Social Competition as a Way of Promoting Environmental Action

Hey all!

This is a short video clip I came across that offers a counter-point to Bateson’s argument. These researchers conducted studies on what motivated consumers to reduce their energy consumption, and found that social competition was by far the most effective. I think it is interesting to see this especially coming on the heals of reading Hutcheon’s. Perhaps surviving the Anthropocene is not totally cooperation, as Bateson suggests, or total competition. Rather as Hutcheon suggests we use a both/and approach and figure out ways of using our competitiveness to advance environmental action. Another example I can think of this are “cap and trade programs” in which companies are essentially competing for the lowest carbon emissions.

Let me know what you think!

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  1. Hey! This was a really interesting video, it did show how certain degrees of competition can be of assistance in solving climate change. I was a bit disappointed that the video never touched on animal agriculture as that is one of the main contributors to CO2 emissions. Also, on your comment on cap and trade programs, these are very useful but it’s still disheartening to know that the only reason companies are willing to help the environment is through monetary gain and they can’t just do it for the environmental wellbeing – but if competition allows us to help save the environment one step at a time then so be it.


  2. This was a really poignant article, I like how it was able to show how competition is being used to help fight climate change by being embraced to meet a goal that depends on cooperation from multiple levels of society and the economy. I study environment and sustainability with a focus on climate change policy, and I see this interplay of competition and cooperation play out all the time, especially in regulation and technology development. In regulation, whether that by from a government or from an industry standard, there can be a general cooperative goal of reducing emissions and addressing climate change, but the mechanism chosen to meet that goal is competitive since it is believed, and has been seen in areas like alternative energies and energy storage, to be effective. Cap and trade is a very valuable tool, though not the best one since the focus is not on phasing out emission but adjusting the status quo. But it is currently accepted by some industries so it is less of an uphill battle to implement a policy aimed at reducing emissions. A major reason we have seen alternative energy technologies become cost effective is that companies are competing to bring down the cost and increase the efficiency. It has lead to an industry that is very boom and bust and the competition is very sharp, but ultimately the goal of providing individuals, regions, countries and companies with a better option than fossil fuels is being met.


  3. Thanks for the reply guys! Charles M. Bate I totally agree with you that it is disheartening that companies only reduce their GHG emission when they are motivated by competition. There are so many other reasons they should find motivating enough to cut their emissions. It seems like given how urgently we need to reduce GHG emission we have to go with whatever works.


  4. @sophiawilson6729 Thank you for that reply I learned a lot! It seems like competition has the power to inspire whole industries as well as individuals to reduce GHG emissions. This discussion makes me think of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. I have taken some child psychology classes and it seems that, in the education system at least, children how are intrinsically motivated in school do better over time. I wonder if the same thing applies to our relationship with the earth. I wonder if cultivating strong ties with the land wil incentives intrinsic motivation to reduce GHG emissions. I wonder if this would have a more desirable long term effect. However, like I mentioned in my earlier comment at this point it seems easier to work within the system to solve this problem rather then to radically change the system.


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