Like a medic overwhelmed with casualties, we triage. This means we must target the most deadly plastic first - if we can't remove it all we must focus on the most lethal items and prioritise their removal from the environment.
Human Behaviour and social organisation is extraordinarily complex. Here we discuss the innate biases and oddities our evolutionary past has left in us as we alone as a species make the leap from a natural environment into a largely cultural one – and the consequences of this for our planet. We also discuss the cumulative processes of cooperation and conflict involved in the origin, maintenance, and collapse of current and past complex societies. Using evolutionary and ecological theory we examine a number of topics including human health, migration, technological change, structural inequalities, division of labour, warfare, and population cycles. By discussing these debates we explore how the perspective of Human Behavioural Science can address important sustainability issues facing Cornwall and the wider world.
Conservation campaigns often have little effect because they don't understand what actually drives human behaviour - they focus on changing attitudes through education, but often fail to actually change peoples behaviour. For example its much easier to use an education campaign to get people to think recycling is good, than to actually get them to recycle. Other psychological factors clearly are at play.
Whats better that popping a cork on some bubbly or a fine wine? Not much and especially not a plastic screw top. Bottle lids are one of the most common beach finds and one of the most lethal long-lasting choking threats for wildlife and our beloved pet dogs. Buying drinks with traditional cork stoppers is a great alternative, so feel good when you hear that pop.
In the past many scientists and economists presumed we were purely rational beings, self-promoting our own interests with perfect knowledge of the consequences of our actions. These assumptions are really influential: many world governments rely on our self-interest and perfect decision-making to change our behaviour, hoping rational arguments and penny-savings will alter our trajectory towards crisis.
Why is democracy the secret for sustainability? Two reasons: 1) it allows the majority of good sensible people to stop the unsustainable ones; 2) its makes sure that people feel they have the ability to make change, because without the ability to make change people see being sustainable as futile and give up - paradoxically ensuring what they hoped to avoid!
Sites in Turkey, including the famous Gobekli Tepe, show that before agriculture, hunter-gatherers started harvesting wild grasses. They were using the ancestors of wheat and barley to make beer - crushing them up in big tubs and leaving them to ferment. They found hundreds of these tubs and even simple musical instruments. What were they doing - having a festival of course. At this proto-Glastonbury hunter gatherer groups would come from miles around to drink, listen to someone rock out on the deer-horn flute and enjoy themselves.
Fritz Haber was a German chemist, who made food from air. He invented the Haber-Bosch process that takes nitrogen from the air and turns it into fertiliser, feeding billions - half the protein in our body is a result of this process. He won a Nobel prize and was Albert Einsteins friend and for a time was one of Germany's heros. However he was also one of the fathers of gas warfare, responsible for countless horrific deaths (including his wife) and is considered a war criminal today.