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In the 1940s, a visionary salesman named Elmer Wheeler introduced the phrase "Sell the Sizzle, Not the Sausage," emphasizing the importance of highlighting the desirable experience of a product rather than it’s features. In the case of a sausage, it’s the salesman’s job to not sell the sausage, which basically is questionable meat wrapped in pig intestines, but rather sell the sizzle, the smell, the taste that get’s the juices flowing.

Surprisingly, this concept holds the key to reshaping the climate change narrative, as pointed out in the article from change agency Futerra from a few years ago and is even more relevant today. As it seems that the conventional approach of portraying doom and gloom fails to engage and mobilize people, it's time for climate activists, storytellers, dreamers, businesses, leaders, and everyone else hoping for a livable planet to adopt a new narrative: to create a vision of a bright, low-carbon, regenerative future. One that ignites hope, inspires action, and excites us for the future.


A regenerative, nature inclusive, low carbon city as envisioned by AI.

The Problem with the Sausage

After years of scientific research, evidence and multiple IPCC reports, the science is clear and undeniable: climate change is here. Scientists and climate activists have warned us for decades about the upcoming climate change. Todays news and social feed is filled with raging fires across continents, droughts, extreme weather, and animals on the verge of extinction. Yes, people need to be aware and scared about what the future will look like if we don’t change. But the threats of climate change, haven’t seemed to hold us back from running headlong towards it.

Todays climate messages, mostly filled with doom and gloom scenario’s, no longer captures people’s attention or motivates meaningful action. It’s not that people disagree or misunderstand them, they just don’t listen. Social psychology shows that overwhelming audiences with negative information can lead to desensitization and inaction. Some say that these negative narratives of fear can become self-fulfilling prophecies.

This narrative has been successful in helping to bring the climate issue onto political agendas. However, it was not successful in helping to deliver a significant decrease in emissions of any country. The narrative emphasizes problems, climate change is expensive, but educing emissions is also perceived to be costly, reducing competitiveness and slowing down national economic development. This resulted in understanding global climate mitigation as a social dilemma. While urging developing countries to cut emissions, the reality remains that their focus on economic growth is understandable.

Discussions continue on the specifics, government response, the implications of inaction, business responsibility, governance responsibility, individual and collective accountability, who pays, who gets the blame. Yet, the longer we go in circles about semantics, the less time we have to take action. What the future will look like will be decided not by the leaders but by the collective will of the people. Without changes to our daily lives and demand for substantial, systemic change, the fight against climate change doesn’t stand a chance. We need public support, hence, we need to speak to people.

A Good Sizzle

The one thing that separates us from other animals is that we have stories. We can imagine a future, a vision and build scenarios. We can share that vision with others. Currently, we are not often provided with a vision of what the future can look like in a low carbon, regenerative economy. No wonder that more are more young people are suffering from climate anxiety or depression. There seems to be no alternative. Climate change isn't just a scientific, social or technological failure; it's a failure of the imagination.

With imagination, motivation, ideas and stories, society can move fast. Against the odds, there are many examples of where people were able to move mountains. Just think about the development of the covid vaccine in nearly a year where it would normally take decades to develop.

And this is where the sizzle comes in. There is a surge in climate tech start ups, climate investment funds, and workgroups are assembled to find out how Artificial Intelligence can be used to solve climate issues. We are transforming our energy sources, changing how we travel and commute, what we eat, and what we wear. Transitioning from fast fashion to slow fashion. Substituting old and polluting products to innovative, eco friendly alternatives. The change might seem small and slow now but the sizzle is here, and it’s up to us to keep the fire burning.


The City of Amsterdam in a regenerative, nature inclusive, low carbon future as envisioned by AI.

The Sizzle Recipe

To transform the climate change narrative from ‘sausage’ to ‘sizzle’, we need to build a compelling vision of a low carbon, regenerative future as a self fulfilling prophecy. It is the job of all climate activists, storytellers, dreamers, arts and culture, businesses, leaders, and everyone else hoping for a livable planet to create a vision of what the future can look like. A future of hope, inspiration and opportunity. The article by Futerra provides the blueprint for this new narrative in four key steps:

  1. Start with the Vision

  2. Provide a Choice

  3. Present the Plan

  4. Call to Action

Commencing with a captivating vision is of utmost importance. With a single sentence, you can paint a vivid mental image of a promising low carbon future. This imagery ignites the imagination and reaches deep into dormant emotions: fostering hope, evoking a sense of advancement, and kindling enthusiasm for what lies ahead. It's essential to understand that many countries, businesses, and individuals globally are hesitant or unable to trade immediate economic growth for emission reductions. This makes integrating "win-win" approaches crucial. These approaches are based on strategies that benefit everyone involved, socially and economically benefiting entrepreneurs, communities, and entire economies in the short term while also addressing climate and sustainability goals. Most win-win strategies on climate action are predominately driven by economic and social opportunities. This, in turn, generates more support and involvement.

When sharing the vision, make it visual, keep it local or national, more desirable and skip dates and figures. In our vision, we need to highlight that the transition offers more than just climate solutions. It allows us to shift from lives defined by excessive consumption, stress, and health problems to something healthier, economically sound, and conducive to human progress.

Once the vision is clear, it’s time to provide people with a choice. Today, we have the choice between our attractive vision: a low carbon, regenerative vision for the future and the dangerous path of unchecked climate change. This moment holds great importance, so we need to stress it strongly. This is not the time to hold back; we need to vividly explain the potential climate chaos we're trying to avoid. Importantly, people can now pay attention to this message because they've seen how appealing the low carbon future could be.

At this point, the appeal of a future with low carbon emissions is clear, while the negative impact of climate change becomes evident. So now, it’s time to propose a clear and practical five-year plan. People stay interested when presented with a few important and memorable achievements. These milestones should be meaningful and we must commit to achieving them. This five-year focus is different from the usual long-term targets spanning decades, which often create distrust and indifference. Sticking to a five-year plan, or even shorter if we can achieve something meaningful, is crucial.

Lastly, our narrative ends by suggesting specific actions for people. Everyone can contribute to moving towards progress, freedom, and a better 21st century. This is our call to action. It should be clear, explaining how it helps achieve the vision, and offering immediate benefits wherever possible.

A New Story


Addressing climate change requires a radical vision and a new narrative that resonates with people's hearts and minds. Is this overly optimistic or even downright delusional? Regardless of what you think, selling the “sausage” of Climate Change didn’t seem to work. By embracing the ‘sizzle’ approach and painting a compelling vision of a low-carbon future, we can instill hope and motivation in people's hearts, inspire action and drive meaningful change. The journey ahead will be challenging but it's time to talk about the future because it's all we have.


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