Extreme climate videos give environmentalists a bad name

The 10:10 advert caused outcry for being too extreme. Positive campaigning is better to encourage people to lead a more environmentally friendly lifestyle.

I consider myself an environmentalist and I find it incredibly frustrating when environmentalist groups use extreme imagery to get their point across. Whilst shocking images can be useful to encourage people to change their habits, I think there is a line where the general public becomes alienated and anyone who cares about the environment is branded as an extremist.

10:10, a movement encouraging people, schools, businesses and organisations to cut their carbon by 10% in a year is a example of an easily accessible campaign; it doesn’t ask for you to take drastic action, just small steps to reduce your environmental impact. As a result of this inclusiveness many schools, charities and even the British Government have signed up to the campaign.

A video recently uploaded to the 10:10 website aiming to bring the issue of climate change back into media attention and to make people laugh has proved controversial. The four minute video by the director of Love Actually Richard Curtis features school children, football players and a radio presenter being blown apart for not caring about climate change.

I can’t see anything entertaining about this video; it is unnecessarily gruesome and seems to suggest “anyone who disagrees with us deserves to die” which is hardly helping the environmentalist cause. After watching the video it left me wondering, how did someone somewhere down the line not think: “hang on a minute, exploding children might not be the best way to address this issue and might alienate some people who may otherwise have been sympathetic to the cause.”

Following a number of complaints the video was removed from the 10:10 website and an apology was issued by the organisation. But with over 600,000 views on various YouTube channels, I hope the good that the 10:10 campaign are doing won’t be too badly affected by this error of judgment. Whilst 10:10 did most definitely get the press talking about this issue, I feel they left the realm of edginess into a zone of questionable taste leading to media attention that is likely to be detrimental to the cause.

This isn’t the first time an environmental campaign has run into this problem. A less gruesome video showing polar bears plummeting to their deaths, hitting a series of high rise buildings on the way down, was aired by Plane Stupid in 2009 in cinemas and online before coming into conflict with advertising regulators as a result of complaints. Although the video is easier to watch than 10:10’s bloody attempt at converting the masses it is not much better on the facts. This video implies that if you take a flight across Europe a polar bear drops dead; whilst being quite poignant it grossly oversimplifies the issues.

Shocking ads work better if the outcome of not taking action will be personal and short-term as is the case with drink-driving and quitting smoking. With a lifestyle choice such as living in a more environmentally considerate way, where you cannot physically see the impacts and probably won’t in our lifetimes, makes it a very hard sell to change peoples minds with scaremongering. Positive campaigning would have a much better effect in broadening the scope of people interested in the cause outside of hardcore greenies.

I do think it is important for campaigning organisations to constantly be thinking of different ways to challenge public perceptions on these issues and in order to gain media attention they do have to be creative but I really wish that someone along the line would just think: “is this really the best way of getting our point across to avoid being dismissed as green propaganda?”

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