Research, environment and individual change
Moving into 2019 and the media is full of Brexit news and environmental news – we are drowning in plastic and politics. The enormity of both can make us, the general public, feel very powerless to make any difference. What can we as individuals do? Can we really do anything of any significance?
We sign petitions (who hasn’t signed something on change.org?), we join charities, we make small changes to the way we use our stuff, how we buy stuff, how we recycle our stuff. We all fail at this sometimes – we forget to put that carton in the recycling and throw it in the bin, we forget our bags and buy another one, we buy the mushrooms in a plastic carton because we don’t have time to go to the shop that has the brown bags. These are all examples of things that I know I’ve done in the past month! Most of us try to do our bit, but we don’t always know if this will impact the bigger picture and therefore it’s easy to lapse from our good intentions.
So how do we make lasting change? Is it by individual action, collective action, lobbying or reliance on the Government to force us to change? I don’t know the answer, but I suspect it’s ‘all of the above’ in different measures, depending on the scale of the problems and how much help we need to make significant changes ourselves. What we do all need is information, understanding, incentive and motivation to identify the role we play and what we can do to make our difference and stick with it.
The Iceland advert that was widely circulated across social media before Christmas was an example of how Greenpeace together with Iceland captured the public’s emotion, explained the issue and, I’m sure, raised awareness of Palm Oil more than any other campaign has done in years. It showed that individually we can make a difference. It gave us all a hook to place our change onto.
This is where Charities and environmental groups play a vital role in exploring public attitudes to help them implement campaigns that help us as individuals understand what our role can be. Alongside their need to fundraise, they can inform, guide and inspire us. Through some recent environmental focus group research, we saw first-hand how helpless individuals feel in terms of their impact. Participants talked about feelings of resignation, ‘it’s too late’, ‘we’re too powerless’ ‘there’s no point’ – they didn’t know what they could do or if there was any point in doing it anyway.
Research can help charities understand the ‘why not’ and provide ideas for the ‘yes you can’. Great campaigns will then continue to provide inspiring actions that help us all work together – individually, collectively and governmentally.