Listen to part of a lecture in an environmental science class.
OK, so what are some of the most effective public policies when it comes to fighting environmental problems? There are a lot of different approaches but…this is, in my opinion, too often we underestimate how much can be accomplished just by appealing to people’s sense of moral duty, to their civic duty. In other words, getting people to voluntarily stop polluting because, well just because it’s the right thing to do. These programs that try to get people to voluntarily stop doing things that hurt the environment are called moral suasion. Now, obviously this type of approach won’t be effective for all problems but it will solve some. For some environmental concerns, moral suasion has been very effective. The classic case is, well,Smokey the Bear. Now, don’t laugh. When the forest service first came out with the “Smokey the Bear” campaign, it may have seemed a little childish. You remember the character, the bear dressed up like a foreign stranger, saying things like please don’t hurt my animal friends or please don’t start forest fires. Well, it worked. It worked because it made people more sensitive to these problems. This “Smokey the Bear” campaign, this kind of campaign in general raises people’s awareness of the problem and appeals to their sense of moral duty, to do the right thing. Another good example of this is recycling. In the early days of recycling, local community promoted these voluntary efforts. They make people aware of the need to reduce the amount of garbage by recycling. They provided neighborhoods with containers to put their glass and newspapers in instead of throwing them away. Some people started doing it, and others followed. Maybe people thought I have this recycling container, my neighbor is doing it, I should do it too. Nowadays, of course, everyone recycles. The point is, in order to get people to really do it, to get high rates of compliance, the program heavily relied on moral suasion.
What is a policy of moral suasion? Use the Smokey the Bear and recycling campaigns to explain how it works.
In the lecture, the professor talks about the moral suasion, which means trying to get people to stop polluting the environment by appealing to their moral duties. She then uses two examples to better illustrate this. The first example is the “Smokey the Bear” campaign. A character dressed up like a forest ranger always says “please don’t hurt my animal friends” or “please don’t start a forest fire”. Since this bear looks a little bit childish and cute, people then won’t do harm to the environment because it reminds them of environmental issues and that they should do the right thing to protect the environment. The second example is recycling. The community first promoted voluntary efforts and increased people’s awareness to reduce the amount of the garbage which could be recycled. And then they provided people with containers where they could put their glass and newspaper. At first, a part of people started doing this. Little by little, others followed the herd. And now all the people recycle garbage voluntarily. In short, with these two examples, the professor explains what is meant by moral suasion.