We Need Political Strategists Leading On Climate Crisis - Not Academics

Academics and research serve a major purpose ... leading movements is not one of them

an ecoWURD Feature

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by Dr. G.S. Potter | ecoWURD Contributor | @doc_strategy

In a March Philadelphia Inquirer piece unpacking the dangerous health effects of climate change, Rutgers University professor Janet Golden and Drexel’s Michael Yudell posed a pivotal question: How do you make people pay attention and demand action?

When considering the limited response, so far, the question is a good one. But, if Golden and Yudell can’t understand why no effective action has been taken to stop climate change, they don’t have to look much further than their profession, academia, and their colleagues within it.

“As we know from the past, it takes an all-out effort with input from popular culture and news footage as well as expert assessments like those found in the report. During the Cold War, as the threat of nuclear annihilation loomed, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists brought us the doomsday clock, with the minute hand just seconds away from midnight,” Golden and Yudell write. “Hollywood did its part too, with horror films about atomic radiation, such as The Incredible Shrinking Man, and calls to prevent a nuclear Armageddon such as The Day the Earth Stood Still. The brilliant film, Dr. Strangelove or; How I Stopped Worrying and Love the Bomb made us laugh and yet confront the brutal truth about possible nuclear annihilation.”

For a second, let’s just pretend that pop-scientist Bill Nye and pop-star Cardi B agreed to produce a track about climate change, a spectacular beat-laden warning about how it’s killing all of us. While doing that, Bill and Cardi aren’t going to stop and say “OK, but first, we need to go find us a historian and a public health guy so the video goes viral.”  

What they would want to do is, at the very least, talk to experts in marketing, communications, social media, or other related fields. And they’d prefer talking to folks in the know about music, science and spaces where they intersect. They’d also be smart enough to stay away from someone referencing black and white movies that most folks never even heard of in the first place.

The same thing goes for political strategy. And we’ll need a winning one to reverse the apocalyptic mess unfolding right before our eyes.  

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