When it comes to effective tools influencing long-lasting behavior changes, the bottom line has proven to be the one. It is so crystal clear to every person with rudimentary math that there is no need to debate the credibility of data or think about complicated metrics. For today’s mass crowd, money is like food to our forefathers. It is linked with our instinct of survival, which makes everyone pay attention.
I believe that the key in driving home carbon efficient cities or other rational behaviors for the long-term survival of human beings is accounting for free stuff or external costs. There is no such thing as free “lunch.” For example, water had been used for free forever, but now it is a subject of fierce competition among states and countries because it is a scarce resource. Similarly, “dumping grounds”, the sky, land, and oceans, are not without bounds. There are not enough dumping grounds around for human beings to use them for free.
When the true cost of removing “waste” is reflected in the cost of doing business instead of being subsidized either through environmental degradation in a foreign country or domestic municipal services, individuals and businesses may change their behaviors readily. After all, the bottom line, though not the only important aspect of our lives, touches all of us.
The widely-accepted cap-and-trade carbon emission program is a good example of using the power of the bottom line. Of course, any successful program needs to backed by science and all other important things. It needs to be more sophisticated than just having a sign that says: It is not free. Please pay. However, when everyone believes in fair payment, we will have gone a long way toward success.