Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Would you eat insects to save the planet? Apparently the answer is yes – you just need to be persuaded the right way.
Would you eat insects to save the planet from global warming?
Mon 15 Oct 2018 19.10 AEDT
More people would give up meat for edible bugs if they believed they were tasty and trendy
The thought of rising sea levels and more intense heatwaves are enough to keep you up at night. But while we all know the situation is getting more serious, most of us are preoccupied with work, doctor’s appointments and paying bills – and these immediate, visceral worries win every time.
Edible insects have been hailed as a solution to both global food shortages and reducing emissions from animal agriculture, but despite the industry’s best efforts, our response when faced with a cockroach is disgust. Even in London edible insects are seen as nothing more than a gimmick, and there are only a handful of restaurants serving them up.
But new research from Switzerland and Germany may have found out how to persuade people to eat insects – and it could have a huge impact on lowering human-led carbon emissions.
Up until now, retailers and restaurants have marketed edible insects as a more sustainable option and a healthy source of protein. But the researchers explain the problem with getting people to switch to environmentally friendly behaviour is that it often requires foregoing immediate pleasure for distant benefits, and edible insects have been wrongly framed in this way.
Before the 180 participants in the study were offered a chocolate truffle filled with mealworms, half of the group were given a flyer saying that eating insects was good for them and the environment, while the other half were told the insects were either delicious or trendy to eat.
About 62% of those given health or environmental incentives chose to eat the truffle, compared with 76% who ate the truffle after being told it would taste good or make them trendy. And the latter group rated the truffle as tastier.
The researchers concluded that we need to switch the message about saving the planet from altruism to pleasure. They back up their argument with previous studies showing that attitudes based on emotions are more malleable than those grounded in rational claims.
You see they’re not only going to try to persuade you, they’re going to persuade your kids and grandkids, bombard them with messages about [insert empty headed pop star] eating healthy insect snacks to stay thin and get lots of attention from the Paparazzi.