01 April 2006

April Fool's!

Last night Alanis Morissette introduced me to the science and morality of global warming in Global Warming: The Signs and Science.

Alanis Morissette. Alanis Morissette! Don't the good people at PBS understand how branding works? Making Alanis Morissette the face of global warming makes climate change the province of angsty teenage girls, faghag secretaries who are a little smarter than all this but lack self esteem, and a number of other genres of marginalized non-movers and shakers in our culture. Alanis Morissette is the voice of the jilted and powerless. Everyone knows that the most desperate, embarassing moment during any fun night of Karaoke is when some poor jilted woman sings that one extra-ponderous AM song with a voice so clear and beautiful, and she knows every word because she *could be* Alanis herself and she cries real tears and tries to act ironic because it's Winnies, not her bedroom, and this is a karaoke machine, not her ipod.

I refuse to accept Alanis Morissette as the face of global warming!

This documentary is worth putting in your Netflix cue, though, because it has a great introduction to a couple of interesting factoids. First, I didn't realize how much CO2 agribusiness is putting out. There is a great blurb about the University of Nebraska, where a team is attempting to not just reduce CO2 output by agribusiness, but actually use farming as a gentle sequestration site. Very cool. Other hopeful (Morissette-resistant) messages:

Cute Canadian architects are making 2-family houses that only take on about $50USD a year in utility costs. HUGE CO2 savings.

Solar power is lobbying, and there are a lot of naked rooftops out there.

Klaus Lackner is prototyping these huge fake trees that look like Glade plugins on sticks, but are the size of skyscrapers. They sequester CO2 in the ground by turning it into Calcium Carbonate (what seashells are made of). I am curious about what will happen to the landscape as huge CaCO3 deposits build up underground, and also what kind of energy these things take to run...

But people are doing things out there, even if PBS wants us to think that the most appropriate thing to do about global warming is to stay in our rooms with our fingers on the repeat button.

EDITED TO ADD: More thoughts on the marketing debacle that is global warming can be found on sustainablog and Seth Godin's blog.


Anonymous onesock said...

This is a funny and informative post. I will put this on my netflix cue right away.
I was thinking though that it seems PBS is hoping that Morrisette is the thing that would draw people in, perhaps those that do not normally think about global warming. I agree that it is an odd choice for spokesperson.But what do you think about this? WHat little I have seen of your work on this blog, it seems to have a similar effect for me. It is visually engaging enough to draw you in, and then once hooked you get the message by digging deeper. Is this what you are after? Or am I making assumptions here?

02 April, 2006 11:12  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Not sure what you're asking, onesock. Can you elaborate?

03 April, 2006 08:18  
Anonymous onesock said...

Well, I have only seen the work that you have posted on your blog, but what I have seen seems very visually captivating. I am thinking of the Drunken Forest,Crystal City, The melting glacier piece. From your descriptions they all refer to issues of the critical state in our environment. So IMO your work has the effect of hooking the viewer visually and then delivering the message once hooked. I was just wondering if that was something you intend or thought about, and thinking about that led me to notice parallels with PBS using a popular person to deliver the message on the documentary.

03 April, 2006 11:16  
Blogger fisher6000 said...

Oh, I see. Yes, I actually do think about this. Beauty and seduction are very interesting to me. I am definitely aiming for beautiful, seductive work right now.

My goal is to get the viewer to keep looking. I am doing this because climate change is very easy to deny or stop looking at. It's large, subtle, technical... not easily understood in a soundbite. So there are inherent problems. More important to me is the way these inherent marketing problems are being magnified. I have written a lot about this new book out called The Weather Makers. This book, as well as most of the news stories about global warming, frame the problem in terms of morality and are anxious and apocalyptic in tone.

IMO, this is a lot like making Alanis Morissette the face of global warming. If you want to be taken seriously, it's important not to sound like Chicken Little (even if the sky is actually falling). If you want to harness corporations, governments and individuals to do the right thing, I honestly believe that the best way to do that is not to sneer at SUV drivers. The best way to do that is to be positive and do things. Start a little practice of your own like turning off your computer monitor. Talk often about what a growth industry solar power is, how many jobs fixing global warming is going to create. Paint a picture of us fixing it.

My work is trying to undo all the anxiety with beauty.

I hate to sound like a republican, but this is exactly how republicans capture slews of voters that actually vote against their own best interests. People want to hear something positive. They want vision. They don't want to hear about huge problems they can't solve, and I can't blame them. The current discourse on global warming is fucking depressing.

03 April, 2006 17:17  
Anonymous onesock said...

Agree agree! This also reminds me of a story on NPR I recently heard about a scientist? in the 50s , at the height of the cold war, presenting his arguments against the use of nuclear weapons by telling jokes. It was a way to diffuse anxiety about the subject and get people talking (apparently the use of nukes was a reasonable option in some circles). It was very succesful in fact his books were on the best seller lists. I cant remember his name.

But anyway, and I think I have said before. I am also intrigued by your use of the landscape in a non traditional way incorporating these images of environmental disaster. I am not sure I have seen anything like that before.

04 April, 2006 01:03  

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