A funny thing has happened in the way well-meaning greenies talk about the earth. Call it the Al Gore effect: Faced with so many climate skeptics who deny the reality that 99% of scientists back global warming, the greenies typically resort to more and more wonkish sorts of communication. As if proving the climate skeptics wrong were simply about showing more and more data.
The result, of course, is that the well-meaning message becomes harder and harder to comprehend. It seems to me that there’s no convincing people who’ve already made up their minds. Instead, you need to reach people who simply haven’t paid attention.
Something like this is going on in a rather nice little series of videos by the World Wildlife Fund. The first urges you to think about the connection between your plate, and the resources required to grow all that food:
We already use 1/3 of the earth’s surface to grow food. By 2050, we’ll need twice as much food.
And here’s another video, urging us to rethink our gadgets:
The energy required to mine the aluminum in your laptop could power your laptop for two years. Again, that’s a powerful message.
Will any of it stick? You’ll notice that the rhetorical problem that WWF has, and which is shared by anyone who thinks we’re ravaging the earth, is there’s no solutions that really work for now. It’s not immediately clear that any one us, individually, can make all that much difference. So the video above is really encouraging mindfulness as a lesson—or to use another word, worry. That worry, of course, can be an animating motive in our attitudes. But it’s a very abstract message—which is why you hear more and more from psychologists who think a problem as diffuse as global warming might be beyond our cognitive capacity to solve.