Dave Roberts at Grist picked over a recent Nature paper examining the fact that climate change doesn’t spark moral outrage, the same way terrorist attacks or even oil spills do. and the ways we might try and work around those cognitive issues if we’re going to get sustained political support for dealing with it seriously (original paper here).
In a related vein William Gibson recently commented:
I assume that we live in the first era in human history against which all posterity will have reason to hold a sad and bitter grudge.
Many people responded with things to the effect of “What about slavery?”, referring to past egregious social and economic injustices we’ve inflicted upon each other. I thought his response was poetic:
The difference between knowing murders were committed in your ancestral home and knowing fools let it burn to the ground. Hence your tent.
Thankfully that Nature paper also included potential cognitive and messaging work arounds, so we can hopefully get people to react, and then respond appropriately. Now if only we can bring ourselves to use them.
Conservative thinktanks step up attacks against Obama’s clean energy strategy, as revealed by ALEC bills and other PR documents. This morning at the World Renewable Energy Forum, in response to a (long winded) question about how we might re-frame the energy discussion in light of the unfortunate hay which was made from Solyndra’s failure, US Energy Secretary Stephen Chu re-iterated that clean energy should not be a political issue — that it’s just common sense. That may be true, but it doesn’t mean it will remain apolitical. As Pericles once said… “Just because you do not take an interest in politics, does not mean that politics will not take an interest in you.” Clean energy is political, as is climate change. Yes, it’s stupid, but that’s the way it is. We have to deal with it. Though, I have to admit, if prices keep dropping like they have been, it will be fun to watch the right-wing culture warriors backpedal, as massive renewable deployments become profitable without subsidies of any kind in the next decade.
I’ve been talking to friends and co-conspirators about how best to do bicycle
propaganda marketing. There’s a tendency in Boulder — as well as more broadly in the US — to market transportation cycling on the basis of its environmental, health, economic, and even political benefits. These benefits are significant, and are part of why I and many others who already ride, do so. However, I don’t think that means they’re the right way to reach the other 99% of the US population (or even to the other 90% of the Boulder population). To use this rational, functional framing is to use the marketing techniques of the 19th century, which often assumed consumers to be rational beings, making their purchases on the basis of the relative functional merits of the products on offer. Some people behave rationally, in some purchases, but since the mid 20th century most corporations (and many governments) have realized that this is not actually the best way to move product. Ever since Edward Bernays, marketing and public relations has largely been about evoking an emotional response and associating your product with the aspirations of the consumer, regardless of whether those aspirations are attainable or pure fantasy. Most people with an analytical background are irritated by the idea that logical rhetoric and rational argument are not the best ways to convince people of something. I’ve seen this issue come up repeatedly with public science communication, especially in the context of climate change.
Irritating or not, this seems to be the way most people work, most of the time. If we want cycling to become something everyone does, we have to work with people as they are, not as we wish they were. The benefits of the bicycle will be realized if lots of people decide to ride, regardless of whether they’ve made that decision rationally.
Continue reading Better Bicycle Marketing in Boulder a la Cycle Chic