The Country Diary of a GenX Woman

Dangerous Waters-Promoting Sustainability

160513 003Someone asked me yesterday how to promote the benefits of sustainability to a world weary and sceptical public.  It made me think of the disconnect between science/industry and the general public.  The public is concerned with day to day living, and often the only “communication” is from worst case scenario media statements. There is no sense of urgency or incentive to change when hearing about what could happen in 20, 50, 100 or even 10 years.

They all follow the same formula “This disastrous thing could happen if this other thing does or doesn’t happen”

o Bird Flu – 5m people could die if Bird Flu Mutates and spreads human to human
o SARS – 200,000 could die if this spreads beyond…
o Climate Change – The Great Barrier Reef could die if temperatures rise by 5 degrees

Shock tactics haven’t worked to reduce the road toll in the target audience of young male drivers, and they have moved to positive messages, like the belt up- You’re worth holding on to ads.  For promoting sustainability, I think it would help if we actually talked about the good things that are happening, and their associated benefits rather than focusing on the dramatic what could happen if.

CBSM and changing behaviours through legislation/subsidies e.g.- rainwater tanks and solar panels are an effective way to increase the momentum for change in society.  When people have a rainwater tank they are interested in water, if they have solar panels they are cautious about the power they use. It also becomes a challenge to generate more than they use and more importantly they talk about their achievements.

However, industry often shoots itself in the foot, I can’t tell you how many papers I have seen/read saying that rain water tanks will never pay for themselves as scheme water is so cheap….if we just look at economics, we will never get there – although pricing water so it is seen as more valuable would help.

Column inches are freely given to people either with an ego-maniacal need to be heard or a funding barrow to push.  They just propose something that could happen if a certain set of circumstances is met.  There is no need for any proof or even a strong likelihood that it will happen.  Just hypothesise a theory and send it out as a press release and the mainstream media prints it.   Obviously it helps if you have some qualifications in the field you’re talking about, but a strong opinion is often more important.  Other tips to guarantee publication, make it scary with big numbers or death or disease, as the media (and government) thrives on fear.

o Woolly Mammoths could re-evolve it we enter a new ice age.
o Australia could lose its car industry if it doesn’t evolve to make smaller cars
o The world could run out of natural gas if we use it all up

When more column inches are devoted to gay marriage than water and sustainability it is just not seen as an important issue.

Thanks to the Western Australian Skeptics who have written about this dangerous substance, as well as carrots and bread on their website

Scientists have recently demonstrated the wide-spread presence of the compound dihydrogen monoxide within the human population. This insidious substance:

1. Has been detected in all cancerous tissues.

2. Has been known to contribute to the incidence of human death by asphyxiation.

3. Has been implicated as a common contaminant of cereal based yeast-fermented beverages, typically introduced during the dispensing process.

4. Has been directly implicated in increased urine output in humans and chimpanzees.

5. Is a major component of genetically modified crops.

6. Has been observed to decrease libido in cold climates when applied externally in copious quantities.

7. Has been known to impair the function of computers and other electronic devices.

8. Has been shown to cause unsightly puckering of the dermis.

9. Has been shown to reduce the effectiveness of drugs as the concentration of dihydrogen monoxide in the mixture increases beyond certain tolerance levels.

On the other hand, the compound has received wide acceptance for its medical efficacy within the homeopathic community.





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Inspired by The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady