A while back I criticized the new global-warming ads from Environmental Defense for relying entirely on fear. I wrote an alternate script, based on hope and uplift.

According to near-universal consensus, my alternate script … sucked.

Fine. But I still maintain that while fear might serve the short-term purpose of getting people’s attention, like a burst of adrenaline, it won’t suffice to produce substantial social change.

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Happily, I’m not the only one thinking this way. Today in Salon, Kevin Sweeney offers an eloquent defense of hope.

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The facts of climate change can be overwhelming. I recently observed focus groups in South Carolina, part of an effort to create messages to help moderates and conservatives understand the urgency of climate change. I saw lively conversations progress to a point when, abruptly, some of the participants began to shut down. As they grasped the urgency, they couldn’t envision solutions or the political will to bring them about. They looked depressed.

Peter Kropotkin, the Russian anarchist, wrote, "It is hope, not despair, which makes successful revolutions." While this is a notion most American generations haven’t needed to understand — ours has been a fortunate history — it may be time for us to learn it. When we tell stories of potential desperation, we must also find ways of offering hope. Always.


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