Of late, I have been beginning to question the effectiveness of our current communication of climate change issues and all their depressingly apparent relations, and whether the efforts of a global population are actually getting through to those people that really matter. Simply put, is the whole science of man-made climate change just too boring and dire for most people to care for; or is the wonderful buzz-word of the 21st century thus-far, sustainability, actually the trigger for snores all around.
I say this primarily because of the reactions some of my close friends have had to my blog and the issues I try and communicate to them within it, as well as when talking to them directly. Although many have commented on how professional or fancy it looks (sorry to blow trumpets, I honestly think they’re being kind) which is all well and good, but it’s their next comments which worry me - all but one has gone onto say that, it’s basically too damn boring, or ‘sciency’ and rarely worth their time reading for them to invest any effort in checking the actual substance of the blog out. Hmmmm.
Now admittedly, this is likely because the majority of them do not study, or have a real interest in anything to do with environmental science or the state of global energy needs, not least to the level I do, but I am always trying to write my posts and my thoughts down in the most informal and chatty of ways, so as to entice the broadest audience I can. Maybe this just isn’t the case however, and my posts are in fact too wordy or niche for people lacking a knowledge of the topics to get involved. By the way, if this is the case, please please please comment on my blog, send me advice or criticism and help me improve the thing, I’m feeling lonely here.
Moving away from my simple little blog, I remember a post I did a while back surrounding the US youth and their commitment to sustainability issues (I am moving away from it, I promise), in which multiple studies had been carried out assessing this very subject. I was surprised to see that the large majority of US residents were well aware of the problems of climate and concerned, in some cases deeply, about the consequences.
What I was more surprised about however was a study by the Chicago AP on students, or the ‘millennials’, those of us born straight into the climate debate. Here they found that this group has become increasingly un-invested in the environment and concern has been dropping off, with many seemingly admitting defeat or turning their heads to other, more accessible issues. One of the most convincing answers I’ve seen explaining this study, and one I share completely, is that the combined media coverage, doomsaying individuals and countless numbers of studies released daily by the academic circles is literally drowning some people.
Students just cannot handle the multiple directions the information is coming from, and have become fatigued by climate and the science, shutting down their emotional response to it. This is highly worrying, and was brought home to me when my friends commented on my blog, and is the factor I feel most at risk of derailing the entire sustainability effort if nothing is done.
Climate communication has always been one of the biggest issues faced by policy-makers and governmental bodies, but now more than ever I feel we have the technology to elevate it to a global scale. Social media. With the immense social-sphere acting as a voice and a catalyst for literally billions of people around the world, socialising sustainability is pretty much the only option we’ve got left which can be effected quickly and efficiently.
We’ve tried fancy policy, involving public groups in the debate, banging on about how inherently dangerous, petty, greedy and out of control our society is, and last but not least attempting to get each and every country on the same side for many global conventions, and yet emissions still peak and fossil fuels burn.
I think it’s now time for a social, digital approach. Rio+20 is taking the lead, with it’s Social project, the first of its kind, and many more need to follow in its footsteps. If we can, as a global society, empower a network of ‘millennials’ to rekindle their interest in saving this little blue planet, perhaps through the use of a social network style comparing of company CSR or individuals, combined with a platform where effective dialogue can be introduced. This may be a rather grand and fleeting idea on my part, but it has almost got to that stage where we require more than just a kick up the ass. Let’s hope climate tipping isn’t that boot.