Hello. I am Jaideep Visave from Italy, with 9 years of professional experience in implementing and evaluating disaster risk reduction projects in Asia and Europe. Examples of my work include an impact assessment for the ‘Maharashtra Disaster Risk Management Program’ and outcome mapping for ‘Urban Risk Reduction’ in Thane, Sangli, and Ratnagiri districts of India. Today, I would like to share with you what I have learned about what we can do to make this planet better.
We often fail to recognize the importance and/or urgency of ending the exploitation of our planet in the name of ‘development’. I am reminded of Benjamin von Wong’s phrase “It’s only a straw, said 8 billion people” which specifically highlights our behavior towards environmental problems.
According to UN, humans have altered 75 percent of the planet’s land surface, mainly to extract resources, build habitats, and grow food. We have also altered two-thirds of the world’s marine ecosystems. As a result, fish stocks around the world are declining – in the world’s most populous region, the Asia-Pacific region, they are on course to decline to zero by 2048.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) outline the actions needed to stop the destruction of our planet and achieve the ‘future we want’. Who is the ‘we’, who should take action and what actions could make the biggest difference? Behavioral change at a global level is critical to achieving the SDGs. Behavioral science (BI) has become an important tool in the toolkit of policy makers. UNDP, UNICEF and other UN agencies have produced reports such as ‘Behavioral Insights at the United Nations’. For more information on BI and SDGS, see 10YFP Consumer Information Program (CI-SCP).
Lesson Learned 1: We need to better understand the importance of decision-making architectures and cognitive biases, to optimize our evaluation partnerships. Dealing pragmatically with human behavior and the complexity of our decision-making processes has not always been at the core of public policy and development program formulation.
Lesson Learned 2: We cannot rely on technological innovation alone to achieve widespread reductions in carbon emissions or biodiversity loss. No matter how many energy-efficient appliances, home insulation, and water-saving devices we produce or install, technological efficiency will not be enough unless people also change their deeply ingrained habits.
Lesson Learned 3: Making progress on the ambitious SDGs is a daunting task. It requires all of us to challenge deeply held social norms, powerful vested interests, and our cherished values and social identities. This is a much bigger challenge than developing effective marketing campaigns and promoting socially desirable green policies.
- Use your voice as an evaluator and as a citizen of this planet: We are the first generation to know we are destroying our planet, and we may be the last to do anything about it. Raising your voice is one of the most powerful things you can do.
- Be informed: educate yourself on facts so you can properly influence others.
- Be political: Vote for someone for whom the environment is a high priority. Make your voice heard in constituency meetings.
- Travel responsibly: This means choosing sustainable transport whenever you can – walk or cycle if you can. Prefer trains to planes to reduce emissions.
- Eat sustainably: What we eat contributes to about a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions and is responsible for nearly 60% of global biodiversity loss.
- Reduce your waste: It is estimated that one third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted. Choose environmentally friendly products.
- UNICEF (2015), Behavior change and social change: communication for development. www.unicef.org/cbsc/index_42352.html
- Steg and Velk (2009), Encouraging pro-environmental Behavior: An integrative review and research. Link is here.
- Consuming Differently, Consuming Sustainably:Behavioral Insights for policy making, report by UNEP and ideas42.
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