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A Desirable Transition

Cristina Monge

5 mins - 20 de Febrero de 2024, 07:00

If it is always difficult to draw the line between communication and politics, it is no less easy to do so with regard to the ecological transition. A change in living, land use, production, and consumption patterns cannot be achieved through legislation alone, nor through investment alone, nor through technology alone, nor through citizens’ willingness to change alone. A transition of this nature needs all these elements and the synergy they create between them thanks to the strategic role of communication. After years of information and debate on the ecological crisis and studies analysing its effects, the question today is how to communicate not only this crisis, but also its correlate: the ecological transition, the way to face the challenge.

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A proposal for change of this magnitude, in order to be successful, must be situated within a framework of desirability. Avoiding catastrophe and appeals for renunciation that refer to a scenario of sacrifice, the ecological transition that helps to build a sustainable way of life consists of all of us, those who are here today and those who will come, living better. Exchanging the hour of daily traffic jams in big cities for quality public transport cannot be considered a renunciation. Giving up a high-protein diet in order to discover all the possibilities offered by a varied diet is a matter of enjoyment, but never of sacrifice. It may be argued that alternatives are not always available, and that when they are, they are not always available to the whole population. That is why it is essential that technology, investment, and public policy move in the same direction, not only to make alternatives viable, but also to ensure that they are available to all humanity.

There are already successful experiences and good practices in practically all areas. From city and spatial planning models to production and consumption, projects and actions have been generated that have demonstrated their viability. Many of them still have a problem of scale, but they show the direction in which we should go. Analysing them, learning about them, and disseminating them helps to improve and replicate them, becoming a source of inspiration and social transformation, while at the same time demonstrating that it is possible to undertake the necessary changes.

On the other hand, it is essential to explain and understand the meaning of the transition. To this end, and as has been demanded by those specialised in communication and the environment, it is essential that communication, both by the media and other actors, identifies those cases in which the climate crisis is playing a role in creating other problems. Hurricanes, storms, floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures are now more virulent and recurrent due to the climate crisis. Their consequences are felt in catastrophes that claim thousands of lives, wipe out crops and devastate territories. At other times, their repercussions are not so clearly visible, but this does not mean that they do not occur. They appear in the form of water shortages, gradual loss of agricultural production, changes in conditions affecting specific crops, reduction in fisheries, etc. Identifying these phenomena, even if they are not considered extreme, with the climatic cause that produces them – when confirmed by attribution studies – helps to understand the seriousness of the situation and the urgency of the transition. Similarly, making explicit the benefits that concrete changes can bring motivates for their momentum. Reducing air pollution in a city directly results in health benefits for its citizens, insulating dwellings adequately means immediate savings for its inhabitants, and so on. It is well known that pollution in China’s big cities is one of the causes of many health problems, including low birth weights. It is less well known, however, that babies born during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, when China clamped down on air pollution, were born with higher birth weights than those born a year earlier or a year later, according to studies. This kind of data shows that it is possible to put in place measures that tackle the causes of problems and also create co-benefits – in this case, for the health of babies and their mothers.

Three key elements, therefore, for communicating the ecological transition: desirability, dissemination of good practices that demonstrate that change is possible, and explanation of the meaning of the transition. Three axes that must converge in the first major objective of the ecological transition, which is none other than to draw a desirable future in accordance with sustainability standards. Identifying not only strategic axes and values, but also the specifics that make this way of life an enjoyable environment. Daring to question concepts such as comfort and to review what it means to live well today, what dimension well-being has in all its aspects. 

We are facing the most relevant political and ideological debate of the 21st century; asking ourselves what well-being is today is as much as redefining the foundations of an ideological proposal. A challenge that is equal to the problem it must solve.
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