Framing the debate

In his article Ankelohe and beyond: communicating climate change, Simon Retallack mentions some recent work by the Frameworks Institute about how our frames of reference impact how we hear and respond to the world around us. He brings it up in the context of how the issue of global warming is communicated:

FrameWorks found that depicting global warming as being about "scary weather" evokes the weather "frame" which sets up a highly pernicious set of reactions, as weather is something we react to and is outside human control. We do not prevent or change it, we prepare for it, adjust to it or move away from it.

They suggest that when communicating climate change, we should change our frames of reference. That we should use the "words, metaphors, stories and images” in a way that create the right "triggers" for action.

Applying this approach to communications on climate change in the United States, the FrameWorks Institute drew several conclusions:

  • it recommended placing the issue in the context of higher-level values, such as responsibility, stewardship, competence, vision and ingenuity
  • it proposed that action to prevent climate change should be characterised as being about new thinking, new technologies, planning ahead, smartness, forward-thinking, balanced alternatives, efficiency, prudence and caring
  • conversely, it proposed that opponents of action be charged with the reverse of these values – irresponsibility, old thinking and inefficiency.

FrameWorks also recommended using a simplifying model, analogy or metaphor to help the public understand how global warming works – a "conceptual hook" to make sense of information about the issue. Instead of the "greenhouse-gas effect", which was found did not perform for most people, FrameWorks recommended talking about the "CO2 blanket" or "heat-trap" to set up appropriate reasoning. This would help, it argued, to refocus communications towards establishing the man-made causes of the problem and the solutions that already exist to address it, suggesting that humans can and should act to prevent the problem now.

(Emphasis mine.)

Hassan at Worldchanging then quotes New Zealand MP Jeanette Fitzsimons framing the recent budget as a "flat earth" budget – which fits puts that last idea into practice.

ActNow! website launch

Part of the reason I was in Melbourne yesterday was to attend the launch of the ActNow! website.

The website was created by the Inspire Foundation as a means for young people to express their views and have a say on the issues that are important to them.

WWF-Australia is one of the many, many partner organisations (101 at the time of writing) providing actions and information for the site. So far we only have one action up there, but more are in the works.

Some friends of mine at Massive Interactive had a big part to play in developing the site. It looks great and there’s lots of cool features for both the people acting, and for those of us providing information and support. Worth checking out even if you’re not a youngen’ 😉

It was also great to talk to the team behind it. The development of the site has very much been driven by young people volunteering their time. It’s clear that the team at Inspire have learnt a lot, and some of the things we chatted about last night were applicable to anyone encouraging people to act on issues. I’ll hopefully be able to catch up with them soon to learn more.

Update: Leisa, one of the team who worked on the project, has a great write-up on the site and the development process. So does Damian.

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Come off it

EcoStreet mentions Come off it day.

The idea is that if every household saves just a few watts every day, that’s one less power station that needs to be built.

I’ve been doing a bit of research at work on energy and water saving around the home. I was a bit shocked to find out that, on average, 11.6% of a household electricity bill is used on devices in standby mode – that is TVs, microwaves, VCRs, unused (but plugged in) phone and laptop chargers.

The Australian Government is aiming to reduce standby power usage by encouraging more efficient devices, aiming for 1 watt power usage in standby mode. But in the meantime the best way to conserve energy is to unplug or turn off at the power point devices that you aren’t using.

We also worked out that changing just one 100 watt lightbulb in every house to a 15 watt compact fluro will save not only money, but would result in 1,000 tonnes less C02 emissions (CO2, or carbon dioxide, is a key driver of climate change).

Come off it day (which was two days ago, but could easily be done any day of the year) suggests two actions:

  • Replace every bulb in your house with an energy efficient one
  • Go around the house and switch off anything that you can easily do without, and try to avoid any unnecessary electricity use

Sounds good to me…

Clooney is a (small L) liberal

Who would thunk it 😉 [via Miguel]

First he directs Good Night and Good Luck, and then stars in Syriana (which is excellent, but not quite as amazing as I’d been led to believe). I sense a theme there.

The best pull quote from the piece:

The fear of being criticized can be paralyzing. Just look at the way so many Democrats caved in the run up to the war. In 2003, a lot of us were saying, where is the link between Saddam and bin Laden? What does Iraq have to do with 9/11? We knew it was bullshit. Which is why it drives me crazy to hear all these Democrats saying, “We were misled.” It makes me want to shout, “Fuck you, you weren’t misled. You were afraid of being called unpatriotic.”

Amen to that.

Green Business

Joel Makower: Two Steps Forward: The State of Green Business: Good News and Bad:

If you’ve been engaged in the green business world for any length of time, you know the short story: there’s good news and bad. Herewith is a top-ten list of sorts: five reasons for optimism, and five reasons for concern, about the state of business and the environment.

An excellent read, outlining the challenges facing the environmental movement and it’s relationship with business.

Gil Friend chips in with some related thoughts:

When I addressed San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club (the nation’s largest public affairs society) this spring, speaking about “Risk, Fiduciary Responsibility, and the Laws of Nature,” I offered that assessment and challenge, and suggested that Boards of Directors, CEOs, and CFOs — not environmentalists — should be leading the sustainability revolution.

Not that environmentalists aren’t important — they provide critical market drivers as well as political pressure that impact corporate behavior. But the leverage, the capital spending commitments, the infrastructure investments — and the consolidated support or opposition for political initiatives — live in the boardroom and the executive suite. And the view from on high is changing, as a new understanding of risk and reward takes root.

Which in turn parallels sentiments expressed by WWF-Australia’s CEO, Greg Bourne, when he presented the 2005 Annual Hawke Lecture late last year (be sure to check out either the transcript or podcast of the speech – I’d love to hear your feedback). From the linked article:

[Mr Bourne] said Australia, as a resource superpower, is “the perfect place to start a lucrative revolution towards sustainable living and wealth creation.”

“If we reject pessimism, there are massively exciting challenges and opportunities for Australia at this time. We need to be in the vanguard of a sustainability revolution.”

I’ve long felt that engagement (as opposed to criticism) with business is an important front in the environmental movement. These quotes definitely point in the same direction.


Kiva is a micro-financier that allows individuals like us to provide the finance [via Seth Godin]. This is what I’ve been looking for in an aid program to support. Just need to check out the credentials of the organisation before I sign up. But looks good so far.