Columnists: Hans Nilsson, Fourfact

Published on: 6 Feb 2018

Facts do not speak!

We who are advocating energy efficiency improvements are proud that our arguments are scientifically and evidence based – and rightfully so! We are erecting wonderful edifices of facts where the pieces fit well together and show, with impressive logic, that energy efficiency is the cornerstone, the basic elements, the reinforcement and the glue in the structure of a sustainable energy system. We are also in good company with scientists and concerned people from several other parts of society that have the keys to the future. We should be proud, we should rejoice! But still?

The problem is that even if we are forming mountains of indisputable facts they do not speak. In particular they do not speak for themselves. They need help! Our help!

George Lakoff who wrote the book “Don’t think of an elephant” said in an interview about how facts should be best used to have result:

“First, don’t think of an elephant. Remember not to repeat false conservative claims and then rebut them with the facts. Instead, go positive. Give a positive truthful framing to undermine claims to the contrary. Use the facts to support positively-framed truth. Use repetition.

Second, start with values, not policies and facts and numbers. Say what you believe, but haven’t been saying. For example, progressive thought is built on empathy, on citizens caring about other citizens and working through our government to provide public resources for all, both businesses and individuals.

Values come first, facts and policies follow in the service of values. They matter, but they always support values.”

Bill Maher, the American comedian, underlined this when he spoke about why Donald Trump’s base does not listen to arguments: “It hurts their feelings when we insult their values with our facts

If you want to have another scientific take on this I recommend reading of Mullanaithan and Shafir’s book “Scarcity” where they show that it is not even a matter of them (who do not understand) versus us (who know and care) but all of us and the “bandwidth” we dispose for understanding. Often we (all of us) have too little bandwidth to our disposal because we have other immediate and pressing issues that are troubling us.

So, it is good that we gather and test facts but then we need to translate these facts to something that is useful for the receivers! And then, importantly, we must communicate, and communicate effectively and honestly! That is what eceee does and must do more!

The views expressed in this column are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the views of eceee or any of its members.

Other columns by Hans Nilsson