Matthew Follett is campaign director for the Green House Network in Portland, Ore.
Monday, 20 Sep 1999
Life on the benefit concert trail is frustrating and mysterious. The Green House Network has planned a benefit concert for this Saturday night, in hopes that we can get the global warming message out to the public while making some money, but it is beginning to look like we might suffer a loss. Portland’s music market is over-saturated and promoters are losing money left and right.
The question this experience begs is: Does the publicity garnered offset the dent in the coffers of an organization that has minimal capital?
I have no answer, though the butterflies in my stomach remind me of the first time I swam competitively. If only our concert goes as well my race did.
On an experiential note, the positives of creating a benefit concert are immeasurable. We have learned what it takes to hit the pavement to really get a message out to an audience that is not normally active in the environmental field.
We have spent endless hours postering in stores and on telephone poles (an expensive proposition since we’re using post-consumer-waste recycled paper with soy-based inks), sending press releases to the media, putting advertisements in papers, talking to folks, getting one of the main radio stations to mention us on their community calendar, getting another radio station to sponsor our event, getting a blues show to give away comp tickets on-air (where they threw in a positive plug for our bands), convincing a band (the Zen Tricksters) to plug our benefit, and using email networks.
This grunt work has reminded me that the troubled state of our environment requires us to move out of our box in a multiplicity of ways. If we don’t reach out and bring the middle ground over to our side, we lose. That is the reasoning behind our concert and the Earth Day 2000 run we are planning.
Tuesday, 21 Sep 1999
We at the Green House Network have just learned a crucial lesson about the delegation of work: If you want something done a certain way, do it yourself.
We are fortunate to be bringing in the Honorable Lionel Hurst, ambassador to the U.S. from Antigua and Barbuda, for our benefit concert this Saturday. Ambassador Hurst is an outspoken critic of current U.S. climate change policy. Rising sea levels threaten to destroy his Caribbean island nation’s beaches and its important tourism industry, and ultimately the nation itself.
In organizing this aspect of our benefit concert, we have been working on public relations with a large media firm that coordinates efforts on global warming in Oregon. Three weeks ago, we met with people from the firm and they proposed all sorts of wonderful media events with Ambassador Hurst. They took charge and we felt confident that they would make sure to maximize the ambassador’s time by generating a substantial amount of publicity surrounding his visit.
Today, we are three days out from Ambassador Hurst’s visit and we find ourselves scrambling to create publicity because the media group has produced absolutely nothing. We entrusted them to set up a meeting with the Portland Oregonian‘s editorial board and interviews on radio shows and major local TV stations, and to help generate articles about Ambassador Hurst’s visit in papers throughout Oregon.
This is an embarrassing and compromising position for our fledgling network. In order to get global warming onto the radar screen of the public, we absolutely have to capitalize on any media opportunities. On top of this, how can we get other high-profile global warming experts to come to Oregon, strictly for expenses, when we fail to create a groundswell of momentum to inspire them while they are here? Reputation means everything.
So, we are scrambling with no lead time. What are we going to do?
Wednesday, 22 Sep 1999
Picture the following image and ask yourself whether it is something that would attract the attention of the media.
Ambassador Lionel Hurst of Antigua and Barbuda presents an award to a climate change organization for its work to combat global warming. As Ambassador Hurst is giving a short speech, a six-foot-tall papier-mâché Earth starts smoking behind him (thanks to smoke bombs inside it). As the smoke gets thicker, 10 children in fire helmets and green shirts begin throwing buckets of water on the Earth.
The Green House Network will be acting this scene out on Saturday in Tom McCall Waterfront Park. We hope that children dousing a smoking Earth with water will be a visual image that television stations will want to pick up.
An environmental reporter at a local TV station once told me that a bland event will not attract any attention. She said it needs to be different, exciting to the eye, and quick. We are planning on this taking no more than 10 minutes so camera people won’t be sitting around bored.
In addition, we are having the ambassador give a speech at Lewis & Clark College Friday night, to be advertised through the college’s public relations department. Friday speeches are a difficult proposition because most people just want to kick back and relax by the end of the week. What will happen if only 10 people show up at the auditorium, which seats over 250? Talk about a negative impression on the ambassador.
Hopefully, these two events, plus the benefit concert and rally we’ll be holding on Saturday, will help get global warming some of the attention it needs. In the future, for an event as important as an ambassador’s visit, we will do the media leg work and not depend on another group (see yesterday’s entry). After all, if it’s not in the media, it’s almost as though it didn’t happen.
Thursday, 23 Sep 1999
We have reached the point where all of our frantic behavior has become counterproductive. The Green House Network has planned a benefit concert and incorporated the visit of an ambassador in an effort to direct attention toward the issue of global warming. We have done everything humanly possible to make our event a success. Now we just let the ball roll.
The scramble we have gone through the last two days to get media attention has led to some outlets for our message. The Portland Oregonian will be doing a small write-up on Ambassador Lionel Hurst’s visit in the Friday paper. We have a phone interview set up with Tidepool (thanks to Ted Wolf at Ecotrust), and an interview with public radio’s “Marketplace.” This certainly eases my concerns.
The world of media is difficult to get a handle on. We learned that the folks at the media firm that had been working to publicize the ambassador’s visit did everything they could to generate interest, but the fickle nature of the business prevented them from actually being able to make anything happen. To them, I owe a sincere apology for doubting their efforts.
Two days ago, I received a call from Sam Andrew of the band Big Brother and today I got a call from Molly of Pele Juju. They both were very excited about coming to Portland for this benefit concert. The power of music to assist people in opening up and becoming more receptive to a message is astounding. We are fortunate because both bands are deeply concerned about the dangers of global warming.
Now that I am releasing control of the vision and letting the pieces fall as they may, I can feel the excitement and positive nature of our benefit. This weekend is going to be an enormous amount of work … I mean fun!
What do we want out
of our benefit and visit by Ambassador Hurst this weekend? We want people to walk away with the message that the issue of global warming is very complex and confusing, but that it is very real.
Due to the immense nature of global warming and its varied repercussions, we feel it is important to personalize the issue by bringing global warming home. If people understand the impacts of climate change on a local and regional basis, we believe they will become more concerned about the issue — they’ll have a vested interest. The hope is that as people are armed with the facts (a great place to get information on climate change from a Northwest perspective is Climate Solutions), they will connect changes in their environment, such as unusual weather patterns, to this global problem.
The Global Climate Coalition and other groups opposed to actions that would help curb global warming have spent millions misinforming the American public about the immediacy of the problem. This publicity campaign has surrounded the issue with so much controversy that it is not being actively addressed by our national government. As we and others work to clear away this misinformation, we hope the American public will demand action on this very urgent issue. This is our mission.
Friday, 24 Sep 1999
In a number of ways, putting together a benefit concert is like trying to tackle the problem of global warming. There are so many intangibles that need to be dealt with and yet can’t be. In the end, all you can do is put together the pieces as well as possible and hope that everything works out.
The parallel continues in that both endeavors require the work of experts in a variety of fields. And yet, just as there is no guarantee that expectations for the benefit event will be met, there is also no guarantee that sophisticated computer models will provide accurate predictions about climate change.
In my diary entries this week, I have provided an intimate, uncensored version of my trials and tribulations as I’ve worked to set up a benefit concert and other events to raise awareness about climate change. My intent has been to share the passion I feel about the issue of global warming and the urgent need for action to curb our rising greenhouse gas emissions.
A rapid transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, which is being called for by the Earth Day 2000 campaign, is as essential as ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. What we truly need is a paradigm shift. We need to become more efficient in our use of energy, technology, and resources. We need to internalize environmental and social costs. We need to act like stewards to the earth. We need to show the responsibility of ownership and protect that which provides us with life, the complex web we are barely beginning to understand.
This is where all people — environmentalists, clergypeople, industrialists, homemakers, academics, scientists, CEOs, farmers, athletes, musicians, marketers, ranchers, philosophers, legislators, and children alike — meet.
I leave you with one final question. If your house were treated like the Earth, would you stand for it?