When I was little, my mum used to yell at me “Don’t play on the road – you’ll get killed by a car!” That was a long time ago – we now know that the human brain doesn’t process negatives well. I’m not a parent, however I understand that these days the advice is to focus on describing what you DO want. For example: “Go and play in the back yard where you’ll be safe!”
Humans will continue being imperfect and a small percentage is inherently psychopathic. Our actions are highly habitual; our behaviours are largely governed by the norms of our communities; our perceptual systems are limited by the beliefs we hold about the world; and if there’s a system to be gamed, we’ll game it.
At the same time, does sustainability need more than “attack dogs”? How useful are “commentators” whose response to a project is to describe in detail what’s probably wrong with it; what’s likely to go wrong with it; and what’s not working in other related areas? Is there a risk in this approach?
THE CYCLE OF DESTRUCTIVE AGITATION
(Adapted from The Cycle of Cynicism in The Better World Handbook with apologies)
- Finding out about a new sustainability initiative
- Wanting it to do everything right all at once
- Observing for all the things that are or could potentially be wrong with it
- Feeling sad, powerless, angry
- Doing little or no research on the initiative to find out its history or stage of development
- Publicizing all the things wrong with it and with other related issues
- Encouraging people who may be considering how to start a sustainability program to feel sad, powerless, angry and scared
- Encouraging those working with positive intent to doing less and/or hide their actions
Repeat until despair results…
(Of course, it may just be that I’m spending too much time in the wrong environmental sustainability discussion groups.)