People don’t like environmentalists, and that personal disdain is hurting the green cause. That’s the gist of a new study, which found that the stereotypes people hold about environmental activists make them much less likely to adopt the kinds of behaviors greens promote, such as recycling. Pacific Standard reports:
In one [study], 140 Americans…read an article about climate change and “the need for individuals to adopt sustainable lifestyles.”For one-third of the participants, the writer was described as a stereotypical environmentalist…. Another third were told he was an atypical, less-abrasive environmentalist…. For the final third, his profile did not mention environmental activism at all.After reading the article, participants were asked whether it inspired them to do more recycling, or otherwise take more eco-friendly actions.“Participants were less motivated to adopt pro-environmental behaviors when these behaviors were advocated by the ‘typical’ environmentalist, rather than by the ‘atypical’ environmentalist or the undefined target,” the researchers report.
Did you catch that? If the author was just described as an environmentalist, it made readers less likely to live “sustainably” than if the author was unidentified.Our pointing out this story isn’t about directing snark at clueless greens. The truth is that the world needs smarter environmentalists—people who understand that mass migration to sustainable communes isn’t a viable solution, who understand that society isn’t about to voluntarily retreat to an 18th-century lifestyle or curtail economic growth. These environmentalists exist. Bjørn Lomborg, for one, has as solid a grasp of policy as he does of science.The world deserves a smart green movement, capable of effectively advocating for sustainable development. It doesn’t have one, and that’s a shame.