How to achieve change in behavior? Make it fun!

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49 Responses to “How to achieve change in behavior? Make it fun!”

  1. Neven Says:

    Growing your own food is fun too!

    Enter Roddy… :-B

  2. Paul Kelly Says:

    Growing your own food and climbing the piano stairs are fun because both are voluntary.

    If this be science, to succeed an action plan should meet a fun criterion.

  3. Neven Says:

    If an action plan needs a fun criterion then we don’t need to bother I think.

  4. Paul Kelly Says:

    Neven,

    You couldn’t be farther from the truth. Fun often requires lots of thought.

    Your own example of growing your own food is a case in point. The time spent thinking about the best place and time to plant, the best seeds and varieties and how to cultivate and harvest is essential to a good crop.

    Even purely for fun activities like solving crosswords or reading a good book not only require thought, but often inspire new thinking. It is well established that those who enjoy their work are more productive than those who don’t. We celebrate industrial design that includes beauty as well as function.

  5. Eli Rabett Says:

    Eli thinks this misses the point. The basic thing that people want if they are to change behavior is not fun, but the assurance that others are held to the same standard. This is why regulations and laws are needed, and yes, that includes laws against theft and worse.

  6. Paul Kelly Says:

    Oops, I misread Neven’s last comment as bother to think rather than bother I think. Either way, it’s a wrongheaded attitude. The pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right of all peoples and a driving force for human development.

  7. Paul Kelly Says:

    Eli,

    The suggestion is that fun (in its broadest definition) be a component of an action plan not the be all and end all or principle intent. Fairness is also a component, but I can think of many behavior changes that do not require it. My choice to lower our thermostat in the winter, for example, is not influenced at all by the actions of or the requirements placed upon anybody else.

  8. Paul Kelly Says:

    Bart,

    I think you’ve hit on the framing you’ve been looking for. The appeal is to the enjoyment felt by those participating in replacing fossil fuels.

  9. TimG Says:

    Cute. But the novelty would wear off pretty quickly – especially if they are installed on every staircase in the subway.

    The same problem exists with virtually every ‘green’ solution from organics to solar subsidies. i.e. they work fine at a small scale but cannot possibly be scaled up to a level that would make a difference.

  10. Bart Says:

    If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution

    I think a lot of people, consciously or not, live by this “rule”. But Eli is also right, the tragedy of the commons and avoding free riders is also an important theme. The major stumbleblock in the UN COP negotiotiations is that nobody wants to do more than what they perceive is thair fair share, and only if others do their fair share, which leads to the situation that everybody is waiting for everybody else. People generally are only willing to make sacrifices for the common good if others do so as well: People don’t want the pain without the gain. But changing the perception from “sacrifice” to “fun” may be one small way out, for some situations at least.

  11. William M. Connolley Says:

    Fun video – thanks. “nobody wants to do more than what they perceive is thair fair share” – sounds far too simplistic (even taking into account that no-one can agree what a fair share is). It looks to me very much as though the US wants to do much less than its fair share (others too, but the US most notably).

  12. Bart Says:

    I guess that would be a form of free rider behavior: Underestimating one’s own fair share and overestimating other’s fair share. All part of the (negotiating) game.

  13. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    The definition of “fair share” is a subjective idea based on one’s political and social values. It is not an objective fact. That means it is impossible to underestimate one’s “fair share”. There are only differences of opinion on how a “fair share” is determined.

    I realize the UN COP process has bought into the nonsense that developed nations have a greater obligation because they are responsible for historical emissions and most countries have signed onto various resolutions supporting this view. However, those statements of support mean nothing if the voters in the developed countries have a different view on how a “fair share” should be determined.

  14. Bart Says:

    Yes, it’s subjective indeed. But the game still is to minimize one’s own effort and maximize other’s efforts (as your second paragraph clearly shows).

  15. Eli Rabett Says:

    OK, the new party line is fairness and fun.

    BTW people are eager to sacrifice as long as a. It is a shared sacrifice and b. for a common good. While economists may blow smoke in your face about this, such sacrifice is a common theme of history and the reason that we have succeeded as a species.

  16. William M. Connolley Says:

    WTF? Of course “fair share” isn’t subjective: what nonsense. There are certainly disputes around the edges, but you-pay-for-your-radiative-forcing is entirely reasonable. “the nonsense that developed nations have a greater obligation because they are responsible for historical emissions” is itself nonsense (you wouldn’t happen to be from the US, would you, TimG?). Fair shares may not be precisely defined, but they are well enough defined to know that the US is most definitely trying to avoid its part.

  17. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    Negotiation implies a desire to come to a compromise position. The UN COP has cobbled together nice sounding words but there is no real desire to follow through in developed countries because the voters there reject the premise that the compromise is built on. If the UN really wants to see a deal it will have to make its position on “fair share” fit better with position of developed country voters.

    Eli,

    Humans will sacrifice for their tribe because they instinctively see their tribe as key for their future prosperity. The trouble very few people see the entire world as “their tribe” and that is not going to change anytime soon.

    This means that convincing one tribe to sacrifice while another receives benefits is a deadend strategy. If you want to see shared sacrifice then all tribes have to sacrifice no matter how rich or poor.

  18. TimG Says:

    William,

    Try to separate your opinion from facts. “Fair share” cannot determined unless one agrees on a philosophical reference point. We probably do not agree on that so we cannot possibly agree on how to define what a “fair share” is.

    From my perspective every developing country is much better off than they were 100 years ago on almost every measure of social development. These improvements can be linked directly back to the technology, capital and markets created by the developed world’s fossil fuel driven economies. In my opinion, this means the emissions in the developed world have benefited the entire world and therefore developed countries have no special responsibility when it comes to reducing emissions in the future. If it is really a shared problem it requires a shared sacrifice.

  19. TimG Says:

    Here are some facts to back up my perspective:

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/41756333/GDP-Per-Capita-1900-2030

    From the chart you can see the the GDP over 100 years in the “West” grew by about 17x while the GDP in the “Rest” grew about 19x. African GDP grew by about 18x.

    I don’t believe the level of growth in the “Rest” would have occurred if it was not for the technology, capital and markets created in the “West”. i.e. the “West” was the engine that pulled the entire planet forward.

  20. Heiko Gerhauser Says:

    Reminds me of this discussion over on global change a year ago:

    http://groups.google.com/group/globalchange/browse_thread/thread/c1c4f624a3a88a53#

    Regarding collective action:

    Let’s take a hypothetical: suppose the world was threatened by a meteorite and the world would end by 2050 unless 50% of world GDP got spent before 2020 to sort out the problem. Do you think “collective action” squabbling among nations would determine whether enough got spent and that India would go into negotiations with the notion that they’ll in any case not contribute a dime and that the US would then react by also not spending anything? If not, why not, and what would be the difference between my hypothetical and the actual climate negotiations?

  21. Bart Says:

    The fact that people disagree about what their fair share is could mean two things:
    - Free riding behavior (i.e. trying to duck their responsibility)
    - “Real” disagreement about what each entity’s fair share is.

    I think it’s both, whereas I see TimG arguing for the latter and William C for the former. “Pay for you radiative forcing”: Ok, but on what timescale? How do you compare historical vs projected future emissions? To what extent can nations be blamed burning cheap coal before it was known to cause a problem? How does technological progress factor in how responsibilities change over time? And there are gazillions more difficult questions that make “fair share” difficult to determine and even more difficult to agree upon.

  22. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    You’re right that sacrificing for the common good probably works best with small sized groups, where one identifies with the group. I’ve heard the ballpark number of a few hundred being the optimum (or was it maximum?) number of people with the best chance that people voluntarily forego free rider behavior for the benefit of the group. Unfortunately in this case, small is beautiful but big is necessary.

    PS: Where you wrote, “IMO, this means…” what follows doesn’t at all follow from what preceded it, and I don’t think it’s true. Just look at the second picture here. At the very least, the benefit it brought to the world is unequally divided.

  23. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    There are two ways of looking at economic growth:

    The communist/socialist way: all people deserve and equal share and if there are income inqualities then that is a sign of inequity/failure.

    The capitalist/libertarian way: people deserve what wealth they earn and social progress occurs if all people get richer over time. Income inqualities do not matter.

    People with the first view look at the GDP/population data you referenced and claim the differences are signs of inequity.

    People with the second view look at the absolute increases in GDP which are about the same everywhere and claim there is no evidence of inequity because everyone has benefited.

    There is no way to reconcile those views and come up with a single definition of “fair share”. Nor is there any reason to believe that people in one ideological camp are going to suddenly change their way of looking at the world.

  24. TimG Says:

    Heiko,

    There are different kinds of threats that engender different reactions. For example, a large asteroid that needs diverting is a threat that could be addressed by the minority and it would benefit the minority. GHGs are threat where action by the minority will only harm the minority while doing nothing to address the stated risk.

    I could see global action in the face of a former threat. In the case of latter threat I think people will invariably turn to solutions that benefit them rather than the world as a whole (e.g. adpatation).

  25. Paul Kelly Says:

    Pain and sacrifice, fairly shared or not, is no incentive. In going from burning to gathering for our energy needs, we are talking about the next great step in human progress. It should be fun – enjoyable, uplifting, satisfying, profitable. It should celebrate the power of aggregated individual action. While some cling to the dream of top down global regimes, the bottom bubbles. A single buyer of a Chevy Volt reduces more CO2 emissions than the entire Cancun conference.

  26. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    Your description of “people deserve what they earn” is a little simplistic, as it ignores e.g. the importance of a level playing field. In the world as it is, one cannot possibly make the case that an average North American “deserves” to be 100 times more wealthy than the the average “(name an African country besides South Africa)”. Even if large differences in income are accepted or promoted, people doing the same work should earn the same, which in a level playing field woild mean that over large enough areas/numbers, such differences would be averaged out.

    And more climate related, how can it be “fair” that 20% of the world uses 80% of its resources?

  27. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    I’m open to different PoV’s. but I’m not open to have comments aired here with a supremacist undertone to it. Even if written in nice sounding language, I find it wholly offensive. Therefore I removed your latest comment.

  28. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    I am a bit surprised at your response and I think you are reading things into what I said which were not there.

    That said, the second part of my post should on topic and within your guidelines:

    When it comes to consumption – production and consumption are inseparable. i.e. 20% of the world may consume 80% of its resources but also *produces* 80% of its wealth. As far as I am concerned, if someone earns 80% of the money there is nothing wrong with them enjoying 80% of benefits of that wealth. Why would you think otherwise?

    In any case, my point is not to convince you to agree with my world view. I just want to make it clear that different coherent world views exist and many of the assumptions you take for granted are only true given your world view. The UN COP assumptions on “fair share” cannot be reconciled with the world views of many and further evidence of a coming climate catatrophe is not going to increase support for those assumptions – it would only increase support for actions that fit into each person’s world view.

  29. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    It’s more like you saying that it’s ok to take more than the average share of resources, and on top (and as a result) of that to enjoy more than the average wealth. I guess it’s coherent in that sense.

    I know that I’ll never play cards with you. You’ll give yourself twice (or half, dependent on the game) the amount of cards as me, and then declare that it’s only fair that you win as a result.

  30. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    Why do you stop at resources? Why don’t you just say that nobody has any right to more than an equal share of the money in world?

    Perhaps it is because you know that an economic philosophy based the premise that nobody is entitled to more than the average income has been roundly discredited in the last 100 years and anyone who suggests we should adopt such a model will be branded as an out of touch radical?

    Yet for some reason you apply the same dubious “equal shares entitlement” rational to resources. Why are resources any different than money? How can you reconcile saying it is ok for some people to be richer than others but it is not ok for some people to use more resources given the fact that one is invariably linked to the other?

    If you try to answer those questions you should understand why many people on the left are attracted to the environmentalist the rhetoric while people on the right are repelled.

  31. luminous beauty Says:

    TimG,

    Your ideological false dilemma is not supported by reason nor history. The 19th century era of laissez-faire capitalism/libertarianism resulted in nigh the whole of industrial labor/rural agriculturalists living in abject poverty, producing much violent widespread resistance and state repression. It is only through social/progressive reforms like the minimum wage, the forty hour work week, collective bargaining, social security, industrial and product safety, progressive taxation, agricultural price supports, universal education and health care, and sensible capital investment and banking regulation that have brought better outcomes for the vast majority in the developed nations.

    As to fairness, whatever philosophical bases individuals or groups may presume to define fairness, these should, in good faith, be laid on the table. As such they should be open to mutual recognition and reasonable negotiation. (This does not necessarily mean compromise. It may well lead to a deeper understanding of shared mutual interests and a diminution of perceived, but illusory, conflict and its affective aggressiveness and hostility.) It is only fair and just. Can we not agree?

  32. Neven Says:

    Perhaps it is because you know that an economic philosophy based the premise that nobody is entitled to more than the average income has been roundly discredited in the last 100 years and anyone who suggests we should adopt such a model will be branded as an out of touch radical?

    Tim, how about this one: instead of an equal income for everyone (which, I agree, doesn’t work), a minimum and a maximum limit to income. With both limits connected to each other.

    For instance, in a company, the board of directors cannot award themselves a 10% raise in salary and millions worth of bonuses, unless wages for everyone in the company also get raised by 10%.

    Now that would be fun, wouldn’t it? A communist-capitalist hybrid. ;-)

  33. TimG Says:

    luminous beauty,

    You have not made any case supporting the assertion that everyone is an entitled to an equal share of money or resources. All you have said is that the government should enforce some standards when it comes to treating workers. But minimum wages and labour standards do not change the fact that many people make a lot more than minimum wage and the system we have in place clearly acknowledges that people who make more are entitled to their larger than average share. This brings us back to my original question: if it is ok for some people to have a larger than average share of the money then why is not ok for some people to consume a larger than average share of resources?

    That said, I also agree that differences of opinion require negotiation. The problem I see with the UN COP is there is no willingness to acknowledge the differences of opinion and an rather myopic insistence that rich countries are responsible for the emissions therefore only rich countries need to sacrifice. This leads many to believe the best thing is to let the UN COP process fail because the status quo is preferrable to any punative regime created by the UN.

    As a result, the onus to start a discussion about compromise has to come from the people who don’t want the UN COP to fail. They have to be the ones that demonstrate an understanding of other POVs on the definition of a fair share and show a willingness to compromise on that definition.

  34. Neven Says:

    if it is ok for some people to have a larger than average share of the money then why is not ok for some people to consume a larger than average share of resources?

    Perhaps because they will not bear a larger than average share of the consequences of those actions (ie overconsumption of limited resources)? Otherwise I’d be totally okay with it, you know, all those millionaires with cancers, birth defects, lack of water and food, flooded McMansions.

    But unfortunately it affects me too. It isn’t just a metaphysical question anymore. It’s getting more and more physical.

  35. TimG Says:

    Neven,

    4 hurricanes hit densely populated Florida in one year. A handful of people died. 1 cyclone hits Myanmar. 100,000 die.

    The difference is wealth. Americans are better able to protect themselves and their infrastructure from the excesses of nature.

    What this means is I do not blame nature for the 100,000 dead in Myanmar. I blame the incompetent and corrupt government that has kept its people in poverty.

    If there are future problems from climate change will it be the fault of people who may have contributed to it or the fault of the people who prevented their people from protecting themselves against the inevitable?

    Most will argue it is a bit of both. But the current UN COP process does not acknowledge how developing world governments are part of the problem and seeks to transfer large sums of money from middle class in rich countries to these murderous despots in the name of ‘climate reparations’.

    The question I ask is why does anyone think that is a reasonable thing to do?

  36. Neven Says:

    The difference is wealth. Americans are better able to protect themselves and their infrastructure from the excesses of nature.

    Okay, you agree with me that “they will not bear a larger than average share of the consequences of those actions (ie overconsumption of limited resources)”. Good.

    What this means is I do not blame nature for the 100,000 dead in Myanmar. I blame the incompetent and corrupt government that has kept its people in poverty.

    I don’t know if incompetent and corrupt apply to all developing nations, and of course developed countries had a bit of a head start in development, meaning Myanmar or other developed countries didn’t colonize Europe and stripped it of its resources, which BTW is still happening with the help of the WTO and World Bank. But I digress…

    If there are future problems from climate change will it be the fault of people who may have contributed to it or the fault of the people who prevented their people from protecting themselves against the inevitable?

    If the problem hadn’t arisen in the first place there would be no need for people in developing countries to take extra safety measures, right? It’s like saying: “I shot you in the face, but it’s your fault because you didn’t dodge the bullet.”

    Mind you, the reason those developing countries are so poor has something to do with corruption, but why is that so? Might our big multinational corporations have something to do with that, so that we can buy extremely cheap products? But I digress again…

    But the current UN COP process does not acknowledge how developing world governments are part of the problem and seeks to transfer large sums of money from middle class in rich countries to these murderous despots in the name of ‘climate reparations’.

    The question I ask is why does anyone think that is a reasonable thing to do?

    I think it has something to do with ethics, and ethics has to do with a moral compass which cannot be replaced by a stone cold calculator in the hands of someone who was fortunate enough to be born in the right place.

    Developing nations are not in a position to pursue solutions (aside from the fact that they are responsible for a fraction of global problems) because they do not have the money or the infrastructure or the educational level. All they can do is follow in the footsteps of developed nations and strive for material well-being (ie fulfilment of basic needs for the majority of the population and then more) through economic growth and resource extraction, etc.

    Unfortunately they cannot skip a step and start building a more sustainable society. And unfortunately our finite planet does not contain enough resources and ecoservices to provide 5+ billion people with the Western standard of living.

    Developed countries, however, do have the means to transition to something that is more easily sustained. The sooner they do that, the more developing countries can skip the step of overconsumption that has more costs than benefits (on an environmental as well as a societal level), and perhaps the planet might have the capacity to provide 5+ billion people with a decent standard of living (that’s probably a very big perhaps).

    An absolute prerequisite for a transition towards a more sustainable society is that the current economic concept of infinite growth is replaced by something more rational (read more here). But I digress yet again…

    Developed countries have the moral obligation to transition to a more sustainable society, not only because they are the principle cause of most of the problems, but also because they have the possibility to lead the way.

    That’s why I think it is a reasonable thing to do.

  37. TimG Says:

    Neven,

    You spend some time rehashing the ‘poor countries were helpless victims of rampaging Europeans’ narrative as if it is a fact. It is not. It is simply a narrative developed to support a specific world view. Reality is always much more complicated and does not lend itself to villain and victim caricatures. That is why your narrative is only taken seriously by people on the left side of the political spectrum.

    For that reason your appeal to ethics is flawed because it depends on accepting your narrative as fact. If climate change unfolds as predicted then they will be absolutely no way to determine what harms were the result of AGW and what harms were the result of incompetent and corrupt governments. Given that lack of agreement there is no compelling ethical argument for handing over large sums of money today. Perhaps there will be in the future. We can cross that bridge when we come to it.

    Your ‘finite’ earth concept is also a myth. Resources that are finite will increase in price. This will lead to changes in behaviour and technologies. As time goes on out economies will naturally become more sustainable because no other outcome is possible given the market forces. In fact, we see this already as a lot of economic activity is computerized. Look at the people who spend real money for virtual swords and amour in online games like World of Warcraft. This trend will continue and consequently reduce the direct impact that our economic activities have on the environment while allowing the economy to grow.

    That vision will not happen if governments try to interfere by imposing regulations designed to make people poorer. People will reject these policies there is a high risk of damaging the economy with regulations that will slow the transition that is going to happen anyways.

  38. Neven Says:

    In fact, we see this already as a lot of economic activity is computerized. Look at the people who spend real money for virtual swords and amour in online games like World of Warcraft.

    Do you like virtual worlds?

  39. Bart Says:

    For Dutch speaking readers: Het NRC heeft een aardig interview met Wubbo Ockels over ditzelfde thema:
    “Je moet de lol van duurzaam zien”.

  40. luminous beauty Says:

    Shorter TimG;

    “Let them eat virtual cake”

  41. TimG Says:

    Neven,

    Not an MMO fan myself but I find I am buying many products and services which have no physical existence. This trend will continue.

    luminous beauty,

    Not sure what you meant by that comment. The original comment is meant to convey the cluelessness of a french princess who when told that the peasants have no bread suggested they eat a luxurious cake.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Let_them_eat_cake

    It has no bearing on whether our economy can grow through the exchange of virtual services and products.

  42. Neven Says:

    Not an MMO fan myself but I find I am buying many products and services which have no physical existence. This trend will continue.

    Tim, I agree with you up to a point, but I think it’s good to realize that you buy those non-physical and services ON TOP of the physical products you buy (food, clothing, transport, energy for home consumption). And of course, those billions of people are not striving for WoW, but for the physical stuff. They want as much as you have. It is impossible. You have to change something. And with ‘you’ I mean ‘I’ and ‘we’.

  43. Neven Says:

    I was referring to the billions of people in developing nations.

  44. luminous beauty Says:

    “…I find I am buying many products and services which have no physical existence.”

    Ontologically impossible. What you’re perceiving about what it is you are buying may be unphysical, e.g., the entertainment value you receive from a TV or video game program, but the creation and transfer of those products and services still requires material and energy resources.

  45. TimG Says:

    luminous beauty,

    What is the incremental energy cost of delivering a digital copy of a book to a kindle vs. delivering a real book? I think you would find the real book’s direct energy costs of orders of magnitude higher.

    As for the production costs: such they require resources but the production cost of a single electronic product that can be replicated millions of times is also a fraction of the cost of producing a million widgets.

    What this means is for the same energy resource we can create orders of magnitude more economic activity. This is a good thing. The idea that we could live with zero consumption is pure nonsense. The objective we should strive for is maximizing value out the resources we do use.

    The sustainability narrative is based on a false premise: that humans can survive without consumption. Religions have been trying to get humans to moderate themselves for millennia. Why do you think things would change now? If you want progress the focus must be on getting more out of what we do consume – not eliminating consumption.

  46. TimG Says:

    Neven,

    Yes. The physical stuff is always necessary but as time goes on the purchase of the physical stuff will become smaller part of the economy. i.e. the economy grows faster than the increase in physical consumption. This is the path to a sustainable future.

    And, yes, billions of people what the same things that we have now but the path to delivering those things given the resources we have is to do more with the resources we have. The best way to do that will be market signals created as resources become scarce. Creating a bunch of arbitrary regulations that reduce productivity will lead to the consumption of more resources.

    We see this counter intiutive response with existing emission regulations as less efficient factories in the developing world replace factories in the developed world. This results in more emissions being created than their would have been if there were no regulations.

  47. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    You’re arguing a strawman by creating a caricature of what sustainability means. The Brundtland report defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This has nothing to do with ‘surviving without consumption’ which is utter nonsense.

    It has to do with consuming in such as a way that it doesn’t impede others (both now and in the future) to consume their fair share as well, taking into account the physical limits of the the earth’s carrying capacity and its resources.

  48. TimG Says:

    Bart,

    Terms like “consume their fair share” and ” doesn’t impede others” and “earth’s carrying capacity” are purely subjective terms. In my opinion you can play around with trendy but useless schemes like solar panels or organic farming but in the end achieving those goals invariably translates into “reduce economic activity and lower standards of living”.

    I don’t think that is something that can be sold to anyone but the idle rich looking for meaning in life. A focus on increasing productivity (i.e. doing more with less) is a vision that will be palatable to a lot more people.

  49. Bart Says:

    TimG,

    No, that’s not necessarily the case: It is a choice.

    Either the emissions per GDP have to dramatically decrease.
    Or GDP can not grow in the way projected.
    Or we let it run its course and let future generations deal with the consequences of our (in-)actions.

    We’ll probably do all three; the question is what the mix is going to be. To me these options are ordered in decreasing order of preference (whereas by the sound of it, you argue for the latter).

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