What lifestyle changes are you making today

What can be done against climate change? - "We'd have to change our lifestyle - but that's difficult"

the essentials in brief

  • Many people realize that changes in behavior are necessary in order to live more climate-friendly
  • Implementing this resolution is difficult because there are many complex decisions to be made
  • Political and legal frameworks would be needed to anchor sustainability as a standard
  • Such framework conditions must ensure that sustainable alternatives are more easily available and cheaper

Why aren't we doing more to stop climate change? The psychologist and geographer Katharina Beyerl examines how we perceive the climate crisis. She knows what it takes to adapt our behavior.

Katharina Beyerl

Environmental psychologist

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The qualified psychologist and doctorate in geography deals with human perceptions of the global socio-ecological crisis and motivations for more sustainable lifestyles.

She is a scientific project manager at the Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research in Potsdam.

SRF: How do we perceive climate change?

Katharina Beyerl: We humans primarily perceive the weather with all its fluctuations in everyday life. We tend to feel climate change through increasing extreme weather events or the melting of glaciers.

At the same time, reporting on climate change and demands for climate protection are becoming more and more present. On the one hand, there are specific environmental changes that we perceive, and on the other hand, information conveyed personally and through the media.

How do we react to these changes?

Some people respond with protest actions, some try to live more climate-friendly. But many simply continue as before.

Many know that we need to change our lifestyle. But that's hard.

Since it is still relatively easy to mask climate changes in Central Europe thanks to heating, air conditioning and lawn sprinklers, climate change is often lost in everyday life along with many other issues.

Nevertheless, something is slowly changing in our society.

Yes, because in the meantime the population's knowledge about climate change and its causes has increased. Likewise, many know that we need to change our lifestyle. But it is difficult to implement because there are so many decisions involved.

In order for sustainable behavior to be facilitated, a social change would be needed. At the moment it is unfortunately still the case that a non-climate-friendly and unsustainable life is easy, and sustainable life is difficult.

Should we live sustainably and not just climate-friendly?

Definitely! Climate change is just one of many global problems. We live in a socio-ecological crisis. By this I mean that many ecological and social problems are interlinked and are mutually dependent.

We live in a time of social and ecological injustice, in which both prosperity and social and ecological costs are very unevenly distributed globally.

And currently, much of our consumption and prosperity is based on social and ecological exploitation. Prosperity and economic gains benefit few, while socio-ecological costs have to be borne by the general public. A rethinking and appropriate framework conditions are necessary here so that sustainability becomes the standard.

Many people would like to live more sustainably. Why is it so difficult to do that?

A changeover requires many individual decisions in different areas. Some changes can be made with a single action, such as choosing an energy provider or a sustainable bank.

Other behaviors are more complex, such as changing our diet, our mobility, or our consumption. When it comes to actually implementing all of these decisions, factors such as habits and norms, but also the objective circumstances, play an important role.

Sustainability must become an attractive standard. And that for everyone.

And at the moment, unsustainable products and services are still the standard, both in what we offer and in our consumer expectations.

Is the Debate about environmentally friendly living a discussion about renunciation?

Yes and no. In my opinion, it is more about a lifestyle that is not only beneficial to us humans, but also to the ecosystems and the climate on earth. Such a lifestyle can bring a better quality of life for everyone.

This also includes thinking about how we can do without cheap meat from stressed animals, food contaminated with pesticides, fast fashion and actually unnecessary flights and business trips.

We are currently harming the environment and other people with our mobility, nutrition and consumption, although we do not want to. We are becoming more and more aware of this.

What does it take so that we can adapt our behavior to our thinking?

We need offers that make it easy for you to change your behavior: attractive, sustainable alternatives that are easy to implement. If prices for goods and services reflected socio-ecological costs, sustainable alternatives would also be cheaper. Sustainability must become an attractive standard. And that for everyone.

Sustainable living needs the decision of each and every individual - at home, in a club, at work. At the same time, we need a society-wide dialogue in order to negotiate together how we want to live. Because it is about justice, a respectful and careful treatment of oneself and one another. And in order to shape change, we need political and legal framework conditions that are binding for everyone.

Interview conducted by Alice Henkes.

Broadcast: Radio SRF 2 Kultur, Context, August 5th, 2020, 9:03 am .; hena / huta

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