Seeking distraction from reality

If you had to guess, and without looking it up, what would you say was the top Google search term in the past 30 days in Ireland? Hint: There’s a slap involved…  (Source: Google Trends, April 11th, 2022).

In a similar vein, if we then extend the search to the past 90 days, guess what we find in the Top 3? ‘Worldle’! (Source: Google Trends, April 11th, 2022).

However, what we DON’T in the top search lists is anything pertaining to the environment…

Considering the latest stark warning by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the absence from this Google Search list of environmental issues is striking.

What do these Google search terms really tell us? They certainly seem to suggest that at the end of the day, the Irish public generally wants to think about anything other than global warming and the climate crisis, seeking distraction from the mundanity of daily life.  They revert to Chris Rock or Will Smith instead of ‘ice sheet collapse the size of Rome’.

Could it be that people are losing hope?

Disheartened from negative economic and environmental outlook

Based on the latest March ’22 RED C Sustainability Monitor, it certainly seems like we are heading more and more in that direction, with a continued decline in one’s belief that personal actions can make a difference on the environment.

And who can blame anyone for feeling this, or for feeling frustrated over the situation?  We’re told we need to ween ourselves off fossil fuels, but for the average worker who is trying to pay rent or save up for a house amidst rising inflation, it is understandable that she is challenged to see how she can possibly afford to also buy an electric car or to buy products that cost even more because they are sustainably produced or sourced.

There is reason to believe that this increasingly challenging economic situation is having an impact on the Irish population, with over 2 in 3 agreeing that they cannot financially afford to make the changes needed to live more sustainably. This belief is especially prevalent amongst women, who are more likely to be in control of day-to-day household purchases, and we see this as well to a certain degree amongst younger people. So, we have this feeling of financial pressure, combined with a sense of helplessness surrounding the environment.

Cutting costs and seeking ‘climate crisis empowerment’

Despite this sense of helplessness and despair over finances, two things seem to be happening:

  1. The energy crisis and inflation conditions are forcing people (65%) to at least consider or look for more sustainable options so as to save money in the long term. This could be in the form of home retrofits, switching to public transport instead of driving a petrol-powered vehicle, or even making a long-term investment in an electric vehicle.
  2. Consumers (half of them) are seeking out – to some degree – ways to feel empowered through sustainably sourced or produced products, and actively looking for brands that explain the steps they take to make this happen, with this reported behaviour especially prevalent amongst those aged 18-34 (58%). This does not, however, seem like a whole-hearted effort as of yet, with only 1 in 10 amongst the total population strongly agreeing with this claim.


Bearing in mind this desire to seek out more sustainable options due to the cost of fuel, as well as a desire to feel more empowered in regards to the climate crisis, it is perhaps not surprising to see a sizable segment of the population express support for investments in home retrofits (45%) and offshore renewable energy sources (43%).  This strongly suggests that the energy crisis looms large in the public’s mind, with both of these options (as opposed to rewilding, 20%) directly linked to energy self-reliance and long-term cost cutting.

At the end of the day, it seems unavoidable that we will seek out distractions such as the Oscars slap to help distract us from day-to-day life and other issues, such as the climate crisis, that we feel powerless to change.   However, expect consumers to explore cost-saving measures that will help them weather the energy and fuel crisis, and also expect them to look to brands to help them find ‘environmental empowerment’, whether it’s through a worthy cause that the brand is behind or a new more sustainable product line.

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RED C Sustainability Monitor – March 2022