Framing Earthgate After Copenhagen
By Susan C. Strong, The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org/
Lately we've been hearing a lot about the need for more preventive health care, and rightly so. Private insurance companies have been unwilling to pay for it (what were they thinking?), and the uninsured can't afford it. We taxpayers ended up covering the high cost of the emergency room result. However, the financial fallout from ignoring preventive healthcare will soon look like a pittance. Climate change-linked health problems are heading right for us, like a pod of rogue icebergs, with much worse to come, unless we act fast.
The price of delay in reducing CO2 worldwide will be truly catastrophic, in healthcare costs alone. Our government, along with many others in Copenhagen, is acting like the captain of the Titanic. The major corporations that control these governments have their heads in the sand. They are the same companies that control the U.S. Congress, which must produce climate change legislation soon. It's the biggest scandal ever: Earthgate.
People all over the world are stepping up their protests. Here at home we're going to need a much harder grass roots push too. And we'd better be "speaking American" about it. Let's start with the cost of treating climate change-related health problems-- new tropical diseases invading areas where people have no resistance, new levels of respiratory illness, new heat stroke-related health disasters, and new epidemics. Though we may not be able to stop all of it at this point, we can certainly help prevent the worst-- if our own Congress does the right thing.
But whatever we do to bring our government up to speed, we'd better be very savvy about the rest of our framing. As Hunter Lovins testifies in a recent documentary about environmental movement history, Earth Days, after the first Earth Day, we lost 30 years of potential progress because of bad framing. As the film clearly shows, both the early environmental movement and President Carter said that the solution to our energy problems was to cut back, give up stuff, deny ourselves. This gave the Republicans and presidential hopeful Ronald Reagan a target. They used the underlying optimism and "can do" spirit embedded in the ideal American story against this negative narrative and they won. The solar panels Carter had put on the White House roof came down, and you know how this story ends--it's where we are today.
In the film, Stewart Brand says it well--to move Americans you have to appeal to their pride--to their belief that anything is possible. Reducing the climate change threat is possible, so let's do it, America! Let's do it in new and better ways. And doing it well will help our economy and our own wallets too. Congress, make sure you give us preventive earthcare too--it's the smartest healthcare there is !
Susan C. Strong, Ph.D., is the Executive Director and Founder of The Metaphor Project, http://www.metaphorproject.org/. Our mission is helping progressives and liberals mainstream their messages by framing them with language that evokes ideal American values.