Social change needs symbols, and will create suitable one if they are not already present. And it will need demonized symbols of evil. Maybe SUVs will be those symbols of evil. If so everyone will hate SUVs so much that people will be afraid to use them. And we will have to get our transport systems to kinda work without even using them. In my opinion nothing says "ultimate symbol of affluence and waste" quite like disposable plastic bottles of WATER. And fast food is pretty close behind. And Starbucks lattes are pretty widely hated too. And Microsoft. And Walmart. The key symbols COULD wind up being something other than SUVs, but yes SUVs certainly seem to be front runners at the moment. At least SUVs are designed to be genuinely useful for a while (albeit wastefully and aggressively so). But hey maybe SUVs will wind up being the swastikas of the next crisis. Heck maybe we'll start calling massive 'burb manors, SUVfarms instead of McMansions. These terms are all road signs on the highways of resentment.

But I don't see anyway at all to prevent an awful lot of resentment from bubbling to the surface in the next decade. Even if the environmentalists refrain from societal marketing, do you think the political organizations and lobbyists will refrain? Do you think that the corporations won't use societal marketing in the process of greenwashing their new products for the market? Hidden aggressions, stereotyping, witch-hunting, demonizing, verbal abuse: we're going to get all that anyway. Heck we get that from the political and marketing status quo all the time anyway, and it is only going to be worse the more pinched and desperate people feel. Many first worlders will see their lifestyles declining and that is always a recipe for ugliness and resentment. Heck, I have to work hard not to resent the previous generations that got us into this mess in the first place. It makes sense to try to prevent people from bickering, resenting and hating each other, where possible, to build bridges and unity and cooperation where possible. But these things are not fully preventable; they are part of the price of a free-press and a democratic system. The free-press means people can express their darker emotions when they choose to, the competitive marketplace, and democratic competition for votes give them an incentive to voice darker emotions and spew venom. The screw ups of the past, the massive inequalities and the tendency of those on top to flaunt what they have means there will be plenty of dark emotions to vent. Ugliness is going to happen, how ever much the environmentalists take the high road. So we need to spend some effort defusing ugliness, especially between potential allies, but don't expect that anyone has the power to prevent this stuff. Each of us has a real impact on culture, but culture is bigger than any of us, and we cannot control it fully.

-Brian M.

daharja said...

I don't think the whole self-sacrifice thing wll work.

The difference between now and wartime is that the crisis in wartime ended. People knew in their hearts (although they might not have felt it at the time) that the self-sacrifice was a short-term measure. And when your home has just been bombed (like my grandmother's was)and you're there pushing a baby carriage between the wreckage of the Blitz in London, it's a whole lot easier to believe in a crisis than it is currently, where far-off dangers we can't quite see are happening to people we don't know personally. And the self-self-sacrifice we're being asked to make isn't just for now. It's for eternity.

Then there's the fact that so many big power holders are not going to encourage self-sacrifice. Why would McDonalds encourage you to eat fewer burgers? Why would Wal-Mart encourage you to be frugal? Why would the petrol companies encourage you to buy less petrol?

And why would the government, that gets so many billions of dollars in undisclosed 'donations' from the above, encourage people to make sacrifices, and bite the hand that is feeding them the aforementioned 'donations'?

It isn't going to happen.

As much as I'd like people to be frugal, be sensible, be vegan, stop buying so much rubbish, stop driving unnecessarily, and do all the stuff that we're doing and trying to do, I can't see it happening. Especially when the massed majority watch TV every night and TV tells them to do the exact opposite.

Realistically, I think we're probably looking at a very rough time ahead for humanity, several billion dead, and our great-grandchildren (if any survive) cursing us for our greed, our foolishness, our laziness, and our lack of wisdom in selecting leaders who were honest and willing to make change and lead the transformation of society that we all so desperately need.

Paul Noeldner said...

Milk Guilt - it's almost as powerful as fear, and has the most effect in the hearts of folks most willing to currently ignore waste and greed. I say there's nothing wrong with finding ways to convince folks who followed George the Decider of Dumb Decisions to ignore global warming and global environmental ethics and human ethics, to pay a larger share of the 'tax on stupidity' that we are all going to have to pay. Guilt provides a means to implement a progressive tax of retribution for in proportion to excess of prior deeds.

Anonymous said...

As much as I'd like people to be frugal, be sensible, be vegan, stop buying so much rubbish, stop driving unnecessarily, and do all the stuff that we're doing and trying to do, I can't see it happening. Especially when the massed majority watch TV every night and TV tells them to do the exact opposite.

I agree. TV feel-good messages are going to be way stronger than anything the sacrifice side can dream up, simply because it wraps around people's primal needs and gives them what they really want. It gives them permission to keep doing what they are already doing and what they want to continue doing. The glowing box that sits in nearly every house in this country does much more than entertain - it shapes our culture and our thoughts and behaviors in ways that are very hard to undo.

Voluntary sacrifice and change will happen, but it will always be on a fairly small scale, comparatively. If things go the way it looks like they might go, with droughts and famine and prices through the roof at the same time economies are collapsing because of a lack of cheap energy to fuel them, then there will be a lot of people who will suffer greatly. The one bright spot in that scenario is that the people who tried to unplug from the prevalent culture of waste and greed and started early to learn to live in the new world may do marginally better at surviving than most, and when humanity comes out the other side perhaps we'll be just a little bit wiser for it.

Anonymous said...

In response to the norms thread:

Part of the problem here is that people are both individual and social. We are individual in that we each care about having a good life (however we define that). We are also social. We need our fellow human beings in order to survive and thrive. The fact that we are both individual and social means that we live in tension. That tension sometimes leads us to do things that benefit ourselves, even though they are not good for the group as a whole. Societies have four ways of overcoming this problem (helping people to act in prosocial rather than self-interested ways):

1. Individuals. We can try to educate people, affect their motives, etc. In essence we try to strengthen people's pro-social motivation.
2. Government. Rather than try to change individuals we accept that people are self-interested and use penalties to motivate them to avoid bad behavior.
3. Markets. Rather than fight self-interest by punishing self-interested action (as governments do), markets can harness individual's self-interest, knowledge, and expertise in ways that improve the collective welfare.
4. Groups and Networks. All three of these approaches treat people as individuals. But, we live our lives embedded in social groups and networks. These groups and networks are conduits of information. They also exert social pressure. The norms that re enforced through groups and networks can be powerful. But they are often overlooked as a tool for making social change.

Given the enormity of the problem, it may be unwise to toss out any of these tools. We may need them all.....


Ani said...


DavidM said...

Great post and interesting discussion! I'm a bit late in posting, so I don't know if anyone will see this, but...

The book on social marketing is...

Fostering Sustainable Behavior: An Introduction to Community-Based Social Marketing, by McKenzie-Mohr, Doug , Smith, William

This book promotes the idea of using community-based social marketing to overcome barriers to long lasting behavior change related to sustainability issues. This book points out that “the diversity of barriers which exist for any sustainable activity means that information campaigns alone will rarely bring about behavior change.” The tools that are effective include gaining commitments from individuals that they will try a new activity; and developing community norms that encourage people to behave more sustainably. From the blurb: “This ground-breaking book is the primary resource for the emerging new field of community-based social marketing, and an invaluable guide for anyone involved in designing public education programs with the goal of promoting sustainable behavior, from recycling and energy efficiency, to alternative transportation.”

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