While climate change is a collective problem requiring collective responses, what’s notable has been a general shift away from asking people to take action for environmental reasons for the simple reason that it doesn’t seem to work.
Rather, we tend to lead with the financial benefits that can be achieved by being more energy efficient or installing solar. As one participant noted:
“As long as they get to the same place then it doesn’t matter how they get there. It doesn’t matter what their motivation is. If they are going to save energy then that’s good for climate change.”
But is that always true?
Research has shown that by using financial motivations to encourage people to do things will crowd out social motivations. In other words, it doesn’t always happen that people install solar and then begin thinking more broadly about other environmental actions they can undertake.
But perhaps there’s another way. A recent tweet by Tanya Ha noted that “Common thread I see in antivax, cancer woo & climate denial is a desperate need for a sense of being in control when your world's gone mad.”
The key word there is control. One way we might think about future engagement with people to encourage them to take action is not framing it in terms of the financial gain they will receive but more about how they can take back some control in their lives whether it is from power companies or other centralised bodies.
We also need to think about framing that control message in a collective sense. Such as: “this action gives you some more immediate control but along with millions of others you’re changing the world.”
Perhaps it’s no longer enough to simply ‘sell’ solar power and similar actions. There are other motivations out there that can appeal to the individual while not cutting off a necessary collective response.