Husband or Wife on framing environmental issues

How should environmental organizations and prominent “environmental” politicians speak to supporters when it comes to environmental issues and when it comes to the Lieberman-Warner Climate (In)Security Act? This is a serious issue that can get some blood boiling. Privately, some have sent complaints that Plumbing Lieberman-Warner’s Shortfalls Doesn’t Meet Scientific Requirements wasn’t fair since it did not fully quote all the materials that a group sends out, cherry-picking from opening paragraphs to supporters without dealing with all the qualifications that were in the following paragraphs.

It is time to be a bit sexist for a moment, let us think about what message framing looks might look like in a domestic setting.

  • If a husband were to tell his wife: “Wow, honey, you’re really beautiful but you might look better if you lost a few pounds” that might be a disaster of an approach 99+% of the time. The first words would disappear and a fight would ensue … time for the marriage counselor.
  • If a wife were to tell her husband, “Wow, honey, you’re really handsome but you might look better if you lost a few pounds” then he probably stops listening with “but” and would smile brodly as he opened the next beer and opened another bag of chips.

Which is the right model from domestic life to talk about in terms of those who receive mass mailings?   I see all these press release/such that say ‘L-W is wonderful’ and, by the way, we need to strengthen it. If we’re talking “wives”, then the focus will be on “by the way”. If we’re talking “husbands”, then focus will be on “wonderful”. Reality is, there are both on the receiving end, but there are far too many “husbands” for this to be the best framing approach.

Two examples from my email inbox to exemplify this.

From the Union of Concerned Scientists (not the only environmental organization to follow this approach), a call on their supporters to sign up to an email to the Senate.

I urge you to reject President Bush’s do-nothing approach on global warming and ask you to support and strengthen the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act (S. 2191).

“Support and strengthen …” 

Is this “beautiful” or “handsome”? 

What is this “strengthen” thing?

The Climate Security Act (S. 2191) is a strong, comprehensive bill that establishes a good framework for reducing global warming pollution.

“Strong, comprehensive bill … good framework …”  Wow, this sounds like a great thing. And, it is my trusted agent (the UCS) sending me this.  Okay, time to hit “click” for signing up to this.

To ensure the bill is strong enough to prevent dangerous warming, please support the following improvements:

* Require science-based emission reductions of at least 80 percent by 2050 and ensure that the Environmental Protection Agency adjusts this target if the National Academy of Sciences finds that we are not on track to avoid dangerous warming.

* Eliminate or significantly reduce free emission allowances for polluters. Proceeds from auctioned allowances and any free allowances should benefit public programs and promote investment in clean energy technologies.

* Oppose attempts to provide additional subsidies for coal or nuclear power, which already receive substantial benefits under this bill.

These are some pretty strong “howevers”.  The first two speak to weaknesses in the current legislation and the third bullet calls for not weakening it further.  But, is the bill “beautiful” (e.g., spend more attention to the “but”) or “handsome” (all that following material gets drowned out in the discussion.  Finally, UCS doesn’t let its members know: Does the Union of Concerned Scientists support passage of Lieberman-Warner as it is currently written, with zero changes? Or not?  The closing line:

The longer we postpone action, the harder and more costly it will be to avoid the worst effects of global warming. Please help pass a strong global warming bill that will protect our children from dangerous climate change.

Left in the dark:  Is Lieberman-Warner acceptable as “a strong global warming bill”? Facts suggest otherwise. 

From Barbara Boxer after Bush’s speech

 I’ve been infuriated by the Bush Administration’s failure to take the global warming threat seriously over the past 7 years.  They’ve relentlessly blocked, delayed, and rebuffed our efforts to step up and really do something about climate change at every turn.
Unfortunately, Wednesday’s speech from President Bush was no different.  Rather than supporting our legislation in Congress to cut greenhouse gas emissions by close to 70% or more by 2050, President Bush unbelievably suggested that America should merely try to stop the growth of emissions by 2025.  No cap on emissions, no cut in emissions — merely stopping the growth — and not even doing that for almost 20 years.

Yes, Bush’s speech was beyond insult.  And, Senator Boxer makes the appeal, there is this great bill (“our legislation”) in Congress that will do such great things.

President Bush’s plan to do nothing while greenhouse gas emissions reach dangerous levels and threaten our planet is the height of irresponsibility.  It’s akin to Nero fiddling while Rome burns.

Absolutely Barbara.  Bush’s certainly has been a fiddler while in the White House (except for when it has some opportunity to throw some fossil fuel on the flames).

The cap & trade legislation we’re currently considering in Congress is a solid first step towards tackling the global warming threat.  It will make America a global leader on this critical issue — and it will also provide huge benefits to our economy by spurring the development of new, green technologies and green jobs all across our country.

Doesn’t this sound like a great bill? 

 Doesn’t this sound like something that we should be rushing to support.  No indication of any trouble with this bill. 

For Barbara, in this fundraising and activism appeal, Lieberman-Warner is both beautiful and handsome, without any “however” or “but” to be found.  Neither Venus nor Mars are upset, even though the Earth might be.  “In Friendship”, Barbara, I would hope that you would be more upfront with your colleagues, supporters, and the nation about the inadequacies of the Lieberman-Warner legislation.

Is there a better approach?

Is there a way to avoid this “beautiful” / “handsome” dilemma and avoid marriage counseling due to Mars/Venus inability to community.  For clarity of message, at the end of the day, we must return to Friends of the Earth.  They’ve got it right on messaging and substance on Lieberman-WarnerFix It or Ditch It.






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