Sunday, March 16, 2008


One of my favorite commentators on current events is Thom Hartmann, who I began listening to on Air America Radio some time last year. For Christmas, my wife bought me a copy of his latest book, Cracking the Code: How to Win Hearts, Change Minds, and Restore America’s Original Vision. After weeks of dedicating most of my time to jump-starting a freelance writing career I finally got around to reading Hartmann’s book, and wish I had done so when I first got it.

The book is primarily a discussion of the basic elements of communication from a psychological perspective, with the practical aim of promoting a fair and honest dialog about politics. For me it added theoretical underpinnings to what I already knew, and added a key insight that I had not properly taken to heart: that of the two types of motivation, avoiding pain and seeking pleasure, seeking pleasure has the best chance of long term success.

A recent discussion with my two best friends brought this lesson home. I was arguing my meticulously derived position that mankind must learn to limit of not reduce its consumption, and was met with total and unequivocal rejection of the premise that it could ever happen. Like a diode that only permits current in one direction, the discussion quickly turned to technological fixes. My friends knew what I refused to admit, that over the long term people will see “reduction” as a limited response to a threat (of running out of resources or destroying the planet), and will only accept a long term solution that allows them to do what they want (seeking the “better” lifestyle that is associated with increased consumption).

This may explain why the best traction in the public discourse about global warming and limited energy supplies tends to accompany the growth of alternative technologies. People will more easily sign on to a different kind of growth, because they associate growth with the improvement of their lives.

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