"I Will If You Will," a research paper from the British Government, defines the challenges of creating a sustainable society.


"The focus needs to be on creating a supportive framework for collective progress, rather than exhorting individuals to go against the grain. This is the approach that we heard time and again in our engagement with consumers and business – encapsulated in the notion of ‘I will if you will’."

"Show people they’re part of something bigger. People are willing to change, but they need to see others acting around them to feel their efforts are worthwhile."

"There are ways in which sustainability imperatives collide with contemporary consumer aspirations, particularly when it comes to foreign travel and the car culture. With the right process, government should not be scared to engage people and business in dialogue on thorny issues.

> Commit to an ongoing program of deliberative fora with the public, at a national and regional level, working with media partners to enable as many people as possible to engage with what they can do to meet the carbon reduction targets of 20 per cent by 2010 and 60 per cent by 2050."

"[A] hugely important lesson for sustainable consumption is that, far from being able to exercise free choice about what to consume and what not to consume, people often find themselves ‘locked in’ to consumption patterns that are unsustainable."

but --

"[The evidence] highlights the potential...to intervene more creatively to unlock ‘bad habits’ and negotiate new social norms."


"Too often we hear ‘we cannot do this because consumers do not ask for it’. But the consumer did not ask for the iPod. Inspired marketers recognise the signs, or insights, translate these into anticipated future behaviour and then launch products, branded, to
meet these anticipated needs. Or, technological advances are made and then sold in a way that creates a ‘want’. We appeal to business to do more of this, but in more sustainable ways.

Often, the climate for change can be accelerated by civil society and campaigners. But we have also shown that successful products are rarely sold on either a ‘do-good’ platform or on a negative platform. Advertising and promotion can play a vital role, as we
saw with detergent tablets or perhaps with the Toyota Prius, by ensuring that the consumer sees the product as equal to or better than the competition. The sustainability benefit then becomes a secondary but still important selling proposition. However, the bottom line is that it will rarely be the ‘unique’ selling proposition."

"Pauses for reflection
As we have already highlighted, if everyone on the planet were to consume natural resources and emit carbon dioxide at the same rate as we do in Europe, we would need
three planets to support us. If a US citizen is taken as the model, we will need five planets. The obvious bears re-stating: we do not have this many planets!"

[Artist As Citizen has checked this: unfortunately, there do not seem to be any other planets.]

"Consuming differently or consuming less?
An important tension is evident in the debate about sustainable consumption. Some people insist that sustainable consumption inevitably means ‘consuming less’. Others maintain, just as fervently, that it is not about consuming less at all but about ‘consuming differently’."

Neither model of change is complete in itself. The first makes vast and possibly unrealistic demands on human nature. It risks alienating those whose behaviour it seeks to change. The second neglects one of the key lessons from the past: that efficiency improvements are often outstripped by growing aspirations and increased consumption elsewhere. Neither model is yet capable of demonstrating that it will lead to a ‘one planet’ society. In reality, elements from both strategies are going to be needed."

"I Will If You Will," full pdf:


support reading:

on economics and politics...

how are U.S. individual economic decisions made?

"Spent," by Geoffrey Miller. Reviewed in Seed.

how are U.S. political decisions made?

"Born Fighting," by James Webb. Op-ed from the WSJ.

The U.S. is dominant militarily.

Full Federal budget for 2011. (Zoom-in to see energy research.)

A graph showing energy research in the U.S.

Some think the U.S. should invest more in energy research.

But energy research is being cut.

(As it has been cut before.)


Maybe another way to describe the challenge of "I Will If You Will" is to say we would like to imagine the people from "Spent" and "Born Fighting" in an entirely new form of economy -- like this one written up in a McKinsey journal.


Keith Bradsher on why people buy cars in the U.S. (to look sexy).

Keith Bradsher on why people buy cars in China (so their sons can look sexy, win a wife, and produce grandchildren).


On art and the image, and what it tells us:

John Berger, "Ways of Seeing" -- excerpt:


On art, the market:

Sarah Thornton, "Seven Days in the Art World"


Another market research-based overview of environmental issues:


More research insights on communicating about the environment, from Columbia.


A manifesto about design from Project H.

Some thinking from IDEO.


More psychology:

Identity (David Berreby) "Us and Them"

Compassion (Dacher Keltner)

"Human communities are only as healthy as our conceptions of human nature."


Irrationality (Dan Ariely)

Critical Thinking (Wikipedia)


Does culture stay the same forever, or do people occasionally invent something, on their own and without corporate involvement, that changes the landscape?



What are Artist As Citizen's objectives?

Here is an example that describes AAC's ideal role in investigating complex issues and getting to the heart of challenges we face as a society.

In July, 2009, we were approached by the climate advocacy group 350.org about collaborating on creative work for their day of action, October 24th. We did go on to produce two projects for 350, but the idea in this response best shows the goals and intentions of AAC -- and hasn't been developed yet.

Kevin Buckland was the contact person from 350.org (he did a brilliant job generating art projects around the world for the October 24th event, and then later for Copenhagen) and this note was originally addressed to him.


The mission of AAC is really to engage mass numbers of creatively gifted students in a focused, and occasionally complex, investigation of politics, economics, culture and society. In general, we also try to be value-neutral. The practice and expression of critical thinking is our central goal.

What does that mean in relation to the aims of 350.org?
We will refer interested students to 350.org -- that's easy to do. We can put a button on our competition page, and we will include 350.org in our next Facebook message.

As for AAC projects -- AAC is primarily built for investigations like, what exactly does 350 mean? Does it mean no air travel? (No coal-powered electric plants, probably.) It's easy to be for a number, but maybe our best role is to dig into what that number requires of us. Barring a magic power source appearing the next few years, 350 probably means a pretty radical change for people in developed countries. We agree it's urgent and necessary -- but that also means understanding the challenge on an everyday level.

A contrarian view is represented by Alan Carlin, the economist at the EPA who recently landed in the news.

Carlin's argument: the idea of limiting carbon won't work, because grandmothers will never agree to stop visiting their grandchildren, via, say, air travel. (The grandmother example is on page four of Carlin's paper.) So we better start working on geoengineering schemes, like shooting dust into the stratosphere to block the sun.


An AAC response would be to set up a statistically clean survey of about 100 diverse grandmothers, and commission pieces that explore the grandmothers own opinions, rather than Carlin's assumption of their opinion. For instance, would they prefer to rearrange their life, or make fewer visits, if it meant that it would not be necessary to shoot dirt into their grandchildren's sky?


[Since this exchange we did decide to work with 350.org, because the science behind their position, the 350 ppm target for CO2, is so solid it can barely be termed 'advocacy.' The 350 target is on par with quitting smoking -- essentially, a generic public health statement. (More urgently felt if you live on a low-lying island, like the Maldives, that may disappear within decades.)

The subject of geoengineering has come up prominently since July '09. Geoengineering was advocated in the book Superfreakonomics, and then subjected to stark reviews by experts as a problematic solution, best regarded as a last resort.




AAC on Facebook