Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Changing Habits to Fight Global Warming

As discussed in this Boston Globe article, people don't change habits easily when it comes to global warming and energy conservation. A city task force in Keene, NH, is trying to use social pressure to change those daily wasteful habits that impede efforts to cut energy consumption.

The idea is to seed the city with visible green role models and have them reach out to friends, neighbors, and co-workers - essentially using the same type of peer pressure that makes teens want to wear Ugg boots and North Face jackets.

"We want to get people to do the right thing because it's cool to do it," said Mikaela Engert, Keene's city planner. "We're trying to make [environmentalism] part of the fabric of the city."

So far the project has yielded mixed results, but it is revealing for spotlighting the challenges that any community faces when trying to directly confront global warming.

In 2000, Keene became one of the first communities in New England to pledge to combat climate change, eventually agreeing to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10 percent below 1995 levels by 2015. Without the effort, emissions were projected to rise 26 percent over that time because of economic and population growth.

As other communities begin to do their part to slow the world's warming, Keene's unfolding story - high on hope and short on money - offers a glimpse into the extraordinary challenge of changing a culture.

The journey of a 1000 miles needs to start quickly and with more than one step.