We are just living our lives: studying, traveling, buying cheap food, not thinking too much about climate change and its consequences. Why do we choose to ignore these important threats? Tania Ouariachi and Lynette Germes, from the Professorship of Communication, Behaviour & The Sustainable Society at Hanze, give us some clues.
Despite abundant evidence about climate change – floods, droughts, fires, water pollution, and so on – not all young people seem to be worried, even though it concerns their future. Dr. Tania Ouariachi, who specializes in climate change communication, thinks those people may not perceive the changing climate as a real threat.
‘Unfortunately research tells us that new generations are not fully aware of climate change. Commitment to fight it is still limited, and in some cases, young people are even less likely to engage in environmentally responsible actions than older age groups’, says Ouariachi.
Imagine being a mayor with the power to change a whole city into a more sustainable place, balancing pollution, energetic productivity and citizens’ happiness
She believes that too much focus on politicians and skeptics, an excessive alarmist tone and messages that do not connect with our daily lives, created a psychological distance to the problem. For instance, as young people, we might not feel affected by the message The Amazon area is 20 percent smaller than 50 years ago. A message that refers to our daily lives is more effective. Climate change causes beer shortage, for instance.
Ouariachi decided to study more effective approaches and channels to communicate climate change. ‘We need innovative communication approaches. That is why one of my research lines is video games’, she says.
Gaming to fight climate change
‘Imagine being a mayor with the power to change a whole city into a more sustainable place, balancing pollution, energetic productivity and citizens’ happiness.’ Such situations are simulated in online games that offer interactive learning experiences and inspire out-of-the-box thinking’, Ouariachi explains. She refers to 2020 Energy as an example, an online serious game developed by the European Commission project Energy Bits. Its primary objective is to raise awareness on sustainable lifestyles. ‘The game aims to stimulate behavioural change, it is up to the player to take the best decisions to improve our collective future.’
A sustainable lifestyle
Over 97 percent of scientists agree that climate change is a man-made problem. ‘Not only industrial and agricultural processes cause greenhouse gasses emissions. Everybody contributes in daily live, each time we choose options for heating, moving or eating’, states Ouariachi.
Fewer flights, avoiding single-use plastic, eating more plant-based food, buying fewer clothes, are some examples of sustainable behaviour
‘The first step is to recognize there is a problem’, says Lynette Germes, a PhD-student who studies the subject. ‘However, to reduce the problem is more difficult. Fewer flights, avoiding single-use plastic, eating more plant-based food, buying fewer clothes, are some examples of sustainable behaviour. Knowledge and awareness are the first steps in changing behaviour, but it is also important to know how you can change certain types of behaviour.’
Things you can do
Last summer it was so hot, there were ice cream and beer shortages across Europe. Here are some ideas that might help us have enough beer and ice cream for the warm summers to come.
1 Take train and bike
Because you are in Groningen you are probably driving a bike instead of a car. Keep doing so, if possible, when you go back home. Also, if you are going somewhere for the holidays, take the train whenever possible. The train is by far the least polluting option to travel long distances. Airplane emissions are 20.5 times higher than train emissions and road transport causes over 70 percent of all transport emissions.
2 Buy second-hand clothes
If you buy second-hand clothes, you will save money, and you won’t contribute to one of the largest polluters in the world: the fashion industry. Groningen has many second-hand stores for you to discover. Just along the Oosterstraat, you’ll find ReShare: a clean, trendy store, with clothes that are almost new. If you are looking for boots, you can go to Vintage Island, also known for its vintage garments. However, if you are looking for more stylish clothes go to Appel & Ei, a more elegant place with clothes from recognized brands.
3 Try casual vegetarianism
Reduce meat consumption. Farm animals among the biggest pollutions. Try the vegetarian dishes in restaurants. We recommend Feel good, BakkersCafé and Anat.
4 Motivate your friends
‘You can decide to behave more sustainably, which will be even more effective when you inspire other people to do the same. Motivate people in your environment to act more sustainably’, says Germes.
Tania Ouariachi believes students can be important drivers of change. Not only because we are large energy consumers, but also because we are the next generation of adult consumers. ‘The future of the planet is in our hands, and we can do something to stop the worst effects. Refuse to let others write your story’, she urges.