By David Halperin, crossposted from Republic Report...
In a week that has seen a number of blows for the prospects of ecological stability - there's been an innovative backlash to @Shell 's greenwashing campaigns. Subvertised posters have appeared in bus stop advertising panels in London, Leeds, Bristol and Oxford ahead of Shell's #MakeTheFuture spin festival, which has co-opted pop stars in a bid to win back young people.
When it comes to climate change, Yale's Anthony Leiserowitz says, “you almost couldn't design a problem that is a worse fit with our underlying psychology”; an insight that is all too apparent.
In spite of the dramatic increase in extreme weather events and growing scientific concern, climate change is seldom mentioned by politicians, business leaders or the news media in Canada and the US. While public concern is on the rise, public pressure to fix the problem is flagging.
In this recent interview, Bill Moyers asks Leiserowitz to explain the state of public opinion surrounding climate change and what might be done to improve climate change communications.
by JODI STARK, one of the independent artists who created Hope the Whale, and an environmental public engagement specialist.
The most striking part of Enbridge’s Northern Gateway community hearings in Vancouver is that they’re not open to the community at all. Only a limited number of people get to present their position to the federally appointed Joint Review Panel, and the rest of the public aren’t welcome to watch them, despite thousands of Vancouverites who are passionate about this proposed pipeline and what it means for our future.
In response, a group of Vancouver multimedia artists have built Hope the Whale, an interactive art installation designed to allow anyone the opportunity to have a voice. The 25-foot whale, surrounded by a dozen large water drops, is set up in downtown Vancouver outside the Wall Centre where the proceedings are taking place. This collaborative art project, supported by First Nations and conservation organizations, is engaging the public in a welcoming and inclusive way – much the way we would expect a public process to be run.
When the Harper government announced deep funding cuts to science programs across the country, the Institute of Ocean Sciences, one of Canada's largest marine institutes located in Sidney, B.C., was among those research outfits hurt as a result. Lead research scientist Peter Ross is one of more than one thousand Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) employees who discovered their position had been terminated.
Dr. David Schindler, the scientist who sounded the alarm on tar sands contamination back in 2010, has suddenly found his research backed by an Environment Canada study recently published in the prestigious journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The federal study, which confirmed Schindler’s hotly-contested research, has reignited concerns over the pace and scale of development in the Athabasca region, an area now beset with a host of ecological and human health concerns.
The most urgent environmental threat to Canadians isn’t climate change, the declining health of our oceans, or the extinction of species. It’s the pollution filling our nation’s public square.
The public square – the forum for free debate that we depend on in a democracy – is being choked by misinformation, denial and bitter adversarial rhetoric. It is causing the Canadian public to turn away in despair, creating an epidemic of mistrust and what’s worse, disinterest.
Instead of open and healthy debate, dysfunctional public conversations have become the norm, preventing us from confronting the reality of our destructive impact on the planet. We seem unable or unwilling to weigh facts honestly, disagree constructively and deliberate collectively.
By David Suzuki
In 1988, hundreds of scientists and policy-makers met in Toronto for a major international conference on climate change. They were sufficiently alarmed by the accumulated evidence for human-caused global warming that they issued a release stating, “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war.”
They urged world leaders to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2005. Had we heeded that warning and embarked on a campaign to meet the target, Canadians would now be healthier (because of reduced air pollution), have greater reserves of energy and more jobs. We’d also be a world leader in renewable energy and could have saved tens of billions of dollars.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news, you’ll know that the Alberta government is suing the tobacco industry for $10 billion. What may be less clear is how ironic this gesture of fiscal responsibility is, coming, as it does, from a government that happily perpetuates the same transgressions that got Big Tobacco in trouble in the first place.
“Each year, approximately 3,000 Albertans die from tobacco-related illnesses,” Premier Alison Redford said when she announced the legal action last May. “This lawsuit, to be clear, is not about banning cigarettes or punishing smokers. It is about recovering health-care costs as a result of the misconduct of the tobacco industry.”
The issue, Redford reminds us, is not that cigarette smoking kills thousands of people, and costs taxpayers millions of dollars, every year. No, Redford, like others who have sued the tobacco industry over the last 30 years, are outraged that these purveyors of America's most widely used addictive drug lied and lied relentlessly to the North American public.
Rather than come clean and acknowledge the scientific evidence that cigarette smoking caused various illnesses, the tobacco industry embarked on an insidious campaign to discredit the science and foul the public airways with deceptive advertising, all so innocent smokers would keep buying their deadly products (a crime that was sardonically portrayed in the hit movie, Thank You for Smoking).
This strategy, which has been used by other industries that make dangerous or polluting products, became known as the art of “manufacturing doubt,” after a now infamous memo from a senior tobacco official. “Doubt is our product,” the anonymous tobacconist wrote, “since it is the best means of competing with the 'body of fact' that exists in the minds of the general public. It is also the means of establishing a controversy.”
It sounds complicated, almost impossibly so, but it’s actually rather simple if you have enough money. Corporate collectives have been doing it for decades: funding bogus science and investing in think tanks to produce dubious research results that cast doubt on legitimate research findings, from cancer-causing tobacco to global warming carbon emissions.
Add well-funded advertising campaigns that create a new reality irrespective of the truth, and corporations have been able to thwart government regulations that might otherwise damage their bottom lines – or at the very least make them fess up to the less savoury impacts of their products and services.
If this sounds eerily familiar, it should. The Government of Alberta, in cahoots with the oil industry, has been using a similar strategy to promote tar sands development in northern Alberta. The first step was to create a monitoring system that was incapable of detecting pollution in the land and water in the tar sands region.