Topic: Book Club

Stickiness Of Al Gore's

Posted by Anonymous on 500 Points
In his deposition before Congress in defense of his ideas on global warming, Al Gore stated that “The Planet Has a Fever,” a message that is simple and concrete. He took the metaphor further by comparing the planet to a baby with a fever. While this metaphor is memorable enough, his method of describing global warming hasn’t really caught on. Assuming -- for the sake of discussion only -- that Gore is right on global warming, where did the message go wrong?

Moderator Note: This discussion refers to the book Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath (topic: communications). Click the title to learn more. Then join the conversation. We'd LOVE for you to participate!

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  • Posted on Accepted
    Al Gore delivered it. We all know him in his political profession but he is not a scientist. He is not an expert in global warming. I understand that he is trying to make an impact and for some who love him and are great fans and followers - the message, I am sure was clear at least to them, sort of. Do not act like an expert on a subject that you do not know "enough" about. Sometimes it is best to be a listner and introduce a message that someone else is better suited to deliver. Then and only then can you gain credibility for the message. Just my opinion.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I do like promochic's reasoning above. But of all that Gore has said this is what has STUCK with me most:

    "Global warming is not a political issues, it's a moral one." When he said that (both in the film and in various media appearances) it brought it right to the emotional for me. I no longer was debating temp. drops and all the carbon thingies (yup, that one stuck good since I can only say "thingie"- ha!) but I was faced with the RIGHT thing to do.

    That stuck and sold me. Why? It was no longer a rational argument, it was an emotional one that played upon a clear decision of right and wrong. Politics I can 'decide' when to partake--but when it's a question of morality or ethics, I just 'must' participate.
  • Posted on Accepted
    The "baby with a fever" metaphor misses the mark only because a baby's fever is (in most cases) easily remedied.

    Global warming, on the other hand, is a situation that will take generations to remedy, if in fact it can be remedied at all.

    This reminds me of the section in Made to Stick regarding the starving children in Africa. When people were approached with idea of contributing to help millions of African children, they contributed a minimal amount. When asked to contribute to help one child, Rokia, they were twice as generous. It seemed more beneficial to help one child. The thought of millions was insurmountable and made people feel more helpless.

    I think the idea of global warming is too insurmountable for most people. They feel helpless and therefore retreat.

  • Posted on Author
    Perhaps you're right - there's an inherent problem with comparing an ecosystem as vast and different as the Earth with the biological processes of an infant. That comparison may strain the credulity of the audience to the point that any valid points Gore may make aren't as easily so believed. There are, after all, plenty of professionals and laymen who disagree with him, even if they accept the premise that global warming is caused by man.

    Dawn's other point was also a fair one. According to the assumption that Gore's thesis is correct, the problem is too big for us individually to handle. Even if I stopped consuming electricity entirely, I don't eliminate my "carbon footprint" entirely, because I'm a carbon-based life form. Plus, I would not be able to compete in a marketplace of people who do use electricity for the benefits it provides in the form productivity increases and wealth generation.

    I'm not sure I buy the argument that the metaphor makes us look at the earth as we would look at a child. I've taken too many spills on this fine earth (and came away the worse for wear) to believe it to be fragile like an infant. Perhaps it had that effect on some people, but if it were truly a sticky idea, wouldn't everyone (or at least more people) be using it?
  • Posted on Accepted
    Regarding the deposition, the metaphor was on the money, but the credibility was not there because he's not a scientist.
    Is that bad? No not necessarily. If he exudes passion about this subject, it comes across.

    So he reinfornces that same message in other avenues including his film, further strengthening his point.

    Making global warming sticky requires greater discussion across multiple channels and bringing the voices of authority to the masses. I feel this message is definitely picking up steam
  • Posted on Author
    Mario - So you're saying that, assuming his theory is correct, had a scientist used the exact same metaphor, it would have worked? The only problem was the messenger?

    I have a hard time accepting that. Made to Stick gives us all sorts of ways to make a message appear to have credibility -- including adding details that are completely irrelevant (although they advocate making sure your details have relevance).

    A thought just came to me, though... Maybe if he didn't dismiss his detractors as having done no other research besides reading a science fiction novel, the audience would have not tuned him out. Perhaps that was a turn off to the skeptics?
  • Posted on Accepted
    My question here, is where is the antiauthority on this issue? Al Gore is a great crusader and I applaud him for all of his work, but he has too many other associations to be the best messenger here. Of course I like people like Leonardo Di Caprio doing all that he has to further the message on global warming, but again is he the ideal spokesperson? The best antiauthorities I have see thus far are the residents of Tuvalu whose island is going to disappear under the water in the next 25 or so years because of global warming, wiping out their culture and literally wiping them off of the face of the planet. This clearly hasn't moved enough people, but maybe the right antiauthorities will.
  • Posted on Accepted
    I didn't mean to discount Gore's ability to harbor support behind a message. It's just that he's a celebrity and like scotq mentioned, there's a lot of other associations with him as well. People remember him best as the vice-president who didn't win. On the other hand, a single scientist messenger wouldn't have been any better. A panel would have been best.

    With a topic as important as this, it needs to be discussed continuously so an initial tipping point is reached. I really like the anti-authority messengers scotq mentioned as well
  • Posted on Author
    Dan - Little messages like those will stick here and there, but what happens when opponents point to ancient cities that were overcome by water long before the industrial revolution?
  • Posted on Accepted
    My personal bias is that I don't trust most politicians. I feel like they all have a hidden agenda, so I'm already on my guard.

    The planet has a fever - VERY sticky.
    A baby with a fever? Not so much. To me, it's always been "Mother Earth," not "Baby Earth." (After all isn't the earth about 4 billion years old?)

    As for credibility, yes, Mr. Gore is vy intelligent, but this isn't his area of expertise - at least not as I've come to know him (or his public persona). I liked the point made earlier about him not doing much about it when he had a chance during '93-'01.

    Did any one see yesterdays(?) which referenced a study that said the melting of Mt. Kilimanjaro's icecaps has nothing to do w/ global warming? The melting started quite awhile ago. When I hear stuff like that, it makes me think how incredibily complicated this issue really is. I'm just not sure Gore is the one to champion it.
  • Posted on Author
    John - I just read that today, but people have been saying that since Gore released his movie. That people are still using it to buttress their cases shows just how powerful powerful sticky ideas can be, even if they're fundamentally incorrect.

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