Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Money talks, what is it saying?

Today's Guardian carries an interesting piece about the World Bank on moving forward on CC action. What is particularly interesting to me is that we are clearly thinking along similar lines, about communication, if nothing else. Here's what Rachel Kype says in the interview:

How important is getting the communications right?

We've started talking to behavioural psychologists and other disciplines about how to communicate so that you can convey urgency in a way that people can respond. There's a long history in the environment movement of fear-mongering and a) not providing alternatives or b) not having those fears realised. So we feel a responsibility to be able to communicate this in such a way that people can say: "OK, so what now?"

Extreme weather events is the place where the public and science and policy-makers seem to agree that they're prepared to accept the climate is having an impact. Obviously, that grabs people's attention and for a few weeks after superstorm Sandy you had everybody's attention, but then it starts to ebb away.

There is a particular problem in the US, which is the role of science in the society, which seems to be up for question, not just in the area of climate but elsewhere. Communicating science poses a set of challenges in the US that is not necessarily the case in other parts of the world.

Even more interesting is her take on the Language issue:

From your research, what have you learned about how to communicate more effectively?

The tendency with a lot of social movements is to talk to ourselves, so we develop language that we're comfortable with, that speaks to other environmentalists or other engineers but which means absolutely nothing to the lay public.

We're very reluctant or reticent to come up with language and idioms that will perhaps not express every little nuance in that one sentence, but which will actually resonate. We've known for a very long time that the phrase "sustainable development" is kind of clunky and we've never come up with anything better, and that's OK as long as we tell stories and build images and pictures about what we're really talking about.

There's lots of behavioural psychology that some of these words just land really cold: they don't mean anything and they don't speak to the emotional brain. What does "green" mean? It doesn't evoke very much.

Jim Kim feels very strongly that, if you're going to paint a picture of the future where it's sackcloth and ashes, don't be surprised if you don't have a long line of people following you. We have to paint a picture of opportunity.

It sounds to me like what they need is a little bit of Resourcefulness

The World Bank is a complex issue, but I know from personal experience that it has an important role to play in supporting Energy Development, security and poverty reduction in rising economies, so I'm happy to be counted as (at least in part) a fan, if not totally happy with everything it does.