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We are already experiencing the effects of climate change in our daily lives. However, the necessary systemic changes in consumption and production still seem distant. In his inaugural lecture, Jan Willem Bolderdijk argues there is reason for optimism. People care more than their actions imply. Individuals can mobilise their friends, colleagues, customers, and students and make systemic change possible. However, this requires them to express their struggles and green intentions publicly.
Event details of Words speak louder than actions
24 November 2023
Jan Willem Bolderdijk (photo: Kirsten van Santen)
Jan Willem Bolderdijk (photo: Kirsten van Santen)

Surveys show that most people value environmental protection. However, they still continue to fly and buy clothing they don't wear. People often respond to such inconsistencies with ‘Talk is cheap’.  During his inaugural lecture, Bolderdijk argues that this cynical interpretation of the ‘value-action gap’ is incorrect. What people express in surveys or online often says more about their true motivations and aspirations than their (non-sustainable) actions. Perhaps more importantly, our collective fixation on actions makes us forget the power of words: by publicly discussing our green intentions and failures to live up to them during conversations, people can mobilise others and signal public support for systemic change.

The message: behavioural scientists, examine the words people use in the real world. Concerned citizens, colleagues, and teachers: don’t stay silent but ‘preach what you already practice’. And companies and governments: stop fixating on what people’s actions, but listen to what people have to say instead.

Prof.  J.W. Bolderdijk, Professor of Sustainability & Marketing: Words speak louder than actions.

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