Conservatives Need a Special Language

If you try to discuss environmental issues with a conservative, you need to speak a different language. Don’t try to use logic or science, they won’t respond. Progressives need to learn how to express environmental concerns in a way that brings conservatives on board. The planet is in the balance.

Researchers found that people who identified as conservative were more likely to support “pro-environmental” ideals when the issues were framed as matters of obeying authority, defending the purity of nature and demonstrating patriotism.

If we can’t figure out how to communicate with each other, then we will never be able to get on the same page when it comes to virtually any aspect of conservation. Breaking the polarization between left and right is critical to creating a dialog and moving toward solutions. If that means changing the frame of the conversation, then let that change begin.

In a series of experiments, the researchers tested how shifts in moral framing affected attitudes toward environmental issues such as climate change. They reframed questions about conservation and climate change around ideals of patriotism, loyalty, authority and purity and paired them with imagery such as flags and bald eagles.

They found that reframing the issues around these moral foundations led to shifts in attitudes for conservatives, who were more likely to favor environmental concerns in that context. There was no noticeable shift in attitudes among liberals, which isn’t a big surprise, Wolsko said.

What is critical is that we fight against the very real forces that want to insure that polarization continues regarding environment and conservation issues. The oil industry used the very tool of patriotism and free speech to argue against climate change action. Do you think that their message may have been carefully crafted to appear to a certain segment of the population?

The arguments are all by and large the same, claiming that the investigations infringe on fossil fuels companies’ right to free speech while steadfastly ignoring the fact that ExxonMobil funded climate denial to protect their business model.

So, if we appeal to the things we have in common, instead of creating wedges, we might have a chance to do the right thing for the planet. It’s worth a try, right?

“The classic move is to segment people along these ideological lines, but if we’re more inclusive in our discourse, can we reduce the animosity and find more common ground?”

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