Fear and other narratives that foster apathy
We are using the wrong narratives. We have failed to effectively communicate and our fear-based approaches may even foster apathy and indifference. Rather than promote fear, the new narrative must generate the kind of confidence that allows us to take radical steps forward. We have gotten very little action when our narratives cause people to feel fear, despair, doubt, grief, anger or guilt.
Fear is a common reaction to the enormity of the climate change crisis. However, we cannot be scared into acting, nor can despair lead us to responsible action. The problem with these negative emotions is that they breed skepticism or cause paralysis.
In a Time article, UK based psychotherapist Rosemary Randall suggests that climate change is such a disturbing subject, that “like death, it can raise fears and anxieties.” Just as fear-based religions no longer produce results, traditional marketing approaches premised on anxiety are also falling by the wayside. There was a time not too long ago when marketers successfully scared people into buying a product or service. However, as reviewed in a Ted Talk on solar energy, this type of marketing is increasingly less effective. A better approach involves the kind of word-of-mouth advertising that we see in social media and content marketing. This type of marketing is premised on the love of something, rather than an anxiety-ridden fear based need. Other commonly employed narratives do not work either. One of the most common among the deep greens is being a tedious bore. This will not move the conversation forward and commonly does the very opposite of what claim we want to achieve.
Facts based narratives are Inadequate
We have failed to create a compelling narrative because we almost always couch these approaches in reason and science. The issue of engaging people to act on climate change will not work if the narrative is based solely on a better understanding of the facts. We will not make progress as long as we reduce the problem to an information deficit issue.
Many wrongly assume that people will behave rationally if they are apprized of the facts. However, the scientific consensus on the veracity of anthropogenic climate change has proven grossly inadequate to generate responsible action either from the general public or from our political leaders. Put simply, people are not rational actors. In fact, most have an irrational bent that causes them to actively ignore the facts.