Produce Action on Slowing Climate Change

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With the pace of climate change continuing unabated you might feel like there is nothing you can do about it. There is actually a lot you can do to save the future from climate change induced by corporate greed. The easiest thing to do is just to stop buying things you don’t need, but there are other things you can do too. Over at Lifehacker they list many options for you to pursue to make a positive difference in the world. Remember that every time there’s an election vote for someone who also wants to stop climate change.

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A Step Beyond Positive Thinking

Positive thinking gets a lot of praise because people think that just changing one’s thoughts their lives would improve. This is not entirely true. It turns out to really make change in your life you need to change how you act. Sure this sounds obvious upon reading it, but read on for insight that isn’t so obvious.

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However in the 70s psychologist James Laird from Clark University decided to put James’s theory to the test. Volunteers were invited into the laboratory and asked to adopt certain facial expressions. To create an angry expression participants were asked to draw down their eyebrows and clench their teeth. For the happy expression they were asked to draw back the corners of the mouth. The results were remarkable. Exactly as predicted by James years before, the participants felt significantly happier when they forced their faces into smiles, and much angrier when they were clenching their teeth.

Subsequent research has shown that the same effect applies to almost all aspects of our everyday lives. By acting as if you are a certain type of person, you become that person – what I call the “As If” principle.

Take, for example, willpower. Motivated people tense their muscles as they get ready to spring into action. But can you boost your willpower by simply tensing your muscles? Studies led by Iris Hung from the National University of Singapore had volunteers visit a local cafeteria and asked them to try to avoid temptation and not buy sugary snacks. Some of the volunteers were asked to make their hand into a fist or contract their biceps, and thus behave as if they were more motivated. Amazingly, this simple exercise made people far more likely to buy healthy food.

Read more here.

Greenpeace at 40

I’ll come out and say that I”m a keen supporter of Greenpeace so I’m happy to point out all the good work they’ve done over the past 40 years that they’ve been around. You can see what Greenpeace actions we’ve covered at Things Are Good in the past.

Greenpeace has put up a slideshow on their site celebrating the accomplishments, you can view it here.

You can read Greenpeace’s blog post on the event here.

From the CBC:

“We wouldn’t see the kind of action by governments that we’ve had in the last 40 years if you hadn’t had that kind of pressure applied by the environmental movement.”

Sept. 15, 1971, is cited as the beginning of Greenpeace, the day a group of anti-nuclear activists in Vancouver called the Don’t Make a Wave Committee chartered a ship with the aim of heading off underground nuclear tests by the U.S. government on the remote Alaskan island of Amchitka. In anticipation of the protest, the vessel, Phyllis Cormack, was renamed Greenpeace, a term coined by activist Bill Darnell.

The ship was ultimately blocked by the U.S. Coast Guard before it could reach Amchitka, and the scheduled tests went ahead as planned. But the protest aroused significant public interest in the group, which was renamed Greenpeace International in 1972.

Read more from the CBC on Greenpeace’s 40 year history.

Using Psychology to Save the Environment

People will use less energy if told that their neighbours are more efficient energy consumers. That’s just one way to get people past their psychological barriers to acting more environmentally friendly according to new research out of the University of Victoria in British Columbia. New Scientist has the story.

This month, an American Psychological Association (APA) task force released a report highlighting these and other psychological barriers standing in the way of action. But don’t despair. The report also points to strategies that could be used to convince us to play our part. Sourced from psychological experiments, we review tricks that could be deployed by companies or organisations to encourage climate-friendly behaviour. Also, on page 40 of this issue, psychologist Mark van Vugt of the Free University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands describes the elements of human nature that push us to act altruistically.

The affluent young, for instance, tend to be diet conscious, and this could be used to steer them away from foods like cheeseburgers – one of the most climate-unfriendly meals around because of the energy it takes to raise cattle. So when trying to convince them to forgo that carbon-intensive beef pattie, better to stress health benefits than harp on about the global climate.

Though conservative pundits have been known to attack such efforts, characterising them as psychological manipulation or “mind control”, experiments indicate that people are willing to be persuaded. “From participants in our experiments, we’ve never heard a negative backlash,” says Wesley Schultz of California State University in San Marcos. In fact, according to John Petersen of Oberlin College, Ohio, we are used to far worse. “Compared to the barrage of advertising, it seems milder than anything I experience in my daily life,” he says.

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