If It's Not Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n Roll, what is it? Creativity maybe?

By Stephan Lewandowsky
Professor, School of Experimental Psychology and Cabot Institute, University of Bristol
Posted on 25 May 2011
Filed under Culture

Let’s face it. The 1960’s were a time of radical change. And what we need today, like it or not, is another substantial transformation of our societies—from our current fossil-fuel based economies to an alternative means of economic productivity that is based on other sources of energy.

So what made the 1960’s happen and what can make the transition that we need during the next 10-20 years happen? This question has no easy answer. It may not even have a definitive answer at all.

Nonetheless, I would wager a guess, not as a scientist but as a curious observer of human nature and history.

And my guess is that non-violent transitions require one key ingredient that I have already mentioned elsewhere: Optimism. And optimism, in turn, is tightly linked to the perception that there is more fun to be had changing things than leaving them as they are.

The 1960’s arguably were powered by Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n Roll.

One or two of those can be legitimately called fun.

Here now is the difficulty: All three of these drivers of the 1960’s have not only been explored in depth, but their personal and societal costs have been starkly brought into focus as well.

Moreover, however one might feel about Sex, Drugs, and what passes for Music these days, we can probably agree that there is no shortage of any of the above in today’s society.

So if it’s not Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n Roll that can motivate people to tackle the momentous transformation of society that we must embark on, what might it be?

How can it be “cool” or fun to stop driving a hot car, to switch off lights at home, and to put avocado skins in the compost while the plastic has to be recycled and leftover salad goes into the worm farm? Is “doing the right thing” enough to motivate millions of young people to act?

How does one turn cutting emissions into Woodstock?

How would Janis Joplin or Jimi Hendrix tackle global warming?

I would suggest that far from being trivial, those are some important questions for social scientists to muse over.

I would also suggest that whatever the solution may be, it will likely involve creativity and humour. Just to illustrate what this might involve, consider this idea, developed by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition:

We're turning Murray St Mall (downtown Perth, W.A.) into a giant film set!

World Environment Day is on the 5th June and this year we’re producing a film of epic proportions! Picture it now: A mob of left-wing looking cyclists, environmentalists and alternatives, and a mob of business people advancing towards each other from opposite ends of Murray St Mall, meeting in the middle for one final showdown. What will happen? This film will highlight that climate change affects everyone, from all walks of life, and that a price on pollution benefits all of us, crossing the divide between the right and left.

A professional film production group led by highly acclaimed Richard Berney will be carrying out the film production work.

You too can contribute as an extra!

Choose Your Costume

Cyclists, Environmentalists, Alternatives: Come dressed as a colourful environmentalist, cyclist, or alternative. Meet at the EAST end of Murray St Mall, next to Barrack St, by no later than 10am for registration.

Business People: Come dressed in black and white as a white collar business person. Meet at the WEST end of Murray St Mall, next to William St, by no later than 10am for registration.

The Plot

Picture Murray St Mall, the long pedestrian strip running a few hundred metres between William St and Barrack St in Perth, with the central town square Forrest Chase in the middle of its length. At the East end of the pedestrian strip hundreds of left-wing looking cyclists, environmentalists and alternatives have gathered. It is obvious they're all in support of action on climate change.

But just a few hundred metres away, at the West end of the pedestrian mall, an equally large crowd of a couple hundred people all wearing business suits, white collar workers, have gathered and they look ready to loudly voice their opinions.

What are they doing here? Is there going to be some sort of clash between these two groups?

These two crowds advance towards each other along Murray St, walking with determination and purpose. Their paces quicken as they approach each other. Ten metres apart they suddenly stop. Silence and sternness. A Braveheart battle scene with two armies facing-off against each other. The tension is so thick, you could cut it with a knife. You're nervous with anticipation just watching. It lingers.

Some people in the opposing crowds start to raise their placards, or hold them forward at the front of the line, revealing their stance . Placard phrases like "Green Jobs!", "Our Kids Are Worth It!" "Unlock clean energy!" and "YES to a price on pollution" start to emerge amongst both crowds. Wait, what? There is a murmur amongst all the people in the crowds and a moment of realisation that both sides are actually agreeing with each other! People from both crowds start stepping forward, and then everyone is cascading forward. Just like in the Braveheart scene where the Scottish are charging against the Irish, the two sides meet with smiles and outstretched hands, greeting each other amiably and merging together. People realise this is an issue that crosses the divide between the right and the left, that climate change affects all of us, and that we all have so much to gain from an effective price on pollution policy.

This may not be Woodstock but it sure beats putting salad in the worm farm.

So I'll be there.

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