2 November 2013

'Love Not Loss'

"The details are too depressing to go into, so I won't, but what I do want to do is highlight the report's conclusions and recommendations ... in that there aren't any."
I said that. It was in a post about the RSPBs recent report, State of Nature. Their headline findings were that 60% of wildlife populations have declined since 1968.

How depressing. I read it because I'm interested in that kind of thing, but I finished it saddened. Significantly, on finishing reading it I didn't immediately go out into the garden to put up bird boxes, create a log pile, sign a petition or join a conservation group. The report didn't encourage or empower me to think I could help reverse this decline in wildlife.

And in this I'm normal. Studies show that a constant doom and gloom reporting of the natural world doesn't motivate people to engage with it. Sadness, fear and even guilt wont push the normal person - Jane Average - into action. And yet this is tone of most of the communications conservation groups and the general media have when talking to the general public.

I've long said Green groups, of all hues, should employ artists if they want people to help save the planet, or local vole populations, or put their spent batteries in recycling bins.

People are motivated by emotion, not facts.

The dear old government has got a problem on its hands:
The Biodiversity Segmentation Scoping Study was commissioned to support delivery of Outcome 4 of the Biodiversity 2020 strategy: “By 2020, significantly more people will be engaged in biodiversity issues, aware of its value and taking positive action.”
They seem to have agreed to flag up biodiversity as an issue their citizens should be concerned about, and one they could actively do something about.

Hmm, how are they going to do that? Do you think they have started yet? What is biodiversity anyway?

The Segmentation Scoping Study [oh, how we do like words here in Garden65] has produced a 121 page report. I've tried to get through it. I got to page 35 then had to have a reviving cup of tea. Which is a shame because the general drift of what it is saying is interesting.

Given the complexity of human psychology and the equally muddy nature of the society we live in the report suggests reframing biodiversity into a positive, personally important issue, instead of presenting the public with bland facts and/or scare stories about the loss of biodiversity.

As an example they mention the concept of 'global warming'. People have difficulty relating to the idea because:
"it does not fit with our everyday experiences, and it actually sounds rather pleasant. It is to be hoped that the recent reframing of climate change in terms of ‘global weirding’ will be much more successful on both counts."

Global weirding.    Brilliant!

A communications agency [what's a communications agency?] called Futerra has produced a much easier to read little report on this idea of reframing or rebranding. I really recommend you have a look at it (only 15 pages long with nice pictures of penguins):

Their recommendation to those people trying to communicate green issues to the public is, 'Love Not Loss'. Messages that talk of loss, decline, threat are not motivating messages. They are counter-productive in that they induce apathy and a sense of powerlessness. On the other hand messages that engage awe and a reminder of the emotional connection people have with nature, ie. love, are the most successful.

They go on to say facts and economic realities are valuable tools of persuasion (to engage with biodiversity issues) but tend to be more useful to businesses and politicians rather than our Average Jane.

So if the big guns of Westminster and hipster trendies both  agree depressing 'we're all doomed' reports are not inspiring people to take some action to help nature, then I feel not only entirely vindicated in my belief eco-people should use artists to get their messages across, but also possibly a nano-second ahead of the zeitgeist.