A convenient fiction?

Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truthhas had vast amounts of coverage. In a way it has become the default opinion. He has persuaded the guilty middle classes of the world to buy into a belief that the sky is falling.

The key word is belief.

As with arguing the existence of God (or Gods) people tend to accept what they are told. It is so much easier than gathering data for yourself. The priest tells you you will burn in Hell if you don't believe and behave as you are told then you are a heretic. The Godless are shunned in a devout society.

Al Gore is the new Pope. The slide show is his pulpit. And, given that he is a former Vice President of the United States of America - well, think appointment as anointment. Like Papa he was God's man on Earth.

Don't get me wrong. I think we should be more mindful of the planet. Hey, it's the only one we've got. I enjoyed the video I have embedded here. Not because it's an entertaining topic. On the contrary it is because it offers a contrary, informed point of view.

I am of the (admittedly ill informed) opinion that we need to factor in the pace of technology in the environmental equation. In the 1960s oil producing nations got together in Rome and made the chilling pronouncement that oil would run out in 2000 (or thereabouts). It didn't happen. Why not? Because technology provided new ways of predicting where oil might be found and it gave us ways of transporting newly found sources of oil - like the Alaskan pipeline. Fuel injection technology made the oil we used go further. Then, how can we forget, on board computers made the oil we use go miles further. Technology moved us forward. Like whale oil before it - the Victorians believe that the Empire would collapse when the last whale was slaughtered - our reliance on oil will change with technologies like hydrogen (clean and abundant).

Al Gore has done a terrific job of raising awareness of the issue. But don't let one source of information be the end of the story. Media is lazy and populist - the catchy title 'An inconvenient truth', slick packaging and P.R. In other words it is the very model of a modern ad campaign. Great marketing*. You have been persuaded of the 'truth'. You have no way of confirming its veracity but it seems plausible doesn't it? And the alternative, like Hell itself, is just too horrible to contemplate. The video above makes the excellent point that this is not a political issue - don't let it become one.

I agree we should reduce the volume of stuff we consume and increase its quality with an eye on thrift - not 'sustainability' because that word buzzes with vibration.

Watch the video, think about it, share with friends. Discuss.

* Check out All Marketers Are Liars
All Marketers Are Liars: The Power of Telling Authentic Stories in a Low-Trust World


  1. "The Limits to Growth" came out in 1972 and predicted petroleum reserves at 50 years then based on 1968 estimates. The lastoilshock.com has more detail on the peak oil theory but so far it has proved remarkably true. It is not so much that we will run out period but the major changes in price that start to happen when researves start to decline as they are. Technology has helped more with accuracy than it has with finding more oil.

    While global warming is a popular angst subject - there are also many other global problems that can be actually solved. Check the Copenhagen Consensus and Bjorn Lomborgs work on facilitating this discussion.

    During his research - global warming actually comes out at the bottom of the list.

  2. Is Lomborg the guy who speaks at TED?
    I'm sure i saw a very sane presentation from someone who had interesting perspectives on what we should be concerned about...?

    The thing that grabs me is the languaging and manipulation of media.
    I have recommended it before and still but Unspeak is an important book to read. I have a copy you can read or it's on fishpond Unspeak: How Words Become Weapons, How Weapons Become a Message, and How That Message Becomes Reality

    "What do the phrases "pro-life," "intelligent design," and "the war on terror" have in common? Each of them is a name for something that smuggles in a highly charged political opinion. "Climate change" is less threatening than "global warming"; we say "ethnic cleansing" when we mean "mass murder," A completely partisan argument can be packed into a sound bite. Words and phrases that function in this special way go by many names. Some writers call them "evaluative-descriptive terms." Others talk of "terministic screens" or discuss the way debates are "framed." Author Steven Poole calls them Unspeak. Unspeak represents an attempt by politicians, interest groups, and business corporations to say something without saying it, without getting into an argument and so having to justify itself. At the same time, it tries to unspeak--in the sense of erasing or silencing--any possible opposing point of view by laying a claim right at the start to only one way of looking at a problem. Recalling the vocabulary of George Orwell's 1984, as an Unspeak phrase becomes a widely used term of public debate, it saturates the mind with one viewpoint while simultaneously make an opposing view ever more difficult to enunciate. In this fascinating book, Poole traces modern Unspeak--from "extremist" to "weapons of mass destruction"--and reveals how the evolution of language changes the way we think. "Propaganda" becomes "public diplomacy," and "sound science" (a phrase actually coined by tobacco giant Philip Morris) becomes a tool with which to instill a fear and distrust of legitimate scientific research."

    As professional communicators we have a responsibility to be conscious of the way we use language and the effect it has on people - don't you think?


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