Back in January, I introduced a post this way:
Shifting to sustainability will involve more than changing laws. Inevitably, it will involve changing behavior: the way people get around, where they live, what they eat, and so on. I was semi-obsessed with this topic for a while — see here, here, and here, for example — and I still think it gets far too little attention from climate wonks and activists.
I'm just going to steal that intro and reuse it (you know you've been blogging too long when ...) because there's an interesting article over at The Guardian from Steven Johnson, a sustainability author and consultant, about "costly, time-consuming lessons" on behavior change learned from decades of public health campaigns.
The parallels between climate and public health have long been a subject of interest among climate hawks. Johnson's article does a great job of showing where those parallels can be helpful and where they break down.
I won't recapitulate all of his points. Some are quite familiar: Information without context and motivation is useless; market research and polls tell us very little about what people will actually do; messages based on shock and fear can get attention but rarely change behavior.
Some others are worth emphasizing, as I don't think they've penetrated as far into the collective climate consciousness.
One is this: Big bursts of inspiration do nothing to foster long-term behavior change.