Category Archives: Conservation

Using Psychology to End Shark Finning

This post started as a comment in response to Brian Linton’s post on Yao Ming’s Anti Shark Fin Soup Video, but then it got so long I thought I might as well repost it here (with edits).

Brian asks, “Take a look. If shark fin soup was an integral part of your ‘food culture’ would this deter you from eating it?”

And I responded:

This short clip would probably not deter me from eating shark fins if it were part of my culture. I was thinking, if this was a video of cows being killed, I’ll still eat steak. But then cows are not endangered and
they are killed out right, a limb isn’t cut off and then they are left to die.

But then cows are part of the problem for global warming and other issues…

I think it’s good there is a celebrity out there helping raise awareness but I don’t know how strong the influence of this video is. One of the best ways to change people’s behaviours is through peer pressure. Check out this article:

But in that article, people “know” that using too much energy is bad, so they are competing to be good. With the shark fin situation, some people don’t see it as being a bad thing. So I guess you have to start with changing the attitude first.

Also, you have to get to people’s values. For example, in this video, seeing a shark die won’t activate anything in me if I don’t care about sharks. But, if I value family, and this video is framed in a way that relates back to this value, for example, if sharks all die, the ocean’s ecosystem will go out of whack and then your children won’t ever see sharks again, then that could potentially work.

Even though something is part of a culture, that tradition can still change though. Cultures are there because it’s adaptive to the certain environmental pressures at the time, and if the environment changes, the culture should (or has to) adapt in order to survive. I read about some group in Indonesia where they conducted sacrificial killing of sea turtles for some ceremony. But then scientists went to talk to them about the endangered status of the turtles and the group used photos of sea turtles instead.

In conclusion, I think, no, that video alone would not deter me from eating shark fins. But it could help raise awareness and other measures have to take place in order to nudge us in the “right” direction.


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“Cultured meat”, change management, and social influence

My dad was watching some technology-related show in the next room, and I was eavesdropping. The part that got him excited was when a scientist was saying they’ve successfully created a bladder from a donor’s cells and also successfully implanted that bladder into the donor.

The part that excited me was when the show mentioned that scientists are trying to create “meat” in the lab, called “cultured meat“. As mass farming is currently part of what’s destroying the environment, the scientists are creating “meat” in the lab to replace people’s demand for it and helping the environment at the same time. I didn’t realize this was already happening, because I have envisioned that this could be a solution for all, because 1) it’ll appeal to current meat-eaters who care about the environment and 2) it’ll get people who are vegetarian/vegan for ethical reasons to be able to eat meat.

But what does creating “meat” in the lab have anything to do with change management and social influence?

A professor of Business Ethics at York University (sorry didn’t catch his name) was interviewed about his thoughts on the above, and he mentioned that by nature, people are habitual creatures and are opposed to change. If change occurs slowly, it would be easier to accept the change. This made me immediately think of change management, and how its bottom line process is so easy, but it’s so difficult to execute because people have change-resistant tendencies. The same resistance people will have over whether or not to support and eat lab meat is pretty much the same resistance they have over new policies being implemented at work…even if the new policies would benefit themselves. This natural resistance is also why consultants make a living out of change management.

And then there is social influence. How would society start accepting lab meat if it were to be available in the market? Robert Cialdini outlined the basic principles of influence in his book Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion and the one I think most relevant here is “social proof” or how people are influenced by the social norms (i.e., what others are doing…see an article of using this tactic in real life here). I would predict that if eating lab meat becomes the “norm,” even more people would accept it. Using this knowledge, consultants trained in psychology (or at least those who know about Cialdini’s work) can again better help implement change in organizations.

Beyond the technology to create lab meat, I hope that one day world-wide change management and social influence will in fact move people towards more sustainable consumption and lifestyle.

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Earlier, I posted TED’s talk by Sylvia Earle which won TED’s one of three $100,000 award for “creative thinkers to fund their plans to change the world,” and I’m happy to say that there’s update on what she’s done with this money!

Read the full article at Gimundo.

Note: Gimundo is a site created by a couple in Maine, and it’s their mission to bring “Good News, Served Daily.” I’m glad I found it!

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I’ve been trying to come up with something no one has done before for so long, and I’ve finally hit the jackpot

No, that website does not exist yet, but I will have to buy that domain asap so I can develop it.

I was watching a documentary on CNN today about shark finning. I’ve always been passionate about sharks, and I am quite anti-shark fin soups and restaurants that serve it.

Watching the show got me remember a time when I went out with a friend to a really good Chinese restaurant for dimsum…only to discover that they have shark fins on the menu. We will never go back again.

So the idea is to start a community where people can report which restaurants serve shark fin soup, so other consumers can make informed decisions as to whether to support that restaurant or not. I can also create a map for each region showing where all these places are.

Also, to take it farther and follow in the footsteps of The Shark Safe Project, I will encourage people to contact those restaurants to voice their concerns about shark fins and to take that item off their menu.

Finally, an idea that will give back to the world!

Photo credit: Blue Planet Society

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