Hi! I’d argued elsewhere outside the forum before that good mass communication is needed and I believe that takes funding (even if not much). Say it goes as well as the cage-free egg production campaigns in the US, which admittedly is a ridiculously narrow and uncontroversial subject in comparison… it still takes decades and a lot of energy put into media campaigns, political candidates, making knowledge accessible, arguing and counterarguing and anticipating the bullshit that may come one’s way.
So I’ll largely copy my argumentation here, slightly edited. Forgive me the still somewhat explain-y tone, it was originally intended for a less informed audience visiting my website. Skip the non-bold parts of points 1-2 if you’re familiar.
Lack of effective mass communications, not lack of research, is currently the main limiting factor in the effort to reach true global sustainability.
We need to change how large corporations (can) behave. Large corporations are the biggest polluters, biggest resource users, and next to governments among the most powerful entities in the world.
As they are built on principles that force them to prioritize shareholder return, they are by design forced to disregard externalities and externalize as many costs as possible. Even if they tried to, it seems they inherently could not better themselves in this regard. At least not without help from the outside.
We can not argue them into maximizing public benefit (or even just increasing it by far enough, ie decreasing their negative impact on natural systems) – because profit‐maximizing, not public‐benefit‐maximizing behaviour is their nature und purpose. We can also not ask them for it or suggest it to them. Let me quote a far better writer on this, because this point is so important. Scott Alexander explains:
[Agents in competitive systems that optimize only for profit] gradually lose all values except sheer competition[.]
[…] Companies in an economic environment of sufficiently intense competition are forced to abandon all values except optimizing‐for‐profit or else be outcompeted by companies that optimized for profit better and so can sell the same service at a lower price. (…)
From a god’s-eye-view, we can contrive a friendly industry where every company pays its workers a living wage. From within the system, there’s no way to enact it.
We can only legislate them into doing so.
- A strong public mandate (pressure from citizens) is needed to put the necessary laws in place.
Politicians are, by the system’s design, constantly forced to balance acceptable public opinion with maximal capital for re‐election and are thus dependent on large corporations. For money, mostly, but also to be able to pass economic policies when there is no strong public mandate. (Any politician’s decisions against large corporations’ maximum profits will be penalized with lack of campaign donations, further tax minimization and worsening public perception because of the politican’s “weakening the economy”.)
To reach a strong public mandate, we need better communication.
- There is far more research with clear results than there is awareness of the same in the general public.
The research results are pointing at a) humanity’s responsibility to change its systems and fix systemic design flaws, and b) plenty good policy proposals that would be very helpful in the process of mitigating ecological collapse.
- Also, to achieve individual behavourial change in citizens of those nations with the largest ecological footprints, disregarding how doing this alone would be near‐impossible and ineffective in the long term, we need better communication. Private individuals can drastically alter their lifestyle and influence many people around them. If we only asked, “how can we make it easier for people to behave environmentally‐friendly?”, the answer would be about how they are communicated to – regarding problems, regarding the many possibilities of potential post‐growth societies, and what to do to get there.
- Communications, not research, is the current bottleneck in the effort to reach true global sustainability.
This is why I have been working to get into effective communication about large‐scale problems. And that will take funding, indeed.
Reaching post-growth politics will take strategic campaigning and making the subjects and arguments really accessible. I’m really glad the letter to the EU happened! But of course, calls on the EU happen daily and as long as it’s easier to ignore or deflect the scientists’ demands than those of big business and the pressure to perform well in current indicators, not much will happen.
Also, even if the EU began enacting this, missing a strong public mandate and common ground of knowledge could lead to a disconnect, where many citizens feel seriously endangered by the pro-growth propaganda reaching them and distorting what this is. So many (educated) citizens already view everything coming from the EU as top-down, bureaucrat, undemocratic elite rule.
In my view this was really good to publicly lend the subject the credibility it has within academia and some activist circles, give it a bit of an audience - but not as a campaign, because the abyss between academics being convinced of something and politicians enacting it wasn’t bridged. It may reach the greener, more progressive politicians everywhere, of course.
(By the way, I welcome productive disagreement on the above reasoning, as well as suggestions for good examples to illustrate it!)