One of the debates that has regularly reared its head in the environmental movement is how best to achieve change to more environmentally friendly behaviour. Small specific steps often seem the most direct and effective way to achieve practical change now, and yet there is intuitively a disquieting gap between the scale of social change needed and such small, non-challenging steps as changing to more efficient light-bulbs.
About a year ago, WWF-UK came out with a report, titled Weathercocks & Signposts, that addresses this precisely question.
After examining a wide range of evidence, they conclude that we need a “radically different approach” to product-marketing style campaigns that begin with the assumption of the sovereignty of consumer choice. Instead, they say, “any adequate strategy for tackling environmental challenges will demand engagement with the values that underlie the decisions we make – and, indeed, with our sense of who we are” (p.5)
Marketing style campaigns usually seek to “go with what works”, which may well result in campaigns based on appeals to status and self-interest rather than environmental values. They may seem to be the most effective way of achieving change in the short-run.
“But the evidence presented in this report suggests that such approaches may actually serve to defer, or even undermine, prospects for the more far-reaching and systemic behavioural changes that are needed.” (p.5)