In the Loop

It ain't easy being green.

Posted at 11:08 AM on January 30, 2007 by Jeff Horwich (10 Comments)

We're still tweaking the language (sorry, Kermit) but things are looking green for the next show:

littlemeadowloop.jpgIn the midst of global warming fever, it looks like In the Loop will take up the battle inside our brains over saving the environment. We all know what to do, right? We'll look at why so many of us still don't do it.

For example:
* What are the things we do (recycling, choosing paper over plastic, etc.) that make us feel good -- but may be just an excuse to let us off the hook?
* Are we actually worse environmental stewards since we started getting the environmental message?
* Where did the marketing of "green" go wrong? How do we fix it?

Getting everyone on board is just not as simple as the Captain Planets of the world would like to hope. What do you think about any and all of the above? Got any awesome ideas for people we should talk to about this?

(BTW, if you know you want to come to the next show, reservations are now open.)

(Meadow photo by Doug Southerland, some rights reserved.)

Comments (10)

If there was one thing that the last episode of The Loop proved it was that NPR can be just as glib and superficial as E! Tonight. The following quote doesn't bode well for future shows either:

Where did the marketing of "green" go wrong? How do we fix it?

Yeah, that's right, it's all about marketing isn't it? It's our failure for not being "green" enough. Nooo.... couldn't possibly be the millions upon millions spent on propaganda and fake science by big oil. That's just crazy talk.


Posted by noen | January 30, 2007 11:31 PM

I’m kind of an environmentalist. I’m somewhat ignostic. Not to be confused with an agnostic environmentalist.

It seems like the debate over global warming is a lot like the debate over religion. Does God exist? Is the world melting?

Maybe we could change the debate. So many of the arguments have been based on faith or belief. Do you believe in God? However, God could exists (or not) with or without you believing in Him. Do you believe in global warming? The effects of global warming could be significant (or not) despite what you think. Instead of concentrating on beliefs, maybe we should concentrate on what’s the right thing to do. Does it make sense to try to conserve and not pollute so much, even if the world isn’t going to melt? Is that the right thing to do?

I don’t believe in God, but I still honor my parents. Even though I don’t believe in God, I’m not about to covet my neighbor’s ass. These things are what is right, even to a pagan like me.

I think the focus on beliefs really slows down progress. We start arguing about which belief is right. It’s really not about faith. It’s about doing the right thing.

I don’t mean to make any generalizations about the beliefs of environmentalists and of religious people. I’m just wondering if maybe we can use the same method to enlighten ourselves on these two issues. And maybe seeing them side by side gives us insights into each that otherwise wouldn’t be visible if they stood alone. Christians have their Hell. Environmentalists have their global warming. It’s interesting that both the faithful and the environmentalists threaten the nonbelievers with heat – or at least warmth. We have so much in common. We want to make the world a better place. But I could understand why being threaten with hell fire makes me defensive. And I’ll assume that blaming others for melting ice caps will make them defensive also.

“Getting everyone on board is just not as simple as the Captain Planets of the world would like to hope.”

Jeff, you bring up a very good point. We know global warming is bad, so why aren’t we doing something about it already?

I wonder if the religious think along the same lines. Why don’t those pagans believe in God already?

And again, from one environmentalist’s point of view. We all live on the same planet. If you’re not an environmentalist, then what are you? A masochist?

Small Print: I’ve made some generalizations about religion, and maybe concentrated mostly on some typical Christian beliefs. I hope people from other branches of Christianity and other religions aren’t offended. The exclusion of your religion in this post is not an indication of my dismissal of your beliefs, but rather an indication of my ignorance of them. And I’m definitely not saying that Christians aren’t environmentalists, or that environmentalists can’t also believe in God. I’m not contrasting, just pointing out some similarities I see. I’m not an agnostic environmentalist.

Eric Tsai
Saint Paul, MN

Posted by Eric Tsai | January 31, 2007 1:20 AM

So....Noen's not a fan? :-) That's fine, though of course we'd like to win him or her over.

But I do think the comment misjudges the premise for this next show. We're all familiar with the arguments against big oil. Many of them are valid, and in fact they are an inspiration for where we're going here.

Of course, the world doesn't need another show just pounding these messages home. We'll have more than enough of that over the coming weeks. What we can contribute is a look at why -- despite all we know -- the U.S. in particular has not swung into battle. Folks like Noen may get it, and may presume that everyone else should. That's fine as far as it goes, but the truth is that (as Eric illustrates in his comment) there are many shades of gray for the other 90% of the public. We need to examine why the messages are not having the functional impact that Noen and others rightly believe they should.

And we need to do so in a way that is...neither dry nor preachy, so people actually listen and enjoy listening. We'll continue to try.

Posted by Jeff Horwich | January 31, 2007 10:39 AM

BTW, It's she.

"It seems like the debate over global warming is a lot like the debate over religion. Does God exist? Is the world melting?"

No, actually it isn't anything like religion. It's called science and is in fact nothing like religious belief at all. Global warming, like evolution, is a fact. A fact that is going to walk up to you and destroy everything you have ever valued in this life. The world your children and grandchildren will live in will be a nightmare of a climate out of control, diminishing resources like food and water. And the continuing mass extinction of species world wide to the point where you will hardly recognize the world.

"And we need to do so in a way that is...neither dry nor preachy, so people actually listen and enjoy listening."

That is not and does not work. Being nice and sweet and gentle does not work. I know because I've been painfully aware of the need to do something about climate change since the eighties. The argument has never changed, the science has never changed, only improved.

What has happened has been a steady drum beat of a propaganda campaign by the corporate media, big oil and the state. I'm pretty damn pissed off about it and I intend to stay pissed off because I've tried the calm rational approach for the past twenty years. It doesn't work. Screaming and yelling doesn't either. What does work are real world consequences like 50 degree weather in the middle of January in Minn.

What might also work is laying out the real facts of what is coming and not allowing that message to be subverted or diffused. You do that by standing up to those who have a political agenda and want to undermine the truth. Yes, there really is such a thing as the truth and to ignore that in this case is to put all our lives and our future at risk. It isn't that big a deal if some religious nut thinks the world was created ten thousand years ago, but in this it matters. It matters more than you can imagine.

Posted by noen | January 31, 2007 12:00 PM

Yes, I agree that global warming is about science. And religion is a personal belief.

But, how the two are discussed, and how these discussions motivate people to change their behavior – that’s where the similarities are. Science, by itself, has no power to do good unless it is combined with communications to change people's behavior. Religion, by itself, has no power to do good unless it is combined with rhetoric to convince others to act.

I don't think rhetoric is a bad word. You can call it propaganda or marketing. Sure, oil companies use propaganda and political maneuvers to improve their profits. Yes, there is a lot of bad information being spread around. But that doesn’t change the fact that in order to convince people to behave a certain way, we have to communicate.

The question is no longer about whether global warming is bad or not. We're beyond that. The question is how do we convince each other to make the sacrifices needed. To that end, we need more than just scientific evidence. The goal isn’t to prove that “we’re right, and they’re wrong”, and thus invoke change.

Individuals don’t change just because they’re wrong – no matter how much you tell them they’re wrong.

I think the current state of affairs is less a failure of science and more a failure of communication. So I think the focus on “marketing” is exactly right. Let’s look at different ways to convince different people. I’m just offering one way.

Eric Tsai

Posted by Eric Tsai | January 31, 2007 1:00 PM

Some really good points from both Eric and Noen... "What does work are real world consequences like 50 degree weather in the middle of January in Minn." Exactly. There's strong sociological evidence that demonstrates great difficulty in getting large groups of people to change their behavior when the negative consequences of their behavior are slow and gradual (as opposed to immediate and dramatic). People understand cause and effect, but they have short time horizons. Once you get to the point where the consequences of behavioral choices are obvious in everyday life (as we are now with climate change), you have the chance to alter behavior. Until then, masses of people will change very slowly, if at all.

"Individuals don’t change just because they’re wrong – no matter how much you tell them they’re wrong." Yes! That just makes people defensive and further entrenches them into their current positions/behaviors. You have to show people the WAY FORWARD and inspire them to take it. One of the real problems I see right now with convincing friends and family (and even myself somedays) to alter harmful behaviors is the sense of the immensity of the problem. It just seems overwhelming, and people think, what difference can I make? Yeah, so I switched some light bulbs to compact flourescents. Is that REALLY going to make any impact? I bought a more fuel-efficient car, and maybe I'll save a few bucks on gas, but in the big picture, does it matter when millions of other people are driving gas guzzlers? Of course, we can't do much about other people's behavior, really, only our own. But it gets depressing after awhile, and depression is not a motivating feeling.

The other really big problem with getting people to change their behavior is the lack of good options. I, for example, have a pretty limited budget. I would love to have purchased a really fuel-efficient hybrid car... but there's no way I could afford it. The car payment would kill me... I wouldn't be able to afford groceries. So that's not a good option for me, is it? We need to push for real choices in transportation, electricity sources, home appliances, etc. and push for those choices to be affordable to everyone, even those of us with modest incomes. Because it's not just the affluent among us who contribute to the climate change problem, and we can't solve the problem unless we engage everyone.

Posted by Susan WB | January 31, 2007 3:17 PM

It seems like the evironmental problem is a lot like losing weight: its not about the main meals, but about the 1000 small dietary decisions you make every day.

I definately agree with Susan: the reason there is a rift is because every Joe Shmo who isn't "evironmentally responsible" enough to drive a Smart Car (or Hybird, or other similiar smug-mobile) seems to be accused of being part of the global warming problem. It causes people to differentiate between themselves and "environmentalists".

It's people like this that have to start seeing themselves as environmentalists, because I think they care for the environment more than they get credit for. Environmentalists should come in all forms beyond the stereotypical carbon-hating hippie.

Posted by Rob | January 31, 2007 4:24 PM

"Global Warming" is the "Monica Lewinski" of the environmental movement, i.e. a simplistic distraction from the real issues... In reality, "Global Warming" is a good thing; because water is needed for life as we know it. More water, from melted ice, means more life, globally speaking.

Change is the only constant in our world. Rising sea-levels will cause short-term problems for island-bound, and/or beach-front property owners, but freeing-up usable water for the rest of us is more crucial...
The real crisis is our unrelenting, human over-population spasm. That only exacerbates our rapidly massive extinctualization, at a rate never experienced before, world-wide over-fishing and water-scarcity, etc...

Posted by Ronnie Reeferseed | February 1, 2007 1:53 PM

No one is trying to stop global warming because its too hard. Lets find a way to live with it instead?

Posted by Andy Tsai | February 4, 2007 8:15 PM

Local, regional, and national evaluation of one of the small steps to protect our environment could be the use of "GREEN BURIALS" as opposed to the use of chemicals, metal, and concrete. Functoning ecosystems depend on natural decomposition for recycling.

Posted by Wesley Johnson | February 20, 2007 9:37 AM

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