A roadside information sign exhorting me to slow down because ‘Speed Kills’ made me think today about how we communicate issues that perhaps people don’t want to confront, such as climate change and peak oil. We see exhortations such as this all the time, yet they don’t seem to be affecting people’s behaviour. Maybe this is because the message isn’t just wrong, it is patently so: speed evidently does not kill. There have been no recorded cases of motorists suddenly expiring as they pass the speed limit. No, it is suddenly stopping that kills most motorists.
I think it is the same with peak oil. It’s no use telling people to reduce their energy consumption, which they’re quite comfortable with, because of a possible future problem. It isn’t the present condition, but the change, that’s going to knobble us. The issue is that it will be so much worse if we don’t start preparing for the inevitable now. Like speeding in a car, it’s not the present rate of economic progress that is the problem, but what will happen when that progress is suddenly halted and we hadn’t prepared for it by slowing down.
When we are communicating messages about future risks we must avoid over-simplification and blatant fallacies or we will just be totally ignored.
I’m going to think about this and write more when I have made some connections.