What campaigners need to know about human nature

From The Ecologist:

A new book by WWF ‘Meeting Environmental Challenges: The Role of Human Identity’ makes the case for a new kind of campaigning that sees the person behind the behaviour. Pat Thomas is impressed

In the last few years the Ecologist has published many articles that sought to shed light on the psychological aspects of environmentalism. We’ve looked at climate change denial as a kind of addiction.  We’ve looked at decoupling our identity from what we own and what we can buy, encouraging the notion that we are citizens rather than consumers.

For those of us who have been seeking to make sense of the human response to the environmental challenges we face and how it can either help to engage individuals in change, or push them further into inactivity and denial, this new book by WWF, Meeting Environmental Challenges is most welcome.

Written by Dr Tom Crompton, a specialist in evolutionary biology and change strategist at WWF and Tim Kasser Professor of Psychology, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois USA, this work, provides a solid foundation for understanding on what motivates behaviour change and what the social context of change might look like.

It provides compelling arguments that we must see the person behind the behaviour and strive to understand the values, the fears and the need for belonging that provide the framework for how each of us responds to environmental challenges.

The authors highlight the inadequacies of current methods. Engaging organisations and making a ‘business case for sustainability’, they argue, can produce some changes such as the development of new efficiency standards, but overall the change produced is small and slow because of the insistence that it must be compatible with economic growth, maintaining profits and protecting the sacred cow of ‘consumer choice’.