Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Common sense connections

One area I explored a bit when writing my common sense paper was making climate policy appeal to the “average” person/consumer. An angle for our memo is to articulate how global warming will impact individuals, as well as giving them tips for how they can make a change, even if they aren't a politician making big decisions over Kyoto and the like. Here are a couple of articles with ideas on that front:

1) “I Feel Hot and Cold (Can’t explain)” from Ask Umbra, an advice column on the Grist magazine website. Reader writes in for advice on how to communicate the impacts of global warming and how it will affect the everyday lives of the “average person” to his significant other in a straightforward manner. Umbra’s answer had suggestions for two other cites, and Also suggests that we are beginning to see the impacts of global warming, but that people in the US will not be the ones to be affected by the consequences (so, in fact, the “average person” is not a US citizen or citizen of a first world country—it will be people in the developing world that will be the hardest hit). Interesting snippet from the response:
Our motivation to care about climate change is limited only by our capacity to care for others. You're living in Michigan. Your weather might get a bit strange, but rising sea levels won't wash away your house. You probably aren't a farmer, so you won't have to worry about your crops. You'll still be able to buy food and pay for heat.

2) “40 Easy Steps to Reduce Your Contribution to Climate Change”, from the Ecologist. Stresses that there are things that individual consumers can do to make a difference-- 20 % of emissions of CO2 comes from energy use in homes and 25 % comes from cars. The article also lists out a variety of suggestions for around the home, for travel, and for shopping. Specific recommendations include turning down your thermostat (for every 1 degree C, you can decrease your heating bill by 10%).

These resources remind me of some of the texts I ran across when I was doing my original research for Common Sense class. Books like The Complete Idiot's Guide to Global Warming by Michael Tennesen and the many children's books that address the issue (which I am very keen to look into further, when time permits) make me think that there are efforts being made to connect with a wider audience. The real question is: why aren't they working? I think there is something to the idea that books and manuals designed to help the individual consumer fight global warming will only really appeal to concerned citizens who actively seek them out. In other words, the average American who is not aware of the global warming debate has no incentive now to seek out these texts. Is our climate memo going to follow a similar fate? Maybe, maybe not. It's true that our original memo will probably only be picked up by concerned citizens seeking out ways to communicate their feelings more effectively. Yet our project has the potential to reach wider audiences in the long term, in that 1) the changes that those concerned citizens make after reading our memo will have a broad impact and 2) as gas prices go up, the oil peak gets nearer, and our resources become more and more overstretched, a larger portion of the population will become concerned with these issues by necessity. Let's just hope it isn't too late.



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