We started the last decade with an IPCC report that was the first to galvanize public attention on the issue of pollution and its warming effect - but ended it with a marketing video showing a teacher blowing up two students who didn't accept global warming, which didn't go over all that well with the public - apparently terrorism by teachers against minors and blood spraying everywhere doesn't have a lot to do with atmospheric science to those outside the Earth Liberation Front and similar groups. So for the new decade, here's hoping environmental marketing efforts try more sex and less blood.
There's no question something needs to change. Most scientists have credibility in the eyes of the public but, as Nature noted in its overview of the decline in interest (read: media coverage) about global warming, known mistakes published as fact in the 2007 IPCC report and emails from East Anglia researchers encouraging scientists to withhold data and defend results by any means hurt the credibility of those in the climate field, including the vast majority doing solid work.
Because this idiotic video was made by activists who believe they can 'shock' people into caring about how much carbon dioxide they emit while going to work, and it is about dead kids, YouTube will require you to log in to show you are old enough to view it.
But sex can fix all that. Even skeptics like naked women. The Greenpeace 'mind bomb' approach - bleeding whales and such - worked well in its day but once everyone started doing it, the effect was gone. Bleeding schoolchildren blown up by teachers was a no-no, yet even high school students don't mind looking at a female researcher posing in a bathing suit in front of Arctic ice.
And if the fertility symbol Ice Shiva Lingam of northern India is melting it's a good idea to highlight that.
More practical is the effort by some groups to 'train' environmental journalists. If that sounds like P.R. people well, yeah, you can't be trained as a journalist to write on one side of a topic and actually be a journalist. But if you train your own journalists and then create your own media outlet to publish their work, you bypass pesky standards from media companies regarding fairness and balance.
The fact is environmental groups suffer from their own public image issues - former employees of Sierra Club call it Club Sierra for a reason and the fund-raising machinery of all environmental activists is non-stop and obviously corporate - but people only respond to personal appeals. Environmental group marketing is instead like listening to a 'Midnight Oil' album - you can tell what year a song of theirs was written by what environmental cause they sang about.
I bet you can guess what year this song was written.
If the militant kooks have taken over, or the bean counters, their latest efforts will be regarded as mercenary and cynical rather than a means to a noble end. And that's bad for everyone.
Axel Bojanowski in Spiegel Online says one new approach might be the old Amnesty International style - "Fact and act" is their method, with no exaggerations and no single focus. Members choose where they want to help. Their approach has worked for 50 years without being shrill.
Here's hoping something more reasonable works and that it involves scientists getting back to being trusted guides and not policy advocates. In 2006, Al Gore said we only had 10 years until the world was permanently ruined. Not that he was exaggerating for effect or anything. And ignore the fact that since it was believed (2006 was prior to both his Academy Award and his Nobel prize) he might run for President again in 2008, 10 years was the two years until the election and the 8 years he would be president - errrrr, not that I am cynical about the prior decade's motives when it came to climate change.