Election season brings reminders that any issue can be divisive. With each political cycle, the discourse becomes more polarized. At the polarized. At the same time, there are fewer common experiences among and within demographic groups in the U.S. Generations gather information from different sources and seek entertainment that meets personal preferences.
In forming opinions we draw from life and word of mouth influence from friends, family and social networks on and off line. If your sources are network news or local newspapers, you are probably at least 50. For some reason, radio listenership peaks on Friday. Twitter and Facebook topics rise and fall with breaking news on a 24/7 calendar. Texting is universal.
Our challenge is finding common ground and building support for preserving a healthy planet when shared experiences become more limited.What makes a message personal for a diverse audience? How do we strengthen the bonds that draw us together, rather than splinter into factions?
What generates advocacy beyond prompting a like?What moves the barometer from apathy to action?Clean air and access to safe water are important to health for all.
Air. Would you change behavior to lower air pollution or your risk of disease?
According to a comment at the March Sustainable Atlanta Roundtable, Britain adopted carbon reduction legislation because action was needed.People were dying from dirty air and ongoing studies link air pollution to premature deaths in the UK. In developing countries, citizens know that burning charcoal can affect health. Absent drastic examples, the U.S. has been slower to give this issue priority. The experiences of urban and rural residents vary from transport, fires and industry.
Nonetheless, smoking is finally considered a health hazard. My worst jury duty was when smoking was not restricted. Twelve peers (six smoking) were shut in a room until justice was served.
Water. Will behavior change without fire breathing faucets and sinkholes on every corner?
We are shifting from a culture that takes water quantity for granted, while staying on the wire with our unfounded obsession for bottled H2O. Between 1868 and 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught fire multiple times. The last event brought national coverage, making Cleveland and the business community the butt of jokes and songs, spurring development of the Clean Water Act. Action was taken. Atlanta is addressing infrastructure and pollution, after legal action required it.
Dire predictions that don’t materialize are easy to ignore. Information comes from multiple sources with varied agendas. Do we accomplish more relying on threats and disasters or goals? Without a fiery river or dirty air, will we muster the collective will to preserve rather than wait to restore?