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Why staying optimistic matters in environmental conservation

33 7 6
15.03.2019

HUMANS love optimism.

It’s a no-brainer – optimism makes us feel good and wanting more. This attraction has deep neurological roots that affect both our brain functions and how we process new information.

For this reason, optimism is powerful. Optimistic individuals or groups frequently perform better in sports, are better negotiators in business, and recover faster from illness. Feeling optimistic may well be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

But for scientists trying to communicate dark and difficult messages about conservation, extinction risks or climate change, pessimism can also be a useful tool (and a logical outcome). Shock headlines grab attention – and may more accurately reflect reality.

But too much leads to fatigue and disengagement.

Published today in BioScience, our research outlines steps to usefully combine optimism with pessimism when talking about environmental conservation. We took a deep dive into the literature from psychology, business, politics and communications disciplines, to understand how positive and negative thinking influence human performance.

SEE ALSO: How machine learning can tell us where to spend our conservation efforts

Know your target audience

To make your environmental message stick, first you need to know who your target audience is. What are their daily fears and future worries? Do they care about nature for nature’s sake, or only when it impacts themselves? How do they perceive scientists? Knowing their fundamental values helps tailor your message.

Let’s say we want to restore an endangered forest, whose existence has been largely forgotten.

The benefits of restoring a forgotten habitat are many: the mental health benefits of walking among wise, old trees,........

© Asian Correspondent