This guide helps with ten principles for reframing our arguments on the environment. Informed by psychology, the aim is to be inclusive and convincing. We believe success is defined by bringing more people with us rather than pushing them away.
- Self-Interest is not Selfish
Rather than pushing individuals to take action against their self interest, political leaders should emphasise policies that make environmental choices cheaper for people, whilst economic leaders should stress the long term and sustainable benefits to shareholders.
- Patriotism Protects Planet
Psychologists understand that human beings are, at their heart, social animals with a strong sense of loyalty to place and tribe. If solving the climate crisis can be understood as part of a national mission, rooted in our national story and promoting national success, it has the power to pull the wider public along too.
- Drop the Stereotypes
If we think that because someone holds a certain point of view, that they must be a certain type of person, then we raise the stakes of disagreeing. Once you bring someone’s identity into question, you make them feel judged or threatened. You also feel more distant from them, making you less likely to engage or reach consensus.
- Make Reasonable Asks
The successful communication of green policy is dependent on two things: Firstly that people feel reasonably responsible for the issue at hand, and that the resulting ‘ask’ is within their power.
- Drop the Jargon
If we want to bring people with us, we are more likely to succeed if we use language that is grounded in people’s lived experiences and priorities.
- Messengers Matter
If we genuinely want to persuade people with environmental arguments, we must think about who is delivering the message as much as what the message is. That requires some thought and empathy with the audiences we are hoping to reach.
- Stories, not Stats
Cognitive research on memory shows that if you want an argument to stick with someone, you need to appeal to their heart as much as their head. Humans are fundamentally emotional creatures, and we are generally wired to respond to narratives more than we are to facts.
- Hope over Fatalism
If you want to turn people away from the environment, you focus on the daunting scale of the problem, if you want to engage them, you need to talk about the exciting possibility of success.
- Listen more than Speak
Climate communication is about having a conversation, not giving a lecture. It should invite people in, not shut them out. It requires a great level of openness and flexibility. Good communicators make people feel heard.
- Nature is Sacred
Our transactional approach to the environment is part of the reason we’ve fallen out of balance with nature in the first place. If we want to revive our relationship with nature, we should find meaningful ways of reviving its magic.