Monday, 15 June 2009
EcoAmerica Report: "Climate Energy Truths"
(Note this is an old 2006 magazine cover - used with irony as reflecting what presumably the researchers would describe as 'how not to do it' - and not the actual EcoAmerica report in this post)
New report on how to communicate climate change, energy and related policies: download report here
I've just skimmed through it and my initial reactions are:
- it's very true that we need to explore with fresh thinking how to get through to people
- I agree the language, visual images and framing of concepts are critical
(I'd add that the key thing though is satisfying, coherent narratives that draw these together and make sense of it all)
- and it looks like a thought provoking discussion
- "proposition testing" assumes that a different way of phrasing/framing things is sufficient
- vs what if we actually need to teach people what scientists and (most) politicians know: that our current economy and society is deeply unsustainable (in every sense including climate change), that we face an unimaginable global crisis if we dont change course; hence the game is up for keeping things as they are
- and evidence from studies in how people learn to change deeply held mental models points not to snappy top down messaging but democratic open forums for questioning, deliberation and discussion (and I've seen this in action doing research groups on the subject)
In other words - as this is a Washington report aimed largely at the Obama administration and their attempt to win the hearts and minds of America (vs the 'clean coal' and other dirty energy lobbies) - I'd stay stick to your guns, work with people the way you did with the election campaign and dont default to a political 'advertising sell' that attempts to put the radical changes we need to make into acceptable 'language' like (the recommended substitute for climate change) "deteriorating atmosphere". Cant we actually just give people clear information? Help them grasp the seriousness and urgency of the problem? Help them see for instance that 20% of all US emissions come from cars and driving - so it's not just about energy grid sized policies.
It's not the words that need to change, it's our worldview.
But well worth a read, I'm only reacting to a first pass and there looked to be some interesting insights and analysis in there too, and I'll be going through it in more detail.
Also I do agree with the problem they set out to solve and clearly we are on the same side arguing about 'how'. From their blog: "Now is the time for progress. We need to maximize the opportunity for climate and energy solutions, and this requires public support. The good news is that Americans support solutions, particularly when they can visualize them and when they are connected to benefits in their daily lives."