We started something here, questioning environmental doom and gloom, and Rick has an interesting answer over at Malaria, Bed Bugs, Sea Lice, and Sunsets. Along with a provocative picture (left), seeming to accuse me of dodging problems and spouting happy talk. In the comments on Rick's post, Max makes claims about my unconscious(?) motivations?? Oh really?
What is the gist of this dispute? I think this is a debate over the purpose of raising environmental awareness. Let's explore this with two unrealistic and extreme straw people.
1. The goal of talking about ocean environmental problems is to motivate people to fix them.
2. The goal of talking about ocean environmental problems is to get people to understand them.
These two are not mutually exclusive, but they are different goals. I don't give a @#*&@^#*&^ whether or not people can pass a quiz on the real facts on ocean decline. I want them to get motivated to fix the problems. And I don't think redundant doom and gloom will build motivation, witness the Seattle Times opinion editorial that raised this.
Now I don't think Rick or anyone else actually wants people to pass a quiz, but sometimes enviros seem to act like that. We dump too much information on people trying to get them to understand too much about the issues. The view seems to be that people have to understand the threats pretty well in order to get motivated to solve them. And it's interesting to see complaints if people get motivated by celebrities or some other so-called fluffy approach that is emotion-heavy and fact-light.
This is what I'm after when I rail against too much enviro doom and gloom. We need to focus on building motivation, and scaring people with impending floods and storms is just not a good way to motivate environmental conservation. Our crises are slow and just not that scary. Extinction in 100 years for a whale? Yawn. Storms will get worse and they might flood your house. Click (the sound of the channel being changed). Scare tactics work better for things that are imminent. It worked (for awhile) regarding terrorism after 9/11, because we saw the threat was all too real.
Building environmental solutions over the long term will not happen through fear and scaring people. Sorry, not gonna happen. We need something better.
It's ironic that people can talk about how it's wrong to "soften" the message or otherwise focus on building motivation rather than delivering doom and gloom. What's the goal anyway?
This is not to pick on Rick. He has the right idea, and we're really pretty close in what we'd prescribe. But he does let the "don't soften the blow" criticism infect his message, and that's one place where I think he's a bit off track.