If we really want people to change their attitudes and behaviours, try to shock them or touch them first.
This proposal focuses on educating people to shape the right values, attitudes and behaviours. If we want to shift people's actions, first we should tell them what is right and let them be convinced in. There are two ways of shifting: the slow one--know it, touch (get access to) it, feel it, understand it, think about it, might accept it, then people might change; the fast one--people feel shocked or touched by a certain event, they may change immediately. We can make use of these two ways, even combine them for better effect.
Firstly, it is school education. We all know that children are the future of a nation, of the world. What will they care and value decides where we will go and how far we can go. For school education, from kindergarten to university, it could be a very systematic output of knowledge and values, which we can make a good use of. In the curriculum design, we can add environment series courses to compulsory education, like environmental science, and climate change history. If the environmental education starts from children, they have more possibilities to shape the right attitudes and behaviours to the environment when they grow up. Secondly, it is educating the public through media. Make more good quality TV shows related to climate change and play them frequently. Then we can make more powerful and impressive documentaries to give people more possibilities to get access to the truth of climate change. Also we can produce more public service announcements or advertising (PSA) which can be presented more freely, print advertisements, short videos or short films; and can be played everywhere, in the shopping center, TV, the internet, bus stops, etc.. A good PSA can make a big difference. Note that if we want these methods take effect, we must repeat them again and again.
Is this proposal for a practice or a project?
What actions do you propose?
When we regard coping with environmental issues, like climate change, one of the often mentioned measures is raising up the public awareness. However, most of the time, even we know what is the “right” thing to do, we still cannot change our behaviour habits easily. Which means the public awareness is one thing, and people’s action is another thing. There is a long way from people’s awareness to action, or you can say there is a gap between them.
Thus if we want to shift people’s attitudes and behaviours, point one is “shift”, point two is “people”. For the “shift” part, simply speaking, the process contains: know it, touch (get access to) it, feel it, understand it, think about it, might accept it, then people might change. But this process is slow and contains another possibility—people might not change at the end. If people change their attitudes and behaviours initiatively or naturally, there must be a stimulation, which means they get shocked or touched by something. This is easy to understand when you think it personally in your daily life. Take it personally, when I saw the documentary “The Cove” several years ago, which told the story about many dolphins were killed at a cove after choosing a few dolphins for show, I got shocked very much and the images of the bloody seawater and the miserable voice of the dolphins printed in my head deeply. I think people who watched it will cry as me and never forget it. Then after that, I never watched any dolphin show and keep telling people around me do not watch it and do not eat dolphin meat or so called shark meat, of course, tell them the reasons at the same time. Another example is if someone went through a car accident and saw someone got killed in the accident, this person may start afraid of driving and change his life values. Thus we can say that people will change initiatively or even they do not realize that they have changed when they truly experience something or watch something very staggering or touching. Because we human beings, most of us have the same or similar emotional reaction to a certain scene. Then, as I mentioned above, there are two kinds of processes of “shift”, one is slow and the second one is faster which needs a stimulation.
The second part is “people”. In fact, I think the most difficult to change is people’s minds. People always believe in themselves and what they want to believe. Sometimes we human beings are easy to be incited, while sometimes we are very convinced in our already formed ideas and hard to be persuaded. So how could we educate people? Here in this proposal, for better understanding, I divide “people” into two aspects: students at school and the public. In school education, the curriculum design is the keystone. Mass media is no doubt the perfect one to choose for the public education, which has a broad coverage, a continuous influence, and rich forms.
1) School education
We all know that children are the future of a nation, of the world. What will they care and value decides where we will go and how far we can go. Learnt this lesson from the history of Japan and Germany, these two countries were both losers at second world war. However, they both recovered very soon from the battle trauma and ranked among the world no matter on economic or political influences. One of the important reasons was they both regarded education as a critical approach to rebuild their culture and economy. Young people’s education needs more attention and is both critical for the present and the future. For school education, from kindergarten to university, it could be a very systematic output of knowledge and values, which we can make a good use of. In the curriculum design, we can add environment series courses to compulsory education, like environmental science, and climate change history. If the environmental education starts from
children, they have more possibilities to shape the right attitudes and behaviours to the environment when they grow up. Here the point is we should regard environmental education as critical as mathematics, as mother language, or even more critical. It is easy to say but never easy to do. The school education change, especially the curriculum design needs governments' supporting.
2) Mass media
Mass media system includes many communicating routes, newspapers, magazines, TVs, broadcast, and internet. Here we are going to talk about three expression ways for educating the public which can be used on the routes above: TV shows, documentaries, and public service advertising.
Firstly, TV shows, it could be any kind of TV show, like dramas, talk show or social science programs. We can make dramas on climate change background, talk shows on the topic of climate change and other TV programs related to climate change. Today when we turn on the TV, most of the dramas are about family stories or love stories, and most of the shows are talent shows, which means the TV plays a major role in entertainment rather than education. Now we should pay more attention to social science programs and put more energy into high quality of these programs making. As I mentioned before, a stimulation perhaps is a start of changing in a fast way, meanwhile repeat is a necessary for people to know, feel, understand and accept. The series of programs will play a repeating role and let people remember what is right to do, which could help a lot at the attitude and behaviour change level. Note that here are two core points: good quality and quantity of TV programs related to climate change, and repeat them.
Secondly, we will focus on documentaries. Normally only the people who want to watch or who care about the environment will search environmental documentaries, which means documentaries are not very popular. To some extent, the number of documentaries is not enough compared to other entertainment films. Thus what we should do is making more nature related or climate change related films and playing them more often. Personal experience is the best way to educate, however, it cannot be very achieved for most of the public, like experience trip to the cancer village can only be conducted for a small group of people. Then images or videos with force impact will also a good way for people to be personally on the scene, like the documentary mentioned above “The Cove”. If we can make good use of lens language, the documentaries are surely powerful and impressive. When people feel shocked or touched, it is the start to change.
Next, we will look at public service announcements or advertising (PSA). Actually, PSAs can be presented more freely. They can be print advertisements, short videos or short films; and can be played everywhere, in the shopping center, TV, the internet, bus stops, etc.. Also, we can invite some celebrities as the spokesperson for our PSAs which will increase the credibility of the PASs and catch their supporters' eye. A good PSA can make a big difference. For example, in China, there is a public service announcement for calling up people protect wild life: No trade, No killing. It is a simple slogan but very clear and strong. After a few years of this PSA appearing every day on TV, now many people accept and internalize this concept, and even I saw some children can say it out. People’s behaviours are changed gradually and voluntarily.
To summarise, in this proposal I mainly emphasise the importance of children’s education related to climate change at school and how to use mass media to educate the public. Of course, we can combine the measures above to let it be more effective. Changing takes time. We should not be impatient, but we do should start right now.
Who will take these actions?
The governments, schools, and media related workers will be involved in this proposal. The governments are supposed to leading these actions.
For school education, it needs the government to reform the education system at a certain level, as well as the examination system ,and then provide a good curriculum design about environmental knowledges, such as climate change. A series of offerings needed: teaching staff training, teaching textbooks and materials, and so forth. If the government really want to shift people’s attitudes and behaviours, the government itself needs to shift its attention and values first.
For the public educating, media plays a main role; while before the media can take some actions, the government should support directly or indirectly. For example, the government should rethink and reform its economic polices. Our daily life are full of different kinds of advertisements of “buy buy buy”, Christmas sale, Spring Festival sale, and even many new “Shopping Festivals” are created in China, “double eleven” and “double twelve” shopping seasons being popular now. Another one is our electronic products updated very soon and frequently, meanwhile more and more people prefer to buy a new one rather than repair it, since buying a new one maybe cheaper. All the actions above will require more raw materials and produce more wastes, which contributes to climate change in many ways. In many countries, the national policy is encouraging and stimulating domestic consumption to promote economic growth. Not only in developing countries, such as China, but also in many developed countries, stimulating domestic consumption is a powerful and common approach to improve economic developing. Corresponding to national policy, the companies will pay more money on the sales advertisements, and no doubt the media will also encourage people go shopping. If the government pays more attention on sustainable economy and climate change issues, the media will change their focus correspondingly. In a direct way, the government should provide more finacial supporting to the mainstream media and encourage them to make more good TV shows or documentaries about climate change.
For the media workers, they should play more of their educating role out of their social responsibilities rather than entertainment role. That is to say media should be more initiative to produce good and powerful films, PSAs and TV works.
Where will these actions be taken?
These actions can be taken on all the media around the world, especially the mainstream media which have broad influence, high credibility and more audience, like CNN, BBC, ABC, NHK, CCTV and so forth; also make good use of the internet and local media.
In addition, specify the country or countries where these actions will be taken.
What impact will these actions have on greenhouse gas emissions and/or adapting to climate change?
There in no accurate number can be calculated for the actions in this proposal, because shifting people's attitudes and behaviours is a generally action. But I would like to say there is going to be a huge difference if we can do use the force of media to educate people, and the change is going to be comprehensive.
What are other key benefits?
I would like to say the benefits of this proposal could be overall and continuous for a long time. Many scientists believe that that changes in lifestyle and behavior patterns are necessary to mitigate and adapt to climate change. We all know that to change people is very difficult, especially their minds. Thus we have to focus on the changing of minds, which is the root of all problems.
Today, our values are guided by "more money" "better life" "development" "GDP", etc., and we have rare time to think about why do we hold these values and what we really need. This is a philosophy question which you may think it is far away from our daily life, while it is actually our life itself. And the point is our values are shaped and impacted by the information surrounding us, like school education, government's policies, TV programs, films, newspapers and so forth. Thus if most of our surrounding information is related to climate change caring, we are going to have a good chance to think and change our attitudes and behaviours. And most importantly, once this kind of change happened, the behaviours are initiative and can last for longer time. If most people can change like this, then each of them can be more responsible and make decisions based on environment benefits both in their daily life and work life. After that, there is going to be a huge comprehensive positive influence in coping with climate change gradually.
What are the proposal’s projected costs?
There is no way to evaluate the economic costs since so many aspects are involved.
But the negative side effects and challenges can be predicted. The main possible negative effect might be the slowdown of economy increase, in other words, lose of some money. Because the government might reform the economic policies, like no more encourage of stimulating domestic consumption to promote economic growth; and at the same time put more money into media developing, like spend money on more documentaries telling the truth of climate change. Less income, while more spending. However, these action are worth for the whole society well-being both now and future.
The challenges are from the ones whose benefits will be impacted. For example, if the government changes the policies and cut down enterprises who produce and sell the similar products, or the media reduces the advertisements of these products, some of these enterprises will be closed. Of course, these enterprisers will vote against. Next, if people's consumption behaviours are shifted to environmentally friendly, the unnecessary consumption actions will reduce, then the retails will be impacted, as well as the delivery companies, manufacture industries and other related roles. All of these roles will resist the changes.
Even though, come to think of it, if we successfully shift people's attitudes and behaviours to more environmental caring, the enterprisers or retailers mentioned above may want to give up their present business and devote to sustainable business. Thus, there might be some challenges and obstacles at the beginning, the same as all other new stuff appears, we must have faith to overcome them and insist on the right decisions.
I think the positive impact will show up in 5 years, and be consolidated in 10 years. In the short-term, around 30%-50% of people will change their attitudes and behaviours to nature caring, especially their consumption habits.
In the medium-term, there is going to be 50%-90% of people changed their values and lifestyle, and at the same time, the economic structure in some big countries might also be changed to sustainable already.
In the long-term, I believe more than 90% of population have changed their values and lifestyle, and most of the countries develop a healthy and sustainable economy.
About the author(s)
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