[Viewpoint] A new, greener village movement

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[Viewpoint] A new, greener village movement

Recently I participated in a green growth study group. It was a small gathering, but there were representatives from government, NGOs, academia and business. As usual, there was much discussion of what green growth is and what different groups were doing to promote different aspects of a green economy.

Taking it all in, I found myself getting agitated. I had heard so much of this before. Yet I wondered what the real impact of these good intentions would be.

For example, I was at the University of Oregon when the first Earth Day was celebrated across campuses in the spring of 1970. So I’ve been around since when the ecological paradigm really caught on. Eventually the term “green” started being applied to various ecological movements and initiatives, and later to marketing of products and services.

That is all well and good, but too often it has been little more than lip service. In the most concrete terms, we have often seen various governments get on the bandwagon and initiate various public works programs. Some of them have been worthwhile and beneficial, but others have been boondoggles for political insiders’ commercial interests.

Even when concerned parties are truly well intentioned, they seem to believe that “we will build or promote this, and the rest of society will positively respond in a green manner.”

Well, from my decades of high-tech sales and marketing, all I can say to such assumptions is: “Nonsense.”

More than a few times I have been assigned a mission to market and sell incredible technologies to markets that have been blissfully unconcerned with such marvels for centuries. While exhaustive efforts were put into market development and education, often I encountered buyer skepticism, epitomized in the question, “Do you have a solution looking for a problem?”

For citizens, too, many green initiatives are solutions looking for problems. Most green initiatives start out among small groups who “know better” than the populace and then attempt to kick-start some very good ideas, from a top-down, rather than a bottom-up, direction.

We know people don’t like being forced to make changes. People will resist change, even if such change may be obviously for the better. Change often means modifying entrenched behavior. The more intrinsic the behavior to be modified, the greater the natural resistance will be.

In any case, real change takes place on a person-by-person, family-by-family basis. When people are personally motivated to change, only then can we see major transformations. As a sales professional, I have long learned in selling that it is critical to understand why a person may emotionally be motivated to buy. Green initiative leaders should reconsider their priorities and perhaps focus on citizen education and motivation.

When one housewife took it upon herself to vigorously save wasted energy in her apartment by turning off all lights and unplugging unused electronics, as well as monitoring the opening and closing of doors and windows, she was amazed how much her utilities bills immediately dropped. If that much energy could be saved in just one apartment, what could the impact on the entire complex be? And she was just talking about being more careful about energy conservation. I have realized that the genuine greening of Korea will ultimately depend on whether wives and mothers buy into the need to change behaviors.

Returning to green initiatives, for relatively little tax money, a much more effective approach may be the enhancement of public school curriculums to stress the necessities and benefits of energy conservation and environmental protection.

Moreover, the government may better use its resources to launch a green community movement, similar to the New Village Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s, as a way to foster awareness at the grassroots level. Awards and recognition could be given to communities, schools, businesses, etc. that take the initiative to make contributions to Korea’s energy independence and environmental conservation.

Once consumers are convinced to change their lifestyles to be more ecological, the government will not have to do much more. Businesses will recognize new sales opportunities and will competitively produce the needed green goods and services.

So the point is not to lead with green goods, services and projects. Success is much more probable if the citizenry is first motivated to change their wasteful lifestyles and move beyond apathy. Korea took on a similar challenge in the 1960s with the New Village Movement.

As a result, the stereotypical drunken, slothful Korean has faded into memory, replaced with the image of the hardworking employee and entrepreneur.

Today, Korea imports close to 98 percent of its energy and yet it ranks at the bottom of OECD nations in terms of energy conservation. Governments and big businesses are engaged in green initiatives, but none of these ideas are likely to have a real impact until Korea goes through a bottom-up green revolution.

A “Green Community Movement” is a wiser course. Korea worked wonders with the New Village Movement. There’s ample reason to think something like it may again work.

*The writer is the president of Soft Landing Consulting, a technology sales and marketing firm (www.softlandingkorea.com).

by Tom Coyner
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