Fear, Urgency, and Willingness to Change

12 02 2010

                The utilisation of fear for the purpose of motivation may be a double edged sword.  Some people respond to fear with action; whereas some, me included, pass off the probability of a catastrophe in favour of a “head in the clouds” way of thinking.  Listening to a list of possible ecological, civil, and economic catastrophes does not motivate me.  Talk is cheap, and many people get a high off of the drama so closely integrated with tragic happenings in society.  When we step back from our overly plugged-in, important, and urgent lifestyles, it can be quite humorous.   I was flicking through TV stations the other night because I don’t normally watch TV and I was feeling a bit out of the loop with regards to the local news scene.  I feel that news stations grab people with their music─ they must─ it was incredible how dramatic music can make any story seem urgent and important.  “Tune in at five!   Breaking story- beginning tomorrow the Sea to Sky highway will be closed to regular vehicle traffic- what you need to know to if you are heading up to Whistler. . . we will have the crucial details so that you can plan your trip”.  Really? In text this seems so silly, but the overly dramatic music and helicopter footage transformed this topic into an important story: as if this was an issue negatively impacting the majority of Vancouver residents’ lives. 

                Climate change will most likely negatively impact most of our lives; however, this is not just a tragic story that you can listen to or watch on the news and then be done with; this is a story that requires us to act.  Gregor Robertson, the mayor of Vancouver, is a very charismatic leader and active in promoting and initiating long-term goals for the city, with the ultimate goal of making Vancouver the greenest city in the world.  These goals are coupled with very specific targets which are measurable and reachable.  Action needs to begin at the grassroots, the local level, in order to build resilience from the ground up.  Several of the 2020 targets include:

  • The addition of at least 20,000 jobs in green industries.
  • Reduce the net GHG emission by 33% from the 2007 levels.
  • All new construction is LEED certified or carbon neutral.
  • The majority of transportation will consist of public transit, walking and cycling.
  • Reduction of solid waste per-capita of 40%.
  • The bottom line: a carbon footprint reduction by 33% An ecological footprint reduction of 33%.

                Science is only a tool to predict the possible outcomes of climate change, but we really don’t know what is going to happen in the next 5 years, 20 years, or 100 years.  But taking into account the changes we have seen already, and the possibility of major catastrophe, it seems only logical to be proactive.  If we continue on as we are, there is a possibility that the human-accelerated positive feedback loop will stabilise beyond a point of return with an average global temperature increase of 5⁰C.  Returning to Pascal’s Wagner, the argument stands: do we want to risk burning in hell, when we have three other options which will produce neutral or great results?  Fear might not motivate action in all people, but positive results such as an increase in one’s happiness, standard of living, and accessibility are all motivators for change.  Instead of the doom and gloom urgency, we might be able to create a “get on board, we are changing for the better” type of urgency.  Nobody wants to be left behind!

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One response

12 04 2010
Richard Kool

“Some people respond to fear with action; whereas some, me included, pass off the probability of a catastrophe in favour of a “head in the clouds” way of thinking. Listening to a list of possible ecological, civil, and economic catastrophes does not motivate me. ” What this probably means is that these lists of catastrophe’s doesn’t really elicit fear in you! But perhaps an offer of happiness might be persuasive!

“…this is a story that requires us to act.” More and more of us are beginning to understand that this is likely true, yet our actions at times, individually, can seem so small. Moving forwards in solidarity with others is the way to feel like we’re making progress in the right direction.

“Returning to Pascal’s Wagner, the argument stands..” I’m not sure Pascal (Catholic 18th c French) would have liked Wagner (Protestant 19th c German)… I think you mean Wager!

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