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Selling the sizzle

Posted: December 9th, 2009 | Author: ktcita | Filed under: behaviour, environment, future | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments »


Have just read Futerra’s report Selling the Sizzle. It is a basic outline of how, through positive framing, climate change activists can radically change people’s behaviour toward climate change. It’s all about making the actions desirable so that people actually take them. For, “without public support the Cynics win by default. All they need is inaction”

The basic problem, Futerra says, is that “most climate friendly behaviours, especially the big hard ones (travel, diet, etc) are not aspirational or desirable. One factor that tars them is their association with a problem. You’re asked to make a sacrifice for the greater good, which has rarely in human history been a high status pastime.”

But Futerra believes that if we frame these actions positively then they could become desirable. They list the process that communicators should use as:


This step-by-step process feels a bit like a quit smoking programme. First, envision the glorious future without cigarettes. Then once the patient can see the positive future, give them a choice between this, and the hell of a lifetime of smoking. Then you and the patient start planning on how you will tackle quitting smoking. And finally the patient takes action and quits smoking, and you keep reinforcing the positive future they have chosen.

The question is, will it work? Can we make desirable the behaviour and lifestyle changes that are necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change? If you are in the business of communicating climate change, I suggest you read the report.

3 Comments on “Selling the sizzle”

  1. 1 Zara said at 9:22 am on December 10th, 2009:

    My kind of designer!

    This post is great. Will be especially helpful when I start my position as “Greening Officer” in the New Year. Thanks :)

  2. 2 ktcita said at 9:33 am on December 10th, 2009:

    Good luck with your new job. You should check out all of Futerra’s work, am sure there’ll be heaps more info of interest there. They are really good thinkers.

  3. 3 Sean Kidney said at 4:01 am on December 17th, 2009:

    Trouble it’s more focus on individuals voluntarily changing their behaviour. This may be useful but is fundamentally the wrong strategy.

    First because big changes happen when we as a community decide as a group on either making it all-in – mandatory, such as no smoking indoors, or simply phase out incandescent light bulbs; or opt-out, like Austria automatically enrolling everyone in organ donor programs but allowing the right to say “not me thanks”. one-person-by-one-person change programs, the normal approach in the US, UK and Australia, usually stall at 15-25% take-up rates, leaving the rest of the population to do what they want.

    Secondly because the climate change mitigation steps we need are basically big structural: switch the energy system over the clean, and be quick about it. If we were all using solar and wind we wouldn’t in fact, need to reduce our energy consumption (whether we should anyway becomes a separate point). There is more than enough energy floating around in the world to power a few globes worth of people, the only issue is harvesting it sustainably and without harm to others.

    On resources management: agriculture, oceans, etc – we actually need structural changes not voluntary schemes. We need compulsory fisheries management plans and a fast shift to a big international scheme of marine reserves; we need phasing out of nitrogen-based fertiliser for farming (a greenhouse gas tax would do this) to be replaced by biochar and other options; and so on.

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