[Coral-List] additional notes on communication

Steven Miller smiller at gate.net
Tue Mar 14 11:00:04 EST 2006

Responding in no particular order to some of the many e-mails posted 
regarding the sexy scientist posting… and none of this is original, it’s 
painfully obvious but I will say it anyway.

Conventional media products are still needed, but they are not sufficient.

The problems we face took a long time to get bad so they are going to 
take a long time to fix.

The Attenborough model preaches to the choir, as do all PBS-like 
products. Such efforts are needed, but they’re not sufficient.

Talking Hollywood heads (famous actors getting involved) are not what we 
need, but they can sometimes help.

Education is big part of the solution, but we’ve been saying that for 

Working at the local level doing dozens of different things is part of 
the solution.

The original post was essentially about communication and the emphasis 
on sex that was highlighted in a lot of emails was only a small part of 
what I was trying to say.

Borrowing from my friend Randy Olson and his Hollywood experience, 
arguing better (using our heads) is one of several ways to reach people. 
You can also reach people by affecting their hearts, guts, and below the 
belt (sex). Coral reef scientists are good with the head stuff, not so 
good with the other three.

Obviously, the problem goes beyond coral reefs. To have any chance of 
success at the national level environmentalism must become a social 
movement like it was in the 1960s and 1970s. Social movements need a 
thousand local leaders and a few at the national level.

Thus, we need to do what we can to elevate the best of our communicators 
so they get a chance to do what they do best for the largest possible 

Relevant are some examples of Dr. Olson’s work, which can be found at 
www.shiftingbaselines.org. I especially encourage you to check out:

The Tiny Fish PSA
The No Seafood Grill short film
The Senate Hearing on Coral Bleaching short film
The Rotten Jellyfish Awards

And there is serious stuff at the site too:

Pristine? The Shifting Baselines Slideshow
Shifting Baselines in the Surf
The Roundtable Video (one of the first SB serious efforts)
Mark Dowie video: Empowering the Grassroots

And there is much more. Not everything totally works. Use what you like 
(it's free). Maybe think about getting out of your head once in awhile. 
It's not easy, but your students and audiences will respond in amazing 
ways if you can touch there hearts, or if you go for a gut reaction. The 
sex stuff is probably better left to the experts - or hottie PhDs.

Best regards.


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