Seventh Generation and its CEO Jeffrey Hollander launched their new blog Wednesday with a discussion of marketing guru Seth Godin's musings on the problem with the term "global warming." Godin postulates that the reason people are not taking action to stop global warming is because the marketing of the issue does not convey the seriousness or the urgency of the problem. Hollander counters that the real problem is not one of language but one of politics, money, and lack or corporate leadership. Who's right?
Both of them, I'd argue, and not just because I'm a nice person who's perhaps not suited to the cutthroat world of blogging. Godin makes an excellent point, one that George Lakoff has made for years now. Framing matters. How you frame an issue for your audience is critical to how they will perceive the problem and respond to it. Fact is, "global warming" does sound pretty benign - who doesn't like warm weather? (Maybe then I could finally move to Canada where I could both afford a house and have health insurance.) The term "global warming" doesn't even begin to describe catastrophic floods, drowning polar bears, increasing intensity and frequency of hurricanes, and doomsday scenarios like the shutdown of the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation (that one sent me into a deep depression for weeks).
But despite the problems with the term, global warming has the attention of the Pentagon, made the cover of Time Magazine - certainly not a liberal rag - and even the Bush administration has finally agreed that the science really is quite clear (about time, Dubya!). But despite the fact that people are finally listening, no one is yet really willing to do what has to be done to combat the problem. And that is where the lack of political and corporate leadership becomes depressingly clear.
So what do we in the world of online advocacy do? I'll let you, dear readers, start this conversation… take it to the discussion boards.