Could TV and film be the key to the renewable energy revolution?
On several occasions I have written about television shows and movies. In doing so, I’ve tried (albeit unsuccessfully) to start a discussion about the impact they have on audiences when they address environmental issues and/or feature eco-friendly products (hybrids, windmills, etc).
I believe exposure to such content will help introduce enviro concepts to consumers of pop culture, create awareness (you mean windmills aren’t only a Dutch thing?), educate (hey, I didn’t realize you could fit two dead bodies in the back of a Toyota Prius!), and start a conversation (do you think Julia Roberts drinks organic soy milk in real life?).
That said, I direct you to a recent piece (based on a true story) by our friend Joel Makower. Our story begins:
(Fade in: two small children running around in a playground. Pan right: A hybrid car slowly drives by while the blades of huge windmills rotate in the background. Narrator’s voice begins … )
If you could pay an extra five or ten bucks a month to help reduce global warming, childhood asthma, rolling brownouts, the national debt, and the threats of Al-Qaeda, would you bother? I’m guessing you’d think that a no-brainer.
So, why aren’t you buying clean energy?
The question has been befuddling everyone from environmental activists to utility executives. Nearly every American, it seems, understands that generating electricity from the sun, the wind, the earth’s heat, or gases generated by rotting waste is good news for everyone — the planet, people’s health, national security, and the economy.
So, what’s the problem? They just don’t think clean energy works.
Our hero then discovers the good deeds of SmartPower, a group that’s decided to work within the system by “[engaging] in a market research and advertising campaign of Madison Avenue proportions.” This effort has yielded the following feedback from the global-warming-oppressed citizens of Gotham:
“… what kept coming through was that fossil fuel has kept this country warm and strong and that there was nothing to take it’s place,” says Keane. “And that solar and wind were not ready for prime time. They said that fossil fuels were a necessary evil.”
It wasn’t all bad news. Every single respondent knew exactly what clean energy is, and they absolutely want it to work. They could discuss it confidently, without hesitation. Many had heard of fuel cells. They believed it would be a better world if we developed more clean energy. They believed it would be better for their health and their environment.
But the misconceptions or misinformation turned out to be rampant. The researchers found that while most people understood clean energy’s benefits, they thought it would require them to have windmills on their houses, or that the power would go on and off on cloudy or windless days, or that it was ultimately all about trade-offs, like using less heat or air conditioning.
“No one’s talking about it on television,” was another comment Keane recalls hearing. “They could actually live with the fact that no one in their neighborhood has a solar panel. But if they saw it was on TV, they could understand it’s potential. TV is the great validator of the day.”
The moral of the story: Put positive examples of renewable energy up on the big screen and hybrid vehicles in TV shows. The revolution must be televised.
(My apologies for the lame Hollywood approach. For those of you who made it this far without sneaking out of the theater, I encourage you to read Joel’s entire post.)