Friday, July 29, 2011

Why NOT to fight about climate change "facts"

Do you think Rush Limbaugh is cool? How about George Will? They win the title in a new paper "Cool dudes, hot temps; the climate change battle will get us nowhere."

These characters are cultural "elites" used to getting their way, so why should they be worried about climate change or anything else? The lesson here: you can't win arguing "facts" with one of these "cool dudes." Because ideology trumps facts and their ideology has them feeling secure.

It's the "white male effect," those with power are less worried because they feel like they control their own destiny. So there's no point in arguing facts, it's ideology that has them blithely unconcerned.

From the writeup in BigThink:
What is valuable about this study is what it says not just about conservative white men, but about all of us. This research confirms that who we are as people, at really fundamental levels, has a lot more to do with the way we see things than just the facts. All of us, not just CWMs. And not just on climate change. And what that means is that arguing issues based just on the facts isn‘t going to get us very far, since the facts aren’t really what we’re arguing about in the first place.

Here are a few of the findings (based on analysis of Gallup surveys of public opinion between 2000 and 2010);

--- 14% of the general public doesn’t worry about climate change at all, but among CWMs the percentage jumps to 39%.

--- 32% of adults deny there is a scientific consensus on climate change, but 59% of CWMs deny what the overwhelming majority of the world’s scientists have said.

--- 3 adults in 10 don’t believe recent global temperature increases are primarily caused by human activity. Twice that many - 6 CWMs out of every ten – feel that way

So what is about CWMs that make them see the climate change issue this way? The “Cool Dudes” paper suggests that its partly because they’re WMs, and partly because they are Cs. The so-called “White Male Effect” in risk perception has found that white males between ages 18-59 are generally less afraid of things than white women or people of color of either gender. A famous “White Male Effect” paper suggested Perhaps white males see less risk in the world because they create, manage, control, and benefit from so much of it. Perhaps women and nonwhite men see the world as more dangerous because in many ways they are more vulnerable, because they benefit less from many of its technologies and institutions, and because they have less power and control.”
Makes sense to me. What do we do about this problem?
The solution is obvious, though hardly easy. We have stop making climate change a zero sum if-you-win-I-lose battle. We have to frame the issue in ways that work within everybody’s underlying cultural/tribal perspectives. We have to realize that answers are more likely to be found, and solutions are more likely to be reached, if the goal is finding common ground, to one of the most serious threats humans - all of us - have ever faced.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amazing Chinese algae bloom

Once again a major algae bloom is afflicting China's coast (photo above). This reminds me of the Olympic year, and the massive cleanup necessary to present a good image and keep coastal waters usable.

I'm surprised that this doesn't seem to keep people out of the water, I suppose it depends on what you're used to.

Great surf video

You won't believe this one

Un film de Karim Rejeb, Production Anticyclone

Thanks to Deep Blue Home, where Julia posts the best stuff ever...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Is small-scale fishing less harmful?

Who are the ocean villains? Large-scale industrial fishermen are the most convenient target, but is "industrial" really a dirty word in fishing?

There is an un-examined assumption held by many ocean scientists and environmentalists: that small-scale fishing is inherently less harmful to ocean ecosystems than large-scale industrial fishing. This assumption shows up even in research done by well-known scientists.

small-scale fisheries in Peru are widespread and numerous (100 ports, 9500 vessels, & 37,000 fishers), and our observed effort constituted c. 1% of longline and net deployments. We suggest that the number of turtles captured per year is likely to be in the tens of thousands. Thus, the impacts of Peruvian SSF have the potential to severely impact sea turtles in the Pacific especially green, loggerhead and leatherback turtles.
This study is not alone. This study found disproportionately large harm caused by certain small-scale fisheries, and this report cautions against assuming that small-scale fisheries deserve special support based on the idea that they're less harmful to ocean ecosystems.

There are no easy answers, and I'm sorry to say that "small is beautiful" just doesn't work in fisheries.

"Turtle graveyard" photo from small-scale fishery impacts.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Japan's tsunami was 132 feet tall

How big was the Japanese tsunami this year? Reseachers now say 132.5 feet, or 40 meters. Wow. That's the biggest tsunami ever to hit Japan, and bigger than the tsunami that devastated coastlines around Indonesia in 2004.

As if that's not big enough, the largest tsunami ever was 1,720 feet (524 meters), trigerred by a rock and ice fall in a small inlet in Alaska in 1958. Yikes. That's taller than the Empire State Building in New York.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Why people care about a cause

Do you ever wonder why your worthy cause doesn't attract enough attention? Why don't people care, when you know they should?

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times has some answers, based on years of reporting experience. If you're a typical activist, you won't like the results. They reinforce the model that most activists hate, put a face on the problem. Find a person struggling and making progress and show people how they can join this person.

What are Kristof's views on how to draw people to a worthy cause?
"We intervene not because of stories of desperate circumstances but when we can be cheered up with positive stories of success and transformation. For example, one experiment found that people are quite willing to pay for a water-treatment facility to save 4,500 lives in a refugee camp with 11,000 people in it, but they are much less willing to pay for the same facility to save 4,500 lives when the refugee camp is said to have 250,000 inhabitants. In effect, what matters is saving a high proportion of people, not just a large number of lives.

If one lesson is the need to emphasize hopefulness, the second is that storytelling needs to focus on an individual, not a group. A classic experiment involved asking people to donate to help hungry children in West Africa. One group was asked to help a seven-year-old girl named Rokia, in the country of Mali. A second was asked to donate to help millions of hungry children. A third was asked to help Rokia but was provided with statistical information that gave them a larger context for her hunger. Not surprisingly, people donated more than twice as much to help Rokia as to help millions of children. But it turned out that even providing background information on African hun­ger diminished empathy, so people were much less willing to help Rokia when she represented a broader problem. Donors didn't want to help ease a crisis personi­fied by a child; they just wanted to help one person—and to hell with the crisis.

As we all vaguely know, one death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. As Mother Teresa said, "If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will." Professor Slovic calls the first reaction "psychic numbing." But Slovic wanted to know at what point the number of victims triggers psychic numbing. He set out to find out, and his findings were deeply depressing.

In one of Slovic's experiments, people were asked to donate to Rokia or, in other cases, to a similar hungry boy, Moussa. In each case, research subjects were quite willing to help and donated generously either to Rokia or to Moussa. But when people were asked to donate to Rokia and Moussa together, with their photographs side by side, donations decreased. Slovic found that our empathy begins to fade when the number of victims reaches just two. As he puts it: "The more who die, the less we care."

There you have it, find a face to represent your cause, and make it a face that exemplifies progress and hope. I'm sorry to say it, but your statistics won't work.

Zombies and communicating risk

Are you ready for a zombie attack? If not, check out the CDC's advice on how to prepare for a massive assualt by zombies. Or any other disaster like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, etc.

It's a great lesson in communicating and Randy Olsen explains the hows and whys regarding the massive success of the CDC's creative approach to outreach about boring topics.

Enviros, are you listening? If not, you should be listening and the best place to start is Randy Olsen's "The Benshi."

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The secret world of sand

I'm a sand lover. During my Swim Around Bainbridge Island, I crossed a lot of sand bottom (see photo). I've always been fascinated by sandy bottoms, and I love this video that I found on Deep Blue Home. It's 4 minutes + of sandy ocean bottoms and some of the interesting and amusing creatures that live on and in the sand.

Julio / July from Rafa Herrero Massieu on Vimeo.

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's wrong with green marketing?

Selling products with a green message...does it work?  Is it morally wrong?  What would you say in a critique of green marketing?

Here's one expert with an answer: 
Most (green) marketing ... is ponderous, lacking in humility, humanity and humor...Guilt doesn't sell, but humor does. We need to sell green by poking fun at our silliest excesses, the stereotypes and ourselves.
Green marketing should make people feel good.  That's not exactly a strong point of the environmental movement.  Usually we're busy making people feel bad for all the wrong things they do. 

Most greenies hate advertising and the people who do it, but there's a lesson here.  If we want people to help save the planet, we should learn from the experts at shifting people's motivations--advertisers. 

Take a look at the two ads, which do you like?  Probably not the green one. 

Friday, July 08, 2011

Where's blogfish?

Just back from trips to Scotland, Vietnam, and Germany.  Busy, busy, and invisible.  

I found a lot of energy and activity in Vietnam dedicated to making the pangasius (fish farming) industry more sustainable.  Efforts like this have been criticized recently as greenwashing. 

Something's wrong when this sort of green "GOTCHA!" is viewed as strong.