April 7, 2010

Why do people resist change?

The coverage of the coal mining accident in West Virginia made me think about the fight to eliminate coal, and the resistance that has stirred up. Sometimes people suggest that resistance to change is just a lack of enlightened leadership and a reluctant-to-change populace, due to ignorance.

So, why do people resist change?

People are afraid of change, and with good reason. When new tech arrives, companies move staff, companies shrink, whole industries shrink and shift. Old careers become obsolete. People lose jobs, or their careers stagnate. Other people gain jobs, and do better, but there are winners and losers.

Change is good overall, but some people know they'll be hurt, and others are afraid.

Just one example: I recently read that coal mining jobs pay 3x as much as anything else available in the area. Despite the risks, and the environmental devastation, you won't convince most West Virginians that shrinking coal mining is a good idea.

Does that mean we shouldn't fight to eliminate coal? No. But it does mean we should be realistic about some people fighting back. We need to be compassionate, see their realistic fears, and find ways to help them, and convert them to...not allies, perhaps, but at least something other than enemies who will fight to the death with any weapon (votes, lies, etc).

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