Cycle of destructive agitation

The cycle of destructive agitation…

When I was little, my mum used to yell at me “Don’t play on the road – you’ll get killed by a car!” That was a long time ago – we now know that the human brain doesn’t process negatives well.  I’m not a parent, however I understand that these days the advice is to focus on describing what you DO want.  For example: “Go and play in the back yard where you’ll be safe!”

Humans will continue being imperfect and a small percentage is inherently psychopathic.  Our actions are highly habitual; our behaviours are largely governed by the norms of our communities; our perceptual systems are limited by the beliefs we hold about the world; and if there’s a system to be gamed, we’ll game it.

At the same time, does sustainability need more than “attack dogs”?  How useful are “commentators” whose response to a project is to describe in detail what’s probably wrong with it; what’s likely to go wrong with it; and what’s not working in other related areas? Is there a risk in this approach?


(Adapted from The Cycle of Cynicism in The Better World Handbook with apologies)

  1. Finding out about a new sustainability initiative
  2. Wanting it to do everything right all at once
  3. Observing for all the things that are or could potentially be wrong with it
  4. Feeling sad, powerless, angry
  5. Doing little or no research on the initiative to find out its history or stage of development
  6. Publicizing all the things wrong with it and with other related issues
  7. Encouraging people who may be considering how to start a sustainability program to feel sad, powerless, angry and scared
  8. Encouraging those working with positive intent to doing less and/or hide their actions

Cycle of destructive agitationRepeat until despair results…

Wouldn’t it be great if all passionate sustainability campaigners studied and practiced the emotional intelligence and conversational skills at the heart of successful innovation delivery?

(Of course, it may just be that I’m spending too much time in the wrong environmental sustainability discussion groups.)

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