Have you read In Defense of Food? Do you know American author Michael Pollan and his role in the healthy food movement? Pollan very simply and effectively describes his approach to the complex problem of changing to healthier, more sustainable food choices in seven words: “Eat Food, Mostly Plants, Not Too Much.”
To shape my own practice, I developed a similar mantra as an organizing structure for moving us forward. The first two parts are simple statements based on research-based conclusions. The final flourish is just plain reality:
Raise Awareness; Boost Contagion
Count On Disaster
Humans respond to issues relatable to their current or desired situation. They need an opportunity to see how the issue affects them in a way that matters, and to imagine achievable, acceptable actions to create change.
To catch on, new ways often need a boost. Composting, generating energy, choosing alternative packaging and products must become the choice for more of us, but the change can be slow. Trends, legal compliance, incentivized choices, even opt-out instead of opt-in choices, are ways to boost contagion of a new behavior.
For creating change, when all else fails, we can Count on Disaster.
The"Disaster" can be costly mandates, changed regulations, or climate-related events. The force will trigger change where awareness and social signals have not. Only after a serious and damaging storm event, with the ever-present nuisance of rising daily tides, is there change in a coastal community. Urgency and focus appear with a new law, an extended heat wave, or cold snap.
In our climate work, let's use awareness-raising (through knowledge, skill-building, and conservation communication), and positive contagion (shared learning, responsible standards, cooperative solutions) to build a climate movement among cultural institutions and their audiences. The goal is to create our own change, not to let disaster do it for us.
Let's learn how to best do the work to mitigate and avoid damage to our communities and the world around us.