The Value of Shared Values

A Stanford researcher has come up with an excellent idea for motivating people to take action on climate change.  He suggests that scientists and others working in this area need to focus on our shared values, and how action to mitigate climate change would improve everyone’s lives.  By discussing what people consider important, such as jobs, health, and safety, people would be more likely to take action to save or improve these things.  When scientists discuss the harmful effects of our worsening weather, or the technicalities of how it occurs, most people glaze over because they just don’t have the time or the understanding to work through all the data.  The problem needs to be taken home to people.

A simplified approach that connects all the dots for everyone is more likely to work, and positive action is our goal, after all.  The numbers are there for those who want to see them.

What likely would work best is a short statement that people need jobs, for instance, and then solve that problem by showing how many jobs there are in the green sector.


In the electricity sector, there are 475,000 people working in the solar and wind industries, three times more than in coal and natural gas combined. Solar and wind power created an astonishing 100,000 new jobs last year. We’re gaining green jobs much faster than we’re losing jobs in the coal sector.

More than 2 million Americans work in fields related to energy efficiency, a sector that created 133,000 jobs last year.


The same could be done with health and safety, or the economy.  People tend to prefer positive information and a sense of control over a barrage of bad news they feel helpless about.  Give people something they can do to help themselves, and they are more likely to jump on board.

In spite of too much public apathy, though, there is some good news:

Carbon dioxide emissions in the United States have been dropping slowly but steadily for a decade because of greater energy efficiency and a switch from coal power to natural gas, wind and solar.  …carbon dioxide emissions have been flat for the past three years while the global economy is still growing. We’re starting to decarbonize the global economy.


There is hope, and we can take effective action when we know what to do.  Let us all persist in changing the world for the better.


Copyright © 2017 Teresa Chupp.  All rights reserved.


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