Posts Tagged ‘inconvenient truth’

I am learning lots from email exchanges amongst our green mom bloggers’ group. This week, the question was raised of how to cast the greening of Thanksgiving under a fresh new way? I latched on to the ‘fresh’ part of the question and voiced that we were past the “10 Tips to a Greener Thanksgiving”. One of the moms disagreed. 

I agree that it’s boring, but I think people still need to hear the basics sometimes.  Repetition might be the only way to help people realize they are capable of making small changes.  It may take years of hearing this stuff for my husband’s family to realize that buying “local” doesn’t mean running out to the nearest Harris Teeter for their prepared turkey and fixings all packaged up in nice little plastic containers!!!

Our exchange highlights a much bigger issue. Three years since the release of “An Inconvenient Truth”, what are the most effective strategies to spread the green message? As green communicators, are we to continue as usual, with our various how-to bits, or are we to adopt radically different approaches?

The advertising people tell us we are to pay attention to the following factors for effective communication:

  1. First is recall, or the ability for people to remember the message
  2. Second is persuasion, or the effectiveness of the message in persuading people to change their behaviors
  3. Third is repetition, the number of time a message is impressed upon people’s minds; we know repetition contributes to recall
At stake in our green discussion, is the issue of persuasion. If we are going to drill a green message into the reluctant citizen’s mind, what should it be? Realizing that the same citizen is currently up to here with worries about his or her financial future. This is why I no longer advocate green admonitions. The way to go in my book, is through the connection with economic concerns. In other words, do not talk green. Instead, explore ways to save, and to survive in our dicey economy.

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Pangea Day was a remarkable event in many ways. A live demonstration that it is possible to use Internet technology to bring together, in a participatory manner, millions of people from all over the world, using the power of film, and creativity. 

In the spirit of the event, I would like to share with you, my top three picks.

#1. Papiroflexia. An animation feat. If movies could be poems, they would look like this:

#2. The Ball. I will never be able to throw away any one thing after seeing the video. 

#3. Pale Blue Dot. Makes you think about the big questions . . . I had flashbacks from Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth.

Thoughts, feelings?

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All the Earth Day circus put me in no mood to celebrate. Still, last night I attended an Earth Day event, sponsored by E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs), and NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), two organizations that I am very proud to support. Robert Redford was the main speaker. He was one of my idols, growing up, and I did not want to miss a chance to meet the man in person. Mr. Redford did not disappoint me. I came out of the evening with a renewed sense of commitment, and wishing that more people could have heard him live. Here is a video of a similar talk that he gave for the Apollo Project:

During his Earth Day speech, Robert Redford emphasized again the power of optimism, and of dwelling on opportunities and solutions. ‘America doesn’t do well with doom and gloom. Let’s get off how bad it is. Let’s get on with what can be done.‘ Robert Redford’s new push is on water and the need for quick solutions to the unfolding worldwide water shortage. For those of you also interested in water, click here.

Robert Redford is the perfect eco-hero, someone with the power to inspire through his example, and who has walked his talk for forty years. I can’t help but compare him with Al Gore. Although I am a big fan of Al, my response to his discourse is very different. Al Gore appeals to my intellect. Robert Redford grabs my heart and inspires my whole being to go further and to act.

The power of example.

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Framing Science is using comparison between two years ago‘s Time Magazine special issue on global warming, and this year‘s special issue on same topic, to make a point on shift that is taking place in the media and the collective consciousness:

From fear of global threat and helplessness, to hope and interest in personal solutions. As I look inside, I certainly have made that travel as well. This is also confirmed by latest Nielsen research.

I am curious to know. Does this match your personal experience as well?

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In one of his articles in the WorldChanging blog, Alex Steffen raises the question: ‘Who Will Tell the People? And How?

There’s enormous pressure here in the U.S. on environmental groups, scientists and public officials; pressure to play ball, to support targets that are politically safe, to be moderate. But this is not a situation where such gamesmanship will help our cause. Incremental and limited gains in this situation are in fact disastrous losses.

At the same time, we need to talk with people where they’re at on the issue, not where we wish they were. Somehow we need, in the next couple years, to guide millions of Americans through the progress of emotions — awareness, horror, despair, resignation, engagement, chosen optimism — that most of the people reading this site have gone through… and we have to do it in the next few years.

People are not really ready for this, but we’re not in a position to let that stop us. I’m not sure it’s too much of an overstatement to say that what’s needed is not just some issue education but a national mind-blowing.

I share Alex Steffen‘s frustration and his sense of urgency also. The media and the powers in charge have been tiptoeing around the reality at hand. I keep reading reports about 20 or 30% reduction goals for greenhouse gases in the next decades. Theses reports lead us to believe that things are not so bad after all, and smart technology alone should be able to get us out of our mess. Whose responsibility is it then to deliver the bitter pill of 90% reduction? And what are the strategies to make sure it has the desired effect on Americans’ behaviors?

To the question of who?, one obvious answer involves the media. Andrew Revkin‘s post on DotEarth yesterday, ‘Do the Media Fail to Give Climate its Due?‘, generated quite a lively discussion with the usual cast of characters: naysayers still, moderates, and radicals also. The reason the media have such an important role to play is as educators, and influencers of the crowds, so that the people will be ready to support the drastic emissions reduction policies that are to become an inevitable part of the political future. The objective is for the Most Inconvenient Truth I brought up earlier, to no longer hold.

Alex Steffen alludes to the time element of the process involved in bringing the public around. From personal experience, I can attest to the time lag, between initial exposure to the facts, and actual conversion. From the time when I attended Al Gore‘s presentation of An Inconvenient Truth, back in December 2005 – the first schock to my oblivious brain -, to the time when I finally became willing to make changes in my lifestyle, a good two years passed. Steven Running‘s Climate Grief model is most useful in that respect.

We then need to look at what is meant by the media. Sure, the New York Times, and other national publications, and TV stations have to play their part, but the advertising media should be considered as well. I have been pushing for a large scale, climate fight awareness advertising campaign. Al Gore, of all people should be the one spearheading such an effort. I hear his new book, ‘The Path to Survival‘ will be released next month. That’s good, and it’s not enough. Any good marketer will tell you that PR and the press can only generate so much awareness and persuasion. At some point, one needs to consider taking out the big guns, in this case, advertising. Ask all the presidential candidates!

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Yesterday, in response to my article on ‘Taking the Global Warming Paradox With a Grain of Salt‘, Mary, one of the readers of this blog suggested that I take a look at a 2007 joint survey on global warming, from the Nathan Cummings Foundation and the Breakthrough Institute. While discouraging, the results have the benefit of sounding more realistic than other studies, and of providing clear insights into the kind of communication and policy strategies most likely to succeed.

To the question, “Compared to other problems facing our country, tell me if that issue is one of the most important?”, here is where global warming came out:

  1. War in Iraq 57%
  2. Rising cost of health care 51%
  3. Education 51%
  4. Terrorism 50%
  5. Covering people who don’t have health insurance 44%
  6. Moral values 44%
  7. Social security and Medicare 44%
  8. American dependence on foreign oil 37%
  9. Illegal immigration 34%
  10. Cost of gasoline and electricity 33%
  11. Job creation and economic growth 31%
  12. Federal budget deficit 31%
  13. Quality of the environment 30%
  14. Crime and violence 30%
  15. Global warming 28%
  16. Taxes 25%

To be contrasted with the fact that 70% agree that there is solid evidence of global warming, that it is a big problem, and that government should take immediate action. However they are only willing to support governmental action that does not create any discomfort whatsoever their lives, particularly in regards to their pocket book:

Policies that would gather highest support:

  1. Making clean energy sources cost less 68%
  2. Funding massive federal research and development to develop cleantech 56%
  3. Requiring American industries to reduce their carbon emissions 51%

Policies that would gather lowest support:

  1. Auctioning off the right to emit carbon pay for the right to pollute 9%
  2. Abolishing payroll tax and replacing it with a tax on carbon emissions 11%
  3. Establishing a carbon tax on electricity, gasoline and other products 13%
  4. Making energy sources that pollute – gasoline, home heating oil, coal – cost more 18%
  5. Requiring American consumers to reduce their carbon emissions 37%
  6. Making businesses that emit pay for the right to pollute 38%

More findings from the Nathan Cummings research:

The poll also divided the sample to observe the effects of various psychological primes on global warming public opinion, including using specific consequences of global warming expressed by the environmental community such as the movie An Inconvenient Truth. Telling voters about these consequences did not increase their desire to take action on global warming . . . scaring people is not the way to get them to act.

Finally, the poll tested public support for a variety of global warming policy prescriptions. Voters expressed initial support for a variety of potential government actions, with support for an Apollo-type investment strategy scoring highest. However, when told of the potential costs of those programs, support dropped precipitously, with only the Apollo-type investment proposal retaining support from a majority of voters.

The investment-centered New Apollo program received more support than either Cap-and-Trade or Sky Trust proposals. Additionally, when voters were told of the negative consequences of each program (cost of energy for Cap-and-Trade and Sky Trust; tax and deficit implications of Apollo type investments), Apollo was the only program to maintain majority support of the electorate (54%). Support for a Cap-and-Trade program fell from 62% to 46% when voters were told of the potential impact on energy prices.

Global warming proposals that can be framed as increasing the cost of gasoline and electricity will likely trigger tremendous backlash from an anxious electorate. The key to passing substantive limits on carbon emissions is to couple those limits with specific policies to make clean energy cheaper.

This research leads to some rather chilling conclusions:

People know about global warming and what it means in terms of global consequences. Still they do not consider it as a personal or policy priority. They see it as a problem to be dealt with by government, and only in policies that will not result in them having to make any personal sacrifices, particularly of a financial nature. They seem to think that the problem will take care of itself, in the form of technology, and smart, no pain – all gain, energy policies.

I look at these conclusions, and I ponder other world’s grim facts such as India’s Tata Nano future, China’s threat of ‘no longer just one child policy‘, and China’s support of always more coal plants. And I get depressed, and very, very concerned about the future of our species. Mostly, I am mad at my fellow Americans for being so short-sighted. Don’t they realize that the world is looking up to them to lead the way. How can we keep going with our oil and gas orgy, and expect other countries to show self-restraint. As mean as that may seem, I do hope for a recession, and peak oil to slap my fellow Americans at the gas tank and in their wallets. If not by morality and reason, maybe they will be led by necessity?

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Where have you been Al? With the elections and all, you have dropped from the scene.

A little over two years ago, I attended your presentation of an ‘Inconvenient Truth‘, at Stanford University. I had not been wanting to go. Could care less about that environment stuff. But went because Amy, my husband’s ex had organized the event, and the whole family was going. The room went dark. Amy and a bunch of important people spoke first. Lots of people clapping at the end of each introduction. I thought, why am I here? Then you came on stage, looking like the university professor I remembered from your times running for President.

And delivered a speech so powerful, and presented images and graphs that were so convincing, that I came out of the event a changed woman. You really got me here:

Inconvenient Truth

Lots has happened since then. Your name has become synonymous with the climate fight cause, and you have earned worldwide recognition, last with the Nobel Peace Prize. That’s all good, and I can’t tell you how grateful I am for all you have done.

Now, I am asking you to go further. Many of us greenies are getting annoyed with the lack of attention given to global warming by the media. The San Francisco Chronicle is saying, ‘Media Consigns global warming to back burner‘. Move On is calling for its members to mobilize. Representatives from the press are coming up with all kinds of reasons.

Here is what I would like you to do. Forget trying to get the press to cooperate. Instead, use the power of advertising, and buy your way through the media landscape. If Clean Coal can do it, so can you. Build a coalition of the most creative ad agencies around, and ask them to come up with the best ad campaign ever. A campaign to keep up the awareness of global warming, and to persuade people to take a few simple actions that may add up to big cuts in emissions. A campaign that will also reach the most influential people, the politicians, the business leaders, the philantropists, the influencers, those with the power to make big changes fast. A campaign to make sure that global warming will remain present in the public consciousness, at all times. We may all suffer from the limited worry pool problem, but we can’t resist the power of advertising.


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