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For the love of…what exactly?

By Adam Corner on October 10, 2014

At the London Climate March last month, there was one message that seemed to dominate all others: the ‘For the Love of…’ campaign, which was out in force with banners, heart-shaped placards, and a wide variety of things that people were passionate about and wanted to protect from climate change.

 

COIN carried out the research that informed this campaign, with one of our key recommendations being that the Climate Coalition should focus on making links between the wide variety of things that people love and are passionate about, and the risks that climate change poses to them.

Although we didn’t design the ‘For the Love Of…” slogan, it follows pretty closely from the findings of the research we conducted, with members of the public from a range of backgrounds.

Elena Blackmore at Values & Frames commented on the presence of the campaign at the March, noting that:

It was a genuinely uplifting and inspiring sight, and the atmosphere was palpably positive. It was a real triumph in motivational messaging.”

However, Blackmore also posed the question of whether this positivity and personal connection was enough – in and of itself – to form the basis of a campaign message. Specifically,  she suggested that there was little linking the passion people held to tangible solutions, or meaningful political action.

Blackmore’s analysis rings true: the challenge is to use people’s passion as a springboard for engaging them in a conversation about serious societal change. The value of highlighting the ‘things people love’ that are affected by climate change is that it starts to  break climate change out of its environmentalist niche, showing that a wide range of issues – from flooded football pitches, to the food we eat – are all linked to climate change. It also helps to overcome the ‘psychological distance’ of climate change, by making it more relevant to people’s lives.

But as ever, the devil is in the detail. A flooded football pitch is a reason to start a conversation with someone who might otherwise not have been interested in talking about climate change, but it is not enough of a reason on its own to decarbonise society. Links must be made between the things people love, the things other people love and – most importantly – the kinds of policies that can produce a safe and secure climate for everyone.

Building a bridge between the things people love and the ‘self-transcending’ values that underpin public concern about issues like climate change is the central challenge, ensuring that we don’t unintentionally promote the idea that loving a pair of new shoes or a bigger house is a reason to care about climate change. This kind of ‘self-enhancing’ orientation is likely to lead people to care less about the collective challenge of climate change in the longer term.

The ‘For  the Love of’…campaign feels like a positive step forward, and has been design in line with solid social science evidence.  The challenge now is to breathe life into the campaign so that it doesn’t only exist as a one line slogan but as a social norm and a feeling, because a shared passion for the things we collectively love is a powerful and inclusive rallying call.

By Dr Adam Corner

After studying the psychology of how people reason about new evidence, and why they do or don’t change their beliefs, Adam worked in the Understanding Risk research group at Cardiff University, researching public attitudes towards climate change. Adam joined Climate Outreach as a Researcher when the organisation was still young, helping to grow the Research team and build long standing relationships with academic partners, including the CAST centre (Climate Change & Social Transformations).

As the organisation has grown, Adam’s role as Programmes & Research Director now includes working with academic partners, campaign strategists and funders to ensure that Climate Outreach delivers on its mission of building the social mandate around climate change.  An accomplished and widely-published author, Adam wrote Talking Climate: From Research to Practice in Public Engagement, with Jamie Clarke, and his research and writing has appeared in academic journals, reports and briefings, and international media commentary. Adam also writes about music – including the increasing connections between music and climate change – for UK media, and can occasionally be found lurking behind the decks at pubs and parties in Bristol.

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