September 19, 2007

Climate Change and the Spread of Astroturf

Climate change, whatever its causes, is increasing the spread of astroturf.*

For example, I get an email offering an opportunity to swap links with a blog on climate change and governmental responses thereto. The blog looked so slick that it made me suspicious.

What a surprise. The chief blogger, Kevin Grandia, is a former "provincial government event coordinator" and now on the staff of a big Vancouver, BC, public-relations firm, James Hoggan & Associates.

He has involved himself in public disputes over climate science. Some of his statements seem to be mainly about bashing Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. Here in the US, of course, we know that climate change is the personal fault of George W. Bush. In Canada, however, it's all Harper's fault.

We are supposed to believe that the firm's "blog initiative" is done from the goodness of its corporate heart, but, having worked in that field, I really doubt it. Some client has to be paying the bills -- or this is all connected with B.C. electoral politics -- or both. Apparently the firm does work for the David Suzuki Foundation, so there is one clue.

What cracks me up is their claim to be "Clearing the P.R. pollution that clouds climate science" when, I suspect, they are generating their fair share of it. It's a case of do as we say, not as we do, or "deception is OK, because we're the good guys."

It all feels like astroturf to me.

As Colorado Central publisher Ed Quillen wrote, Some people act as though it's a religious issue and ask "Do you believe in Global Warming?" with the same fervor as others ask "Do you believe in God?" or "Do you believe in UFOs? . . . .

Whether we're actually in the midst of Global Warming or Global Cooling or Global Stasis, we know what we ought to do. We should be embracing healthier actions and habits so that we can enjoy living in a healthier society, with a healthier economy and healthier lives.

The global warming activists urge us to walk more and drive less, to drive slower on highways, to use energy efficient light bulbs, and unplug appliances when they're not being used. They want us to turn off lights when we leave a room, and use passive solar techniques and curtains and caulk to save on home heating, and keep our cars well-tuned and our tires properly inflated. In essence, they want us to live a little more frugally.

And you certainly don't have to "believe" in global warming to see the advantages in wasting less and spending less; or in developing cleaner technologies and establishing energy sources which don't require foreign oil; or in old saws like "Waste not, want not."

But that sort of frugality would not heat up political campaigns and put money into the bank accounts of slick PR firms.

*Astroturf is artificial grass, so it has developed a secondary meaning of "bogus grassroots political organization."

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