Knowing others are acting matters

By Livvy Drake

This weekend, I was hanging out with my secondary school friends and their families, in Dorset. Gals I have known since I was 11 years old. We have navigated puberty, first kisses and a lot of heartaches!

Now they are navigating parenthood and what the future looks like for their children. This was made more poignant, as we were hearing the fire engines attending wildfires.

Some had recently been to the USA and felt utterly hopeless that their actions would make any difference when a nation consumes so many resources. Plus appeared to be so further behind with vegetarian menus and other ways for individuals to reduce their impact.

I was asked by a friend who decided she would have nut roast, for Sunday lunch, what difference would her going vegan actually make.

To which I answered…

If other people know you are taking action because you talk about it how tasty your nut roast it helps to normalise meat reduction and diversifies the messengers talking about plant-based diets (Social Norming).

By knowing other people are acting, it helps people to feel like their actions will make a difference, addressing pluralistic ignorance (which is a belief that no one else cares).

By asking for the veggie option, it creates a signal to the industry that there is a demand, which increases the amount of veggie options and makes it more prevalent (mere exposure effect).

The increase in plant-based meat-substitutes in supermarkets makes it easier for others to switch without learning to cook lentils (the perceived effort) and the brains reaction to giving things up (loss aversion).

Note

I did not tell her about the carbon impacts of her meal, or about the suffering of the animals. As her husband pointed out, he eats meat because he likes the taste and if there was an option that meant he could have the same taste without the animals dying he would!

So on this basis, what can you tell me is happening in the USA to make a difference to climate chaos? I would like to share with my friends. They also asked what we can do to drive change in the USA…something I did not know the answer to!

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