Can Climate Silence Be Ended By A Sticky Meme?

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Memes are likened to viruses that arise, spread, and eventually die.  Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by leonelcunha via Flickr.

Memes are likened to viruses that arise, spread, and eventually die. Photo Credit: Some rights reserved by leonelcunha via Flickr.

Climate change is at best a touchy topic. It has been linked to presidential elections, promoted as a moral issue, and analyzed for its polarizing effect on public opinion.

Yet many still observe a lack of open discussion of climate change in crucial channels and media. During the recently concluded presidential elections in the US, many criticized what was perceived as ‘climate silence‘, an alarming absence of climate change as a relevant and national issue in the candidates’ debates and discussions. Another controversy arose to public awareness when the Wikipedia page on Hurricane Sandy became an unlikely battlefield. A war fought between those who believe the extreme weather event was exacerbated by and connected to climate change -and those who didn’t and did everything in their power to omit any mention of the phrase ‘climate change’ from the articles.

If it’s hard to get people to talk about climate change, it’s harder to get some world leaders take action about it. Again, criticisms arose in the wake of the recently concluded United Nations’ climate conference in Doha, Qatar. The world was witness to failed talks, tearful appeals for real action, and conference crashers denouncing climate change as a mistake in scientific calculations.

All these and more has prompted some to increasingly stronger expressions of promoting climate change awareness. From protests to political ads, many have tried to get the word out.

Joe Brewer and Balazs Lazlo Karafiath, founders of the San Francisco based DarwinSF company, thinks they are on the track of a better way to spread the message: using memes.

Memes are defined as ideas, behaviors or certain styles that spread from person to person within a culture. New York Times Green reports that Brewer and Karafiath intend to calculate the potential of a certain climate change meme to impact the way the world thinks about this global challenge. Perhaps the way to approach this touchy topic is with a sticky meme.

Since the Internet is the most popular and widespread choice of media of the present generation for spreading information and communication, Brewer and Karafiath  focused on producing a meme map based on the Internet. They select and gather bite size mentions of climate change from social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter along with other sources and identify ones with meme potential. Those which have ideas contrary to the basic message they want to spread are rejected. Using techniques from epidemiology, systems theory, and cognitive science among others together with statistical analysis and coding, Brewer and Karafiath  aim to build the Climate Meme Project.

Climate change memes with strong sticking potential are identified and rated. Brewer and Karafiath  plan to use these to promote awareness and action on climate change through a network of foundations and NGOs. The pair also hope to be able to identify and produce various versions of a chosen meme about climate change and taking care of the planet.

Brewer and Karafiath  have put up a Facebook page inviting people to give suggestions of climate change memes. According to Mr. Brewer, it is only what people think that constrains particular world views. To change what people believe (or think) is to change the realm of possibility, allowing people to use pathways to solutions of problems like climate change.


What do you think of promoting climate change through memes? Do you have a great climate change meme to share? Let us know in The Environmental Blog Forum.


Estel M.
About Estel M. (339 Posts)

Estel Grace Masangkay is a creative writer who enjoys outdoor trips and nature activities. She is passionate about sustainability and environment conservation. Follow Me @Em23me.

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