Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It pays to advertise...

Energy companies – fossil fuel conglomerates – oil and coal and gas companies – run ads.  The “I’m Maggie, and I’m an Energy Voter!” ads.  Exxon Mobil ads that talk a disingenuous blue streak about all the alternative energy options they have in the pipeline.  The “We Are Koch!” ads that make it sound like the Brothers Koch are a caring, sharing pair of hippies who march in the front lines in solidarity with climate change activists.

These folks have money.  They have reach.  And they have talented minions cranking out advertising for them that is DESIGNED to obfuscate and spread mis- and disinformation on climate change, their role in it, and how an “all of the above” approach is a sane, sensible solution to a problem that they’re loathe to even admit exists: anthropogenic climate change.

We in the climate activism community need an advertising campaign, too.  That’s part of my year-long #PivotToClimate proposal, in which I am calling on the majority of environmental and social justice groups to spend 50% of their time and treasure, at a minimum, on climate change in calendar 2017.

If we just had a pool of money – money already raised by the Sierra Club, Greenpease,, Oxfam, and the like – to use on advertising, we could move the dial of public opinion in a HURRY.
We need to advertise – that is, to use the lingua franca of these United States – to inform, energize, and mobilize the American people on climate change.

The messaging I propose should be designed to hit people like they’ve been gut shot, and let them know that years of inaction by foot-dragging, heavily-lobbied, and bought-off politicians has led us to our current perilous position, facing a future of hellish heat waves, devastating droughts, rampant “once in 1,000 years” storms, epic deluges, terrible public health challenges, inundated coastal cities, and hordes of frantic climate change refugees.

This isn’t the time for business as usual.  It’s not the time for long explanations.  It’s not the time for nuance and for coaxing people along with rational explanations for why carbon dioxide can, yes, be a very good thing (in moderation) for our friends the plants, but at higher concentrations in the atmosphere begins to trap more heat which can lead to more moisture in the atmosphere, much like the effect you might feel in a greenhouse, which is why we call it….. zzzzzz…..

The years of teaching and educating and imploring and exhorting Americans to get worried about polar bears and shrinking ice sheets at the far reaches of our globe just hasn’t mobilized enough of us.  Yes, it’s mobilized some.  I am not overlooking all the excellent education and communication that’s been done.  The dial is moving… but it’s moving far, far too slowly.  I feel momentum – but I fear we need even more engagement, even faster.

Our “leaders” in DC are very well aware that most of us simply aren’t fussed enough about climate change for them to pay it much heed, either.  They read the polls.  They see where public opinion sits.  So they know they can keep on taking the money and lying like rugs (looking right at you, Senator McConnell) and not get voted out of office.  They know full well that they can hem and haw, splutter and obfuscate, deny, declare they’re not scientists, throw snowballs, and suffer no consequences.  And so while the dial has been moving recently – and President Obama has been raising a bit of a ruckus all by himself – we’re not moving in the right direction fast enough.

It’s time to crank it up to 11.

We need an electorate that’s furious at government inaction on climate change and will vote for politicians who promise to take immediate action.  We need an electorate who won’t put up with their lies any longer and who demand that their representatives do their will on this most urgent and pressing of issues.  We also need a population that is fired up enough to take the personal actions required, like giving up or rationing meat, driving less, buying green and renewable and local products, and more.

We need all Americans to be fired up and marching in the same direction – which is roughshod over the folks like Paul Ryan and Lamar Smith and Mitch McConnell and the Koch Brothers and the Heritage Institute and the big fossil fuel corporations who want to stand in the way of us saving the precious Goldilocks climate of our one and only home.

So… here’s my question.  If you worked in an advertising agency, what messaging would YOU propose to set the American public’s hair on fire?  How do we communicate urgency and get people angry that they’ve been shamelessly lied to for so many years?  We need ZING! and POW! and ZOWIE! messages!  What would they look like?  What would we say?

Please add your excellent ideas in the comments.  And thanks!