Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Harnessing the Power of Green Pills

Recently in Canada’s largest city, green pills started popping up on doorsteps, advising them to take them to avoid nuclear radiation. The pills were distributed within a 30-km radius of a nuclear power plant, near Toronto.

Urban-intelligent residents didn’t take the pills, but instead called the cops. Police then issued a public warning about these mysterious green pills.

Turns out, the green pills were nothing but sea salt tablets, from the internationally renowned environmental action group Greenpeace, which incidentally got its start here in Canada.

Greenpeace says it spread the green pills throughout the communities near the Pickering Nuclear Facility in an attempt to alert local residents about the dangers of nuclear power, and their campaign to shut it down.

This isn’t the first time the environmental group has used scare tactics to get its message across. They have used other such tactics, including protests where participants chant highly disturbing chants, while carrying just as disturbing signs and posters. They have chained themselves to trees to prevent clear cutting of forests, crashed boats into whaling ships to prevent the slaughter of whales, and who can forget the images of baby seals, bloody from the seal hunt?

I’m a proud environmentalist – while in university I minored in environmental studies – and whenever I can, I always promote the health and well being of our home, planet Earth.

However the use of scare tactics by groups like Greenpeace sends the wrong message.

Oh, there was a time, a long time ago, when scare tactics worked. Back in the 1960s during the peace movement – which eventually spurned on the environmental movement – scare tactics worked. Think about it, the peace movement was against the war in Vietnam, the development of atomic weapons, the American draft – all of these things are very violent in nature because they are connected to war. Images of war can be very frightening, from bloody battered corpses lying on the ground, to the big tornado-like dome of smoke left after an atomic bomb blast.

Fear counters fear – which is ironic because the peace movement was anything but peaceful, with some violent protests of its own. As more people realized peace was the answer, eventually world leaders caught on too. The war in Vietnam ended, as did the draft in the States, but atomic weapons became nuclear, and so began the Cold War.

The dangers of atomic – now nuclear – weapons led some in the peace movement to look into what happens to our planet. And the birth of the environmental movement came to be, sometime in the late 1960’s or even early 1970’s.
Naturally, those in the peace movement familiar with scare tactics would continue to use them – they had some success with this method of protest. As more academics, scientists, and others able to actually test and verify much of the theory grew, so too did the environmental movement.

Now, the environmental movement had hard core facts about what really was going on with our global home. But many still disagreed, claiming these facts weren’t justified, and were just another scare tactic.

As landfill sites started to over flow in many major city centres in the 1980’s, acid rain’s damage to statues, cars, and more importantly bridges crossed by thousands of people by foot and by car, we started to realize the ugly truth which the environmental movement had been fighting to prove. When the massive oil tanker, Exxon’s Valdese, crashed into rocks off of the Alaskan coast, images of oil-soaked birds, turtles, whales, fish and other wild life were beamed across the globe.

These images, along with many environmental concerns occurring in our own cities, woke us up to the need to be environmentally aware.

Big business even started getting in on the action, creating products which were sold as being “green” or “environmentally-friendly.”

Greenpeace, and other environmental groups became household names, often being sought out by the media as authorities on many environmental issues. Governments became more environmentally aware, creating recycling programs to reduce waste through the use of this new fangled thing called “the blue box.” The need for scare tactics was no more – we’re with you, we understand, we want to protect our environment.

So, why do environmental action groups like Greenpeace still resort to scare tactics, like the one they recently deployed in Toronto, with those green pills?

With social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, the way to get your messages out these days isn’t by fear, but by creating an open sense of community. Even U.S. President Barak Obama uses a Blackberry, and it wouldn’t surprise me if he had some highly guarded personal space on Facebook.

But perhaps the leaders of Greenpeace are so focused on the outside environment, they know little about the one inside? And that is a shame, because the way towards change is to know how to get your messages out – and these days, it’s all about technology, text messaging, blogs, webspheres – but not fear.

No comments:

Post a Comment