“Atmosphere cancer,” redux.

9 March 2006

Last week I cited Seth Godin on the poor job that’s been done to inform the world of the dangers of global warming. Among other smart observations, Godin made the point that the general public would look at the issue differently if we called the phenomenon “atmosphere cancer” rather than “global warming.”

This interesting item from the “Framing Science” blog uses graphs of Gallup polling data to show just how low global warming rates in the public mind. The blog itself addresses exactly what Godin was talking about, namely the way that scientific issues are portrayed in the media. It’s author, Dr. Matthew Nisbet, teaches communications at Ohio State.

The failure to adequately alarm or motivate the public about global warming raises a timeless organizational issue: who’s responsible? We’ve all had the experience, when working in groups, of deadlines that slipped or tasks that fell by the wayside simply because it wasn’t clear exactly who was responsible for which part of the project. The old saying has as much currency now as ever: “If everyone is responsible, then no one is responsible.”

For macro issues like “atmosphere cancer,” effective responsibility tends to fall to two types of entities: (1) private citizens or groups who take the issue on as a “holy” cause, or (2) governments. In the case of global warming, the former class includes major and minor environmental organizations, professional scientific groups, experts like Prof. Nisbet, and the few concerned citizens who will make this their #1 issue for activism. To start at the head of the list for governments, the Bush administration has been, shall we say, less than zealous in helping the American people to understand the real and pressing threats posed by global warming.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: