January 29, 2010

Marketing and The End Of The World

One of the unpleasant effects of the age of marketing is that politicians have learned the lessons of marketing all too well.

They have learned that it is important to reduce a message to its simplest possible form, e.g. "pro-life" or "change".

This is fine when you're selling peanut butter, but not such a good idea when critical issues of public policy are at stake.

In the debate concerning what to do about climate change, everyone is being simplistic and disingenuous.

There are two important issues about which no one is certain. First, is the Earth warming at a rate that is uncharacteristic and out of proportion to the normal planetary cycle of warming and cooling? Second, if unusual warming is occurring, is it the result of human activity or of natural phenomena?

Climate change advocates are pretending they know all the answers (remember, 30 years ago they were warning us about global cooling.) On the other hand, climate change skeptics want to ignore the  array of scientists who are aligned on this, and instead blame a worldwide left-wing conspiracy.

The problem is that we have to make some very big, very critical decisions and very few politicians are giving us the whole truth - instead they're giving us marketing-style answers.

If the climate change advocates are correct, we are screwed unless we make big changes fast. But the politicians on this side want to promise us everything. They want us to believe that we can make the necessary changes without making big economic sacrifices. This is bullshit. They need to come clean on this.

On the other side, the climate change skeptics have to get over their paranoid fantasies. They have to admit that there are some very serious, very smart people who are pretty convincing about this and it's not just a left-wing political conspiracy.

Then we, the public, have to make some decisions. And these decisions are not going to be easy.

Here's a much simpler version of the same dilemma.

Here in North America, bees are responsible for pollinating an estimated 30% of our food. The scary thing is that bee populations have been collapsing at an alarming rate.

Some serious scientists believe that this is being caused by cell phone usage. The short version of the theory is that the electro-magnetic radiation from cell phone usage is interfering with the bees' famous ability to navigate. Whether this is true or not, I certainly don't know.

But let's assume for a moment that scientists can demonstrate that there is a 90% chance that this is true. Would the American public stand for the government banning their precious cell phones? Will the economy be able to withstand the shutting down of a huge industry that directly and indirectly employs millions of people? Will the unthinkable consequence of losing 30% of our food supply be ignored?

The climate change issue is far more complex and even more perilous.

It's time for politicians on all sides to quit marketing and start talking straight.

No comments: