Is ‘Hope’ the new hot button?

slice of geography of hope book cover

As an artist, marketer and environmental activist, I’ve been asking myself lately, “How do we move more people to action? Is it through fear? If they imagine a scary future will they act now? Or is it by planting seeds of hope? Is ‘Hope’ the new hot button that will galvanize the world to take action?”

Money and celebrities trump humanity’s survival

Many people are becoming numb to the world’s problems, and retracting into their cocoons. Something that brought that fact into sharp focus for me was this… As I flipped through the newspaper looking for something interesting to read, this headline caught my eye: “Humanity’s survival at stake: UN”. It announced the UN’s 572-page report, Global Environment Outlook.

Hmmm. Isn’t that curious? Humanity’s survival at stake is not front page news! The front page stories were about the soaring loonie (the nickname for the Canadian dollar) and a hot, young hockey phenomenon, John Tavares.

Does humanity’s future being bumped by the loonie and a fledgling hockey star sound loony to you? I don’t know… It must be a defensive play to sell newspapers. The editors know the public can only take so much bad news before we shut down and lose all hope. So they push in our faces the stories they think we really care about. Money and celebrities trump humanity’s survival.

The frog in a pot of boiling water

frog photo and drawing by franke jamesAt times, I fear we are like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water. The story goes like this… If you throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it will jump out. But if you place a frog in a pot of warm water and gradually turn up the heat, it will very happily boil to death. Because the frog’s survival instincts are only triggered by sudden changes. And so it is with climate change. We’ve heard many warnings about climate change over the past 30 years, but somehow we are deaf to them, and unaware of our impending doom.

Pitching Hope to Solve World Problems

geography of hope book cover

Well, clever marketers, artists and writers sense the water is getting a bit too hot, and are serving up the solution. This new crop of “Hope products” could be just what the world needs to inspire action and jump out of the pot.

So where am I seeing evidence of hope? Seemingly disconnected dots have started joining up and a pattern is emerging… Is it a trend? In the past week I’ve been to a book launch for Geography of Hope (which gives us hope by showing signs of a sustainable future unfolding around the world). I also attended Chest of Hope, an art exhibit raising funds for cancer research (which rekindles the hope that cancer can be beaten if we all pitch in and contribute to medical research). Hope is an emotion that savvy Breast Cancer fundraisers have used for many years. Even the packaging on my favorite whole wheat bread features the familiar pink ribbon and a Harvest of Hope campaign to raise money for the cause!

Chest of Hope, 3 sculptures by Christa Gampp

But hope is too powerful a force to be owned by any one cause. Marketers know that hope sells — and some would argue (me included) that the environmental movement could motivate more people by injecting ‘hope’ into their message. Humanity’s survival is at stake — but too many people are tuning out the message. How are we going to flip this around? Personally, when I read about a successful green project it inspires me and gives me hope that perhaps my efforts are not wasted.

Hope as an inspirational force

Hope as an inspirational force is springing up everywhere. I also read news articles about actress Hilary Swank and shoe/clothing designer Kenneth Cole who have jumped on the hope bandwagon. Each promises to tell us how to achieve our dreams (if we buy tickets to their Power Within events in Vancouver and Toronto).

Swank offers hope to young women, “I feel like there’s not a lot of great women role models for girls. If a girl can see my story and somehow say, ‘Hey you know what, I’m NOT going to give up on my dream’ … then I am going to continue to tell my story.”

Cole offers hope to business people when he talks about his company’s efforts which have funded AIDS research and anti-poverty initiatives, “What I’m doing is taking a business that exists and somehow connecting it to a bigger purpose; it wins on every level.”

And this morning’s paper offered more hope in the form of a new book: Jean Vanier, Our Life Together. Vanier is the Founder of L’Arche, the international network of homes for people with disabilities. Vanier urges students to keep “hoping and dreaming.. the important thing is to go ahead and do it.” His message to students is to have the courage to do something different with their lives, “We don’t have to be doing what everyone else is doing… We don’t have to be like a bunch of cows or sheep.”

I say, “Amen to that!”

The common element in this cornucopia of new products — which all pitch different causes — is that they are selling hope that is backed up by action and offer doable solutions. They are giving us a glimpse of a hopeful future. (Listen to Turner’s podcast on CBC.ca for more inspiration.)

But the dilemma is we need a lot more Vanier’s, Turner’s, Gampp’s, Swank’s and Cole’s to get us to wake up and jump out of the pot!

The big question is: Are you ready to take action? Can you plant a few seeds which will offer the world hope? Franke james photo of jumping frog

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© 2007, Franke James,MFA


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Does the world need to go on a diet?

Belly dancing for the planet

By Franke James

Pondering two of the weightiest issues of the day it came to me in a flash. The world needs to go on a diet! Not to make light of heavy issues, but curiously both the obesity epidemic and global warming have a lot in common, and present big marketing challenges.

Here are 10 ways that they are similar, and ideas on how to motivate people to go on a diet:

  1. Over-indulgence and greed: Whether gorging on edible energy or gorging on carbon-based energy, it all comes down to over-indulgence. The solution is easy to say but hard to do: ‘Stop consuming so much energy!’ Marketers will need to be clever to popularize a spartan lifestyle.
  2. Dire warnings!! ‘Global warming is a ticking time bomb!’ ‘Obesity is as big a threat as global warming and bird flu!’ But will fear move people to action?
  3. Denial is rampant: Everybody wants to deny obesity and global warming. Many people believe it’s their ‘own’ business if they are obese or energy hogs. Unfortunately the collective weight of so many people thinking the same way has resulted in the obesity epidemic and global warming problem. Clearly we need to launch a viral, peer-pressure campaign…
  4. Brainwashing the public: Both obesity and global warming have spawned popular films which help shape public opinion better than any formal marketing campaign. (e.g. Super Size Me and An Inconvenient Truth)
  5. ‘Bigger is better’ is leading to waste and more waist: The appetite for all things big in North America — from giant Hummer’s to Texas-sized steaks to monster homes — has resulted in bigger waistlines and bigger carbon emissions. To beat these two trends we have to make people believe that ‘small is beautiful’.
  6. Energy-saving appliances: Does ‘energy-saving appliance’ mean saving human energy or saving electrical/gas energy? Maybe we should remind people that the best ‘energy-saving appliances’ are their own two feet (or two hands if they’re preparing food).
  7. Guilt and virtue: Feeling guilty? Don’t worry! Giant industries — like diet foods and hybrid SUV’s — have sprung up to let us indulge, guilt-free and make that ‘spartan’ lifestyle easier to swallow. As more consumers demand healthier foods and green products more will be produced.
  8. David and Goliath Battles: Both are fighting trillion dollar industries. While the odds seem slim on winning remember we have lawmakers on our side, working overtime to ban trans fats, soft drinks in schools and cap carbon emissions. And every new hurdle presents a marketing opportunity!
  9. Green sprouts: The revolution is happening. Our kids are starting to demand hybrid cars, recycling, and solar panels. But have they got the message about junk food?
  10. How to get everybody to go on a diet? Promise them something that everyone wants, and that has sold millions of diet books: The ‘small is beautiful’ diet will make them very attractive and much more popular.

Too lightweight? You want more?

1. Over-indulgence and greed

Whether gorging on edible energy or gorging on carbon-based energy, it all comes down to over-indulgence. Excessive energy consumption ultimately leads to the destruction of bodily organs in the case of obesity. And in the case of global warming, to the destruction of the environment and bodily organs. The solution is easy to say but hard to do:’Stop consuming so much energy!’ Marketers will need to be clever to popularize a spartan lifestyle.


2. Dire warnings!!

Dire warnings issued by both causes grab headlines, but will they move people to action?

“This insidious, creeping pandemic of obesity is now engulfing the entire world. It’s as big a threat as global warming and bird flu.” Paul Zimmet, Chairman, 10th International Congress on Obesity (ICO)

Humanity is sitting on a ticking time bomb. If the vast majority of the world’s scientists are right, we have just ten years to avert a major catastrophe that could send our entire planet into a tail-spin of epic destruction involving extreme weather, floods, droughts, epidemics and killer heat waves beyond anything we have ever experienced.” An Inconvenient Truth


3. Denial is rampant

Denial of the obesity epidemic and global warming is rampant.

If, despite the ‘dire warning’ above, you’re still saying, ‘What obesity epidemic?’ chew on this fact from the International Congress on Obesity (ICO): There are now 1 billion overweight people on the planet versus 800 million starving people. But it would be hard to find people, other than medical professionals, who realize the threat that obesity poses to the world. Obesity is spreading throughout the developed and developing world in men, women and children. It threatens to overwhelm the world’s health system due to a massive increase in cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Similarly global warming is all about denial. Even when respected publications like Scientific American state conclusively — “The debate on global warming is over. Present levels of carbon dioxide – nearing 400 parts per million (ppm) in the earth’s atmosphere – are higher than they have been at any time in the past 650,000 years and could easily surpass 500 ppm by the year 2050 without radical intervention.” — we have politicians like George W. Bush and Stephen Harper denying the reality of global warming.

We need to move people from denial to action. Getting people to see that their individual behavior impacts the world at large is the first step to solving both problems. Many people believe it’s their ‘own’ business if they are obese or energy hogs. Unfortunately the collective weight of so many people thinking the same way has resulted in the obesity epidemic and global warming problem. Clearly we need to launch a viral, peer-pressure campaign…


4. Brainwashing the public

Both obesity and global warming have spawned popular films which help shape public opinion better than any formal marketing campaign.

‘Super Size Me’ hit the fast food industry below the belt, and some say caused McDonald’s to pull their Super Size option from their restaurants. The movie showed the deterioration of 33-year-old filmmaker Morgan Spurlock’s physical condition, day by day until his body starts to fall apart. Fearing serious damage to his internal organs, his doctors ordered him to stop eating the fast food diet. ‘Super Size Me’ helped raise public awareness of the detrimental health effects of fast food (in excess), and has contributed to the banning of trans-fats in foods, and soft drinks in schools. The movie grossed over $28,541,032 worldwide.

On the global warming front, An Inconvenient Truth, is still in circulation and has already grossed over $23,423,774. Al Gore’s film helped persuade Californians of the need for the Global Warming Solutions Act. Check out this double-bill feature: “Join us on Saturday for an afternoon screening of “An Inconvenient Truth”, and hear from state assembly-woman Fran Pavley on current legislation [Global Warming Solutions Act] authored by speaker Fabian Nunez and primary co-author Fran Pavley.”


5. ‘Bigger is better’ is leading to waste and more waist

The obesity epidemic and global warming both suffer from the ‘Bigger is better’ mentality. The appetite for all things big in North America — from giant Hummer’s to Texas-sized steaks to monster homes — has resulted in bigger waistlines and bigger carbon emissions. And it’s spreading to every nation on earth. For example, McDonald’s has over 30,000 restaurants in more than 100 countries. News reports speculate that they will open 1,000 locations in time for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.


6. Energy-saving appliances

This is where it gets confusing: Does ‘energy-saving appliance’ mean saving human energy or saving electrical/gas energy? Maybe we should remind people that the best ‘energy-saving appliances’ are their own two feet (or two hands if they’re preparing food).

Imagine how much energy could be saved, and weight lost, if able-bodied people walked up stairs instead of riding on escalators? (Of course advocates for the disabled would insist on an on-off switch for those who really need it…) It’s ironic that by saving human energy we’ve made both the global warming and obesity problem worse.


7. Guilt and virtue

Feeling guilty? Don’t worry! Giant industries — like diet foods and hybrid SUV’s — have sprung up to let us indulge, guilt-free and make that ‘spartan’ lifestyle easier to swallow. As more consumers demand healthier foods and green products more will be produced.

On the obesity side we have diet foods, diet pills, the fitness and weight loss industries. And if that doesn’t work there’s always bariatric surgery to make your stomach smaller. The pharmaceutical giants are there to help with medications to ease obesity related diseases like diabetes, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure.

For global warming there are a slew of products including hybrid cars, solar panels and geo-thermal heating systems. Being green is now a sign of virtue. It’s a status symbol: you can never be ‘too thin’ or ‘too green’. But if you can’t bring yourself to trash your SUV just yet, there is an easy way out. You can buy a carbon-pass to offset your dirty car emissions and pay for your sins — just like the big countries in the Kyoto accord do (except for Canada).


8. David and Goliath battles

Obesity and global warming are both fighting ‘David and Goliath’ battles against trillion dollar industries. While the odds seem slim on winning, we have lawmakers on our side, working overtime to ban trans fats, soft drinks in schools and cap carbon emissions. California has launched a lawsuit against 6 auto manufacturers for damage to the climate. “Global warming is causing significant harm to California’s  environment, economy, agriculture and public health. The impacts are already costing millions of dollars, and the price tag is increasing.” said the Attorney-General Bill Lockyer.

The tobacco industry was brought to its knees… There is hope.


9. Green sprouts

The revolution is happening. Our kids are starting to demand hybrid cars, recycling, and solar panels. But have they got the message about junk food?


10. How to get everybody to go on a diet?

Well, everybody hates diets. We need to promise them something that everyone wants, and that has sold millions of diet books: The ‘small is beautiful’ diet will make them very attractive and much more popular.
OBESITY:
More human energy used by walking, cycling = Leaner, fitter and more attractive humans
Less edible energy consumed means less food transportation = Leaner, fitter and more attractive humans

GLOBAL WARMING:
More human energy used by walking, cycling = Less carbon fuels burned
Less food transportation = Less carbon fuels burned