Recent reports of the Earth in the year 2040 describe a world of worsening food shortages and wildfires, and a mass die-off of coral reefs. This is a period of time well within the lifetime of much of the global population. In fact, the world that will exist in the future will not know anything of the lifestyle that we consume today.
In a capitalist society, everything is for sale to the highest bidder if there is a market. In recent years, the consumer has become the product. By mainly targeting children through advertisements through mass media such as tv, radio, and social media, the corporate world has learned to sell a lifestyle. Due to this change in culture and the rise of hyper consumerism, the future generations are taught to want products that they do not need, depleting resources that would otherwise be essential to the greater global community. And unlike other issues that permeate American society, the very real problem of changing global climate has been undersold and even cast doubt upon by the same mass media. But by using these same tactics that major companies and other interest groups sell their product, children can be sold the idea counterculture against overconsumption and climate change.
In order to understand the issue of climate change as a global issue, one must further acknowledge the sobering implications of its impact on the economy in the near future. It is imperative to study what global climate change is before studying its economic impact.
The scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, describe global climate change as a “set of changes to the weather patterns, winds, ocean, ice, snow and entire ecosystems”. Global climate change is a product of the human influence through the overuse of materials from the planet. This change is brought on by the abundance of greenhouse gasses, like CO2, Methane, and Nitrous Oxide in the atmosphere which trap heat given off by the transfer of energy. This leads to a rising global temperature, and adverse effects on the diverse ecosystems around the world. While global climate change has a damaging effect on ecosystems, it also affects different human communities around the world through its’ heavy economic impact.
Climate change produces a shift in the way the world works, which is also known as a shock. Studies show that with an average global increase of two degrees celsius, many agricultural economies will fail due to their inability to grow products. With the added drawback of overproduction, much of the soil used for growing crops will no longer be arable. Because many agricultural communities are based on temperate land, an increase of temperature means that certain crops will not grow without that optimal temperature. This has already begin to cause a huge problem for the world because much of the agriculture and food production has to move further north.
Communities that rely on farming for profits and resources will no longer have a viable option to sustain themselves. This shift in agriculture also hurts the rest of the world, because the supply of food will go down. The demand will stay the same, thus leaving the poor out of the equation because only the wealthy will be able to procure products essential to their way of life because of increasing prices. The loss of current agricultural cultivation and production will inevitably impact the economy of the entire world.
When there is a net loss of food and supply in the world, the net economic growth of the world will also stunt due to climate change. In a study conducted to learn how developed economies of the world will change in relation to global climate change, the researchers learned that it is correlated with a decrease in economic growth.
According to the researchers Ding Du, Xiao Bing Zhao and Ruihong Huang, there will be a 1.90% to 1.84% less annual growth in the United States and a 2.17% to 2.14% less growth in the European Union by the year 2050. They explain that this is due to the average global temperature rising above the ideal six degrees celsius, at which most of the production in the United States and the European Union takes place.
Everything in the world is interconnected, therefore everything in the ecosystem has a value: the air we breathe, the soil we farm, the plants we harvest, and the water we drink, and they all contribute to the world economy (Sunstein and Hsiung 20). According to Sunstein and Hsiung, the summed value for projected loss from climate change in the ecosystem was $58–144 billion, or 0.6– 1.4% of GDP, in annual value for the United States and $539–1,322 billion for the world. These numbers are derived from the total economic value of soil, crops, fishing, hunting, livestock breeding, and other environmental common goods. Because of such drastic losses to resources, the world will grow unable to support the economy and the lifestyle of billions of its inhabitants.
While the consequences of climate change has started to concern the general public, many do not understand it, and are quick to dismiss it. Because climate change is a slow process in which the greenhouse gases build up in the atmosphere, it takes a long time to see the visible impact of climate change. Mass media using its’ powers as a gatekeeper of information has not disseminated critical environmental data to the public, and instead chooses to target controversial topics that they know will easily earn them more views, which results in more capital for their network. There are very few public service announcements available to the public about the potential dangers of global climate change and ways to promote social action in the United States. Although this is true, one can examine the effects of climate change perceived by the public due to exposure to the information by studying other nations and their messages about climate change.
After the Kyoto Protocol of 2005, Japanese mass media articles started heavily focusing on the effects of international climate change. According to research done by Sampei, the words “global warming” had the highest response rate for the category of “most serious issue in the world”. This research indicated that this response rate increased correlative to amount of coverage of international events threatening the environment. However, a caveat to this research, was that the concern for global warming went down when there were other more short term immediate issues at hand. These results showed that an increase in media coverage of global warming had an immediate influence on public awareness of global warming issues, but this effect did not last for more than a month. The rotation of news cycles foregrounding different issues took primacy over the effects of global warming.
The rotation of the news cycles means that global climate change is in the spotlight for immediate public concern during times of international environmental crisis, or other global initiatives to combat the chilling effect of global climate change. When it raises public concern for the environment, the market also shifts to accommodate those interests. To appeal to the public perception of their product as being environmentally friendly, many companies are finding it easier to change how the public view their company instead of changing their product.
When an advertisement implies that a product or service will help the environment and in reality it will not help, or not help as much as the advertisement implies, it is greenwashed. Greenwashing allows for advertisements to mislead active consumers in their attempt to make environmentally conscious purchasing decisions, by spreading false environmental appearance. There is a disparity between what the world actually needs for survival and how much the economy needs to sustain itself. Some companies may mislead knowingly, but many are mislead themselves by choosing to believe that real change can be created through contemporary and economically viable green options. Even if something is not greenwashed, it’s necessary to consider that most products have a carbon footprint, and many different kinds of environmentally friendly qualities often do not offset this footprint.
Greenwashing is a marketing technique used in advertising, which for our purpose may be defined as the promotion of product or services. Companies use this technique as a way to expose their products to people and hence maximize their sales. If advertising can have a negative impact on the environment, then it can also have the potential to create a positive change within an environment. Social awareness campaigns sends messages to target groups of people. The call to action in this type of social advertising would then allow for changed behavior in the group.
Some social advertisements educate people about certain diseases or danger. Even people in the most remote areas are now aware of the many diseases that impact their particular region, and their potential solutions. This awareness has helped prevent thousands of deaths around the world. Diseases like Polio could never been controlled if the timings for polio drops weren’t advertised regularly. Social organizations and NGOs can use advertisement for promoting their campaigns. Much like these other campaigns similar tactics can be used to combat climate change in youth consumer culture.
In recent years, the target for one of the largest social awareness campaigns has been the issue of childhood obesity. Studying this awareness campaign helps to understand what other public service announcements may look like when sent out to the general public through the use of mass media. This campaign also seeks to inspire children to change their way of life and teach their guardians to do the same. In 2002, the Center for Disease Control launched a program called VERB, which used commercial marketing techniques in order to “sell” physical activity to children aged 9-13. The results from this campaign found that it had the “largest effect on behavior change” . Their strategy was to create a brand, “VERB: It’s what you do.” To increase the exposure of this brand, their campaign associated “with popular kids’ brands, athletes and celebrities, and activities and products that are cool, fun, and motivating” . Because this campaign used mass media as its medium for information, it reached a wide range of audience and had a significant impact on weight loss.
Due to the success of this campaign, another similar public service project was announced by Michelle Obama called the “Let’s Move!” campaign which sought to tackle the same issue by applying mass media. This campaign used thirteen print advertisements and six television public service announcement during their first year. All nineteen PSAs had a obesity reduction message that was aligned with their campaign goals. Fourteen PSAs urged audiences to increase physical activity while ten PSAs encouraged viewers to eat more fruits and vegetables. Having consistency in its messages, logos and themes, it creates a culture for the campaign that is constant and easy to recognize. The nineteen PSAs can be grouped into different sets of ad campaigns, but all the PSAs contain the same underlying message and theme: To stay active and eat healthy. A content analysis report indicated that health messages were communicated through a consistency of the campaign theme, by specifically targeting an audience and showing the requested behaviors to change rather just than telling about their behaviors. Researchers also found that all PSAs in the obesity campaign target a specific audience: parents and kids. Some appeals show children are shown doing fun and exciting activities with their friends. The messengers were children from diverse backgrounds and, therefore, have the potential to appeal across a broad audience, notably other children. The PSA also targeted the parents of these kids by showing what moms are doing to keep their kids healthy, and instructing moms how to communicate with their kids to keep them eating healthy and staying active.
This “Let’s Move!” campaign was seen as a total success, as it followed a consistent road map to explain their message to their audience, which was parents and kids of diverse economic and social backgrounds. A campaign is deemed “effective” when it offers a reasonable cost/benefit payback, or return on investment and when it accomplish or its objective, in terms of public action. For example, the Advertising Council claims that its “Take a Bite Out of Crime” campaign has generated $128 million in media exposure. A PSA is also labeled “effective” by measuring public reaction to the call to action. A teen alcoholism PSA campaign drew more than 76,000 calls to an 800 number which provided the caller more information on local referral centers. Another study conducted on those who called the “hope” line reported 62 percent of callers took further action, including confronting a problem drinker. Because of this mass response, more than 30,000 of the callers were referred to local treatment centers or to state substance abuse agencies.
Public service announcements and social awareness campaign like these are effective because they use a variety of different tactics in order to influence the decision made by the target audience. To understand what the most effective way to mobilize a specific group of people, one might turn to Albert Bandura’s social learning theory. This theory, which is drawn from social cognitive theory, states that individuals learn from observing the actions of others. According to Bandura, individuals can learn through observing actions of others in three ways: when a person demonstrates the desired behavior, when a person verbally instructs them how to make the desired behavior change, and when they create a fictional character who demonstrates the desired behavior in the media.
These actions are shown through how-to examples and verbal reinforcement of the message. In some of the Let’s Move! PSAs, they showed the audience activities that are easy to imitate and provide specific how-to information so that target audiences are instructed with no guesswork involved. TV PSAs verbally reinforce the how-to messages shown. In the same childhood obesity problem, Michelle Obama congratulates both kids on a competition about how to build a healthy sandwich, giving verbal reinforcement and guidance. Because of a verbal support, it would possibly increase the likelihood that the requested behavior change will be made by the target audience.
Much like the health campaign set to target mainly adults and their caretakers, this same tactic can be used to combat global climate change. Public Service Announcement campaigns such as these ones are long term and may not see an immediate effect, but due to their continued impact on the subconscious thoughts of the public through media consumption.
This social learning theory has been used as a model by campaigners who design public service announcements. Mcguire, a communications expert described how a person’s structure and motivation would affect how that person responds to a persuasive message. To make it more simple, an input-output matrix was made to understand how the input variables affected the output response. The input would be variables such as the person’s “age, gender, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, credibility, and attractiveness”. It also takes into account the factors of the information being relayed itself such as delivery style, length, repetition, speed of speech, and vividness. It also takes into account what medium is being used to relay the message like television, radio, newspaper, or magazine. It also targets behaviors at which the message is directed towards, which is called destination factors. To get the best response, the output factors would consider twelve consecutive response which would determine if the message was designed correctly. This means that the public must have contact with the message and, having been exposed to it, must pay attention to it, like it, understand and learn from its content, agree with it, store the information and be able to retrieve it later, and make decisions based on it. The person then must act from that decision, get reinforced for such actions, and thus changing their behaviour with permanently inspired by the message.
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