Preaching to the converted

The problem that haunts me is this: Bridport is a great place, with many politically active people who care and become proactive in many campaigns, but they form the same group of people who turn up to all events. In effect, then, you are always ‘preaching to the converted’. And whilst, as an activist and local politician, its reassuring that your event doesn’t result in an empty hall, its easy to convince yourself that the tide is turning – that things are about to change. The reality, however, is that this dynamic group of people only form a small percentage of the population, and for things to really change a far greater number of people will need to become involved. But how do we get them involved? How do we get a sufficient number of people involved in trying to change things such that things actually change?

Bridport’s Green Fortnight is a great example of this problem. We are in the middle of a well organised, creative and inspiring festival with many well attended events. But, by and large, it’s the same people that attend all the events. If each event is attended by 100 people, I would guess that the pool of people from which the attendees are drawn is no more than 200 – 250 tops. So if the population of Bridport and surrounding parishes is 13,000, that represents just 1.9% of the population. Is that sufficient to prevent our stampede towards the cliffs of climate change?

So, how do we get more people to take the issues involved in man-made climate change seriously? How do we get sufficient people involved that things start to change? Because it is us, the people, who could change things if we wanted to – if there were enough of us! Think about it: In order to ‘open up the market’ we are encouraged constantly review our energy supplier and tariff. But what if, instead of just looking for the cheapest deal, we looked for the most ethical deal, and only bought our electricity from companies generating from renewable sources? If we all swapped supplier en masse it would create a shock that would wipe the smug wealthy grin from many chief executives and shareholders in those high polluting oil companies. They would be forced to invest in wind and solar or go out of business. OK, I’m probably being slightly optimistic – but you get the idea!

Or, to bring the matter closer to home, if a significant percentage of the 13,000 population of Bridport tried to eat locally sourced food, and particularly supported small local local farms and bakeries, the demand for local produce would promote an increase in the supply of local produce that would be both significantly reduce Bridport’s carbon footprint and increase the resilience of its economy to the global economic shocks that await us.

However, for any such action to be effective a significant number of us would need to act in a united manner, and for this to happen a significant number of us would need to feel engaged and motivated to act, we would need to believe that such an action, which may involve us being slightly less well off in the short term, would be worth it in the long term – that our long term survival is more important that our short term consumption of unnecessary goods. In short, we would need to adopt a different outlook to life than that promoted by capitalism! And that will require far more than the current (let’s be generous) 250 people being prepared to question, and if necessary change, their core values and beliefs. So, an open question: How do we get a more sceptical audience to these events?