A Well-Lit Path: A Blog from Westtown School

Climate Change: Another Chance to Lead by Example

Posted by Wade Tomlinson on May 10, 2016

climatechange.jpgIt seems we are always trying to find a balance between what we want to remain the same and what we want to change. On one hand there are traditions, habits, and rituals and on the other there are research, knowledge and data that  encourages us to modify our habits. I am writing today to talk about climate change and our thinking about changing our habits for the betterment of our world and our children who will inherit the planet.

 The popular bell curve that describes how people make decisions goes like this:

  • 20% invite change and are quick to advocate change
  • 60% are looking to find the balance of change and tradition, but do, over time change
  • 20% are traditionalists who resist change regardless of the argument

You probably can think of a lot of examples where this is lived experience. Perhaps it is around losing weight, curbing bad habits, or making decisions with other people.

Recent studies also have shown that scaring people doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked with the ‘War on Drugs’ campaign, it hasn’t worked in prison deterrence campaigns, and it won’t work as it pertains to global warming. Studies have confirmed that when confronted with information about an impending disaster we 1) accept the disaster as inevitable and/or 2) believe that the disaster will mostly affect other people.

Addressing global warming is no different. Don’t use scare tactics in order to affect change. It usually doesn’t work. The more fear in our brains, the harder it is to think clearly.

Secondly, shaming people because of their actions does not affect real change, either. People don’t want to be told what to do; rather, they want to be invited to do the right thing. The more options we give people, the more each of us will find our own way to change our behavior. And it is in talking to each other that we can discover ways of living in better and healthier ways.

When I found a deal on LEDs for my home, I jumped at it. It was a financial boon both in buying the bulbs and in saving after they were installed. As I told my neighbors about the sale I found two other neighbors who jumped at the deal as well. Since then, those neighbors have shared their stories of savings with others. These change-by-example interactions are effective ways to influence behavior.

There are many solutions to fighting climate change. And we will need the “all of the above” approach to combat this serious problem. In order to do it, we will need to offer people hope. There is a ‘hope gap’ that exists today because the problems seem so insurmountable. But actually, small changes lead to bigger changes which eventually affect large-scale changes.

If you are trying to convince your loved ones or family of positive change they can be a part of, such as the climate, offering hope and being a part of a positive legacy are the key ingredients. Yes, legacy. If you tell people that they will be remembered positively for making positive change, they are more likely to do it.

Be a part of the positive change train, for climate change. With momentum, we can collectively be the change we so desire in the world.


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Wade Tomlinson

Written by Wade Tomlinson

Born in Friendswood, Texas to Quaker parents, Wade is a lifelong Quaker. He graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Political Science and Comparative Religion. Later, he graduated from Johns Hopkins University with a Masters in Arts and Teaching. Living by the philosophy that success is judged by one's experience and not one's earnings, Wade has traveled many parts of the world. He has lived in Australia and England as well as Guatemala. He has visited more than 40 nations, seeking out the history of the place that is visited. "What kind of planet are we leaving our children?" is a question that Wade has a passion in helping to answer. He is the Director of Sustainability at Westtown School where he also teaches Middle School History.