Cutting Ribbons and Priming Our Brains

Daniel Yergin describes the current state of world energy sources, use, policy, economics and politics in his new book, The Quest (usefully reviewed in this link.)  As part of his overview, he describes the contribution of energy conservation and efficiency to our recent past, as well as our future.

Yergin includes a pithy observation by Andris Piebalgs, who served as the European Union’s energy commissioner from 2004-2009 about the relative attractiveness of renewables versus conservation and efficiency.

Yergin writes:

“Conservation–energy efficiency–may be so obvious as a solution to cost and environmental issues.  But there is no photo op, no opening ceremony where government officials and company executives can cut a ribbon, smile broadly into the camera, and inaugurate a grand new facility.  [Piebalgs] shook his head as he considered one of the most powerful of the life lessons he had learned from his deep immersion in global politics. ‘It’s very important to be able to cut a red ribbon.'” (p. 625 Kindle edition.)

Cutting a red ribbon is a visible sign of accomplishment–as Piebalgs learned, energy conservation and efficiency are typically invisible.

If you can tell a conservation story with pictures (and maybe even a graph or two), you can attract the attention of leaders who want to cut a ribbon.   This act also primes our brains to look for more opportunities to improve energy performance.   (Another new book by Nobelist Daniel Kahnemann, Thinking, Fast and Slow, reviewed here in, summarizes 40 years of research in how our brains actually work–we tend to see and think about an idea or event once we have been primed by a message that works with our intuitive brain.  And our intuitive brains love stories.)

As we posted earlier this month, Energy Stewards helps you get the ingredients for a good conservation story.   It’s just one extra step to figure out how to build a ribbon-cutting event!   Give it a try, let us know how it works.





This entry was posted in Building the Will. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *