The Huge Mistake Environmentalists Make About Their Opponents

Just this week I received yet another appeal for help from an environmental group.

“President Trump has unleashed his biggest attack on climate action yet,” said the fundraising email.  His executive order takes “dead aim” on climate protections.

Days before, another “urgent” email in my in-box spoke of how EPA head Scott Pruitt’s extreme positions show “what we are up against.”

The threat is real but the language is wrong.

Green groups are making a mistake when they portray their opponents as strong, not weak; Bombastic, never bumbling; Powerful – instead of being old fashioned and out-of-touch.

Recent appeals by the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Friends of the Earth reflect a movement that remains in a state of alarm more than five months after the election. As the British would say, they’re on the back foot.

If environmentalists want to win the fight they should cheer up, spread a message of hope and use a sense of humor. After all,  they’re up against a President with a sagging approval rating. A clear majority of Americans supports action on climate change.

Conservatives and capitalists also care about clean air and water.  They don’t want a return to the bad old days of urban smog and acid rain.  Environmentalists can win if they reach beyond their liberal base, explaining what they are FOR, as well as government policies they oppose.

The future is full of opportunity. As former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg wrote this week, the U.S. can still make great strides in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions.

“Those who believe that the Trump administration will end American leadership on climate change are making the same mistake as those who believe that it will put coal miners back to work: overestimating Washington’s ability to influence energy markets, and underestimating the role that cities, states, businesses and consumers are playing in driving down emissions on their own,” said Bloomberg.  Private enterprise, partnering with cities and states will make a practical difference.

Words matter. Framing is the secret sauce of message control.  Republicans and conservative groups understand this. Their appeals to are clear, sharp and to-the-point.

To fight back green groups should punch-up their language.  Instead of a continuous stream of shock and outrage, try mockery.

Why not borrow from the right’s playbook? Greens could wrap themselves in red, white and blue. The biggest growth in U.S. energy jobs is not in dirty fossil fuel, but in the renewable wind and solar industries.

Hopefully, the upcoming Climate Rally in Washington D.C. will reflect a dynamic sense of optimism instead of a dirge of despair.




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