YOYO Americans

Sigh. So how did Americans get so selfish, or have we always been this way?

I’m a libertarian and I’m working with the progressives right now. Libertarianism is about rights, sure, BUT – it’s also about responsibility. Not just for your own behavior, but for how that behavior affects others and the world around you.

Being libertarian is not about doing whatever you want and screwing everyone else. It is about acting responsibly and encouraging others to be responsible as well. I’m sick to death of the label libertarian being hijacked to excuse stupid, greedy selfish behavior.

Enough of this selfish excuse of a people we call “Americans”. The NASCAR dads and security moms need to wake up and realize we’re all in this mess together.
They need to realize that some people really do need help, and sometimes, we all need help. There are things we simply can’t do by ourselves.

Like change our oil addiction so we stop overheating the planet, for instance….
preferably BEFORE global warming destroys our crop lands. Most people don’t remember the dust bowl, but it could happen again. I really don’t think most of us want a repeat of the 1930s, do we?

WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: WITTs, YOYOs, and Why Americans Don’t Go Green

The findings of the research are too detailed to do justice here. But here are some big-picture takeaways:

# There is no common agreement on what environmental concern means or what to do about it. To the extent Americans are concerned, they are concerned about widely divergent environmental issues, from global problems to local ones to their ability to hunt, fish, swim, hike, and canoe. This diffusion of knowledge, perspectives, and interests makes it hard to gain credibility, let alone achieve consensus on most issues.

# Libertarian values are gaining over communal ones. Jaren Bernstein of the Economic Policy Institute has described two competing mindsets that affect politics and the environment: “We’re In This Together” (WITT) and “You’re On Your Own” (YOYO). (Linguist George Lakoff describes a similar divergence between the conservative right, which values self-reliance and self-responsibility, and the liberal left, which favors caring, empathy, cooperation, and growth.)

The environmental community — and most green marketers — lean pretty strongly toward the communal, WITT side of the house, a position at odds with the political zeitgeist, at least as practiced for the past quarter century by the YOYO Republican Party. Clearly, there’s a need for more “macho” (in Lakoff’s terms) marketing — the notion of man as protector, and of personal responsibility to protect families, communities, and the planet.

Many environmentalists I know believe they have a better understanding of the state of the world than do other people. And they might. But that’s of little consequence. The millions of Security Moms and NASCAR Dads who haven’t yet tuned into how climate change and fisheries loss might mess with their kids’ future aren’t about to be beaten into submission by the latest arguments or evidence. They’re not about to make purchase decisions based on a maybe-someday rationale for stemming environmental problems. They want to know: what’s in it for me, today?

So, big news: Americans are shallow, misinformed, self-interested, and unsophisticated. But they’re our neighbors, our colleagues, and our relatives. And they’re likely your clients, customers, or constituents. If you want to move them toward greener behavior and actions, you’ll need to deal — carefully and creatively — with all of these sobering realities.