More than 2000 votes have been placed, and the people have made their choice clear. Without further ado, the winning Elevator Pitch:
Do you love breathing air and drinking water? Mountains, oceans, cities, streams? Want kids to grow up healthy, happy, and peaceful? That’s environmentalism. It’s about everyone and everything you love.
Congratulations to winning (and mysterious) Gristmillian saltman! As soon as we get in touch, a VFOGT (Very First Official Grist T-shirt) shall be winging its way to his/her door.
Thanks for playing, everyone. And thanks for voting.
(Some slightly grumpy and deflationary comments beneath the fold. Don’t even click. Seriously.)
This contest was obviously meant to be an exercise in framing, about which enviros (and progressives) have talked and talked since the election. However, despite all the talk, I’m not really sure we’re getting any better at it.
By setting up the exercise around making a short pitch to a skeptic, I had hoped to jar people out of using their familiar frames. This means more than not being "preachy" or "gloomy," about which everyone seems to agree. It means taking a bigger step back.
Picture this scenario: A Christian is on an elevator ride with an atheist, trying to make a pitch for banning abortion. It wouldn’t do the Christian much good to frame her argument in terms of God’s love, or souls, or eternal life, would it? It’s not so much that the atheist thinks these things are wrong — it’s more that they are just meaningless to her. If the Christian is savvy, she will try to get the atheist behind her goal — banning abortion — by connecting that goal to the atheist’s own interests and frames.
The same is true for an environmentalist pitching to a non-environmentalist. Most of the pitches, including the winner, were framed in terms of mountains and streams and air and earth and love. These are all part of the frame via which environmentalists organize information. They see the world in terms of natural resources and how our actions affect them and, via them, each other.
But a person who shared that way of looking at the world will likely already be an environmentalist. What we need to do is get people working toward our goals — a more sustainable society — whether or not they share our frames. We need to convince them that our goals make sense in terms of their frames.
So for instance, you might think of pitching sustainable living as a national security or geopolitical imperative, as Friedman’s trying to do with his "geo-green" thing. You might pitch it as a way for rural residents to preserve their traditional values, or revive their economies. You might pitch it as a religious imperative. Something. I don’t claim to be a guru on these matters.
But I do think it’s important that every enviro start thinking seriously about how to reach those that don’t already see the world the way they do.