Saturday, April 23, 2016

Be the change you wish to see

In this post from a couple of days ago, I brought in evidence to show that I am not the only one puzzled that people don't get the connection between climate change and meat eating.  And later, in my rejoinder to the comments, I added, "Scientists rarely ever are able to shape people's habits."

The conversation continues.  At least here, thanks especially to the commenters--even the occasional ones--I don't feel like I am talking with myself, which is what usually happens in the classroom ;)

This opinion essay at the Scientific American explores what ought to be done:
Social science can point to effective ways communicators can help the public distinguish fact from untruth, and hopeful understanding of how science might sidestep contention in the first place.
Good luck on social scientists helping ways in which the public can "distinguish fact from untruth."

But, it is not as if the public is not really in the dark about the lifestyle aspects of climate change, though they may not be well informed about the meat connection.  Pew Research Center notes this from its global survey:

Even in the US.  Yes:
Even in the U.S., a country known for its technological advances, only 23% believe technology alone can solve climate change. 
If so, then how would one go about convincing people that they have to make some serious lifestyle changes?

Here's where things get complicated.  I suppose it can easily become a game theory scenario where people think it is a great idea--as long as others do it.  But then everybody waits around for others to implement changes!

As that grand old man from the old country said:
If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.


Ramesh said...

No. We wont change ourselves unless forced to do so. Human nature.

So we have to be "forced" to do so. The best way to nudge human behaviour is through economics I believe. Self interest, especially of the monetary variety is a powerful motivator for change.

Cap and trade is an obvious solution. Fix a ceiling on greenhouse gas emission (including from the farts of cows !) And then trade. It will be imperfect, but a premium will become inevitable for the activities that contribute most to climate change. Guess which country is the most vociferous opposer of this ?

Sriram Khé said...

Back in grad school, a classmate--who is now a research university faculty--argued that moral incentives don't work and, therefore, monetary incentives are important in public policy. Which is what you are also saying here. "Do the right thing!" apparently is not enough :(
But, even that monetary incentive of a carbon tax has not happened through all these years that the world has been talking about a carbon tax.
There is one fine-tuning that I will do to the rhetorical question that you pose. Guess which "political party in the US" is the most vociferous opposer of this ? ;)

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