Archive for March, 2008

From the Washington Post, more details on the Alliance for Climate Protection‘s $300 million “we” campaign:

The Alliance for Climate Protection‘s new TV ad is part of a $300 million campaign, among the costliest in U.S. history. Skeptics already are weighing in, accusing Gore of demanding sacrifices that he himself is not making.

Former vice president Al Gore will launch a three-year, $300 million campaign Wednesday aimed at mobilizing Americans to push for aggressive reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, a move that ranks as one of the most ambitious and costly public advocacy campaigns in U.S. history.

The Alliance for Climate Protection‘s “we” campaign will employ online organizing and television advertisements on shows ranging from “American Idol” to “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” It highlights the extent to which Americans’ growing awareness of global warming has yet to translate into national policy changes, Gore said in an hour-long phone interview last week. He said the campaign, which Gore is helping to fund, was undertaken in large part because of his fear that U.S. lawmakers are unwilling to curb the human-generated emissions linked to climate change.

This climate crisis is so interwoven with habits and patterns that are so entrenched, the elected officials in both parties are going to be timid about enacting the bold changes that are needed until there is a change in the public’s sense of urgency in addressing this crisis,” Gore said. “I’ve tried everything else I know to try. The way to solve this crisis is to change the way the public thinks about it.

Private contributors have already donated or committed half the money needed to fund the entire campaign, he said. While Gore declined to quantify his contribution to the effort, he has devoted all his proceeds from the Oscar-winning documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” the best-selling companion book, his salary from the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers and several international prizes, such as the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize, which add up to more than a $2.7 million. Paramount Classics, the documentary’s distributor, has pledged 5 percent of the film’s profits to the group, and some of the money raised through the 2007 Live Earth concerts will help the campaign, along with Gore’s proceeds from an upcoming book on climate change.

While “An Inconvenient Truth” urged viewers to fully inflate their car tires and to install compact fluorescent light bulbs to combat global warming, Gore said he is now focused on ensuring that the United States enacts a national carbon emission cap and ratifies a new global pact on climate change in the next three years.

The simple algorithm is this: It’s important to change the light bulbs, but it’s much more important to change the laws,” he said. “The options available to civilization worldwide to avert this terribly destructive pattern are beginning to slip away from us. The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C.

The new effort comes at a time when the three remaining major party presidential candidates — Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) — have all endorsed federal limits on greenhouse gases, virtually ensuring that the next occupant of the White House will offer a sharp break from President Bush’s climate policy.

All three have discussed global warming with Gore in phone calls over the course of the past few months. While McCain backs a more modest plan than that favored by the Democrats — he supports a 60 percent reduction in greenhouse gases from 1990 levels by 2050, compared with Obama and Clinton‘s vow of an 80 percent cut during that period — the presumptive Republican nominee emphasized during a recent stop in Chula Vista, Calif., that he had pushed for a federal cap-and-trade system before either of his opponents came to the Senate.

“Neither have proposed legislation or played any public role during their time in the Senate,” McCain said, sidestepping the fact that Clinton and Obama both back climate legislation, up for a Senate vote in June, that he has yet to endorse.

Gore, who backs a 90 percent reduction in greenhouse gases by mid-century, said that while he’s “encouraged” that the remaining candidates back mandatory limits on greenhouse gases, they still need to be pushed: “What happens after the election will depend on whether or not we win enough hearts and minds in the country as a whole.

And former Rep. Sherwood L. Boehlert (R-N.Y.), a board member of the two-year-old alliance, said the candidates’ commitment to a cap-and-trade system does not negate the fact that the majority of Americans fail to see climate change as a compelling political issue.

“Most Republicans, along with most Democrats, are focused almost exclusively on Iraq, the war against terrorism and the economy,” Boehlert said. “That leaves little room for anything else.”

In an effort to penetrate Americans’ consciousness and change lawmakers’ political calculus, the group aims to enlist 10 million volunteers through a combination of network and cable commercials, display ads in magazines ranging from People to Real Simple, and online social networks. By contrast, the civil rights and antiwar movements in the 1960s each boasted about 5 million activists.

Cathy Zoi, the Alliance for Climate Protection‘s chief executive, said the group will focus on individuals known in the advertising world as “influencers” who talk to a disproportionate number of people in their communities. While some ads will target inside-the-Beltway policymakers, the bulk of their efforts will focus on the general public.

“This is modern organizing,” Zoi said, adding that the campaign aims to convince voters that “this is a solvable problem.

In an effort to broaden the campaign’s appeal, the alliance has already forged working partnerships with groups including the Girl Scouts and the United Steelworkers of America. One of its early ads will feature the unlikely alliance of clergymen Pat Robertson and Al Sharpton sitting on a couch on Virginia Beach, talking about their commitment to address climate change.

Its first ad, which is narrated by the actor William H. Macy, highlights American’s collective responses to historical challenges. “We didn’t wait for someone else to storm the beaches of Normandy,” Macy intones. “We didn’t wait for someone else to guarantee civil rights.” The commercial will run several times Wednesday on shows such as “Good Morning America,” “Today,” “American Idol,” “Larry King Live” and “Anderson Cooper 360.”

Al Gore “we” ad campaign 01


League of Conservation Voters president Gene Karpinski, whose group is supporting the effort, said he’s optimistic the “we” campaign will succeed in a way that traditional environmental groups have not. “It heightens both the urgency and the sense we can get the job done with the broad middle that will make the difference,” Karpinski said, “while having the resources to communicate in a sophisticated way, in a more expansive fashion than the community has done before.

If you cannot wait, you can see a teaser video on the Huffington Post.

I still need to see the whole campaign, but in light of all the discussions on this blog, the “we” effort seems like a step in the right direction. I have already contacted the Alliance for Climate Protection to volunteer my services as a blogger and activist. Will you?

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Yesterday I reported on the obvious energy waste I observed on the Stanford campus. Reporting is one thing, acting is another. Today, I took upon myself to write to the Stanford Campus Energy Manager:

Hello Susan,

As a citizen of Palo Alto and frequent visitor on the Stanford campus, it has come to my attention that the University does not seem to enforce its energy conservation policy in quite a few public places. This is especially apparent during day time, when lights are being turned on at sporting events. Below is a link to a video and blog post I published yesterday in my environmental blog, reporting on my experience.


I would appreciate hearing from you soon,


Marguerite Manteau-Rao

Let’s see what Susan says.

Imagine what would happen if we all acted as stewards of the micro-worlds we live in?


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I have taken the plunge, and indulged in a Flip Ultra camcorder . . . Here is what I saw during my walk on the Stanford campus yesterday:

Today is also Earth Hour 2008:

On March 29, 2008 at 8 p.m., join millions of people around the world in making a statement about climate change by turning off your lights for Earth Hour, an event created by the World Wildlife Fund.

Earth Hour was created by WWF in Sydney, Australia in 2007, and in one year has grown from an event in one city to a global movement. In 2008, millions of people, businesses, governments and civic organizations in nearly 200 cities around the globe will turn out for Earth Hour. More than 100 cities across North America will participate, including the US flagships-Atlanta, Chicago, Phoenix and San Francisco and Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Vancouver. View cities involved around the world.

We invite everyone throughout North America and around the world to turn off the lights for an hour starting at 8 p.m. (your own local time)-whether at home or at work, with friends and family or solo, in a big city or a small town.

What will you do when the lights are off? We have lots of ideas.

Join people all around the world in showing that you care about our planet and want to play a part in helping to fight climate change. Don’t forget to sign up and let us know you want to join Earth Hour.

One hour, America. Earth Hour. Turn out for Earth Hour!

Not only do we need to remember to turn off our lights during the night, we also need to not turn them on during the day . . .

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Ad Age released more information today on Al Gore‘s advertising campaign, scheduled to start on April 2nd:

The ad campaign from Interpublic Group of Cos.’ Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., due to break April 2, doesn’t suggest specific behavior Americans should change, but instead uses celebrities from the Dixie Chicks to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to urge business and government leaders to focus on developing environmental policies and solutions that will bring change.

“From the very beginning, we felt there was a gap in the marketplace in that there wasn’t a massive national effort to communicate about the urgency and solvability of the climate crisis,” said Brian Hardwick, communications director for the Alliance (Alliance for Climate Protection). “We want to inspire people to help, hoping that if enough of us raise our voices we can come together to demand more from our leaders.”

Besides Mr. Gingrich and the Dixie Chicks, the ads feature the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Pat Robertson, Toby Keith and current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. The Alliance was holding off announcing most details of the ads until this week, but did say they would urge “solutions.”

The Alliance is touting the campaign as an “unprecedented effort,” and said that the messages will run in TV, print, the internet and a wide variety of venues. The initial TV buy is broad, including the broadcast networks, cable including MTV and news networks.

How much of the effort will go toward advertising remains to be seen. The Alliance is hoping marketers will help spread the message by tying in through their own packaging ads and websites. Mr. Gore, in an interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes” to be broadcast March 30, suggests that few thinking people still believe that global warming isn’t a reality.

I am most interested in the ‘solutions’ part of the campaign. Let’s see what they mean on April 2nd. . .

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Finally, Al is tapping into the power of advertising. The news just came out of a $300 million ad campaign on global warming set to start next week. The campaign is the product of the Alliance for Climate Protection, Al Gore‘s organization. According to 60 Minutes,

Some of the ads will feature unlikely alliances to drive home the message that people of all stripes are concerned about global warming. These include the Rev. Al Sharpton and the Rev. Pat Robertson, Toby Keith and the Dixie Chicks, and Nancy Pelosi and Newt Gingrich.

This seems  just an awareness campaign to drive home the fact that global warming is to be taken seriously. Unless it is followed by a more action-oriented campaign, I doubt very much that it will do much to change people’s habits. Most people do not doubt the seriousness of global warming. The real problem lies more in how to move them to make changes.

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I don’t always agree with John Tierney, but I have to thank him for pointing me in the direction of ‘Nudge‘, a new book by University of Chicago professors, Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler.

The authors agree with economists who’d like to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by imposing carbon taxes or a cap-and-trade system, but they think people need extra guidance.

“Getting the prices right will not create the right behavior if people do not associate their behavior with the relevant costs,” says Dr. Thaler, a professor of behavioral science and economics. “When I turn the thermostat down on my A-C, I only vaguely know how much that costs me. If the thermostat were programmed to tell you immediately how much you are spending, the effect would be much more powerful.”

It would be still more powerful, he and Mr. Sunstein suggest, if you knew how your energy consumption compared with the social norm. A study in California showed that when the monthly electric bill listed the average consumption in the neighborhood, the people in above-average households significantly decreased their consumption.

Meanwhile, the people with the below-average bills reacted by significantly increasing their consumption – not exactly the goal of the project.

That reaction was avoided when the bill featured a little drawing along with the numbers: a smiling face on a below-average bill or a frowning face on an above-average bill. After that simple nudge, the heavy users made even bigger cuts in consumption, while the light users remained frugal.

Mr. Sunstein and Dr. Thaler suggest applying those principles with something more sophisticated than smiley faces. A glowing ball called the Ambient Orb, programmed to change colors as the price of electricity increases at peak periods, has been given to some utility customers in California, who promptly reduced their usage by 40 percent when the ball glowed red in peak periods.

Another gadget, the Wattson, which changes colors depending upon how much electricity a house is using, collects data that can be displayed on a Web site. Clive Thompson, a columnist for Wired, has suggested that people start displaying the Wattson data on their Facebook pages, an excellent idea that I’d like to take a little further.

I have written before about the need for people to be recognized for their good deeds, and what that means in terms of behavioral strategies for the climate fight. At heart, we remain little children. No matter how grown up I may pretend to be, there is this place inside my heart, that smiles whenever my efforts get acknowledged . . . I call that the ‘sticker effect‘. The other insight deals with the ‘lemmings‘ phenomenon, a behavior I have often observed in myself! Both behavioral tendencies are interrelated and stems from our inherent nature as social beings.

Nudge‘ is behavioral psychology at its best. Maybe not as appealing to the big boys as fancy technology, but potentially just as effective to fight climate change.

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Over the last few months, I have been exploring the possibility of a global communication campaign to mobilize citizens in the war against climate change. The question came up of who should tackle such an effort. It requires money, and people’s time and creativity.

That’s where the Tap Project becomes relevant. An article in today’s Ad Age touts it as ‘one of the biggest cause-marketing efforts yet‘. David Droga came up with the idea of bringing clean drinking water to children around the globe.

‘The initiative, which started last year as a challenge from the staff at Esquire magazine to invent a brand, has blossomed beyond Droga5 into an unusual cause-marketing collaboration between competing ad shops. Via the project, restaurant patrons are asked to donate a minimum of $1 for the drinking water they would normally get for free. For every dollar raised, the proceeds are funneled to UNICEF to help a child in a developing country obtain clean water for 40 days. . . . Nearly 2,300 restaurants nationwide signed on for the “World Water Week” event that kicked off March 16 and wrapped March 22. Participating venues each received a toolkit containing TAP decals to be placed in window and packs of donation cards to be placed with a menu or with the bill.’

Why is the Tap Project such a success? According to Richard Earle, the author of ‘The Art of Cause Marketing: How to Use Advertising to Change Personal Behavior and Public Policy’,

“The best social marketing provokes an immediate and easy-to-execute reaction, . . . In today’s cause-marketing-crazed environment, a common pitfall of such campaigns is to gain sympathy without a clear objective for people to achieve, . . .The Tap Project, “has a very specific and well-defined objective. It is something very easy and clear that people can do to achieve the goals of the campaign. To pay a dollar for a glass of water is simple and ingenious.”

Equally important was leaving agencies free rein to execute the project according to local flavors:

Volunteering agencies were given two basic mandates: to recruit restaurants to participate and promote the Tap Project in local communities. The parameters were otherwise left intentionally loose. Agencies were supplied the UNICEF and Tap Project logo and asked to bring local flavor to developing marketing materials. “Allowing people to make the program their own is the key to the success of it,” said Kim Pucci, marketing director for the U.S. Fund for UNICEF.’

I will also add the fact that the cause was given a very human face. Who can resist the haunting image of a thirsty child?

List of top agencies who volunteered to create pro bono campaigns for Tap Project:

Boston: Hill Holiday
Chicago: Energy BBDO
Cincinnati: Empower Media Marketing
Dallas: Publicis Mid America
Los Angeles: TBWA/Chiat/Day, OMD, Tequila and Porter-Novelli
Milwaukee: Non Box
New Orleans: Trumpet
Portland: Wieden & Kennedy
Richmond, Va.: Virginia Commonwealth University Brandcenter
San Diego: Fishtank
San Francisco: Goodby Silverstein & Partners
Seattle: Publicis in the West
South Carolina (Charleston, Columbia and Greenville): Cargo

Here is my question to you. Learning from the Tap Project, which behavior would you want to elicit from people with a climate fight campaign? Think of one single, easy action.

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Larry Page, Tony Blair, Jimmy Wales, Vinod Khosla, Shai Agassi, Elon Musk, Runt Ramsbottom, William McDonough, and a bunch of other very, very rich, and powerful men recently congregated for a weekend on Richard Branson‘s island. The event was organized in part by the the Climate Group, and aimed to discuss ‘the war against carbon‘. Lots of talks on new technologies, policy, and finances. And none about the human factor and conservation strategies. Have these high-powered folks so pessimistic about themselves and their fellow human beings that they have given up on the idea altogether? After all, Larry Page jet-pooled to the event . . .

I have said it before. Technologies, policy, financing do have an enormous role to play in our war against climate change. No question. However, they should work in tandem with some well thought out conservation strategies, including the financial support of local conservation efforts, and global communication campaigns about desired behavioral changes.

It strikes me that the whole climate change narrative is heavily skewed with patriarchal language. Listen to the words: policy, technology, power, war, . . . The threatened warriors are taking out their big guns.

Maybe the outcome would be different, if women in high places got involved?

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Last year, I wrote about Harvard professor Daniel Gilbert‘s theory regarding the psychology of global warming. I strongly recommend that you spend 15’ of your time watching these two recently released videos of him speaking at the Pop!Tech Conference:

The enemy facing us is not so much global warming itself, as our human inadequacies in dealing with the problem. The more we can be conscious of those, the greater the likelihood that we will react more appropriately, and with a greater sense of urgency.

From a practical standpoint, Gilbert‘s insights have important implications for future communication strategies about global warming. More time needs to be spent in the media, focusing on the whys of our relative inaction, and less on justifying the reality of climate change.

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12 by 8. That’s the universe I live in. 12 by 8, inches. Twelve hours a day, glued to my computer screen. I know, I can use my eyes, and my ears, and my mind to visit the world, from that tiny window. Still, that feels pretty limiting. I hadn’t really thought about it that way, until last weekend, when I decided to follow Charlotte’s hint to plant some vegetables in our yard.

In the midst of pulling out some weeds, it hit me big that I hadn’t been out in the world, really out, in a long long time. Out, as in getting down close to the earth. Out, as in getting drunk from forgotten smells, the grasses, the dirt, the air. Out, as in hearing the white noise from the dancing stems. Out, as in seeing the nearly invisible hairs on the tiny leaves . Out as in fighting with the subterranean roots, that threatened to overtake the fertile soil. Three hours later I rose, my body aching, and happy.

Since then, it has come to my attention, that the wonder of the Internet, and more broadly technology, comes at a price. We have shrunk our world to a series of metal boxes and rectangles. Computer, TV, car, plane, it’s all the same. A world that is tasteless, odorless, and cold. A world that filters all the noises and sights from the outside, according to some pre-established programs. A world that takes us further and further away from nature.

No wonder I feel cut off. 12 by 8, inches, that’s the extent of my connection.

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