21 May 2007

Global Climate Change: More is the New Less

Seth Godin has a post this morning about the marketing behind global warming and reducing carbon emissions. We've had a dialogue on the subject before (see Global Warming & Other Misnomers...) and our opinion hasn't wavered.

"'Fight global warming' is a fine slogan," Seth writes. "Except it's meaningless. That's like dieters everywhere shouting, 'eat less' while they stand in line to get bleu cheese dressing from the salad bar."

I tend to agree with Seth on the point that we will always struggle if we try to convince Americans (and those who desire an American lifestyle) to do with less ("Reduce, Reuse, Recycle") or to limit themsleves. We just don't have such restraint. And, as I've argued before here, it's not about limiting growth, but encouraging a better kind of growth.

Seth uses as an example car dealerships, which list their wares according to decreasing horsepower. Or restaurants that offer increasingly huge portions for the expanding waistlines of Americans. (How about the practice of offering free dessert for every kids meal. No free lunch? Maybe not, but there's free ice cream!)

We crave more. That's why hotels are in competition now to see who can offer you the most free food: Hot all-you-can-eat breakfasts, free cookies with check-in, how about "lunch on us?" Even fast food chicken chain Chik-fil-a doesn't feature chickens telling you to eat less beef; they have cows exhorting you to "Eat More Chicken!"

So, if Americans crave more and environmentalists continue to ask us to want less and use less, what's the disconnect there? Everyone knows how hard it is to get people to change their lifestyle. How do we expect to be successful getting the herd to reduce its carbon footprint when its been supersized?

Better, Seth argues, to make it about doing MORE. "Let's figure out how to turn this into a battle to do more, not less," he writes, suggesting we "require all new cars to have, right next to the speedometer, a mileage meter. And put the same number on an LCD display on the rear bumper. Once there's an arms race to see who can have the highest number, we're on the right track."

Let's make this a campaign about more and maybe we'll get somewhere.

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