Selling Green

How We Save the Earth Without Regulations

But seriously, folks...

Let’s be completely and totally honest with ourselves here; the climate is changing. This is not really up for debate. Some may think that it is, but if you look at the data and even just use the eye test it is clear to see unless you’re sticking your head deep into the sand like an ostrich. 97% of experts agree on climate change, which begs the question: why is there so much opposition to it?

The answers to this question range from the painfully obvious to the excruciatingly complicated. One obvious explanation is laziness; it is simply easier on us to deny science we don’t like than it is to overhaul our own habits (which we are quite comfortable with) in order to attempt to bring about change. However, this is a dumbing down of what the motives of climate deniers truly are. One more complex reason for climate denial comes from the fact that our brains have not evolved much since humanity invented the practice of agriculture (the last time cortical volume increased dramatically in humans). At that time, humans were concerned only with immediate threats to their safety, the safety and well-being of their clan, and their access to resources (and rightly so!). Because of our brain’s nature of responding to pressing and novel threats, the threat of climate change (which often seems far off and not as urgent as it really is) simply does not register as a big threat for many of us because it does not currently affect us directly, at least as far as we’re concerned.

Another reason for inaction when it comes to climate change has to do with the tragedy of the commons. Simply put, the tragedy of the commons postulates that there is a field in a village which, if worked equally by all of the villagers, will yield enough food and resources to provide for everyone’s needs. However, one would not be unreasonable in believing that if they take just a little bit more than their fair share it will have a negligible effect and not make a big difference; but when enough villagers hold this view, the field is overworked and the whole village suffers. To connect the dots, one might think that they alone do not affect the climate very much through their own personal lifestyle and they might even be correct in this supposition; but when thousands or even millions of people hold this view, we have thousands or even millions of people contributing greenhouse gasses to the environment.

No matter what the reason for denial/inaction, one thing has become clear as the Grand Trump Regime in all of its glory works so hard to undo all the environmental progress the left has claimed over the last 8 years: while they control the presidency and the Republicans control the government, regulations on behalf of the environment will become few and far between. And while this spells an end to mandatory action being taken on behalf of the nation because of our government, it is not necessarily a bad thing; regulations, in the opinion of the author, are honestly taking the easy way out as an activist. What I mean by that is, we should refrain from force because it is lazy. Rather than attempting to affect change on our own, we would rather that people be punished for going against us and this does not reflect freedom or liberty. In addition to this, forcing anything on anyone always creates an undercurrent of resentment and rebellion. For these reasons I propose that, in order to save the planet without force and without cultivating that undercurrent, we proceed not with regulation but with a completely new marketing strategy when it comes to being environmentally friendly.

There is already research which supports this approach. In a study titled “Going Green to be Seen” conducted by Vladas Griskevicius, Joshua M. Tybur, and Bram Van den Bergh, data collected showed that although one might assume that a consumer would buy a Toyota Prius because it is environmentally friendly, this was not even a top-5 reason why Prius owners made their selection; instead, the most popular reason for Prius ownership was that owning a Prius “makes a statement about me.” In other words, the most important thing about the Prius is not that it is environmentally friendly but that it shows the world that its owner cares, and this cultivates a prosocial reputation (and as the saying goes, “a good reputation is more valuable than money”). This ties in with one of the main motivations for almost any human behavior: the drive to obtain status. Humans are incredibly driven to achieve higher status than their peers, and as such, they wish to be respected. Therefore, it makes sense that if someone were convinced that going green would have benefits for their reputation, they would be more motivated to engage in eco-friendly activity than if they were simply berated for their denial and ambushed with an intellectual presentation.

In the study, results confirmed that status motives can play a large role in whether or not someone acts as an eco-friendly consumer. The key prediction of the first experiment in the study was that activating status motives would increase the likelihood of choosing a green product when compared to a control group where status was not a factor. The results showed that in the control group only 37.2% of consumers chose the green vehicle, whereas in the group where status motives were present that number jumped to 54.5%.

That is just a small taste of what is out there to support this idea. We will never convince those who are not convinced already that climate change is an issue worth acting on. As such, it is paramount that we change our approach to be more effective and efficient. This is the path of least resistance, as those of us who are acting will continue to act and those of us who find it laughable will become motivated to act whether they believe the hype or not. In other words, the only way we can go green is by selling green.

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