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Both Sides Do It

By Keith Kloor
May 2, 2009 3:59 PMNov 19, 2019 9:49 PM


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So is this what it comes down to in environmental debates, who is more successful at manipulating the public? As the N.Y. Times reports,

EcoAmerica has been conducting research for the last several years to find new ways to frame environmental issues and so build public support for climate change legislation and other initiatives.

Among the firm's recommendations to members of congress and climate advocates: instead of cap and trade, use the term "cap and cash back" or "pollution reduction refund." As the Times' reporter John Broder notes, this

directly parallels marketing studies conducted by oil companies, utilities and coal mining concerns that are trying to "green" their images with consumers and sway public policy.

Yes, there's nothing new about framing. It's long been an art form in political campaigns. But do activists really believe a better catchphrase will move the ball on global warming? Make Americans take environmental issues more seriously? Robert Brulle, an expert on environmental communications, tells Broder that the advertising tactic is cynical and ineffective:

The right uses it, the left uses it, but it doesn't engage people in a face-to-face manner and that's the only way to achieve real, lasting social change.

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