I am an International Relations student at Karlshochschule. I have been engaged in civil society, dealing with the topic of climate protection, for many years. Recently, I worked on a community project that aims to encourage people to change their daily habits. This could include stop eating meat, avoiding plastic, or to stop using a car.
Sustainable behavior is not just something for hippies. It is not about some people buying everything organic and feeling better about themselves. Everyone must live in a way that does not destroy our planet for future generations. At least it is the duty of all who enjoy the fruits of capitalism, who was born into the winner`s side of the system.
Whenever one tries to convince others of living more sustainably, one must be prepared to face an attitude of “you can’t change the world with your vegan steak” or “you think you know what is good” and “you just want to feel better about yourself”.
How to deal with people resisting the change
There are two ways to deal with people resisting your invitation to change.
Firstly, be patient and understanding. Make it clear to others that you do not think you are or know better. Explain that this is only your point of view and you do not want them to change theirs, you’d only like them to gain a different perspective.
Secondly, be confident. You know you are right, so try to deconstruct the opponent’s arguments. Do not be shy in stating the truth. You know that this will not work if only the hippies or hipsters try to live more sustainably-everyone must do their part. Try to find common ground. In my experience, there is always one. For example, that you can both might agree that the climate crisis will lead to refugees, or that it will lead to less snow, making skiing gets difficult. Ask what he or she thinks we should do, then build on it. Add your ideas and explain their benefits. If you have time, talk about the responsibility everyone has in a society, or if that doesn’t work, the selfish urge of everyone to survive and to see their children and grandchildren survive.
In my experience, the two ways can be combined. One should be of course understanding or at least pretend to be. However, I feel that many times the public debate is replied too often on the first approach. Politicians are scared to demand change from the people. It is in most of their natures to only promise things. But I think a good politician is not afraid of telling truth. That there is no endless growth. The concept of growth and sustainability are contradictory. One must come up with another idea of organizing society. Radical wealth distribution and unconditional basic income, for example, destroy the concept of “there must be work for everyone”, which often hinders progress because people are afraid of losing their job due to technological advances.
The power of truth and legal frameworks
From what I learned, you do not convince by backing down. You must speak the plain truth. You owe it to future generations. You will not achieve an emission-free society by saying to you that they do not need to change their lifestyle. They do, they must and they will. Those who cannot be convinced with arguments will have it harder because there must and will be laws in place. It will never work without laws. How many times did humankind get rid of something very bad for the environment without a law? Zero.
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Article by Micha Frey, Student (International Relations (B.A.), 4th Semester)