The article you just read was brought to you by a few thousand dedicated readers. Will you join them?

Thanks for coming by The Tyee and reading one of many original articles we’ll post today. Our team works hard to publish in-depth stories on topics that matter on a daily basis. Our motto is: No junk. Just good journalism.

Just as we care about the quality of our reporting, we care about making our stories accessible to all who want to read them and provide a pleasant reading experience. No intrusive ads to distract you. No paywall locking you out of an article you want to read. No clickbait to trick you into reading a sensational article.

There’s a reason why our site is unique and why we don’t have to rely on those tactics — our Tyee Builders program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip in a bit of money each month (or one-time) to our editorial budget. This amazing program allows us to pay our writers fairly, keep our focus on quality over quantity of articles, and provide a pleasant reading experience for those who visit our site.

In the past year, we’ve been able to double our staff team and boost our reporting. We invest all of the revenue we receive into producing more and better journalism. We want to keep growing, but we need your support to do it.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
Canada needs more independent media. And independent media needs you.

Did you know that most news organizations in Canada are owned by just a handful of companies? And that these companies have been shutting down newsrooms and laying off reporters continually over the past few decades?

Fact-based, credible journalism is essential to our democracy. Unlike many other newsrooms across the country, The Tyee’s independent newsroom is stable and growing.

How are we able to do this? The Tyee Builder program. Tyee Builders are readers who chip into our editorial budget so that we can keep doing what we do best: fact-based, in-depth reporting on issues that matter to our readers. No paywall. No junk. Just good journalism.

Fewer than 1 in 100 of our average monthly readers are signed up to be Tyee Builders. If we reach 1% of our readers signing up to be Tyee Builders, we could continue to grow and do even more.

If you appreciate what The Tyee publishes and want to help us do more, please sign up to be a Tyee Builder today. You pick the amount, and you can cancel any time.

Support our growing independent newsroom and join Tyee Builders today.
We value: Our readers.
Our independence. Our region.
The power of real journalism.
We're reader supported.
Get our newsletter free.
Help pay for our reporting.
Opinion

Idea #6: Vertical Agitation

Peer pressure does encourage others to adopt eco-conscious behaviour. But to make a real difference, you need to go straight to the top.

By Jennifer Jacquet 28 Dec 2009 | TheTyee.ca

Jennifer Jacquet, an environmental economist, is with the Sea Around Us Project (SAUP) and the UBC Fisheries Centre.

image atom

People who buy green products can apparently more easily justify subsequent greed, lying and stealing. A study, released earlier this year by researchers from the University of Toronto, showed that participants who were exposed to green products in a computer-simulated grocery store acted more generously in experiments that followed, but that participants who actually purchased green products over conventional ones then behaved more selfishly.

This study supports the notion that we each have, in general, a finite amount of altruistic behavior. Doing or buying one good thing means not doing another good thing later on. To me, it also says that our altruistic acts must be directed in the best way possible -- which is why my big idea for 2010 is vertical agitation.

Nag, nag, nag

First, consider what I describe as horizontal agitation, which many of us regularly experience. Horizontal agitation is peer pressure combined with a pejorative element of what is socially or environmentally unacceptable. One friend lambasts me if she sees me with a disposable coffee cup. Another one does when I drive instead of walk. A British colleague in fisheries told me he could no longer bear dinner with his "middle-class friends" because they would pester him about the hypocrisy of his seafood consumption.

Horizontal agitation can indeed lead to small changes. Studies show that scrutiny from peers can lead to increased eco-friendly behavior. Researchers in Norway found that people certain about their peers' recycling behavior were more likely to recycle themselves. In another study on towel reuse in hotel rooms, researchers from the University of Chicago found that a sign indicating how often towels were reused in that specific hotel room made guests more likely to return towels to the rack -- more so than with cards that only said to reuse towels to 'save the environment.' Peer pressure and knowing what our peers do can be good.

Take complaints right to the top

When it comes to consumption, horizontal agitation is not good enough. Small changes adopted one individual at a time can make a difference in a problem only when there is lots of time to solve it (for instance, in the marginalization of politically incorrect words from common language.)

But many of today's problems are urgent. Telling your friends to switch to LED light bulbs will not solve climate change. Choosing a MSC-certified fish over another is not going to relieve overfishing -- not when one trawler today can remove 60 tonnes of fish from the ocean in a single haul. The way to get big changes quickly and maximize the effect of our scrutiny is with vertical agitation.

Vertical agitation means working higher in the demand chain. Rather than consumers hassling consumers, vertical agitation implies consumers hassle mega-consumers (chefs, managers, retailers, universities) or government. This is nothing new. Slavery did not end because abolitionists peer pressured slave owners to free their slaves. The destruction of the ozone layer did not slow because consumers convinced other consumers to stop buying products that contained hazardous CFCs. Inherently, we know vertical agitation is best. But very few people seem to feel empowered to try it.

Find your perfect problem

Yet the ability to pressure is, in fact, one of a global citizen's greatest assets. My colleague Patricia Majluf decided she didn't like that anchovies from her country of Peru were being turned into fishmeal for livestock so she teamed up with a chef and government officials to make anchovies more palatable to humans. That meant higher prices and justified lower fishing quotas.

Another colleague, Claire Nouvian, managed to arrange a meeting with President Sarkozy and vertically agitated him into supporting a CITES listing of bluefin tuna, and an EU ban on porbeagle shark fishing. Yes, these are exceptional endeavors. Majluf and Nouvian both once thought such victories were out of their reach -- until they tried.

We each need the perfectly sized problem -- not too big and not too small -- and then we need to direct it toward the appropriate person or institution -- not too low and not too high. For some people, this will mean continuing to pester their friends. For others it means aiming upward. Today's conservation movement, like the industries it seeks to revolutionize, must make big changes quickly. It can do this best with vertical agitation.  [Tyee]

Share this article

The Tyee is supported by readers like you

Join us and grow independent media in Canada

Facts matter. Get The Tyee's in-depth journalism delivered to your inbox for free.

LATEST STORIES

The Barometer

What Issue Is Most Important to You This Election?

Take this week's poll