Why would the Aquarium care? See the impact of hurricane 11 years ago. How are we involved? Mostly through our public conversations…
Facilitator: “Seventy percent of our visitors agree that the most important environmental issue confronting the world is climate change (NWZAA, 2009). We know that our visitors are concerned about climate change and believe human actions are directly responsible for it.”
75% of visitors believe zoos & aquariums should make recommendations for how the public can protect the environment. (CLiZEN 2012)
The large majority of Marylanders say they believe that climate change is happening – 86% – with half of respondents saying that they are very or extremely sure. This number is striking considering that a national poll asking the same question during the same period found that only 63% of Americans say that global warming is happening.
Enter Strategic Framing…
A set of recommended elements, that when used together allow us to strategically navigate our way towards the biggest impact.
Now let’s play a game to see what I mean.
Tapping game – have one volunteer pick a well known song (from list below) and tap it out for another volunteer to guess. Repeat twice with different songs.
How often was the volunteer correct? What was the volunteer doing in their head (trying to fit it to something they already know)?
Research shows that the tapper assumes that it is much easier than it actually is. Interpreters fall into the same traps sometimes, they forget that a lot of how the message is received depends on what is already in the visitors heads.
This has implications for our work in that knowing how someone might process our story we can craft the story of climate change to be productive and working towards solutions.
Optional songs: Happy Birthday Twinkle Twinkle Little Star The National Anthem Three Blind Mice We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Among Americans, there are trends in the way that people think and we can cue positive, productive ideas when we know these trends! These trends are known as ‘Cultural Models’
Cultural models are built over time through repeated interactions with people, institutions, and media.
Think of the brain like a field of tall grass. If you walk through that field once, the grass pops right back up and the field doesn’t change. If you walk through the field the same way again and again, a path is created. The same things happens in our brains with repeated exposures to ideas. That’s how learning happens. Culture is learned.
New experiences are interpreted through old schemas. Once a path is there, you’re likely to go down the established path rather than walking off the path.
As interpreters, our messages are processed in the visitors heads through different familiar and shared cultural models:
Each with its own set of productive and unproductive messages. Our research team mapped out these common themes and tested communication tools to help us form our messages to be positive and impactful.
Here is an example of an ocean cultural model at work – an interpreter is talking to a visitor, and depending on what else the interpreter has said the visitor may have either one of these thoughts (positive or negative). Through working in a full study circle, educators learn how to navigate their messaging to prompt positive conversations.
Strategic Framing is a set of communication tools that when used together tell a clear, concise message that can answer these questions: What is the problem? Why should we care? Who is responsible? What are the solutions?
In the year long NNOCCI training we go over many elements in detail and work with you to put them together. Today we are only going to briefly touch on 4 elements that we feel are a good place to start and can impact your own communications when you leave here.
Why would we want to avoid a crisis tone?
Discuss with the group. Reflect on the tone heard in the two video examples.
Here are a few points to consider:
Crisis evokes fear and ‘fight or flight’ whereas climate change requires ongoing sustained effort. Our work is a marathon, not a sprint. Crisis can cause people to think, “Oh, this is one more problem I don’t have time for” or It’s too big for me. Why bother? They’ve been calling it a crisis for 25 years, but my life is still okay.
The tone we recommend is neutral or “reasonable”
The public has been shown to have crisis fatigue. There will be a bump in interest and calls for action…. Then things return to baseline.
Its also a matter of scale for the threat and risk.
Every frame element has a specific job to do - each is a choice that helps address a particular communication challenge.
Values help establish why we should care.
Strategic framers understand ‘Values’ to be a broad category of cherished ideals - that is, we’re not talking about just religious values, or moral values. They include civic values, and more generally, the things that we believe as a culture are ideals to live up to. Values include concepts like Pragmatism: if we have a problem and know the solution, we should fix it! This isn’t a Value you would find in a sacred text, but it’s a strongly held American value.
Why do we need to think about how to appeal to Values in our climate change communications? If we think about framing as a set of choices we make about what to say and how to say it, one thing that needs to be said is why the issue matters. Values help to establish why something matters - they make a claim about what’s at stake.
Here are the 4 most productive values to use to set the stage for a productive communication. We will go over each of these in more detail. Interconnectedness Interdependence: that is, mutual dependence, not one-way Each part is essential: makes the difference between functioning systems and collapsed systems
Responsible Management Some policies make greater use of our collective ability to make wise choices about our resources Responsible Management includes looking ahead to handle problems before they get worse Responsible Management includes taking advantage of Solutions that already exist
Stewardship The ecosystems are irreplaceable treasures The current generation has been entrusted to protect and preserve for future generations
Innovation Some policies make greater use of our collective ability to be clever, inventive, and resourceful Ingenuity allows us to outsmart challenges and obstacles Inventing and replicating effective policies and programs leads to long-term improvements
Climate change is complex and abstract. Our team of social scientists have developed tested and scientifically accurate metaphors that are proven to help people understand the mechanisms of climate change. When inserted into our story they link the causes, impacts and motivate productive thinking on solutions. AND we want to accomplish this in 60 seconds or less…
Here’s the checklist from the worksheet Checklist for using Heat Trapping Blanket: Fossil fuels like gas, oil, and coal are the major underlying cause. (Don’t start the cause-and-effect chain with ‘humans’ or ‘carbon dioxide.’ Always frame the problem in terms that lead clearly to a reasonable, easy-to-think Solution.) The blanket is made of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide. The build-up is creating a blanket effect. (Don’t mix metaphors by substituting the terms ‘greenhouse gas’ or ‘carbon pollution,’ or by pulling in other comparisons on the fly.) Always describe an impact of climate change, so that you don’t leave the impression that the climate/ocean being a little bit warmer is a good thing. Use a matter-of-fact tone, so you don’t leave the impression that this is a big, scary, depressing crisis that can’t be solved. Be concise: Explain Heat Trapping Blanket in 60 seconds or less.
Since our charge as climate interpreters is to help the public see themselves as part of a larger community working together to support local and regional initiatives to address climate change.... how do we get there with framing elements?
Most of the solutions to climate change that are dominating the airwaves are individual actions. While every drop counts, we want to use our opportunity to connect people to larger scale solutions at work. We want to connect people to each other to promote larger system level change – community level change.
It’s about changing their identity in this story from a consumer (buy reusable water bottles) to that of a citizen (organize community plastic bag bans)
• Where Do Solutions Fit in the Climate Story?: Let’s watch this short video from the Field Museum in Chicago.
Connect the Community to Values – We want to associate values with our communities. Emphasize not just that "Americans are problem-solvers," but "our local communities are problem solvers." Share with your visitors that people across America are working in their communities together. This is an issue that is solvable and approachable at a local, regional, and national level. Question to group: How does this video associate Chicagoans with values? Emphasize the role of your home institution as a part of a larger community effort to address climate change. Ex. “Our aquarium and many other groups in _________ (name city or region) are working together to responsibly solve this problem.”
Including solutions is not just something you tack on to the end. They need to be connected to the problem and to the animal for people to consider how their participation can be impactful.
Example “We are working together as a community to manage energy use more responsibly and reduce carbon emissions. Our new hybrid electric bus fleet in Chicago reduces carbon emissions by 40%. Less carbon in the atmosphere allows us to stabilize increasing temperatures and restore balance to ecosystems in places like the Great Lakes.”
Clean water conference (avoid crisis tone)
In 2003, the storm surge that followed Tropical Storm Isabel swamped
Baltimore's Inner Harbor and flooded the National Aquarium. Since then, the
aquarium has updated its emergency plans.
If we train enough voices in
techniques we think we can
change the national discourse
around climate change to be
productive, creative and
Strategic Framing is…
A research based approach that is proven to:
– help the public understand the
mechanisms of climate change
–show the public how they can be
‘heroes’ of the climate change story
–leave the visitor and the interpreter with
a sense of hope
Where do we start?
Our researchers have identified
several shared cultural models when
the topics of ocean and climate
change were brought up.
Each cultural model comes with positive and
The 4 elements of Strategic Framing:
• Tone: reasonable and not crisis
• Values: the ‘why should I care’
• Explanatory Metaphors: making an
abstract idea concrete and sticky
• Community Level Solutions:
Solutions that match the scale of
the problem, activates the ‘we’
Perceived Threat (large scale) and
Perceived Risk (personal scale)
Values orient a communication
• Values help establish why an issue
matters; what is at stake.
• Framers understand Values as a broad
category of cherished cultural ideals
• Because Values orient understanding of
an issue, it’s important to choose Values
that lead to the type of thinking that’s
‘Mutual Dependence’ David R.
Johnson, Iowa artist
Values: the ‘why should I care’
• Make an abstract idea concrete and
• Help people understand the
mechanisms at work
• When linked to causes and impacts
they motivate productive
consideration of multiple solutions
The Heat Trapping Blanket
Quite simply, when we burn fossil fuels like
coal and gas, we pump more and more carbon
dioxide into the atmosphere, and this build-up
creates a blanket effect, trapping in heat
around the world. If nothing is done to halt
this process, the planet we leave our children
will be hotter, with more violent weather,
fewer species, and disrupted systems.