US Catholic Faith in Real Life

When enviro-PR campaigns attack

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

You've probably had that feeling many times before in your life: walking away from the cinema after watching a movie that was so completely awful you found yourself wondering how such an obviously terrible idea ever made it past the hundreds of folks who should have known better (and had to pay for it to boot) all the way to your multiplex. Apparently such poor judgment is not limited to Hollywood.

A recent advertorial temporarily unleashed on a soon-to-be appalled public was intended to highlight environmental efforts around the world related to the 10-10-2010 campaign, a global effort to direct practical good sense on judicious energy use and measures to combat climate change related to our profligate lifestyles. I suppose it was intended to out-python Monty Python or some such thing (or perhaps I just don't understand British humor, though I still laugh about their comic antics in my homeland), but the 10/10 campaign's "no pressure" video (no, sorry, don't plan to link to it), which includes scenes of pert English school children blown to bits after refusing to commit to small works of mercy to prevent climate change, didn't leave me scratching my head as much as covering my eyes. As my two-year-old is fond of saying: "Wha th' h-ache?!"

Instead of publicizing the campaign, of course, this jaw-dropping public disservice announcement has unleashed the rhetorical dogs of war; climate change skeptics have seized on the video—now pulled out of internet service but widely viewable on YouTube and elsewhere—to pronounce all proponents of real-world lifestyle changes meant to diminish climate change effects as eco-nazis eager to liquidate anyone who doesn't agree with them. Unfortunately after looking at the video, it's hard to argue that counter-reaction is over-the-top, really. The 10/10 video was meant to be in poor taste (it succeeds mightily), and I guess intended to shock viewers into thinking seriously about climate change and their personal contribution to it, but after watching it the only thought I could muster was a simple: "What the $%^ were they thinking?"

After a classic non-apology on Friday, "we're sorry if someone was offended ... ", the director of 10/10 issued a more forthright statement today. It will not be enough to quell the rhetorical furor this poorly conceived idea is generating, nor do much to mitigate the damage it has done. A resignation or two would be a more effective gesture of accountability at this point.

Bill McKibben is among the notable environmentalists who managed a more cerebral response to the video than moi, so I'll let him have the last word on what is surely a bad day for environmentalists everywhere (through no fault of their own): "The climate skeptics can crow. It’s the kind of stupidity that hurts our side, reinforcing in people’s minds a series of preconceived notions, not the least of which is that we’re out-of-control and out of touch—not to mention off the wall, and also with completely misplaced sense of humor . . . . What makes it so depressing is that it’s the precise opposite of what the people organizing around the world for October 10 are all about. In the first place, they’re as responsible as it’s possible to be:  They’ll spend the day putting up windmills and solar panels, laying out bike paths and digging community gardens. And in the second place, they’re doing it because they realize kids are already dying from climate change, and that many many more are at risk as the century winds on. Killing people is, literally, the last thing we want."