Brightsiding

Brightsiding climate is a bad strategy

Is all “good news” and no “bad news” a good climate action and communications strategy? This analysis finds that the answer is a resounding "no".


“Always look on the bright side of life”: Bright-siding climate advocacy and its consequences

Most climate advocacy and campaigning appears to assume that as long as you tell a positive story and move “in the right direction”, it doesn’t matter if people understand or agree about the problem. It’s all about selling “good news” and not mentioning “bad news”.  This is how the Obama administration, Australia’s Labor government, the Say Yes campaign and many national climate advocacy organisations worked in 2011.
     But if you avoid including an honest assessment of climate science and impacts in your narrative, its pretty difficult to give people a grasp about where the climate system is heading and what needs to be done to create the conditions for living in climate safety, rather than increasing and eventually catastrophic harm. But that’s how the big climate advocacy organisations have generally chosen to operate, and it represents a strategic failure to communicate.
     The problem is now so big, and the scale and urgency of the solutions required so great, that it is impossible to talk about them within the current public policy frame. The business and political spheres have horizons too narrow and too limited in time to be able to deal with the challenges and complexities of global warming. 
     We have achieved a collective cognitive dissonance where the real challenge we face is excluded from discourse. There is no solution within the politics-as-usual frame; and there is no developed frame outside of it.

     The change we need is not going to happen without mass civic participation and a people power’s movement for transformation. We must all help to build these. It is here that the big advocacy groups are already facing a stark choice: to stay inside the Canberra beltway, do make-a-video-tick-a-box-send-an-email-give-us-money but fail to empower their membership and supporters or, on the other hand, put serious resources into supporting community organising, spend less time competing as brands in the climate advocacy supermarket, and share resources to help build mass civic participation.