27 February 2008

Does Global Warming Motivate You?

The main environmental motivator these days seems to be one of fear. The press is jumping on every alarming article relating to the environment. Additionally, authors like James Kunstler, promote fear and despair through his best-selling books. In my opinion this is turning many against the environment and sustainable living. This leads me to think about what motivates us in our lives.

As a Mormon missionary, my two years were spent under two very distinct mission presidents. The first had a military background and would pound his fist on the table during zone conferences, raising his voice to inspire us to greater diligence. The second was soft spoken, telling us often of his love for us and expressing appreciation for what we were doing. Both were effective. Some responded better to one over the other depending on their personality.

Fear, as a motivator, doesn't work in many cases. This study shows how positive messages, rather than threats, are more likely to help smokers overcome their habit. Other powerful motivators include duty, love, and selfishness; a soldier on the front line, a father caring for a sick child, a worker doing well in order to receive a promotion. I think that each of these has a place even though we may view certain motives as loftier than others.

How does this relate to the environment? I have summarized my list of Environmental Motivators below:

Global Warming – based on fear (we are destroying the earth)
Personal Gain – based on selfishness (we can benefit from the earth)
Stewardship – based on duty (we are responsible for the earth)
Sacred Creation – based on love (we are connected to the earth)

Global warming and eco-trendy products seem to get all the coverage. Stewardship and the sacredness of creation rarely make headlines, but they still exist. In the end, isn't the most newsworthy report that when millions of people resolve to "rise a little higher, be a little better" (Gordon B Hinckley) all forms of life on the earth will benefit?

An example from my own life: I have used public transit to commute to and from work for many years because the purchase, gas, and maintenance of another vehicle was expensive. My motive was purely based on saving money, but it helped the environment regardless of my intent. There are many ways an environmental benefit can be gained, even if we may be driven by very different, and sometimes opposing, agendas.

What motivates you? Have you changed any part of your life or habits relating to the environment? If so, what motivated you to make the change? If not, what is holding you back?


B.G. Christensen said...

Mostly I do it so people will see how hip and eco-friendly I am. Can pride be a fifth option?

NorthernAl said...

I keep my thermostat set at 57 because I am too cheap to pay for more propane. Also I work at home and drive as little as possible. However, I think global warming is nonsense. In fact we are probably entering a cooling period. Still, I believe our energy technology needs to change anyways so I am enthusiastic about improvements in batteries and solar cells and other new energy technologies.

mhcs said...

I have to admit being economically motivated many a time. It's not just more environmentally friendly to go easy on the AC/heat, walk or bike, and eat like a scrawny vegetarian... it's cheaper!

I actually had a discussion with someone once about how it's kind of nice that it's cool to be green now, but at the same time it weirds me out a little. The consensus of the conversation was that hey, as long as you're green, who cares why? This is only because I'm not really that fast a thinker. ; ) I finally figured out what it is, and that is that fashions always change. (Remember back when fur was not ok for environmental/humane reasons? And it looked like it never would be ok to wear again? And now it's chic to wear fur?) Also that a lot of the more fashionable ways to be green are just a different kind of conspicuous consumption rather than actually reducing it.

green mormon architect said...

Mr. Fob,
For you, of course. But then again, being alone in your own option would just increase your pride :) So you have to go in the selfish category.

Thanks for your comments! As I stated in the post, I can live with your being unmotivated by global warming since your lifestyle seems to reflect a concern for the environment and you are interested in new technologies to help the environment. So even though we disagree about global warming, that’s OK, since we are both interested in seeing the same results.

You’re exactly right about the commercialization of greenness being a popular trend right now, but it is also dramatically changing the way everything on the planet is made, manufactured, processed, or built. Once the switch in technologies are made, I can’t imagine us ever actually reverting back to the old ways of doing things. And for me, even if the ways to make money from being green go away, there still remains our biological connection to the planet and our stewardship for the planet to motivate us.

Anonymous said...

I've been riding a bicycle most of my life. I prefer it to driving a car. I like feeling the wind and breathing fresh air. I live in a town, Prince Rupert, that is small enough to walk or cycle from one end to the other. I'm able to keep fit and save money at the same time. I write a newspaper column and a blog on green issues. My primary motivation for doing these things is religious and ethical.

Self-interest could be a powerful motivator for most people but the trouble is perceptions. People here, perceive that it's better to drive a car because it's more comfortable. Yet it's really in their interest to keep fit and save money. I see more people walking and riding bikes every year, which is a hopeful sign.

I disagree with your thinking about fear though. Why did so many people bother quitting smoking? Should scientists and doctors have played down the dangers of smoking because fear is not a good motivator?
Fear is a good initial motivator, but in order to sustain good behavior other reasons need to kick in afterwards. Global warming is a sign to humanity that we have gone too far and we need to turn away from our consumerist lifestyles. There are countless other reasons that we need to do this: eg., loss of biodiversity, ecosystem degredation, for global equity, etc. But global warming is the most visible sign. And it is becoming impossible to ignore, unlike other problems because it's actually affecting our weather. Fear is a good initial motivator but it's only the beginning. in the meantime there's a lot of work to do. Please check out my blogsite http://earthjustice.blogspot.com

green mormon architect said...

Thanks for the great comment, Charles.

Allen said...

There are credible scientists on both sides of the argument that man-made greenhouse emissions are the most influential cause of global warming. Because of this, I'm keeping an open mind for the time being about that debate.

I think my primary interest in alternative methods of generating energy are economic. I recently retired after 44 years as an engineer, and for over half of that time I car pooled or van pooled. There were a few years in Phoenix that I bicycled to work, but most of the time in Phoenix, Massachusetts, and Utah I had to drive or pool because the distance was too great for cycling.I pay a few dollars extra a month to my electric utility company for wind power. I would love to have my own wind-power tower, but my neighbors wouldn't like a 100 foot tower in my backyard :) I would also love to have my house running off of solar power, but the estimates I've seen for $10K+ are beyond my budget at this time. I also would love to have an electric car for local driving, but I'm happy with my Honda FIT that gets 33+ mpg. My city requires curb-side recycling, and I happily do that, although I'm not sure the economics of recycling gives a savings. But, it does reduce the amount of trash in our landfill, and that is good. My city water has fluoride that I don't want, and I have my own distiller. Not only is the fluoride harmful IMHO, but much of it is ending up in the Great Salt Lake.

Tom said...

after redesigning the paradigm and eliminating almost 40% of the energy traditionally used in designing indoor water parks, I attended a conference where I was congratulated. The person speaking to me went on and on about global warming. When I mentioned that I don't buy into all of the hype, he said, 'but you're so good at coming up with ways to save energy' I told him that my religion teaches me that God created this planet for us but,citing the parable of the talents, I said that He expects us to be wise stewards. In essence, being green goes hand in hand with being LDS

Jong Alvaro said...

Great and very informative articles and comments. Am a Latter-day Saint Architect from the Philippines and for a number of years am looking for church(Mormon) perspective on environmental issues we currently facing.
Thanks and more power,