This is what we've been talking about for effective mass communication -- using the lower organs. We've generally gone for the gut with humor, but the heart is an equally powerful organ, and the California Ocean Communicators Alliance has done a nice job using sincerity with their new Thank You Oceans PSA.
It's so much more powerful of an approach than just citing facts and figures about how much carbon the ocean produces. Plus I love the shot of the rope uncoiling.
In February I prompted a massive discussion on the evolution blogs of Carl Zimmer and PZ Myers about the communication of evolution to broad audiences. PZ Myers accused me of advocating "dumbing down" science (when in fact I was advocating "concision" and I'm not sure he grasped the difference).
So now Seed Magazine has organized a day of talks by scientists at The Inspiration Festival in New York City. They have scheduled me to speak right after PZ Myers, and to set the proper tone, I have labeled myself, "Randy Olson, Dumb Filmmaker."
In fact, I shall begin my presentation by discussing the very logical premise of the brilliant new movie from Mike Judge, "Idiocracy," that in the future stupid people, because of their higher reproductive rate, will take over the world.
What an inspired concept!
Okay, this is going to sound like a stretch, but ... believe it or not, Mike Judge's new movie, "Idiocracy," is a "cautionary tale" (and a crude one at that) which is sort of a case study of hyper-shifting baselines. The premise is great -- in the future only stupid people reproduce because smart people are too hung up to make it happen. And supposedly nobody notices the changes much (shifting baselines) until by 2505 everyone is living in a world of over indulged filth.
I saw the movie a month ago. The first half is brilliant (second half drags a bit). But apparently it's such a realistic portrait of the future of America that terrified Fox executives decided to give it minimal support upon it's release. They're afraid their audience doesn't want to see what their future holds.
Idiocracy: a shifting baselines nightmare
To the person who sent us the following e-mail, all I can say is, "touche." You got me.
Someone wrote that Croc Hunter Steve Irwin was the next best thing to Jaques Cousteau...now THAT's a shifted baseline!
Total craziness. And check out all the comments -- lots of them are horrible rants about Hitler and enviro-commies, but lots of them are also very, very good -- people actually watching the PSA a couple of times and giving some thought to what "shifting baselines" actually means. Now that is mass communication.
Doubt it will last for long, but as of the moment, our Ocean Symphony PSA with Jack Black is currently featured on the home page of www.youtube.com
It was always popular for people (especially academics) to snipe about Jacques Cousteau. They said he exploited nature for his own gain, his crew left empty oil barrels in Antarctica, they did fake science ... on and on.
The same sniping exists for poor old Steve Irwin. But we live in a world in which just having professors go out to the seashore and speak to handfuls of people isn't enough to save nature. There is a need for charismatic individuals who have an understanding of the power of mass media (as both Cousteau and Irwin did) to be respected, embraced and supported.
The Crocodile Hunter will be sadly missed.
Nature Communicators HALL OF FAMERS
The chance for Jeremy Jackson to be heard. That's about as much as we've really had as a goal for Shifting Baselines. It's just one of those things where I've spent nearly thirty years thinking to myself, "This guy has really interesting things to say about the oceans that are more interesting than most of what you hear on television. Why can't he be given a broader forum?" And that's what we've been working on.
So this article in the new Patagonia Catalog is a chance for a wider audience to hear this thoughts. Which is great.
A company that understands shifting baselines