Green social media

Why the green sector needs to get better at Social Media and web — part one

Environmental professionals, especially in the public sector, need to get better at utilizing social media as part of their work. The following post explains why, and gives you a few ready-to-use pointers to take you that extra mile.

The green field is missing out and falling behind

I keep coming back to this subject, simply because it’s important.

As someone who lives on the internet, it pains me to time and time again see amazing products and organizations miss their audience because they don’t know how to navigate social media and behavioral change strategies.

It’s the reason I switched from working as an environmental planner to working as a copywriter. There are so many passionate professionals out there who get up every day and work themselves to the bones to make the world a better place.

But I saw them struggling with reaching their goals and falling behind in terms of communication. Often the “script” of a communication campaign would follow the same script as the ones I remember from my childhood.

Use less energy, save water and do it for future generations.

These campaigns are heavy on facts and appeal to the better nature in. They ask us to make better choices, and basically be better humans. The problem is, they don’t work.

I came across these campaigns all the time and was frustrated out of my skull. Why? Because I knew that only a few tips and tricks could help them make an enormous difference.

I wanted to give professionals in the green industry the tools they needed to make those changes happen. After a few years of frustration, I switched carrier path. I now work full-time writing copy for websites, newsletters, and social media. I also teach these techniques to my clients, so they don’t have to depend on me.

Social media is no longer an online identity – it is part of your identity.

If you’re not online, you don’t exist.

 

The green industry is no different.

 

You don’t have to beat your green competitors!

The beauty of the environmental sector is, you don’t with other green organizations or products. If done right, information campaigns promoting behavioral change, do not compete with other behavioral change campaigns. You are not a soft drink, trying to outmaneuver other soft drinks.

We need all hands on deck to make the world a more sustainable place. Luckily, the communication strategies that work for pro-environmental behavior are so good you don’t have to fight other companies in a green arena. Your success does not mean another green organization has to fail.

But you still need to work hard and stay visible, so you don’t lose ground to non-sustainable solutions.

Bringing the green sector into the age of the internet — and social media

 

Being a kid in the 80’s and 90’s I remember the marketing slogan: Sex sells.

Selling climate change prevention and mitigation as sexy is hard, and a rather inept thing to do. You would never promote 3rd world aid as sexy, it’s insensitive and very inappropriate. Good news! Sex isn’t the only sales tool anymore.

For the last decade describing an ad as sexy has referred less to the physical cleavages and abs of the 80’s and 90’s and more to a sense of ‘Shiny’.

So does the environmental sector need to get shiny?

Yes and no. The world is a very different place than it was just ten years ago. In the world of marketing, this manifests itself in the way that authenticity sells more than sparkles.

 

I repeat: Authenticity sells

 

WOOP WOOP! This is great news for the environmental sector as it is if full of passionate and inspiring, authentic individuals. The bad news is these individuals usually don’t feel comfortable navigating the social media jungle. Often, they even to downplay their media presence on purpose.

 

The WHY, the passion, and the story

Authenticity is scary and daunting, and if you —like me— remember a time before the internet you probably don’t have an urge to create a youtube channel, or write about your innermost secret online.

But this is what vast parts of the internet is now. Liza Koshy, an internet celebrity with over 40 million online followers, announced her breakup with fellow youtube celebrity David Dobrik via a youtube video. I dare you to watch and not get something in your eye.

You might be thinking, yeah well, all of these people are going to regret plastering the internet like this. But this is the equivalent of my older generations telling my peers and me, that we would regret spending so much time playing video games. We didn’t. In fact, we all have great memories of those games and it shaped who we became as individuals, and as a culture. To spell it out:

 

Being vulnerable and authentic online isn’t something we’re going to regret. It’s the new normal.

 

Is scary, it’s new, and it feels like it goes against everything you know. But you need to show more of yourself and your values if you want to create trust.

Your audience what to know ‘Why’ you are doing what you are doing. Why are you selling biodegradable cutlery, why are you working to prevent deforestation, and in my case why are you writing about behavioral change online instead of having a normal 9-5? That also why the ‘About’ page on your website is crucial to your business.

 

So does this mean that you should get rid of your filter and just show the gritty you? No. Youtube videos are edited, Instagram pictures are selected from a batch of 10 different shots and have filters.

And the mother of social media, Facebook, is always showing you the brightest moments of the day — Not the moment where you realize you’ve had something green stuck in your teeth for the entire team meeting.

 

Social Media is more like a first date. It’s an honest representation of you, but you make an effort to look nice. You pick out a nice outfit, you groom yourself, and you show an interest in the other person. It’s still you, but it’s a very presentable side of you.

If you, on the other hand, show up to a first date in your Sunday jammies you’re placing yourself in the back of the field.

It’s the same thing with social media. You show off your best features while remaining honest. Hopefully, this (virtual) date, will lead to a lasting connection between you, and your audience.

But I’m too busy making the world better – I don’t have time for updates

This is the pitfall for most people in the green sector. They work tirelessly to improve the state of the world. Taking time to post about in on Facebook, or take a picture for Instagram, seems like time wasted.

I get it, I’m the same.

You would rather be doing your job than tweeting about your job.

But the world has changed a lot, and social media is a crucial element for success. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling eco-friendly swimwear or building drought protection in Africa, get online!

One solution is to hire someone to do it for you. If this is not an option for you right now, keep reading to get hands-on advice. Don’t worry, I’m right here with you, and we’ll take it slow.

Going back to the dating analogy, you might feel nervous about putting yourself out there. You want everything to be perfect before you start. Forget about it.

Like I said authenticity sells. There is no such thing as the perfect social media campaign or perfect strategy. But there are a few rules of thumbs.

One of them is simply knowing how your target audience act on the internet, and what the trends are.

 

Memes, emojis, and fads – know your audience

The first time I used Snap(chat) as a verb, I got mad street cred from my stepdaughter while her dad stared blankly from the other side of the table and asked: ‘what’?

If you have kids, you’ll know that they are on top of fashion and trends in a way that’s hard for you to comprehend. If you are trying to change the behavior of teenagers, you need a campaign that targets — and a lot of patience.

 

If this picture makes no sense to you, you really need to read the rest of this post.

 

But even if you are targeting adults, you need to be aware of the unique language that makes up the internet.

The web is built on jokes and references that people know and cherish. Some are obvious, and some are not. Having success on social media requires you to understand what memes, and emojis your audience likes. Just like you need to know how your audience acts on the internet.

How the internet works — Lessons from Tesla

Regardless of what you think of Tesla, they know how the internet works.
In 2014, which is almost generations ago in internet time, Tesla released all their patents in the hope of pushing the global EV production further.

It was, as the CEO Elon Musk put it, in the spirit of the open source movement, which was sweeping the internet at the time. But more importantly, the news took the internet with storm when Tesla paired it with the words:

All Our Patent Are Belong To You

If you were not a citizen of the internet at the time, this looked like an awkward spelling error. Embarrassing, right?  Nope. It was, in fact, a stroke of genius.

It references the meme All Your Base Are Belong to Us, which is a classical internet meme.

By choosing this headline, anyone who was in on the joke was likely to share the news, and help give it a viral life on the web, instead of “just” a news story about a car manufacturer who for some reason was giving away all their secrets.

In fact, Musk has a long history of working the internet to mainstream knowledge about new technologies, like appearing on the Wait but why blog, and latest introducing flamethrowers and cyborg dragons.

 

Why it worked — Building trust

Using memes and internet slang that your audience uses, is equivalent to showing them, that you speak the same language as them – You are on their team. It feeds into a culture and therefore a sense of belonging. It very simply builds trust and rapport.

I’ve heard green professionals protest to this approach with the question: But isn’t that manipulation?

You can answer that better than me: Are you manipulating people when you are having a conversation with them, in their native language?

Striped of body language and why to use emojis — Get social

Speaking in a mutual language shows the person you’re talking to, that you understand them, and share their values. The same rule applies on the web.

It’s something most of us do per default when meeting new people. We tend to find subjects we have in common, and even start to copy each others body language. This is a natural part of human communications. The reason it feels weird on social media is because it’s happening on a new platform.

The internet still feels like something different from “normal” human behavior. But, understand that the line between “normal human behavior” and internet behavior, are getting blurrier by the day.

Showing someone that you are part of their culture is called mirroring. Well known in social psychology, mirroring is the act of copying each others body language, either consciously or subconsciously.

If you want to see this effect in full action, find a couple who is on their first date. Watch how they tend to sip their water at the same time, straighten their back in the same way, and so on.

On the internet, you don’t have the luxury of using body language to communicate. This is part of the reason why emojis and memes should be a natural part of your online presence.

 

There are many numbers floating around referring to how much of our communication is verbal, and how much is non-verbal.  One of them is the 55-38-7 rule, also known as Albert Mehrabian’s rule. This is the belief is that 55% of communication is body language, 38% is the tone of voice, and 7% is the actual spoken or written words. This rule has been much debated and to a high degree debunked, because of the uncertainty about the percentile.

To put it in another way, we know body language and tone of voice are dominant in communication, we just don’t know how much.

 

A world without Verbal communication

Verbal and Non-verbal communication complement each other and brings the message home faster. We can all relate to being a kid and hearing our mother say ‘come here.’

Happy mom — something green

You know from the tone in her voice and the look in her eyes if you’re about to get a snuggle or a talking to.

But imagine if you only had the words to work with. You would have to go to your mom and ask follow-up questions to figure out what she wanted.

Without emojis and other communications tools (like brakes, quotation marks, exclamation marks, cursive and so on), the internet is an eternal struggle for our brain to figure out what the person on the other end is saying, and how their feeling.

 

Ever had an e-mail from a coworker where you’re not sure if they approve of your work, or hate it? If you’re like me, you’ll spend a fair amount of time thinking about what they mean, and how to reply. If it had been a face-to-face conversation, instead of e-mail, you would know for sure.

Unfortunately, the busier we are, the more inclined we are to leave out the little ‘good job’ or happy emoji at the end of the e-mail, because we default to writing the way we speak, not remembering that we also speak with our body’s.

Wow, that was a lot of information. Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but we’re still not done.

The internet is possibly the most powerful weapon in the history of mankind. Without going further into the negative sides like election manipulation, the spreading of fake news, and polarisation, the internet can be a tool for positive change.

 

In the next post, I break down how you can use the force of the web, to change the world.

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There is no unreachable audience! Making recycling sexy – and fun

This post looks at how the so-called hard-to-reach audiences can be addressed in a creative, and somewhat surprising way. Environmental communication at its best.

Warning: This post contains crude language.

 

When working in the environmental sector, you’ll come across a target audience that’s considered hard to reach.

I’ve talked about the importance of knowing your audience before, but in the field of sustainability one segment stands out as the infamous impossible-audience.

These are the ‘I don’t care’ people.

I don’t want to get slapped with the prejudice hammer, but this audience also often consists of males working in construction, carpentry, and similar jobs.

Environmental Communication Recycling

 

The following is a great example of why you should never give up when you encounter a hard audience or experience a push back.

 

Boys will be..?

My brother works as the department manager in a company that produces industrial size printers.

 

It is a very male-dominated workplace, and the tone is often crude and with sexual tones. We all know workplaces like that.

 

That last time I saw my brother, he told me about his latest team meeting.

 

He runs a team of 14 men. Once a week they have a team meeting to address work-related matters.

At the last meeting, my brother had made and brought with him a little game (this is where it gets crude).

 

The Game

He pulled to pieces of paper out and said:

I brought a game with me. I want you to solve this puzzle. What do the signs say?’

 

He held up the first sign: ‘Puh

Then, he dramatically said the word and got his team to join in, in a collective ‘Puuh!

 

He held up the second sign: ‘Say

Again, with a dramatical flair, he got his whole team on board: ‘Say!’

What do the signs spell out?

Puhhh-saaaay’, ‘Puh-say’, ‘Pu**y!’.

(Yes, I’m bleeping the above. Hopefully, you get it. If not, ask a friend. Not a coworker, not a family member, but a friend)

 

My brother got a big laugh from around the table, and a couple of groin-related jokes.

 

I have one more’ he said, and pulled out two additional pieces of paper. The second round was about to start.

 

Onl’. He looked in anticipation and got the table to join in. ‘Ooonl’.

Paapr’. The crowd joined in. ‘Paapr!

 

My bother continued ‘Onl –paapr’ ‘Only-paapr’ ‘ONLY-PAPER!

 

He pointed to the recycling bin in the corner of the room.

That bin is only for paper’, he said to the perplexed crowd.

 

Yesterday I saw someone had put a banana peel in it. If we throw biodegradable in the paper bin, and that goes to the treatment facility, we might end up contaminating a ton of paper because it rots and spreads bacteria. Then the paper can’t be recycled and has to be burned. Waste of money, waste of resources. So can we now agree that Onl Paapr goes in the bin?

 

He had everyone’s attention. They nodded and verbally confirmed. The bin was for paper only.

 

 

Just to recap, that’s 14 men, who just laughed at a pu**y joke, now agreeing that it’s important to recycle. When was the last time you heard about something like that?

Recycle paper

 

Why it worked — Environmental Communication at its best

 

My brother’s a smart cookie and there’s a reason why he’s head of his department at such a young age. He’s also been forced to listen to my ramblings about recycling and psychology for, well, a long time.

He knows that telling his men off, and mentally hitting them in the head with something as uninteresting to them as recycling, isn’t going to work.

Furthermore, he knows he needs their attention, and that laughter is a much better tool than fear, and being told off.

 

He broke their mental barrier to recycling by inserting it right after a locker-room joke.

 

The first joke was a setup, introducing them to a game where the reward would be a dirty word. By doing that, he had them all on the edge of their seats, trying to spot the dirty word in the second round. What would it be this time? Even dirtier?

 

They were open to taking in new information. They were engaged, trying to be the first to figure out the next word.

And bam! Information about recycling.

 

You might be wondering why it’s even a big deal getting this segment onboard the recycling train. Because daily environmental actions, like recycling, open up a door for a deeper conversation about sustainability. It’s your entry point to substantial change.

 

The takeaway — you can make it sexy!

 

No target group is impossible to reach. I repeat:

No target group is impossible to reach!

 

You just have to know who you’re dealing with, and be willing to work on their terms, be it technical reports and pu**y jokes.

 

Set up a situation where your audience is open to taking in new information.

 

In conclusion:

Recycling, high-five bro

Want more dirty, I mean fun advice on pro-environmental behavior? Add me on LinkedIn or go to Somethinggreen.org to get your smile on.

 

Your words matter – how big organizations accidentally hinder sustainable change

The headlines of your articles are not just for snazzy clickbait. If done wrong they might work against you – and against the environment. Here are the do’s and don’ts of writing headlines.

 

 

Yesterday while scrolling through my LinkedIn feed, I came across the following article from the World Economic Forum.

Headlines for sustainable content Asian plastic

 

90% of plastic polluting our oceans comes from just 10 rivers

This is a really interesting subject and I wanted to know more, however, what really got me was the words the WEF decided should go along with it:

’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’

‘Urg’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s a bad choice of words for this piece’.

The World Economic Forum, an International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, is committed to improving the state of the world. This fact makes the above even more problematic.

Though in line with the article and truthful in it’s nature, that small sentence does way more harm than good. It’s working as a hindrance for sustainable development.

 

Why words matter

Let’s deconstruct the sentence.

By writing ’Eight of them are in Asia, two in Africa’, it’s easy to infer, that no other continent in the world is home to one of the rivers causing 90% of the pollution. This is still completely true and in line with the article but it has unfortunate side effects:

  1. You are basically saying to everyone outside these geographical areas, that this problem is confined to two specific regions, which make people outside these areas distance themselves from the problem, seeing as it’s “over there”. It becomes Somebody Else’s Problem*
  2. People who actively take steps to lower their plastic waste feel discouraged because they are let to believe that their actions have no impact at all. This will leave them less likely to want to change their habits or push for change in the future.

Additionally, you risk enhancing old believes that Asia and Africa do not care about the environment. This is, of course, a generalization, not to mention an outdated view of the two continents but unfortunately, the western part of the world still views Asia and Africa as lazy, indifferent or unknowledgeable to environmental issues.

 

What to do instead

Had they instead chosen a solution orientated caption, they could have fed into the positive wave of change already taken place around the world – the focus on oceanic plastic pollution. If the World Economic Forum wanted to leave the reader more informed but also more likely to support anti-pollution initiatives in the future, they could have replaced the caption with something like this:

‘By knowing which 10 we can focus on targeted solutions, with higher success rates’ 

They could even just have copied points from the article itself, for instance:

‘The rivers all had two things in common; a generally high population living in the surrounding region – sometimes into the hundreds of millions – and a less than ideal waste management process’

 

Why it works

The first example is simply putting a positive outlook on a dire situation. Yes, the ocean is filled with plastic, but by pinpointing the 10 biggest sources, we can act.

Action is the key word, because only presenting your audience with the (often negative) facts of global pollution issues and climate change, serves as an emotional paralyzer.

What the heart hears is: The world sucks and no one, especially you, can do anything about it. You might as well go back to facebook and kittens.

Instead, by choosing a more positive angle you are telling your audience, yes, this is a bad situation, but knowing the facts about it gives us the power to act.

In the second example, you’re getting even more specific in regards to what needs to be done, so we can turn the problem around.

It would send a signal that 90% of the world’s oceanic plastic pollution is caused by manageable problems that we already know the solutions to – waste management.

Having spent half a decade in waste management I guarantee you that less-than-ideal-waste management is not the same as impossible waste management.

 

But wasn’t it just click-bait?

Possibly. I mean, I clicked on the article. One could argue, that the caption is just right because it evokes resentfulness towards the places responsible for it. But then what? You would have to read the article to the end to get the positive news. And even this is still an issue because you just confirmed the preconceived notion that Asia doesn’t care, meaning that your audience is actually more likely to dismiss the positive news about the advances in Asia because it contradicts a strong held believe – that Asia pollutes, and don’t care. This is what’s known as the backfire effect. You can find a more colorful description of the backfire effect here.

Even if it is just a click-bait aimed at the WEF’s target audience, would you really want to risk pushing everyone who scrolls past the article even further away from taking action on the subject?

 

Small tweaks – Big outcome

I chose to write about this specific article from the World Economic Forum, for two reasons. Firstly because of their inherent role as a promoter of sustainable change, and secondly because their article was well written and had a great balance of facts and behavioral change elements.

The article clarifies how big of an effort China is making to intensify waste management, and mentions Delhi’s ban on disposable plastic. Furthermore, at the bottom of the article, you can find links to articles about how to combat plastic pollution – also known as a call to action.

I want to stress that I think weforum.org overall produces great content and I am a happy reader. Like this nice whale piece, below. It has a positive headline and caption, as well as a great photo – there’s even a sea pun!

 

But the devil is in the detail, and small tweaks like the above can push sustainable development much faster.

By empowering the audience with a positive outlook, you are allowing for much more support towards passing the necessary legislation, investing in alternative products or cleanup technologies, and willingness to change habits. Like giving your audience concrete advice on social media, complete with jokes and pictures.

This also means saving time and money for the companies and regulatory bodies working to solve the problem. But most importantly, you work towards removing more plastic out of our oceans.

 

 

*As coined by the great Douglas Adam, Somebody Else’ Problem refers to people’s ability to simply ignore things they don’t want to deal with.

Wanna see my spaceship? How to communicate with climate change deniers

Ever wondered how to communicate with climate change deniers. In the previous post, I explained WHY there are still climate change deniers out there. Now I’m giving you hands-on advice, on how to break the neurological stubbornness — and yes, there’s a spaceship.

 

If you work in the environmental field, you will encounter several different personas.

One of them is the denier. He denies the logic of whatever argument you make.

 

I have worked with recycling for some years now, and the denier personae has some telling characteristics.

I’m gonna break down what that denial looks like, shed light on the actual meaning behind his words, and give you the communication tools to get your message out there. Most importantly, you won’t come off as a personal threat.

A conversation with the denier might go something like the following. For the sake of the example, I’m going to give my denier a name.

Meet Dave! He’s attending a talk I’m giving, about the importance of recycling.

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ Dave

Our “Dave”

Me: Sorting your waste is really good for the environment.

Dave: Hah! Once the garbage trucks pick up the waste, they’re just going to put it all in the same container anyway.

Me: No, the garbage trucks don’t mix the waste. It is kept separated and brought to a processing plant.

Dave: I don’t believe you. They’re just going to mix it.

 

 

Understanding the underlying emotions

Timeout. Let’s look at the interaction. I’m giving Dave some information, and he’s refuting it.

At first glans it may look like Dave just has the wrong information, or that he’s an arrogant twat. He’s basically saying that he knows more about the waste industry than I do. I am the person working with waste after all, and Dave thinks he knows better than me.

If I didn’t know why Dave is acting like this, it might be a frustrating situation, where I leave the room feeling like I’m wasting my time on stubborn, old Dave.

But if we dissect the situation, and look at the emotional conversation of what Dave “hears”, and “says”,  here’s the actual interaction:

 

Me: You need to sort your waste because otherwise, you’re being a bad person by not caring about the environment.

Dave: I don’t want to recycle, cause I’m afraid it’s gonna take a lot of effort on my behalf and I might not be able to get it right. If I can’t sort my waste correctly, it will hurt my ego.  I like to think that I am good at most things, so sorting my recycling wrong will make me feel inadequate.

Therefore I‘m gonna use this old rumor I heard about the garbage trucks mixing the waste, to prove to myself, and to you, that the whole thing is a waste of time and energy. Then I won’t have to change my mind or my actions. More importantly, I won’t have to risk the ego punch of not knowing how to recycle.

 

 

Remember my post about some convictions being tied to a sense of self. Well, this is one of them. On a subconscious level I am a threat to Dave, because I am “telling him,” that he’s a bad person by not recycling, and that there’s something he’s not good at.

 

There’s a chance you’re reading this right now and thinking:

‘No. Come on, Mona, people are better than that. No one feels emotionally threatened by waste.’

 

Are you sure? Having a strong sense of identity is normal and sometimes that identity is tied up on being good at something specific.

Other times, it’s tied up on being good at everything. Or maybe even being bad at everything.

 

Try taking just a few minutes to, mentally, go through your friends and family members. Do you know people who don’t like being wrong? Do you have relatives who take criticism very personally?

Did you ever go to school with someone who only saw their mistakes and weaknesses, and disregarded every good grade they got?

Humans are not rational beings, and climate change is really scary and complex. Humans aren’t good with complex issues — we like simple solutions and quick-fixes.

 

 

Get on their team — how to not be a threat

Okay, not that we’ve learned to listen to the emotional conversation, it’s time to do better.

With more than 5 years as a professional trash-talker, I’ve met a lot of “Daves”.

When I do, and am greeted with the counter-argument that they just mix the waste, I say the following, magical words:

This is the van. Pretty neat, eh?

I used to think that too!

Yes, I remember the story of when it happened in [insert whatever city you feel like], but then I went to see the trucks in action, and they have made these really cool technological advances on the trucks.

Now, the trucks have separate compartments for the different kinds of trash. It’s really cool!

 

 

All of the above is true, I had heard the rumors of the mixing and had, at one point, believed them. By telling Dave this, I put myself in the same boat as my audience, before giving him more information.

 

To recap:

I, via my choice of words, tell Dave that he and I are the same. I understand him, I am like him. I also (subconsciously) used the excuse of the truck.

If I get the feeling that it’s the fear of not messing up the recycling that’s standing in the way, I say this:

‘Dude, I’ve always been into the environment but I was so confused when I first started recycling. Like, is this plastic or glass, right? Luckily, someone showed me this trick to tell it apart. The rest was just a matter of practice. It didn’t take that long, and now I can help my grandmother recycle.’

 

You need to put yourself on the same team as your audience.
Understand them. Respect them. When you do that, you are no longer a threat.

I do the same when I speak in front of larger audiences.

The following is a little trick I use. Feel free to steal it and use for your own line of environmental work.

When talking to a larger crow of people, with many different backgrounds where I haven’t the slight clue if they are “Daves”, I say hello, I introduce myself, and then I say:

“Would you like see my spaceship? I swear, it’s not a pickup line.”

 

Then I show them this photo.

 


“This is my spaceship, the big round one. I live on it with 6 billion of my closest friends.

On a spaceship, you have to bring all your resources. Food, water, tools, a guitar, and so on.

When you’ve used your resources, that’s it. You don’t have anymore, it’s gone. So you need to manage your resources and not overspend.

The same thing goes for our globe. We only have a finite amount of resources, and if we use them all, that’s it, it’s gone. This is why we need to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible.”

 

Yes, the above will get different reactions depending on your audience. Some will find it childish, and even patronizing. Never the less it still breaks down a barrier between me and the receiver and creates a common frame of reference, giving me a solid based to start from.

 

I repeat:

Starting a talk by establishing a collective understanding of the subject (creating a common frame of reference) means, I build trust with my audience, and get in the same boat as them.

Throughout the talk, I’ll now be able to refer back to the spaceship, and why it’s important that we manage our resources.

 

 

Summing up — how to deal with deniers

1. You’re not perfect either. First of all remember, that you too have been a stubborn mule at some point. I sure know I have (Sorry Jens, you were right about the equator thing).

Remembering that we’re all humans and that we all have areas where we’ve stubborn or feel vulnerable, will make it much easier talking to people, who are currently neurologically tied to their conviction.

2. Don’t be the Hulk. Remember, that when you are in a debate with a denier, you are emotionally threatening the receiver. You look like the Hulk, ready the smash them with your beliefs. To put it in another way; your facts and evidence, are emotionally hurtful.

It’s important for me to stress that this doesn’t mean you should discard evidence and facts, for the sake of making the other person feel emotionally at ease. But if you are an emotional threat, your listener will treat you like that and will either fight or flight. I’m sure you’re experienced both before.

3. Use your common denominator. Find common ground, something you can agree on, and use that as an entrance to start a respectful conversation about the subject. When you peel away all the convictions, the cultural differences, and our social bubbles, we all really want the same thing — to be happy. Does the change you want to make tie into the other person’s idea of happiness? Why, why not?

You don’t have to be preaching to the choir to find common ground with your audience — just respect them, and be curious.

 

I know the above is hard work, and the world we live in is making it harder. The social media bubbles only allow us to see what people with similar opinions think. At the same time the fast pace of the internet is deteriorating our ability to learn complicated subjects and keep a healthy critical mind. (If you want to know more about this subject, I highly recommend reading The Shallows.)

 

Okay, that’s it for now. Now go and test it out in your field. I would LOVE to hear how you’ve used it, and if it helped! So leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

If you need help communicating your green message to your audience, get in touch! We do web copy, e-mails, social media campaigns, and much more.

 

 

Communicate with climate change deniers_ wired for stubborness

Communicating with climate change deniers — how to change minds when change is hard

Communicating with climate change deniers is not a walk in the park. Beliefs are tied to the neurological sense of self, and when you challenge that belief with facts, you challenge that sense of self.

Therefore, you need to understand the denier in front of you, and tailor your communication to circumvent neurological stubbornness. This post gives you concrete steps to do that.

 

Back in March 2017, I was asked to give a presentation about behavioral change, and why we have such a hard time changing our mind. This post is the laydown of that talk.


Why are there still climate deniers?

With the dire news of yet again surpassing a threshold of CO2 we’re pumping into the atmosphere, I want to talk a little bit about why there are still climate deniers out there, and how you should approach them.

With all the evidence of anthropogenic climate change, it seems mindboggling that anyone would refuse to believe in it. Some of those people are your neighbors, some are your family members, and some are presidents. You might find yourself thinking, why are people so stupid, the evidence is right there?

Turns to we’re not stupid, just human, and there are different reasons why some people don’t seem to get down with climate facts.

Let’s dig in.

Social bubbles and no-fact land

Two of the causes are social bubbles and the post-factual world.

I won’tCommunicate with climate change deniers - Somethinggreen.org go deep into this, but in short; you howl with the wolfs in your pack.

The same thing goes for posting on the internet. You only see posts from people, who are posting the same general themes and content as you.

 

Why? Because Facebook and other social platforms make a profit by keeping you online longer, and you will keep scrolling if the updates in your feed if it excites you. Hence, your feed has been tailored by algorithms to show you only things you will like, keeping you scrolling for hours on end.

This also means that you don’t see posts from people you disagree with. Your view of the world isn’t challenged on a regular basis. Instead, you are daily getting confirmation, in the form of likes and comments, that you are right, smart, funny and generally awesome. This has an effect on your sense of ‘being right’, as well as your ego.

The more posts you see from people who are similar to you, the more you feel like your worldview is the one true view.

If you have many climate deniers in your social circle, you will see a lot of climate denial posts. Even if you start out with a little skepticism in regards to climate science, the more climate skeptic links you click on, the more climate change denial you will see in your feed.

 

From equations to crystal healing in a week

You can test this out for yourself by only clinking on certain themes of links for about a week.

 

I accidently proved this point recently, and it took me down the peculiar algorithm rabbit hole of Facebook.

A friend had lost a bet and, as his punishment, had to attend an event about the remote healing of horses — meaning how a stranger can make your sick horse feel better, from miles away, using the power of thought… Right.

 

I found it hilarious that he had lost the bet, and clicked on the event to see just how outrageous it was. Schadenfroh much?

A week later, my Facebook feed informed me that the same friend was attending an event about angels, because he had lost another bet – and again, I clicked on the event to see what he had to endure this time.

Then, social media karma kicked in…

I  started getting adds for crystal healing, angel events, aura readings and so on. I am now struggling with getting rid of these ads in my feed, as I really don’t have a need for chakra healing in my life. I’m pretty sure my solar plexus just need more coffee.

 

So yeah, You reap what you click, and this is the price I pay for succumbing to clicking on punishment-events on Facebook, instead of doing something productive.

 

If you want to dig deeper, here’s more on the subject of social bubbles.

Why fact when I can feel?

In recent years, there’s been a rise in the notion, that everyone is entitled to his or her opinion.

I honestly think that’s a good thing, but…

Unfortunately, this sorta merged into: Everyone’s entitled to their own opinion, and that opinion matters as much as facts. We see this in political debates where a scientist will comment on a situation, and an opposing argument will be laid out, by someone who just feels differently.
This is where I get frustrated because it does not.

 

“But Mona, sometimes it turns out that the science was wrong, so obviously the facts can’t be trusted”.

 

It’s a compelling argument, but it also amplifies the social bubble effect, where everything tends to be binary. Either you’re right and I’m wrong, or vice versa. The world becomes black and white where we move further and further away from having an adult debate …and then we default to our opinions.

It’s true that every now and then, facts are disputed because we learne more about the world — like the fact that led paint isn’t good for you — but doesn’t mean feelings and opinions have the same legitimacy as our current knowledge base.

Bringing emotions to a scientific debate is like bringing a rubber chicken to a gunfight — everybody ends up looking silly.

 

The world we live in now is very different from the world we knew just a few years back. The Post-factual world, as it has been named, allows opinions and emotions to have the same argumentative weight in public discussions.

This link touches on the post-factual world, where opinions get as much (or more) airtime than facts, because it sells.

 

So what happens when we get new information, telling us that we’re wrong?

If it turns out the facts are not in our favor, we say:
‘Oh, we learned a new thing. Let’s see how this changes our worldview’.

…Except we don’t. Because we are humans, and our complex neurological brain soup hasn’t caught up with our current social structures and clickbait laded lives.

And on top of all of this, climate change is a complex problem, without any quick-fix solutions. And this makes it even harder for deniers to trust in science.

 

At the root for both of these causes lie a bigger reason as to why there are still so many climate deniers out there.


Why you can’t change your mind: I am my opinion.

We’ve all had debates with people who where non-movable, and it makes Thanksgiving a night of hell. No matter how much evidence you present them with, they just become more and more stubborn. Why is that?

It’s long been recognized in the fields of sociology and psychology, that the more you identify with your opinion, or stance — meaning the more you feel it’s a part of your personality — the harder it is for you to change your mind about it.

This is especially true if it also relates to your social/family life, like a spiritual community for instance (think Scientology or other cults).

It turns out the reason for this isn’t just psychological, it’s biological.

 

These days there is a lot of brain research happening and it’s connections to our emotions, mood, mental disorders, and decision-making processes. And the results will blow your mind.

 

One study conducted by Jonas T. Kaplan, Sarah I. Gimbel & Sam Harris, is especially interesting for anyone working with behavioral change.

The team put people inside fMRI scanners and gave the participants information about different topics. Some of the information was designed to go against the current belief systems of the participant.

 

”In this study, we performed functional MRI to measure the brain activity of 40 individuals with strong political views as they encountered arguments against their beliefs … Inside the fMRI scanner, participants saw a series of statements they previously indicated strongly believing, followed by several challenging counterarguments.

After participants read all five counterarguments, the original statement was shown again and they reported their post-challenge belief strength. The difference between pre-scan and post-challenge ratings was used as a measure of belief change.”

 

So in short, they measured how the brain reacted to new information, that contradicted the existing worldview.

And the results are in: BRAAAAINS…

I’ll get into what this means below the picture,  but enjoy the pretty brains.

 

Figure 1: Brain activation during challenges to political vs. non-political beliefs. From: Neural correlates of maintaining one’s political beliefs in the face of counterevidence.

 

As you see there are two different color schemes on this image.

(If you can’t see that you’re probably colorblind, and should buy a pair of the new, ultra cool EnChroma color blindness glasses)

The colors are not for aesthetics. The blue and green’ish colors are the areas in the brain that light up when the participants are given the non-political information. The red and yellow’ish colors are the areas with the political information.

 

These two types of information make the Christmas lights in the brain illuminate different areas. Why??

The non-political info lights up the frontal lobe. That’s the part of the brain responsible for making rational choices.

The political information, on the other hand, light up in the areas of the brain associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

Let’s recap: Your political convictions is, on a neurological level, associated with deep emotions and the sense of self.

 

This is really important because it means that there is a deep biological, neural link between you and your political opinion. You can’t talk reason to this part of the brain, meaning…

 

Your audience is emotional and neurologically attached to their belifssystem. When you tell them they are wrong, you are challenging the very foundation of their existence.

 

If you are working with climate communication, I would suggest that you get the above tattooed on your wrist, because it makes a world of a difference in your work.

No matter how many facts you pour onto someone, you will not change their mind – in fact, as a self-preservation method they might refute your facts and become even more stubborn in their belief. This is the backfire effect.

There is, sort to speak, a neurological stubbornness in all of us, which can make mind-changing a daunting task.

 

A shortcut to mind-changing

 

Changing your mind is hard.

Does this mean that your effort is in vain, or that it will only pay off in the far future? Luckily, no. The before mentioned study found that:

 

Post-challenge belief strength was reduced for both political and non-political statements, indicating that the counterevidence did, at least temporarily, affect reported belief strength.

However, the change was significantly greater for non-political beliefs. Follow-up questionnaires completed weeks later showed that reduced belief strength persisted for the non-political beliefs.

 

What this little gem also say is, your effort is not in vain. There is some change, even if temporary, and even if your receiver won’t admit to it — I have a coworker like that.

We see the gradual change all around us. Whether it’s the global community slowly accepting anthropogenic climate change, or your spouse admitting, after 5 freaking years, that you were right about ‘that thing’.

 

More importantly:
It’s easier to change your beliefs about non-political issues than political ones, as these are not as strongly tied up to your sense of self. This also means…

 

 You can and should use non-political issues as an entrance to mind changing.

 

There are a number of small shortcuts you can use when conveying environmental information.

 

Okay, this post is already like 1 trillion words long, but don’t fret!

In the follow-up post, I’ll give you a hands-on example of how I personally circumvent the neurological resistance to information when I give talks. There will be spaceships!

—-

If you have an audience that needs a good brain-tickle, don’t be afraid to reach out! Something Green does content writing for web pages, newsletters, Social Media and more.

 

 

Social Media and behavioral change – Saving time, money, and cutting the bullS***

In this post, you’ll get hands-on examples of how to use social media for quick and dirty behavioral change campaigns. One of them took me 10 minutes to make and saved my workplace 2-4 weeks of work, and thousands of dollars. Spoiler, 

 

In my day job, I convert recycling advice and environmental information into information that makes sense, and more importantly, that you can act on.

If I make you wiser that’s good, but I’m still only halfway there. For me to succeed, I need to give you the information you need, and the tools to act on it, while giving you that little push you need to change your actions.

An important thing to note here is, I don’t make people do things they don’t want to do. Most people want to be more environmentally friendly, they just need the tools to do it. That’s where I come in.

In the olden days of communication, you would just give your recipient a lot of information, but as I’m sure we all know, information isn’t enough.

Social Media Behavioral Change Healthy eating

 

We all know smoking is bad, and exercise and a healthy diet is good, but somehow we’re not all super healthy non-smokers.

 

I won’t get into why behavioral change is more important than information. You can read my posts about it here, and find additional resources here. Just remember that your words matter when you’re doing SoMe.

So how can social media, or SoMe as the kids call it, initiate a changed behavior?

Social media, when done right, can enforce a sense of purpose, of belonging, and an urgent need to act. These are all emotions strongly tied up to behavioral change.

But instead of giving you a lot of information about how to do it, I’ll show you.

The following are two examples of quick and dirty facebook updates I did, and an explanation as to why they worked.

 

1) The pink April Fools

This spring we were lucky enough to get our hands on this beautiful pink waste bin. Just look how happy I am. It’s basically a pink version the same gray bins we are distributing to the entire municipality.

I wanted to make a big event with it on April 1st, but the entire team, myself included, was swamped with work. And April 1st was on a Saturday this year, making it even more difficult to pull of a happening.

 

Enter the magic of the internet!

I did some horrible photoshopping, got creative with the text and voila! This is the facebook post I made:

 

‘YOUR NEW BIN IS PINK!

Last Thursday the municipality approved the new design plan for the waste department.

After a short budget negotiation, it was decided that the entire municipality will get a trash bin in hot pink.

The new bins will put recycling on the agenda and put this municipality on the map as a first-mover when it comes to environmental action.

If you’ve already received a grey bin, it will be swapped with a pink bin during the summer of 2017.

You can read more about the new design guide and the color pink here: http://roskilde.dk/de-3-stoerste-spoergsmaal-om-din-nye-affaldsordning

So yes, I am obviously not a creative genius. I spend 30 min making this post and then posted it on Facebook. The link takes you to a page of the top 3 questions about the new recycling scheme – a page we had difficulties directing traffic to. I boosted the facebook post with the equivalent of 22 US dollars.

The results? It had a reach of more than 14.000 people, got 400 reactions, 60 comments, 24 shares, and 1328 clicks on the link. This also made it our most visited page, as we were averaging around 500 clicks per week on ‘hot topics’, and 10 clicks per week on ‘bottomfeeder’ pages. This is by far the most clicks we’ve had on a site regarding the new recycling scheme. In a municipality of 90.000 people, getting this response to waste is pretty darn good.

 

Why it worked

This was an openly bad joke. It was not trying to be anything special. It was not trying to educate. It tabbed into a tradition, loved and hated by the Danish public – the horribly obvious April fools pranks.

It took a boring trashcan, and gave it some pesaz!
In other words, the message I am sending is, don’t worry you won’t get a big pink waste bin. You will still get a waste bin, but in a less intrusive color – and no, we’re not gonna lecture you.


What’s the takeaway?

Tab into what already exists. Christmas, traditions, old jokes. I once accidentally planed a recycling event on valentines day! So, when I promoted it I added a bunch of hearts and romance, and made the header: WE LOVE TRASH! It was a close save, but it worked.

Maybe April fools isn’t your thing. That’s cool. Here another example of SoMe working its magic.

 

2) Cardboard or carton? The money saver

 

I work with waste management, and getting people to recycle more. That also means explaining the rules of recycling.

In our recycling scheme, you can put your carton with your paper, but you can’t put cardboard with your paper.

This is confusing and we’ve gotten a lot of questions about how to tell the difference between carton and cardboard. The long answer has to do with the wood fibers in the two materials, but it tends to make the listener even more confused.

Instead of a wall of text, I tore off some cardboard from the office supply room and stole the carton roll inside a toilet paper roll. I grabbed my phone and went to work. 10 minutes later, with the aid of an Instagram filter and a layout app, I had this picture.

I shared it with a text explaining the difference in this way:

‘Are you down with carton?

We’ve received some question about the new recycling scheme. One of them is, what’s the difference between cardboard and carton?

Well, cardboard and carton are tricky areas, but this is our rule of thumb:


Cardboard usually comes in big quantities, like furniture packaging. When you tear it, you can see a middle layer inside the cardboard, which is wavy.

Carton, on the other hand, is “just” thick paper. When you tear it, it still looks like thick paper.

From may 1st, carton can go in your paper bin. Cardboard should be taken to the recycling station.

Share this information with your neighbors 🙂

Thank you for recycling!’

The results blew me away!

I didn’t even boost this update, meaning I spend no money on it, but it got 26 shares, 116 reactions, 857 clicks, and had a range of 6774 people. Again, in a municipality of 90.000, that’s a big deal considering the photo is basically a picture of trash. Even the mayor shared it!

So for 10 minutes work, and no money at all, I did what a communication campaign would have done in weeks or months of planning, and thousands of dollars worth of graphics, printing, and distribution. Let’s just recap:

I saved my workplace weeks of work, and thousands of dollars, in 10 minutes

This is the power of social media

 

Why it worked
It visually explained the difference between the two materials, making it easy for the citizen to test his or her own waste. It eliminated a lot of energy and frustration that would have been spent contemplating the difference.

It took away the am-I-doing-it-right doubt, that many people face when sorting their waste. It gave them a tool for solving this issue in years to come and thanked them for making an effort.

 

What’s the takeaway?

If you’re a good communicator, and you know the underlying motives and frustrations of your audience, you can work around the old ways of designing behavioral change campaigns.

If you can deliver your message in a to-the-point fashion, you can get away with taking photos of your waste, and just add an Instagram filter.

 

Summing-up

 

Social media is an easy, cheap, and fast way of narrowing the gap between you and your target audience. It’s a platform, where you can get away with fast updates, camera phones, and cheap editing apps.


If on the other hand, you want to make a super high-end folder, your audience will not tolerate sloppy graphics, faulty grammar, or bad jokes. But it works for Social Media.

 

SoMe is a place to meet your equal

 

This is especially important if you work in government. You are usually the authority, telling the citizen what to do, and how to comply with the rules. This automatically creates a gap between you and a (skewed?) power balance.

On social media, it’s ok to make bad jokes, with horribly photoshopped pictures. If you are fun and can look your audience in the eyes, that’s what matters.

Don’t be afraid to be human and don’t be afraid of snarky comments on Facebook. It’s a part of how the platform works, and the rest of your audience knows that the trolls are just trolling.

So go get your share on, and make the difference you need to make 😉

Why I don’t give a S#!” about Aleppo, and neither should you

The following post gives a quick breakdown of how the horrors in Aleppo are a symptom of a much bigger problem: Climate change. The post argues that even though every fiber of your body may want to fix the situation by attending marches or giving humanitarian aid, there is a better way. A more rational action is to fight climate change and prevent a crisis like this from becoming everyday news.

 

If you’ve read the news within the past 48hours, you know that nothing less of a manslaughter is happening in Aleppo.

Men, women, and children are being gunned down in the streets or burned alive. The latest death toll I’m aware of is 82 souls. But by now who knows how many.

If you can stomach it, here is the news about Aleppo.

Why I don’t give a damn*

I see many of my friends crying out for action on social media. I see them signing up for marched, signing petitions. I see them putting heart, time, and energy into this.

I won’t.

Because I believe other nations should clean up their own mess? —No.

Because I don’t give a damn about people in Syria? —No.

Because I’m a heartless bitch? —In part. I am a rational bitch

I am a rational bitch — I believe in treating the cause, not the symptom.

There have been a few scientific articles published, naming a very specific factor in the Syrian crisis. Do you know what it is? I’ll give you a hint: it’s a hot topic (pun intended).

Yep, it’s climate change! (Important — Climate change is not the only factor, but a “threat multiplier;” meaning its effects are  greatest in areas that are already environmentally and socially unstable).

You can read the whole thing here, but the super short version is this:

 

  • Climate change –>
  • Drought –>
  • Farmers abandoning farms looking for jobs in the overcrowded cities + Rising food prices –>
  • High food prices + high unemployment rates = Political destabilization –>
  • Riots –>
  • Chaos.

Is it really that simple? No, the above is the short version. There are of course also a number of political factors to take into account. But had it not been for these first effects of climate change, the situation would not have escalated.

Whichever way you turn it, climate change is a is a big looming beast, either creating or worsening a situation.

According to the UN; The World’s Food Supply is Made Insecure by Climate Change.

Things might stay peachy and safe where you live, but guess what, people tend to move away from areas where there is no food.

But wait… There’s more.

As permafrost in Siberia is melting, methane gas, (which makes CO2 look like nothing) is oozing into the atmosphere, at an alarming rate. This article in Science Advances suggests the methane will cause a positive feedback loop.

That’s like getting a positive HIV test. Not a good thing.

So a positive feedback loop will heat up the earth, releasing even more greenhouse gases, heating the earth further, releasing even more gas… You get the picture.

And the results?

We might see a global temperature rise of between 4.47C and 7.36C, in 2100! This will cause runaway greenhouse gas effect and will turn earth into Venus.

 

A runaway greenhouse effect is a process in which a net positive feedback between surface temperature and atmospheric opacity increases the strength of the greenhouse effect on a planet until its oceans boil away. An example of this is believed to have happened in the early history of Venus. – Wikipedia

 

Let’s do the math: Unless you are already retired, this will affect you. Not your children, or your grandchildren, but you.

What to do:

  • Vote! Vote, vote, vote. On a candidate/party with a proven record of working to stop climate change. (Oh, ps. If you are inclined to vote for a party which gives you tax breaks, promises you retirement standard or a low premium on health care just remember: None of these things matter if you are dead, and a zero atmosphere earth will do that to you)
  • Get organized! Find a group of people who are already working on this, and use whatever skills you have to help
  • Talk to people about this. I’ll try to post as much as I can about how to talk with people about climate change, and I’ll gladly answer any question you ask me in the comments, or via e-mail.

 

*Of course I care about the massacre in Syria, and so should you. It hurts to the level where I can hardly breathe. But all of life on earth is a risk — we need to think and act long term.

I’m very conflicted about posting this, as I realize it has shit storm potential. Please understand that my reason for writing this is not to belittle the atrocious things happening in Syria. My reason is to raise awareness about an even bigger issue. One that will in the future only result in more horrific events like the one happening in Aleppo. We have the work at the root of the illness, not just the symptoms.

If we want to avoid more situations like Aleppo, we need to act on not just Syria, but global climate change.

Just the tip – How recycling and other low impact actions open big doors for important change

A few posts ago, I wrote about how I sometimes felt like a whore because of my work, but it seems only fair to share the good stories as well.

 

Today my body shivered with excitement, my mind raced, and my heart was pounding. I was getting that feeling that you get when you do something worth wild. That feeling that makes you want to scream, yes!

 

What caused this excitement? Hearing people talk about the plastic wrapping on a cucumber. Now, I know what you’re thinking and the answer is no, you dirty minded person, you.

 

The background story – why plastic wrapping on a cucumber is very exciting

I work with waste management, and it’s my job to get about 90.000 people to recycle their waste. Talk about pressure. As part of this job, my team and I have just done a test with 250 households, to try out the new recycling scheme we’re implementing for those 90.000 people in the time span of the next two years.

 

We did this to make the transition for the entire municipality as smooth as possible for everyone involved. It’s a big process and a lot of things can go wrong, so we wanted to prepare as much as possible before the actual BIG implementation of the new scheme.

 

Now the six-month-long test has been completed, and the past two nights have been spent on meetings with the involved citizens, gathering the final information, and talking about what will be happening over the next few years.

 

So imagine this: 250 households have been sorting their waste in a matter very different from what they are used to, and from what the rest of the municipality is doing. They’ve been doing this for six months, with only a handful of people in the municipality, to guide them through it.

 

Most of them have had to deal with the inconveniences of getting new waste bins, both inside and outside their house, as they had to sort glass, metal, paper, bio/green, and other. Metal and Bio are two completely new fractions of waste, and the citizens in the test have never done this before.

 

Hence these meetings, held in the late hours of busy people, where not only a place for feedback and questions about recycling but also served as a place to vent emotions. And there was a lot of venting. But there was also something profoundly beautiful.

 

No, recycling won’t save the planet, but it will get you thinking about it

 

The people at the meeting have now been sorting their waste for half a year. They have done a decent job a recycling, the short timespan taken into account. But the actual change is not in their litter bins – it’s in their minds.

 

At both meetings I overheard people debating, how much packaging came with their groceries, how much waste they produced in their everyday life, and how many recourses they used.

 

“Why is there even plastic wrapping around a cucumber? I mean, do we really need all that plastic?”

 

This is what makes me tick. It’s not about the recycling, it’s not about turning off the tab, or switching off the light bulb, cause in the big picture, that’s really not a lot of change. But if you do it right, these non-essential, non-effectful environmental actions open the door for a change in mindset.

 

If you do it with intent, you can start a much more important change, than just a change in their trash bin.

You can make the change from unaware to aware, and ready to take action.

 

Plant the seed and be ready to water it

If you plan for this you can have an alternative action ready at the right moment.

In the case of the added awareness about packaging and unnecessary waste, be ready to offer kind and helpful advice on how to cut down on packaging in general for instance by shopping at farmers markets and using reusable grocery bags. Or ask the person more about how much of their waste they think is possible to eliminate and how, as this will get them thinking about alternative actions within their own frame of reference and comfort.

If you plan for these moments of added awareness, you can have valuable tools ready for your audience, and help them make that change they so deeply want to make, but don’t yet know how to.

 

You don’t need to force your way through mindsets, you can start with, well… Just the tip.

Confession of an environmental planner – the 3 biggest lies of climate change

You’ve been lied to. We all have.

I’ve been working with environmental management since 2007’ish. Almost a decade now.

A lot has changed, thankfully. Though it might seem gloomy, we are making progress as a whole.

Throughout the years, however, there are key subjects that keep resurfacing in my work with climate change communication.

There are lies that echo in communities working with climate change. Again, and again.

Writing, late one night, I felt I was suffocating. I felt like the untold truths about how we approached climate change, were clawing at me like a wild beast, and that my only escape was to talk about them honestly.

The following is a confession, and an explanation as to why we continue these lies. I hope it’s also the first step to breaking the cycle.

The 1st lie – We know about all of the dangers of climate change

We don’t. No one has the right answer. We like to believe, that the dangers of climate change have been mapped our by scientist, and if we simply follow their advice, we’ll pull through.

But scientists do not have the complete answer, because the climate on this little globe, is far more complex and delicate than we imagined.
It seems almost every week a new climate record is broken. Warmest month in recorded history, most severe drought, strongest hurricane, etc.

Scientists are continuously altering their models and climate predictions because the effects of climate change are happening faster than anyone anticipated.

Why do we keep insisting that the consequences of global climate change are known?

Short answer: The truth is fucking scary.

We are facing a monster, and we don’t even know how big or how dangerous it is. Worse, we don’t want to know, that we don’t know.

Our brainsLies climate change confession substitution , though capable of dreaming up books and symphonies, does not cope well with uncertainty. Dealing with uncertainty requires a lot of energy.

Hence, when a big, scary uncertainty shows up, we tend to either simplify it to something we can deal with, or reject the idea altogether.

So our brain switches to autopilot and tells us not to listen.

Furthermore, scientists are reluctant to stand up and say they are 100% certain because that’s not the scientific way. There is almost always a small margin of error.

In itself, this is not a problem, but people are built to avoid uncertainties. We hate it. It forces our energy demanding part of the brain to activate, which is a drag. Your brain likes energy conservation. That’s why sitting on the couch feels nicer than going for a run, even though you know running is better for you.

‘You fancy scientist don’t know S***t’

Let’s say we are faced with two people. They are in a debate. The first one of them starts saying, ‘There is a lot of statistical evidence supporting this theory, and only a small margin of error, which can be accounted for in the regression of…’ zzzzz…

You’ve stopped paying attention, haven’t you? That’s because your brain had to work. Let’s look at the other person in the debate and hear his argument:

‘You’re not even sure of what you’re saying! You only have a theory, you don’t have proof. It could be a lot of other things. It could be a natural fluctuation. Why should I get worried if this is nothing? You scientist, all high and mighty, always think you know things, but then 5 years later you turn out to be wrong so why should I trust you?’

Science_monajensen

It’s a natural instinct to not trust scientist – unfortunately, it’s a really bad instinct

Sound familiar? The brain prefers confidence over doubt, and science seems like doubt if you don’t work in science.

Theories, uncertainties, and margins aren’t things our brain want to deal with. So unless we put energy into understanding what climate change is, we are likely to disregard it.

And we have seen many people disregard it. It’s just easier. The cognitive energy we have to apply to both understanding climate change and reacting to it is overwhelming for many people.

It’s easier to accept that it isn’t happening … for some people at least.

The 2nd lie – Do it for the children

We’re not doing it for the children. We shouldn’t be. We should be doing it for ourselves.

The effects of climate change are happening as we speak. It’s not going to be something we will see 50 or 100 years from now. We are in it. Droughts, melting glaciers, coral bleaching, floods, storms.

You’ve seen the news, you know we’re already experiencing the first of the effects. We are consuming far more natural resources than the globe is producing, and we cannot sustain the current population growth and resource demand.

We are running out of things to make more things.

Even if we combat climate change, we’re still going to end up with a scarcity problem unless we address our global overconsumption.

It’s easy to say do it for the children because then you still sound like you care and want to make a wholehearted effort. Instead, saying that you are doing it for you, and for your future self, makes the problem more immediate and urgent. This scares the brain.

People don’t really give a damn about the children

If you think this is going to affect your great-grandchildren, then you’ve delayed the need for action because mentally, it’s much less energy-consuming to think of the problem in terms of future strangers. That’s what out distant relatives are to us, future strangers. We have difficulty relating to them.

How do you react when I tell you, that the people living at the time of Shakespeare had the same general thoughts, feelings and behavioral patterns as you?

You are not that different from the people living 500 years ago

You are not that different from the people living 500 years ago.

Your instinct is not to believe it. People from the past are less knowledgeable, right? They could not possibly be having the same thoughts or emotions, could they? They were less developed than you and I, right?

Nope. We have more technology now, and of course, we know more about the world, but our IQ and the way we interact with others is the same. But we can’t relate to people in the distant past or distant future.

We had no evolutionary need to, because either they would be dead, or we would.
And the same thing happens with our future relatives. We can’t relate. Their lives and problems have nothing to do with me -even if I am the source of their problems.

This is why we should stop doing it for the kids.

The 3rd lie – We can solve it

Climate change is not 1 problem that we need to address and there is no quick fix.

It’s all complex, intertwined, interconnected problems. One is making the other worse. You have to allocate time and energy to understand it, and the hard truth is the most brilliant minds in the world don’t have the full scope. It is of the utmost importance, to invest that time and energy into understanding the broader dimensions of the problem.

We need to take the time and energy to really learn about these intertwined issues. In order to unravel them and solve them.

Thinking long and hard.

Unfortunately, not many people do this. Time is a scares resource, and in our busy lives who takes the time and energy to really dig into a subject? As a consequence, the way to direct attention to the subject is:

‘3 simple ways to…’

‘Scared of climate change? Do these easy things to avoid…’

‘What to vote? 5 questions to ask yourself before next election.’

An English teacher had the brilliant idea to mask classic poems as click-bait. I think my favorite is, “5 Ways To Complicate Your Decision-Making Process” by Robert Frost.

Why do we do it? Substitution

For every complex problem there is a solution that is clear, simple, and wrong -H. L. Mencken

So instead we substitute the hard questions, and the tough subject, with easy ones. That way, we only receive answers that can be digested in 5 minutes or less.

This is also why we keep reading these clickbait articles.

Do these 10 things to make you happy!

This easy trick helped me lose 5 pounds in one week! And so on..

The comedian Jim Gaffigan put it nicely… ‘It’s all McDonald. It’s fast literary garbage with little nutrition and only serves you the purpose of feeling full, temporarily ending your craving, and avoiding starvation. It has little to no nutritional value.’

… and it makes me feel like a whore

I find myself using it. Not because I like it, not because I think it’s the right thing to do, but because I know it works. It’s something I can do to get your attention. And it makes me feel like a whore.

There are things about your immediate future that you need to be aware of if you want to enjoy your retirement. There are things you need to think about, and make choices about, and act on, even though it’s time-consuming, and requires energy.

This is your future, friend. You need to act on it

This is your future, friend. You need to act on it

You’ve done things like this before. You’ve taken out a mortgage, got an insurance, maybe even had a kid. You thought long and hard about your life and the consequences of certain actions.

Climate change is one of those things. It will affect you. Not your kids, not some distant stranger in the future. You.

 

Your money, your health, your comfort level in life, your retirement.

If you are still reading, you are more than halfway there. I congratulate you. For whatever reason, you have the willpower, and mental capability to do this.

Just like figuring out your retirement plan, it’s gonna feel complicated as hell, but I promise you,  you’re gonna get there.

This is where you start. Open your eyes, accept that this is scary ass hell, and then buckle up, cause we’ve got work to do.

Environmental preservation or preventing necrophile rapist ducks – know your audience

Yes, that’s an actual headline. The following post will involve necrophile rapist ducks. When you’ve read this post, you’ll know what you can do to make your target audience act more environmentally friendly, and how to use it in your work/daily life. And yes, there is a connection to rapist ducks. 

 

Did you ever feed ducks as a child? I did, with my grandparents mostly. It was a fine balance between getting close enough to get the duck to eat out of my hands while keeping a distance that ensured they would not eat me.

duck-feeding-monajensen

Duck feeding is, however, a horrible thing to do. It’s bad for the ducks, and bad for the environment. The only thing it’s good for is human emotions. It feels nice to feed the ducks. It’s cozy.

When you feed ducks they poop more, exposing the pond, or other water environments, to more nitrogen. The added nitrogen leads to algae bloom, which leads to hypoxia. Hypoxia is a fancy word for no-oxygen. When the water environment losses oxygen, the living organisms in it suffocate. Fish, shrimps, and other oxygen-dependent creatures. This means…

Feed the ducks, kill the fish.

election-613132_1920You would think that this information alone was enough to stop people from feeding ducks. Spoiler alert -it’s not.

We are emotional beings, and the above is a factual explanation. Facts often bend to emotions. Think about the last national election in your country, and I’m sure you can find an example or two, of politician swaying votes on emotion, instead of facts.

In the case of duck feeding, the feeding itself gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling. It creates memories. It amplifies your own memories. And the ducks are happy, right, I mean just look at them. I’m sure one little loaf of bread won’t make a difference. All those environmental hippies are exaggerating.

We now have a Mexican standoff between, family values (warm fuzzy duck feeding), and environmental conservation. What now? Enter the necrophiliac rapist duck.

Male ducks are known to gang-rape female ducks. There is plenty of youtube material – I’m not going to link to it. When ducks are fed a diet of white bread, they become fat. So fat indeed, when they mate (or rape if you will) the male ducks can end up drowning the female. This means…

Feed the ducks, create necrophile rapist ducks!

In a bonus info about ducks, they don’t stop just because the female is now a “floater”. Ducks have been known to have necrophilia (and homosexual) tendencies. Here’s a scientific article about it  – you’re welcome.

Why am I telling you this awful news? Long story short, it was a subject at my workplace, and I decided to make an infographic about it: TADA!!!

(Article will continue after picture)

Feel free to download, or share.  Now to the actual point.

Know your audience

For decades environmental planners and activists have preached environmental preservation. But unfortunately, they were mostly preaching to the choir. I was an accomplice as well.

Save the pandas, the trees, the water, the whales… Think of the children and be a more responsible person.

Environmentalists have either argued the rational point:

If we keep pumping CO2 into the atmosphere, we’re going to suffer the consequences

…or the misplaced emotional point;

Do it for the children. Give them a world with polar bears.

Going back to the duck-feeding example, the above is a case of the first method of communication. A rational statement followed by a small emotional ‘Something bad will happen’. But that ‘something bad, doesn’t seem convincing enough to bend our habits.

It’s very easy to dismiss the information because it conflicts too much with ones one values: the family values. Remember, duck feeding is still a happy family activity that gives you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

While the necrophilia information is still true, it targets those family values. You do not want your child or grandchild to witness a necrophilic gang rape. So you pay attention. This information feeds into your worldview and values.

 

Stop preaching to the choir!

Really, put effort into mapping out who your target group is. And if your target group is everybody you’ve already lost. It is very tempting for environmental planners to plan campaigns that work for everyone, this goes double if you are in a governmental department.

Your job is to fix everybody, and you often are not funded adequately. This is also a contributor to the status quo campaigns we’ve been seeing since the 80’s. You know them all too well:

Turn of the light, turn of the tab, recycle, walk more… The list goes on, and not just in the environmental areas (eat fruit, stop smoking, exercise 30 min each day).

The target group is everyone, and therefore the message is so placid, it applies to everybody and nobody at the same time – and it doesn’t work.

If you’re selling Nike shoes, you’re not advertising to all people with feet.

Big marketing doesn’t work in broad campaigns like that. Take Nike shoes. There’s a financial span, demographics, age –and the coolness factor. You find your target audience and go directly for them. Why should the principles be any different for campaigns regarding health or the environment?

Rotate your audience.

Here’s one solution, rotate your audience. Find your early adopters. Chances are, they already support you, so you don’t need to actively campaign for them. This is your choir, you don’t need to preach to them. But give them credit for their enthusiasm. This ensures that they keep fighting the good fight, and keep talking with their friends and relatives about your cause.

A campaign targeted towards early adaptors is basically giving them a high-five, saying you are awesome! This ensures their commitment to you and enhances their role as ambassadors.

After you’ve done that, then you can start looking at other target groups, like families, children, millennials, seniors, and different social groups.

Oh and lastly don’t just tell them what they should not do – give them directions towards a better behavior so you don’t leave them hanging with good intentions, but no knowledge of what to do.

What to do instead – you can still feed cute animals

Instead of feeding the ducks, you can try to identify the different species, and center you family activity around that. If you like the idea of feeding animals in need, feed butterflies or other pollinators like bees, as they contrary to ducks, desperately need it.

That’s all for now – please don’t encourage necrophilia duck rape.

 

-Keep beeing awesome (Badam-tsch!)

rapist-duck