Tag Archives: behavior

“The time for small changes is over”

Small and big changes are necessary to meet the challenges facing our earth. As I begin this blog, I ask myself how: we can meet the challenges of climate change and the depletion of our earth’s resources? How can humans live sustainably?

I recently read two articles that addressed these questions.  In “Begging for Small Change,” Dr. Tom Crompton in an article for the BBC says,

“Of course, it’s helpful for people to switch to energy-efficient light bulbs, or turn their central heating down; cumulatively, such changes will have a beneficial impact.

…In fact, some research shows that, for a significant number of people, the opposite is true. Having embraced one simple change, some people then tend to rest on their laurels and be less likely to engage in other more significant changes.”

He explains how a green consumer can paradoxically create more waste. Dr. Crompton also proposes positive solutions for change, among them:

“We need a different approach to motivating people to change; one which stems from a re-examination of the values upon which this change is built.

Studies find that people who engage in behaviour in pursuit of “intrinsic” goals – such as personal growth, community involvement, or a sense of connection with nature – tend to be more highly motivated and more likely to engage in environmentally friendly behaviour than individuals who are motivated by “extrinsic” goals – that is, financial success, image and the acquisition of material goods.”

Read the complete article: Begging for more than small change

The subject of overconsumption is discussed in Crompton’s article and also in Too Many People, Too Much Consumption by Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich of Stanford University. They discuss how humans have been depleting the earth’s resources “as if there were no tomorrow.”

“Four decades after his controversial book, The Population Bomb, scientist Paul Ehrlich still believes that overpopulation — now along with overconsumption — is the central environmental crisis facing the world. And, he insists, technological fixes will not save the day.”

Their pointed remarks about consumption resonate with me as an American and hit home:

“Consumption is still viewed as an unalloyed good by many economists, along with business leaders and politicians, who tend to see jacking up consumption as a cure-all for economic ills. Too much unemployment? Encourage people to buy an SUV or a new refrigerator. Perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell, but third-rate economists can’t think of anything else. Some leading economists are starting to tackle the issue of overconsumption, but the problem and its cures are tough to analyze. Scientists have yet to develop consumption condoms or morning-after-shopping-spree pills.”

The Ehlrichs provide inspiring remarks for positive change:

“We’ll continue to hope and work for a cultural transformation in how we treat each other and the natural systems we depend upon. We can create a peaceful and sustainable global civilization, but it will require realistic thinking about the problems we face and a new mobilization of political will.”

Read the complete compelling article Too Many People, Too Much Consumption.

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