Relationships and Living Systems (Part 2) – Beliefs to Actions


Despite the prevalence of deep environmental beliefs, there is a real dearth of action. To say that is not to discount the wealth of work that is being done, but to date, the work that’s been done is simply not requisite to the challenge, if you look at any range of indicators out there (GHG emissions, deforestation, etc). We haven’t achieved the outcomes that we know we need.  Clearly, there are other barriers to action.  Thinking through the chain of steps between belief and action, we might come up with a list of barriers like the following:

– Having proper belief, but not among a critical mass of people
– Having critical mass in belief, but not the will to act on those beliefs
– Having will, but not the means for better action
– Having means, but not a clearly better choice of action (whether simply lack of clarity or lack of existence of better actions)
– Not receiving the feedback to know a better choice has been made (related)

Regarding critical mass, if that’s the only barrier, then we as advocates simply need to keep at it. Change is often incremental, with increasing waves of action along with increasing waves of awareness as advocates advance communication, for example, the growing awareness around climate change over the past few decades that has achieved critical mass (U.S. federal politics and its fact-distorting dysfunction aside, what’s clear is the unprecedented level of awareness and concern on a range of environmental trends, no matter where in the country you’re operating.  I’ve spent much of my professional time in the past 5 years between the Mississippi River and the Rockies, and it’s clear very many residents get it, even if many of their politicians do not).


Not having the will implies there are other beliefs, or addictions, or other factors leading people to make choices that are not aligned with their environmental beliefs and values. Of the many ways we could characterize the array of ways by which people make choices, here’s one partial list:

– Ease of effort
– Peer pressure
– Least (apparent) cost
– Patterning\”way it’s always been done”\habits
– Role model\thought leader\celebrity.
– Security\comfort zone
– Regulated\mandated
– Customer pressure
– Status\attractiveness

Advocates are best served by working as many of these (and other) levers for behavior change.  I’ll offer a sampling of measures for each of these decision factors.

(To Be Continued)