Polar bears falling from the sky. And wearing hats.

A colleague of mine sent me this ad – the link is to youtube:


I think it’s interesting.  Shocking, yes,and as far as I can remember the first shock-horror anti-flying carbon ad I’ve seen.  But I can’t help thinking its effectiveness will all be in the wrong direction. Have a look at the comments underneath and (as far as one wants to pay any attention to youtube comments) they all seem to have gone directly to the default position of denial.  This is because it breaks one of Futerra’s (see below) “rules”:   Don’t create fear without agency.  In other words, if you give people a message that creates fear, you should also give them a way of acting to create change, and this ad doesn’t do that.  Again, Futerra make it clear that confronting somebody with the difference between their attitude and their actions on climate change will make them more likely to change their attitude than their actions (this is known as cognitive dissonance).  I think this is the clearest thing you can see from the comments underneath:  people seems to be running to denial pretty quickly here.

The Friends of the Earth one is a better attempt, I think:


I’m sure it was the hats as well…

It was Jerry Mander in Four Arguments for the Abolition of Television who made me aware of the difficulty of using the hegemonic media and language to criticise the hegemony.  The idea of these videos going viral is an interesting addition to this debate.  Viruses do have the potential to bring down behemothic hosts much larger than they.  And they seem pretty much to be the only kind of action that might be able to do this.

Maybe teaching is viral.  My students are often in that place of, “why do we have to go so deeply into this?”  “Why do we always have to analyse everything?”  But analysing the psychology of how (and whether) certain approaches work in terms of behaviour change seems incredibly important to me.  There’s an awful lot of thought, creativity, talent, money, emotion, time invested in those polar bears falling from the sky.  Those are a lot of resources to waste on the wrong outcome.


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