Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts

Friday, August 17, 2012

Superhero Costumes Optional

Climate Haka, Knitting Nannas and now Don't Just Sit There, Do Something. There are hundreds (thousands? millions?) of authentic voices calling for action on climate change. They come in every accent and flavour, and each one has its tribe of followers.

Joylette Portlock's voice blends her solid science background (PhD in Genetics) with a sense of fun and the down to earth practicality of raising two small boys. The result is Don't Just Sit There, Do Something – a series of videos where Joylette plays multiple roles to present climate change issues.

The six-minute videos showcase reliable information with lots of humour and, best of all, each video ends with two recommended actions – one personal and one aimed at systemic change. For example, Episode Six about air quality ends with a personal recommendation to set your airconditioner a little warmer, and a systemic recommendation to sign a petition to support safer limits on particle (soot) pollution.

For me, the best thing about these videos is that they pull no punches about the impact of climate change AND the actions they recommend match this level of seriousness. The actions are  very do-able, and the systemic actions are especially important for driving large-scale change.

I don't know about you, but I find it mind-numbing to sit through presentations that warn that 100 million Bangladeshis are likely to be displaced by rising sea levels and then to be told that I can help prevent it by sharing my lawn mower with my neighbour. It feels like a woefully inadequate response.  Individual actions are important, but we also need radical reform of energy systems at the global level.

If you like a little humour with your climate messages check out the inspiring videos from Don't Just Sit there, Do Something. They'll put a smile on your face and inspire you with hope.

Then share them with everyone you know!

Yep - that's a recommended action. 


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's a recent snippet.

US Wind capacity has reached 50GW and will hit 60GW by end of 2012.  50 GW of wind power capacity represents the generating power of 44 coal-fired power plants, or 11 nuclear power plants. Source: RenewablesBiz.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Climate activism with tattoos

Are renewables too girly? Is energy efficiency too tame? Are EVs for milksops? Where's the challenge for the testosterone-endowed warriors in the silent acceleration of an electric car? What is big and bold about recycling and using LESS of something?

Social responsibility doesn't usually jive with a macho image and Edwin Stafford and Cathy Hartman argue here that climate communication needs to be more macho if it is to reach new audiences.

As an example, they note the success of the Don't Mess with Texas anti-littering campaign that reduced roadside littering by 72% in the first two years and went on to become  a cultural phenomenon.  The slogan has been popularly appropriated by Texans, appears on memorabilia merchandise and is even the official motto of the Virginia-class submarine USS Texas.

In my part of the world, tattooed Rugby League players are the epitome of macho. When tough Rugby League players like Tongan Fuifui Moimoi or Samoan Frank Puletua are aroused to defend their families they can wear shell necklaces and feather skirts and no one messes with them.

With his ever-accurate social radar, Bill Clinton put his finger on it recently when he said -
The more people with visible tattoos who advocate for clean energy, the more success it will have in Washington. You win the tattooed vote and we’ll have the damnedest environmental policy anybody ever saw.

While Texans are tough, nobody does 'don't mess with me' better than New Zealanders. The ancient Maori haka is presented before every Rugby Union game - check out this 2010 international game.

It's time for a climate haka.

It's time for machos with tattoos to carry green shopping bags with attitude.

It's time for tough men to stand up to defend their homeland so that no one messes with the future of their children and grandchildren.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's the latest snippet.    

The Chinese government has confirmed it has increased its target for solar energy by 40 per cent, pledging to deploy 21GW of capacity by 2015. The move is is accompanied by new minimum targets for renewable energy use that will be imposed on energy firms and grid operators, and means that renewables will account for 9.5 per cent of the country's energy mix by 2015. Source: BusinessGreen

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Popcorn catastrophe

Ken Ward observes that when climate activists cry catastrophe! and then list benefits like green jobs and reduced oil imports to be gained if we take preventative measures, [it] is odd and confusing behaviour, like running into a crowded movie theater and shouting "Fire! -- and don't forget to buy popcorn on the way out, with all the unexpected traffic, it's on sale!".

This reminds me of one of my disappointments with Australia's current government. Despite heads rolling, it has succeeded in passing the Clean Energy Legislation that puts a price on carbon, compensates low income households and small businesses, and invests in renewables. In the weeks leading up to implementation, it ran an ad campaign about it. What did they say?

Did they mention that this legislation is a response to the catastrophe of climate disruption, like "We know the cinema is on fire, here comes the fire brigade!"

Did they say, "We're on the job, making Australia a safer place for future generations."

No, they ran ads of soothing domesticity that said, "You'll get some money. Aren't we nice?"

That's it. Nothing else. Indeed, they didn't even mention the legislation!

This is like addressing the crowd in the cinema and not mentioning the fire that has started in the projection room, saying instead, "There's a street parade outside they are throwing coins to the crowd."

Little wonder that Australians are disappointed and confused by their government.

Nevertheless, muddled as they are, the Government is better than the Opposition who have promised to undo the Clean Energy Legislation. That's like disbanding the Fire Brigade. I guess that their messaging is consistent. Given that they don't fully acknowledge climate disruption, it's like saying, "There is no fire so we don't need a Fire Brigade."

Eventually, all countries will get onto war footing to fight climate disruption. In the meantime, as individuals we can match our words and actions to the magnitude of the problem and call a spade a spade, as the very excellent James Hansen does in this Washington Post article today.

UPDATE: Researchers note that altruism and personal gain tend to cancel each other out. Appeals to self-interest can backfire and accidentally encourage people to behave selfishly in other areas. Source: NatureClimateChange. There's another reason that governments should encourage pro-environmental behaviour for the greater good and not just for personal monetary gain.


The Transformation tab reports examples of progress towards a low-carbon future. Here's the latest snippet.   

British supermarket chain Sainsbury has installed over 69,500 solar panels on its stores, laying claim to the title of Europe's top solar generator. The company said that it has 16MW of solar capacity spread across 169 of its 572 UK supermarkets, meaning that collectively the firm manages the largest solar array in Europe. Source: BusinessGreen

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Trapped in a bubble

Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a bubble. Actually, we all live in our own custom-made bubbles that are shaped by our life experience and our education.

The world in my bubble is different from the world in your bubble. The TV show Madmen makes good dramatic use of this.

In an early episode, Betty comes home with her drycleaning. After a few minutes, the kids come running out of the bedroom playing at being spacemen. Sally has the thin plastic dry-cleaning bag over her head and body.  Betty gets mad, as any mother would at this shocking sight. She chides Sally,
If the clothes from that dry-cleaning bag are on the floor of my closet, you're going to be a very sorry, young lady.

How times have changed! Betty is oblivious to our concerns about suffocation, and we're blind to her focus on well-pressed clothing.

When it comes to climate change and the transition to a low carbon economy, there are some very strong bubbles built largely on the capacity of the internet to foster colonies of like-minds.

There's a whole anti-AGW blogosphere bubble promoting the notion that climate science is not settled and 'do nothing' is the best course of action. There are virtually no practising climate scientists in this bubble, though there are related professionals like weathermen and engineers along with lots of backyard 'thinkers'.

There's also a pro-AGW bubble that posts evidence, debunks fallacies and corrects errors. This bubble has quite a number of practising climate scientists, along with science communicators, news media, business interests, enthusiasts and various interest groups.

Meanwhile, the usual practice of science continues through peer reviewed papers in academic journals.

How do we speak to each other across these bubbles? As a first step, we need to spend more time hanging out with people who live in different bubbles from ours. Natually, this is not as comfortable as hanging out with like minds. You have to make an effort and be prepared for some abrasion.

We can also make efforts to see the world from someone else's point of view. Why does Betty Draper ignore the suffocation risk when Sally puts the plastic bag over her head?

To see the world from someone else's point of view we need to listen with respect, as Katharine Hayhoe says,
If we approach this issue with mutual respect, with a desire for identifying what we most have in common rather than where we differ, and if we are prepared to listen and have two-way communication, rather than just coming in there to instruct, then we can make some progress.
Without these efforts, we remain trapped in our bubble, our echo chamber. That makes us lousy communicators. More like Betty Draper than Katharine Hayhoe.