Previous U.S. Simplifying Model Research
1Previous U.S. simplifying model research demonstrated that people’s thinking about food systems and (un)sustainability can be greatly improved if two key missing terms are added to the conversation.Underlying Structure
The Gradual Degradation model essentially leaves out any notion of hidden but key underlying structures, such as a life-supporting ecosystem. In cognitive terms, people’s default perspective is analogous to that of a child in his/her room: the room inevitably gets messy/dirty but can always be cleaned/neatened.
What is missing from the child’s perspective is the homeowner’s understanding that while the sight of a few termites might seem trivial, it has potentially very serious implications for the integrity of the house itself. The difference between the two is, in cognitive terms, that the homeowner has a notion of an underlying if invisible structure that supports the house.
U.S. research showed that the following cognitive model was helpful in deepening people’s thinking about (un)sustainability:
Systems Sustainability Life depends on a complex (worldwide) ecological system, where some parts depend on others. Our current food production methods are unsustainable in the sense that they are putting the stability of the system as a whole at risk.
Food Production System Similarly, people’s default thinking about food production does not include a clear vision of the food system, a clear understanding that the system has changed qualitatively as well as quantitatively in the last decades, or a productive sense that we are losing (or have lost) control over the impacts of methods of food production. U.S. research showed that the following cognitive model was helpful in increasing the conceptual visibility of the food production system:
Radical Intensification Radical and recent changes in our methods of food production are creating unprecedented problems and a situation that is not just incrementally worse, but qualitatively more threatening than before.
Taken together, the U.S. research identified a core story that helps people think more deeply about food systems, and that can be grasped relatively quickly:
Our methods of producing food now have the power to threaten life systems that are vital to our wellbeing.
In the U.S. context, this (two-part) proposition effectively provides a conceptual “middle term” that is typically missing from people’s thinking about sustainability. The central research question going into the French research was whether this same approach could be effective in the French context.
1Towards a Cross-Cultural Simplifying Model for Food Systems: Finding from French TalkBack Research, Axel Aubrun, Joseph Grady, Cultural Logic LLC, Commissioned by The King Baudouin Foundation
Last Updated (Thursday, 04 March 2010 11:26)