I’m still hungover from the Greenpeace Digital Mobilisation Skillshare: and I’m not just talkin about the after party after-effects (Pirates, Ninjas, iPad band, say no more…); I’m talking about the profound kind of headache you get from imbibing so much heady and thought-provoking information that you come home reeling. As Michael Baillie(@mikebailllie) put it, the whole thing was “SupercalifragilisticexpedaliAWESOME.”
Category Archives: Environmental Issues
A scientist who is paid to have an opinion is not a scientist. He’s a lobbyist. And Congress isn’t supposed to call lobbyists in as expert witnesses to give scientific opinions. Patrick Michaels probably knew that when he told Congress he got less than 3% of his funding from oil. So he got to testify. Alone among the scientists who spoke to the subcommittee on Energy and Commerce, he said climate change was no big deal, required no action. Then on CNN he, whoops, mentions that 40% of his funding comes from the oil industry.
Which means when he told Congress he was an independent scientist he was, not to put to fine a point on it, lying out of his methane-spewing ass.
Thing is, this happens all the time. Journalists quote these guys as “scientists” and neglect to mention who is paying for their microphone. Politicians consult with them. The public listens to them. And the Koch brothers, who fear a loss of profits above all else, keep pumping millions of dollars into the denial industry to keep everyone taking the blue pill that says it’s all fine, nothing to see here, pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.
Kert Davies, a researcher at Greenpeace USA, has been following the money and exposing this shell game for years now at his Exxonsecrets.org website. Me, I think it’s time we take the data there, link it into some face recognition software, and give journos and politicos an augemented reality App which will allow them to hold their phones up to the pie-holes of these schills and see immediately just how well oiled their opinions are. Something like this:
We’d be moving toward action on climate change quicker if more people bought that app, and fewer bought the line that global warming science is inconclusive.
So the chief of Ryanair doesn’t believe in global warming, says this article in the Telegraph today, and Joss Garman delivers one of the best put-downs ever:
“Personally, I wouldn’t trust ‘O’Really’ to tell me the price of a seat on his own airline, but to be fair his position does have the support of such intellectual heavyweights as Nick Griffin, Sarah Palin and George W Bush.”
Scorch! Just for fun, I decided to see if the airline that will sell you anything at an extra fee offered carbon offsets. This is what I got for search results:
Dear BP ChairmanCarl-Henric Svanberg,
So. BP is not like the other oil companies. It cares about the “small people.” Well I enclose a picture of two small people that I care about.
If YOU cared about them, you’d be getting your company out of the deadly, dirty fuels business that is coating the dreams of their future in a filthy, oily sludge.
If you cared about these small people, you’d be getting out of the business that sent America to war for more oil, only to have the oil pay back its thanks by invading America’s shores.
If you cared about these small people, you’d admit what you know: that an alternative future is not only possible, it’s happening. That Spain is generating more than half of its power with wind on some days. That China is building a new windmill every four hours. That wecould have a 95% renewables energy mix worldwide by 2050 using existing technology and create MORE jobs doing so than on the current dirty, deadly path.That America’s addiction to oil is unnecessary, making the horrific stories of human suffering, wildlife deaths, and the loss of jobs in the Gulf all the more tragic.
You’d apologise for Katrina, and the more frequent and more deadly Katrina-like events that these small people will see in their lifetimes.
You’d apologise not for an oil spill, but for all the ways you are knowingly screwing up the planet these small people will live in with your crude oily slime.
Apology. Not. Accepted.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 2010
The unanimous Declaration of the fifty United States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with a dirty, deadly energy source, and to assume among the powers of the Earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all people are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, the pursuit of Happiness, and the right to a secure and unpolluted future for their offspring.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Energy becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute an Energy [R]evolution, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing their power sources in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Energy Sources long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Energy Sources, and to provide new Guards for their future security.
Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Energy Production. The history of the present Fossil Fuel Economy is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
British Petroleum and the Fossil Fuel Industry have refused Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
They have obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing their Assent to Laws for establishing environmental protection.
They have made judges and elected official dependent on their Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
They affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
They have combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving their Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
They have quartered large bodies of armed troops on foreign soil, and protected them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of those States
They have used those troops for cutting off Trade with parts of the world,
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
They have plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, and destroyed the lives of our people.
They are at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy of a civilized nation.
They have constrained our fellow Citizens to bear Arms, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. An Energy Source whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the fueler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British Petroleum brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Energy-Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the Fossil Fuel Economy, and that all polluting connections between them and Big Oil, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Energy Independent States, they have full Power to shift to Renewable Energy Sources, to catch up with such investments in Wind, Wave, Solar, and other forms of clean renewable energy as other foreign nations have done, and to aggressively accelerate the transition to clean energy.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Chalk one up for Social Media, the megaphone of the world’s second superpower, Public Opinion. Over the weekend, Nestle conceded to worldwide demand that they stop using palm oil from rainforest destruction in their products.
Our flagship tactic in this campaign was a parody of a Kit Kat ad, which Nestlé, in what in public relations circles is known as a “Fuck ME, how could you be that stupid?” move, attempted to ban from the internet. Which virtually guaranteed that “the internet” would strike back and insist that it be seen. (It finds censorship distasteful, this Internet Thing…) They created a cause celeb out of a brand attack, and fuelled the fire of their own roasting.
They fanned those fires by a hamfisted handling of the reaction on their Facebook page, where people flocked to protest the clearing of Indonesian rainforest to plant palm trees, or to cry foul over censorship of Greenpeace, or to, frankly, join in the fun of watching a public relations bonfire. Nestlé’s official voice came across as dictatorial, condescending, and clueless. Some posters were heckled by the Nestle administrators, some even found the only answer they got to their appeal to the company’s conscience was advice on improving their spelling.
There was something very deep at work here. Nestlé, no stranger to public criticism, appeared to have no experience in handling it. They profoundly failed to listen to their customers. They underestimated the brand damage that could be inflicted upon them. They misjudged the speed at which a social media attack can move.
They thought that an old model was at work here, in which a corporation can manufacture truth, create a demand for it, and then sell it to people, or even force it down their throats. That paradigm is still strong (witness what the oil and coal interests have done by funding and fuelling the climate change denyosphere) but the Kit Kat campaign is a great example of how it can be challenged.
Regular readers will remember that I put together a provocative video paraodying Kit Kat’s initial reaction, based on the Hitler Downfall meme. I pulled it within 24 hours, though, when I witnessed the misunderstanding of a couple people who were unfamiliar with the meme. They read a literal accusation of Nazi-ism or Nazi-style evil into it, not realising that the clip had become, within its intended audience of the subculture which lives and works in the Social Media haunts, a cultural emblem of any situation which provokes an over-the-top response. (For an exhaustive discussion of this meme as subcultural metaphor, and even why it’s funny, see Alex Leavitt’s thoughtful piece here.) As negotiations with Nestléat that moment were, let’s say, tense, I didn’t want to risk the misunderstanding of the top brass there – who had already demonstrated they were not fellow-travellers in the social media subculture. But I did promise a couple enthusiastic folks that I’d reintroduce it once the campaign was won.
Ironically, the meme itself has now effectively been shut down by YouTube content ID block as a result of a copyright claim from the producer of Der Untergang, the source for the original clip, despite the fact that all of the instances I’ve seen to date would almost certainly pass the tests of Fair Use. The copy below is NOT hosted by YouTube, thank you very much.
I’m reposting it as a reminder to others who might find themselves at the pointy end of a social media attack, because the moral of this story is really simple. If your audience/customer base/supporters have a bone to pick with you about your sustainability, your ethics, or the role you play in the ongoing struggle to make this world a better place, deal with the substance of that issue. Respond to it, engage with it. Listen to that voice. Never, ever, try to silence it.
(This video may disappear if someone disagrees that it constitutes Fair Use. If you want to download a zipped local copy of this flash version you can do so here.)
It was great to see Obama saying some very strong stuff about BP, the oil industry, and the future of energy in America last night. It was great to see him defer further permits on offshore oil drilling, not so great to see him fail to ban drilling in the Arctic altogether.
But what was best was sitting in a noisy balcony at the Whitehouse press room with a bunch of pals heckling, cheering, and throwing popcorn. At least, that’s what it felt like.
I watched via the Whitehouse App on Facebook, where the live broadcast is accompanied by a live chat stream. Even cooler, I found it via a link onwhitehouse.gov itself, which I considered a very clued-up move by the POTUS’s webbies. Next press conference, check it out. Invite your friends. Grab some action links from Greenpeace or other activist sites and kick them into the chat flow. This is the stuff democracy is made of.
In its day, whale oil was the fuel of choice — the world’s lamps ran on it, whaling was the 5th largest US industry in the 1850s and could arguably be called the first multinational industry. Fortunes were made on it. Politics were shaped around it. Entire economies depended on it.
The peak of production in 1846–47 led to the price of whale skyrocketing in 1855. That lag is similar to one we are seeing now in oil and related fossil fuels. The easy money of Atlantic and Pacific whaling was no more: the only remaining profitable ventures were to Arctic and Antarctic waters. Many ships returned empty, if at all. In 1871, most of the Arctic whaling fleet was crushed by early winter ice and lost at sea. This calamity, in conjunction with the long-term diminishing whale stocks, the diversion of investment capital to more profitable ventures, and the discovery, development, and refinement of abundant petroleum crude oil, struck the death blow to the American whaling industry. (“The whale oil peak curve” By the Fault blog)
Whale oilpeaked at 18 million gallons in 1845. In 1859, the petroleum industry was born in Titusville, Pennsylvania, when the first successful oil drill made it possible to produce kerosene on an industrial scale.
The early demand for petroleum was fueled by two needs: industrial lubricants and the lamps that lit the world. The demand for both had been previously met by the relentless overexploitation of the whale.
I believe this qualifies as an irony: that the oil industry was created to fill a consumption gap caused by the decimation of the whales, and that the near extinction of one species has triggered events which may yet lead to far wider extinctions than the world has ever known.
Ahab, meet Exxon. You two have a lot in common.
It’s 1am, I’ve been spending long hours helping migrate our 10,000 page website to a shiny new, social-media friendly design, and I really ought to be in bed. But I can’t help it watch the reviews come in for our new Earth Day video which Daniel Bird put together for us. The best reviews of course are tweets like these:
|GabrielGotta: I just signed up to be an online activist with Greenpeace after watching this great new video http://bit.ly/MEtoo (expand)|
|prestevez: Vean este video de Greenpeace por el d �a de la Tierra que se celebra ma �ana. Est � incre �ble. http://bit.ly/92ILNR (expand)|
|KartikeyaSingh: LOVE the new @greenpeace earth day video! http://bit.ly/aIrIv4(expand)|
|939green: the new greenpeace video makes me think , we have to take action but sometimes there’s no time, I think we have to MAKE TIME…|
|min_ette: Watched the Earth Day video by Greenpeace — emotive, intense and beautiful all in one… you’ll feel for our planet, about its wellbeing|
More Twitter reactions here.
HoooHAH. That’s the idea. The video is designed for recruitment, to get more hands on deck, and we wanted to say something about the nature of Greenpeace being the work of many — if you look at our recent KitKat campaign, you won’t see a ship in sight — the power that’s making Nestle scramble to get out of rainforest destruction is people. Lots, and lots, of people.
Last year, our Earth Day video was called Inspiring Action, and it was a monumental piece about Greenpeace in action — the videogenic stuff we’re famous for, and which we hope inspires people to take action in their daily lives, sets an example of courage, makes a statement about commitment.
This year’s installment takes a step back and makes a statement not about what we do, but what we believe in, what we’re working for, who we are. And it reflects the glimmers of something new in Greenpeace — a willingness to look at lifestyle, at consumerism, at the way we are turning our planet increasingly into stuff.
The video is called “I want” but it’s really about what we all need. We all want that new iPad, that new brand, that new color, that new thing. But what we need is clean air, clean water, food without destruction, a future for our Earth. And increasingly, consuming those things we want is eroding Earth’s ability to provide what we need.
Video: I want
We had the help this year of Stillking studios in Prague, a major motion picture outfit that has done work on the most recent Bond films and who kindly donated a vast amount of expensive time and expertise for nearly nothing when Daniel pitched the idea to them. Daniel was like a kid in a candy shop, wrangling mimes — yes, I suspect every mime in Prague was involved, and we know what a handful even one can be!– and getting to play with high-end studio gear. The finished product was delivered yesterday, almost undone when our composer got stuck in Athens, unable to get back from holiday to his studio in Berlin due to the volcanic ash over Europe.
But he heroically put the soundtrack together on his laptop, and the video was ready for the dawn of Earth Day in New Zealand, where we begin to push it up the ranks of YouTube’s most watched, favorited, and commented videos. (It’s already #1 in its category, but hey, we’re greedy. Until people are saying “Who?” to Justin Bieber’s name followed quickly by “Have you seen the Earth Day video?” we’re not content.)
This Earth Day, give us a hand. Forget Bieber. Thumb up this video. Pass it along. Tweet it, Facebook it, blog it — help us recruit 3 million more hands to make light work of a green and peaceful future.
Update — As of 10pm CET, 91,000 views and the following awards:
More than half of Europe’s airspace was empty yesterday due to the volcano in Iceland. And while I know this is causing chaos for many, and presents a personal hardship (my partner Martha may be stranded for the next week, leaving me to single parent my two boys) — what a glorious thing to look up into an unsmudged sky yesterday, uninterupted blue, not a contrail in sight.
Elaine Hill in our office put this one together, which I just find too cute for words. (Want to send it? It’s an Ecard)
Mind you, I did favor a different treatment, which I call Easter Bunny Vs. Orangutan Death Match, but I guess we’ve already reached the slasher fan demographic with our original take.
Amid the ongoing advice that Nestle is getting from PR professionals about how they should have handled the onslaught of Social Media attention they got, it’s notable how few have gotten right the very first question Nestle should have asked themselves:
Are we doing something wrong, and what can we do to fix it?
That’s what listening to your customers is really about. That’s what real corporate responsibility is about. The first question isn’t how do we leverage social media to blunt this attack, or put the best face on our company, or divert attention to questioning the motives of the attackers. It’s what is the real issue that our customers care so deeply about, and how do we align our actions with their expectations?
So many blogs have trumpeted Nestle’s announcement that they were canceling direct contracts with Sinar Mas as a win that Greenpeace ignored – but they clearly didn’t read the fine print. Nestle acknowledges that by buying from palm oil conglomerate Cargill, they’re sill buying Sinar Mas. So what kind of a concession is that, precisely?
A major plank of the Greenpeace demand set was to ask Nestle to pressure Cargill to clean up its supply chain, and to implement means of guaranteeing that they’re not buying palm oil from deforestation.
This is not an unprecedented tactic. Cargill was previously at the center of a storm over the planting of Soy in the Amazon on deforested land. Greenpeace’s target then was Cargill customer McDonald’s. McDonalds did precisely what Nestle should have done: gathered a critical mass of purchasing power and sat Cargill down and read them the riot act. The result was a moratorium, still in place, on deforestation for soy plantations. Cargill had no financial interest in stopping deforestation until their own customers made it their interest. And those corporate customers only had a financial interest in stopping deforestation because their customers made it their interest.
Nestle and Unilever, between them, have sufficient economic clout to insist Cargill not fund deforestation — the money that flows from Kit Kat customer to Nestle to Cargill to Sinar Mas is what’s destroying Indonesia’s rainforest — Greenpeace catalyzed a revolution at the source.
And until Nestle actually rolls up its sleeves and works to solve the problem instead of making cosmetic changes, they’ve not conceded, and they’ve not done the right thing in the eyes of their customers.
Corporate responsibility isn’t just about ducking criticism, or doing enough to get out of the crosshairs, or managing your PR spin — it’s about doing the right thing, and using the power of your brand and your purchasing power constructively.
Easter is the biggest chocolate-buying time of the year, and Nestle is going to be missing out a lot of sales, not because they’ve mismanaged a social media attack, but because they’re contributing to the destruction of our planet and the acceleration of climate change. They’ve underestimated the willingness of their customer base to take action for our planet’s future, and failed to sense the expectation that Nestle should do the same.
Thanks to Wiebke Herding for circulating this at the E-campaigning forum. Great overview by Scott Douglas of the first four days of the Kit Kat campaign.
Sometimes you just get lucky. When I first saw the creatives for our Kit Kat brand attack from Greenpeace UK, my gut said we had a winner. But the fact that our brand attack has turned into a rout has more to do with how Kit Kat responded to it.
First, some background.
The problem: Kit Kats and many other chocolates are made from palm oil, which is grown by mowing down peatland rainforest in Indonesia, which is contributing to climate change in a major way. Deforestation is responsible for more co2 than the world’s entire transport system — that’s all the cars, planes, busses trucks etc on the planet!)
Our objective: An end to palm oil plantings on deforested peatland. Get the major buyers of palm oil to demand their supply doesn’t come from deforestation. Use customer pressure on Kit Kat to get Nestlé, one of the biggest buyers of palm oil and owner of the Kit Kat brand, to demand better practices and cancel contracts with suppliers who can’t or won’t demonstrate they’re not cutting down orangutan habitat to plant palm.
Our tactic: Create a spoof ad that would drive customers to write to Nestle to demand the do the right thing.
Did the video make me uncomfortable? Yep. Did it meet resistance from a lot of folks internally as appearing “violent” or inappropriate to Greenpeace’s communications? Yep. Was it out of the zone of positioning us as an organisation with solutions and a vision of a green and peaceful planet? In isolation, perhaps. But here was a piece designed to do several things: cast an uncomfortable spotlight on Nestlé, and shock people into paying attention to the issue of rainforest destruction for Palm Oil and get them to pass it along. Maximum eyeballs = maximum pressure on Nestlé to come to the table. Unless it made you uncomfortable, it wasn’t going to rise above the noise of the daily infotainment hose that is the internet.
As it turned out, we’ll never know if the video would have gone viral on its own. Because Nestlé took the issue to a whole new level by fumbling every single play, and ensured it went viral by trying to censor it. This will surely be the stuff of powerpoints from PR consultants around the world for years to come, as lessons in what not to do if you face a customer revolt.
I just returned from SXSW, where Gary Vaynerchuk’s made a fabulous presentation about how companies in the era of Social Media simply can’t run away from customer relationships: they need to treat those who engage with their brand –positively and negatively — with respect, with honesty, really listen to them, internalize their messages, and act on their needs. And when people tell Kit Kat they don’t want to buy rainforest destruction with their chocolate bars, the only proper response is to treat it seriously. To do what McDonalds did when we launched an effort against their nuggets, which were driving deforestation of the Amazon for soy plantations. McDonalds didn’t just say “we’ll get back to you in a couple years” (as Nestle did) they actually gathered the other buyers, worked with them and the Brazilian government, and got the entire industry to agree not to buy soy from deforested areas. Nestlé might also have had a look at the Apple case — Apple went from dead last in our Electronics ranking to becoming a champion of removing toxic chemicals from their product range. Steve Jobs, like Nestlé, dug in at first, and it took a big push from Apple fans, sparked by our Green my Apple campaign, but Apple eventually did more than just remove the chemicals we had targeted. Today, with bold actions like leaving the US Chamber of Commerce over their climate policies, Apple is taking an activist stance.
Both companies went from zero to hero because they listened to the sustainability concerns of their customers.
Anyway, Dave Walsh, one of the Facebook troublemakers, suggested the other night in the pub that really someone ought to run the Downfall Meme over this one. I took a crack at one below which focuses on the social media missteps, and colored by recently having seen the amazing Adam Curtis documentary, “Century of Self” which I recommend to anyone interested in what happened to the social movement of the 60s, how Reagan and Thatcher got elected, and what Sigmund Freud has to do with the rise of corporate power and the creation of the persuasion industry. Ah, but I digress. We now return to our regularly scheduled rant:
Now that Kit Kat has called in a PR swat team, we’ll have to watch especially carefully to make sure they deliver real things and not schtick: an end to contracts with Sinar Mas and real efforts to ensure palm oil doesn’t endanger the Orangutan’s habitation with deforestation, or our own with climate change.