Just as we’ve been publishing our ever expanding lists of campaigns in the run up to COP15, and as we’re on the verge of launching our own one, Arts for COP15, Green.tv asks the question “Are there too many climate campaigns?” [Their blog is currently down today… so you’ll have to take my word for it]. Have we become “bored” with the issue of climate change because of campaign overload?
For climate campaigners the real frustration is the slowness of change. The public still seem reluctant to clamour at politicians in the way we’d like them to. Could this be because they are just getting too many messages? That list of sixteen actions for COP15 is by no means exhaustive. Is this a case of too much information?
I don’t think so. Three reasons:
1) For a start, the nature of social media means that this fragmentation is going to happen, whether we like it or not. For better or worse, there will no longer be a single source of authority on any political discussion like this. On the plus side, climate campaigners like Franny Armstrong have shown how incredibly effective social media are for spreading a message.
2) Secondly, though the campaigns are diverse, climate NGOs are showing a great deal of resourcefulness. Most of the campaigns listed below are actually partnerships between several campaigns – Greenpeace, WWF, Oxfam, Age of Stupid et al. Charities usually have a parochial tendency to defend their own turf with one eye on their own future fundraising – but in this case there is a lot of sharing going on.
3) So what’s the problem? With all this heat being created why aren’t more poeple taking action? Perhaps in this case we’re blaming the medium, not the message. Most campaigns on energy and climate do not interest the mass of the people worldwide. The avaaz.org map of actions for Monday 21 September is worth looking at. Why is there a huge disparity between the numbers of actions being taken in different countries? We have to think hard about what messages appeal to the mass of people who are more aspirational than ourselves. (That’s not to say they need to be directly aspirational messages; the most effective political campaigns in recent times have usually been based on fear.)
We are in a research period, still looking for the right message. We have not found it yet. Now is not the time to start cutting down on the multiplicity of voices. Eventually one of us is going to get the right campaign, the killer one, the one that convinces more than just our friends.