When we communicate a message, we ideally want to inspire some form of action. But getting people to act is difficult. Campaigners often try to shock people into leaping up from their sofas. But lately it seems that we have become somewhat shockproof. Could ‘doomsday’ messages be to blame? And is it about time that we delivered some good news?
When I say ‘climate change’, what do you think of? Houses submerged ten feet under water? Polar bears clinging to melting icebergs? Skeleton-littered deserts? These images have left even the optimists waving a white flag in surrender. They do not inspire a call to arms, but instead leave us resigned to think we should watch another Friends re-run while we still have the chance.
The good news is the recent emergence of, well, good news. You’re now more likely to hear ‘innovation’ and ‘meeting the challenge’ as part of the climate change rhetoric instead of ‘impending disaster’ and ‘plagues of locusts’. The eternal optimist, Barack Obama, is leading the charge.
And it’s not just climate change. The hashtag #oceanoptimism surfaced around World Oceans Day. It encouraged people to share positive stories of work being done to protect the oceans. So instead of ‘save the oceans’ we were told to ‘save the oceans by turning fishing nets into carpet’. Giving people a tangible solution rather than an unmanageable problem genuinely works.
I am not suggesting that the seriousness of an issue should be downplayed. But pushing people to the point of feeling helpless is simply unhelpful. The overriding message should be: there is still hope.