You have to talk to people where they live. So, if people aren't concerned enough about the slow destruction of our oceans and seashores, stop talking about fish and let them know that their beloved ocean view isn't going to be around much longer.
That's the approach of Eric Johnson, a realtor at Sotheby's in San Francisco, who mused on why people care so much about ocean views at this week's BLUEMIND Conference at the California Academy of Sciences. He believes that the ocean resonates with humans on all levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs: physiological (because, according to Johnson, we are above the water, firmly on the earth); safety (a sense of being able to see dangers ahead); love/belonging (we are all connected by shared oceans); esteem (a sense of relief and pride about being alive); and self-actualization/happiness (wanting to celebrate life milestones like engagements and weddings at the ocean). You might not specifically realize all that when you are kicking back on the beach with your transistor radio and beer cozy, but what you do know is that it looks nice.
Ocean view properties are some of the most coveted—and expensive—pieces of land available. "From a luxury property standpoint, people are paying the highest amount to get the water views," Johnson says. "There is a tangible value for clean, pristine waters. If you want the $25 million house on the beach and you want the water to still be blue... maybe you should focus on supporting it."
And someone who can afford a $25 million house is going to have a lot more pull in a debate about clean oceans than the average person. So traditional environmental appeals might work some of the time, but it may also be worth exploring new ways of reaching people (i.e. by talking about sweeping ocean views). "[We could be] opening a mind that may not be open to conservation," Johnson says. "It's the idea of having a different approach for different demographics."
[Image by Flickr user Ankakay]