I've long thought that the breast cancer advocacy was one of the most successful marketing efforts of our time. It's clear that the "global warming" lobby is quite a bit less successful. Why does the one do so well while the other struggles? Here are some thoughts:
1. Breast cancer is well named and easily defined. I bet that the people who popularized "global warming" wish they had that one back. It's better than a lot of alternatives - "catastrophic global climate change" is perhaps more accurate but what a clunker. Two of the big words in the arsenal, "planet" and "environment" have too many sci-fi and hippie connotations to introduce an effective, objective cause. "Climate change" might have been a better option, but it still fails to convey the breadth of the issue - we aren't just talking about the thermostat going up or down a few degrees, we're talking about eradicating the ability of our and many other species to inhabit the planet. Hard to wrap up on a ribbon, eh?
2. You and I, this minute, could do something that would make us feel as though we'd done something measurable to fight breast cancer. Donating some money, encouraging a loved one to get a mammogram, putting a pink ribbon on a car - whatever the actual efficacy of any of these acts, they give us a link to the solution and empower us to be a part of the change. I forgot the stupid reusable bags when I went to the grocery store today, so I'm evil, but even still - the magnitude of the problem and the lack of any feedback loop make it nearly impossible to feel as though you've had any impact.
3. How much did your meaningful contribution cost you? Did it cost your uncle his job at a factory? Did it cost your 401(k) to decline by 30%? Was India or China or any other entity able to benefit from your breast cancer contribution while simultaneously increasing its contribution to the problem? Do you feel like you are trying to empty a lake with a bucket while a bunch of other people are aiming their garden hoses at that lake?
4. How many people do you know who died of global warming last week? Last year? Last ever? Not saying it didn't happen, in fact I believe it did happen to everyone, it's just that we haven't got the evidence to convict.
5. Breast cancer is non-ideological, non-partisan and apolitical. Climate change is, unfortunately, none of the above.
6. Do you think that cancer can be cured, or its effects severely ameliorated? I bet you don't feel the same way about climate change.
I'm able to dismiss the faction that takes a Biblical view that God has promised, after Noah, to never again try to eradicate mankind and uses that as a shield against climate change. Conversely and maybe perversely, I'm able to take it on faith that school kids in New Zealand not being allowed outside during the heart of the day because there's a big old hole in their sunbrella that wasn't there pretty recently is just plain wrong and not a coincidence. I've watched "An Inconvenient Truth" and was moved by it, but all you have to do is look at my PowerAgent files to know how tweaked a perspective the charts and graphs can give you. I'm very sympathetic to there being a problem with how we are treating the planet, but I'm also conservative enough to be a little bit self-conscious about typing a sentence that contains the phrase "how we are treating the planet."
I also think cap and trade, especially when permits are exchanged for anything other than prohibitive compensation, is a sham that will benefit no one but the fine folks at Goldman.
My point here isn't to solve global warming or whatever we're going to call it, no matter my thoughts on whether there's a monster in the closet or not. No, I'm just thinking about some of the ways that those who advocate for the issue can frame the discussion a little more effectively.
And I always get slagged on for being some kind of arch-conservative, but I don't sound like one to me.