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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Neutralizing negativity (or at least offsetting it)
December 8, 2009 - 5:50pm

Sometimes, you need to fight fire with fire. Taking the high road (sharing information; describing costs, benefits and risks -- all that cognitive stuff) is necessary, but it's not sufficient in today's deafening cultural environment. As proven by both politics and Politics (my ... an L. Frank Baum moment!), negativity works. Nasty works. Totally absurd arguments can be persuasive, particularly when they're never pointed out for what they are. Gresham's law applies to information as much as to fiat money (which is, of course, only information with prestige).

So, I'm thinking that college students are just the ones to call absurdity by its rightful name.

How to do that? I'm thinking viral. I'm thinking bumper stickers. Maybe also posters, and T-shirts, and YouTube videos, and mmorpg and LARPing. But definitely stickers (not all of which might end up on bumpers).

I'm thinking messages like "Screw the planet. Save the fat cats." Or "How is it that all the dirty rotten liars in the world just happened to become climate scientists?" Or "Don't be cool. Be coal." The students at Greenback understand ironic humor, but the general public might not. So I'm hoping not so much for irony as for dripping sarcasm.

Posters and T-shirts can follow on the heels of the bumper stickers. There are already companies which print up all three, with consistent motifs and sayings running through them. (I'm thinking Northern Sun and CafePress, but there are sure to be others.) If the designs are good enough, production will follow. The tone of the conversation may not improve, but its effective balance just might.

And LARPing? That's "Live Action Role Playing". Kind of like Dungeons and Dragons meets street theater. Think "Assassin". Think "Zombies vs. Humans." Now think of how something similar could be based on a premise of climate disruption.

Not all of these are good ideas. Maybe the whole thing's a pipe dream (although my pipe has seemed disturbingly empty, of late). Maybe there are far better ways to create a viral message which can start on campuses and spread throughout society. But since the rest of us don't have the virtually unlimited funding available to the oil/plastics/coal billionaires who fund the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the Competitive Enterprise Institute, "No Stimulus", Americans for Prosperity (read "tea baggers") and formerly the John Birch Society, we have to start small.

See, sometimes it's not really a high road. Sometimes it's merely a porch. And if you want to run with the big dogs, sooner or later you've got to come off of it. Even when the porch is attached to a tower of ivory.

 

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