“Global warming” needs better p.r.

1 March 2006

Another typically sensible post from Seth Godin: “The problem with ‘global warming’.” The short version is that the problem hasn’t been presented (or marketed) to the general public in a way that is (1) understandable, and (2) moving. In my view, Godin is absolutely right.

I’ve heard far too many earnest pleas for urgent action from well-meaning people who do not grasp the nature of human communication. They believe that if they just explain it again, slowly enough and passionately enough, their audiences will come to understand the severity of the problem, change their own ways, and then take up the cause themselves.

But guess what? We in the audience are human. We like what we like. We typically don’t like change, especially if it affects things that we enjoy. I don’t want to give up my car. I don’t want to give up my wanton use of electricity. You’re really going to have to convince me — to sell me — to do otherwise.

I say all of this not because I’m dubious about global warming — I used to write an environmental column, for crying out loud — but because I know that I haven’t done a tenth of what I could have to change my own habits for the better in terms of global warming. I’m not trying to be selfish, but my schedule is criminally overbooked and it takes some convincing to get me to eat my spinach in any context. Make it real to me. Convince me. I’m good-hearted but highly conflicted.

This complaint shares the same root with my earlier rant about blocks of prose on PowerPoint slides. Presenters who fill their PowerPoint slides with chunk-o-text bullet points are thinking more about their own needs (making just one slide, easy-importing from their word processor) than about mine (bad eyesight, distraction, a stark lust for pictures).

Don’t do that. Please. I’m weak and needy. If you want to convince me, you’ll have to do better.

Any ideas on how to market the urgency, the right-now-this-instant urgency, of global warming–ahem, “atmosphere cancer”–to the general public?


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