Today is Blog Action Day, where over 7,500 bloggers from around the world have pledged to blog about an environmental issue to raise awareness in the general community.
This is an opinion piece I wrote for a CAE contest a few months ago.
Climate Change and the ‘Oh Sh*t’ Experience
The most memorable lesson I learned from a week-long intensive business school course was that in general, organisations are unable to implement major and necessary change without going through what the lecturer called the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ experience.
Basically the theory holds that management and staff do not have sufficient motivation to go through a potentially disruptive and painful change experience, unless they are faced with stark and compelling events which clearly demonstrate a ‘change or perish’ situation.
Events such as large-scale redundancies, factory closures, major losses of market share and ongoing cash flow crises are usually needed before stakeholders understand that change is not only desirable, but critical.
The ‘Oh Sh*t’ experience also holds true in our personal lives. We are all familiar with stories of people who have survived near-death experiences and been jolted into changing their lifestyles and priorities as a result The most brilliant motivational speaker I’ve ever seen only started living his life with a purpose after ‘dying’ in a car crash. For many it takes a trip to intensive care for them to give up smoking or change their diet.
So, what is going to be the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ experience that forces humanity to recognise and manage climate change? The blatant signs of impending environmental disaster (melting polar icecaps, once-in-a-thousand-year droughts, dying rivers, choking cities, gaping holes in the ozone layer) have not been sufficient to generate substantial behavioural change in governments, corporations or individuals. As football coaches are fond of saying, ‘If you keep doing the same things, don’t be surprised if you get the same results’.
The problem with the ‘Oh Sh*t!’ theory from an environmental perspective is self-evident. What happens if there is no single event that drives instant and effective behavioural change? What happens if the earth collapses irreversibly, rather than suffering a ‘serious but not fatal’ heart attack?
We all have roles to play, both as individuals in our own right – think global, act local – and as active members of communities which can pressure governments and companies to act in the best long term interests of the planet.
As creative artists we can also help spread the message, by dealing sensibly and persuasively with climate change and helping to raise public consciousness of the underlying issues.
Previous Hollywood attempts to cover climate change over the years have been entertaining rather than disturbing – think Soylent Green, Planet of the Apes, Waterworld, Mad Max – and similarly works of fiction that cover climate change in a confrontational yet believable manner have been few and far between. Perhaps it’s time for a new school of creative arts that makes consumers think, ‘Oh Sh*t! I’d better change my behaviour?’