The idea of "clicktivism" has been around for a while now, but recently I've been seeing a whole other level of this digital phenomenon in the form of what I like to call "pay-per-care marketing."
While forms of pay-per-care marketing have been around a while, it has really ramped up since Twitter and Facebook both went public. Now under the pressure of quarterly performance reports to shareholders, the two social media giants have turned their networks into what experts call a "pay-to-play" model where the companies with the deepest pockets can buy all the "likes" and followers they can afford.
With pay-per-care, companies can buy large volumes of "likes" and followers and quickly manufacture the appearance of a worldwide outpouring of support for the product or idea they are trying to sell. Companies pay to make it look like people care.
Peabody recently announced in a press release that "approximately a half-million citizens from 48 countries have urged G20 member nations to place greater focus on advancing policies to alleviate energy policy (sic) ..."
Pretty sure they meant to say "alleviate energy poverty,” not “policy.” But typos aside, the Peabody release goes on to explain that this spontaneous outpouring of support for their campaign to ramp up dirty coal power in developing nations "is based on a digital 'Lights on Project' movement sponsored by Peabody's Advanced Energy for Life campaign."
So let’s take a quick look at Peabody’s Advanced Energy for Life Facebook page to get to the bottom of this eyebrow-raising “half-million” number. What you’ll find is a perfect example of pay-per-care marketing in action. You’ll see that, yes, there are close to half a million “likes” for the Advanced Energy for Life page.
Then scratch the surface and you will see that the supposed support is a mile wide, but only an inch thick, with almost zero engagement. In some cases, the only engagement on their posts is spam. Like this post. The only comment is (according to Bing's translation), "Any Nair." Unless I am missing some strange connection between coal and hair removal products, this is definitely spam. Of course it could be argued that with any Facebook page as big as this one, there is going to be some spam. Fair enough.
So how about the real comments? Those that are not spam? A quick look at those shows many of the people who say they "like" Peabody's campaign, in fact don't like it all. Jessica Miller writes, "this page is a marketing ploy paid for by Peabody Energy." Lily Dempster points out that, "energy sources like solar are localised (sic), cheaper, faster and don't bring the respiratory disease and early deaths caused by coal pollution."
Peabody’s Facebook settings force anyone who wants to comment on the page to “Like” it, so Jessica and Lily actually had to endure the embarrassment of broadcasting to all their friends and followers that they liked "Advanced Energy for Life” in order to make their true feelings heard on Peabody’s Facebook page. Clearly, Jessica and Lily don’t “Like” Peabody’s campaign, but their clicks get tallied and they are being counted among the “half-million citizens from 48 countries [who] have urged G20 member nations to place greater focus on advancing policies to alleviate energy policy (sic).”
I’d guess that Jessica and Lily do want to alleviate energy poverty, but certainly not with the archaic, coal-dependent policies that Peabody is promoting. Keep clicking around because there are plenty more instances of coal critics “liking” Peabody’s page, just to access the platform to criticize the company and its marketing. I especially like the comments elicited in the post where Peabody quotes Mahatma Gandhi. This is all classic pay-per-care. Now to be clear, the issue of energy poverty is a real one, and it is not new.
While we here in North America enjoy stable energy sources and take for granted things like lights at night to read by, much of the world would consider this a luxury. However, the idea that coal—a fossil fuel that is as much to blame for climate change, as it is for heightened rates of respiratory disease and mercury contamination—is the answer to energy poverty is absurd.
Coincidentally, Peabody's energy poverty campaign is coming at a time when the company is not faring too well in the financial markets. The company was recently dropped from the S&P 500 Stock index, a sure sign that its value in the eyes of investors is falling. And a look at the five-year history of Peabody's stock price paints a grim picture of this falling star.
Big coal is in a tough spot at the moment and it is no wonder they are trying to soften their image with this pay-per-care campaign. The problem is that if the Advanced Energy for Life campaign is successful, coal-as-energy might be thrown a lifeline that could drown us all.
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By Stuart Braun
"These are not just wildfires, they are climate fires," Jay Inslee, Governor of Washington State, said as he stood amid the charred remains of the town of Malden west of Seattle earlier this month. "This is not an act of God," he added. "This has happened because we have changed the climate of the state of Washington in dramatic ways."
'These Aren't Wildfires'<p>Sam Ricketts, who led climate policy and strategy for Governor Jay Inslee's 2020 presidential campaign, tweeted on September 11 that "These aren't wildfires. These are #climatefires, driven by fossil fuel pollution."</p><p>"The rate and the strength and the devastation wrought by these disasters are fueled by climate change," Ricketts told DW of fires that have burnt well over 5 million acres across California, Oregon, Washington State, and into neighboring Idaho. </p><p>In a two-day period in early September, Ricketts notes that more of Washington State burned than in almost any entire fire season until now, apart from 2015. </p><p>California, meanwhile, was a tinderbox after its hottest summer on record, with temperatures in Death Valley reaching nearly 130 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the U.S. National Weather Service. It has been reported as the hottest temperature ever measured on Earth.</p>
<div id="29ad9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8346fe7350e1371d400097cd48bf45a2"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1306969603180879872" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Drought-parched wetlands in South America have been burning for weeks. https://t.co/pjAKdFcKPg #Pantanal https://t.co/ImN2C5vwcp</div> — NASA Earth (@NASA Earth)<a href="https://twitter.com/NASAEarth/statuses/1306969603180879872">1600440810.0</a></blockquote></div><p>As evidenced by Australia's apocalyptic Black Summer of 2019-2020, fires are burning bigger and for longer, with new records set year-on-year. Right now, Brazil's vast and highly biodiverse Pantanal wetlands are suffering from catastrophic fires.</p>
#climatefires Started in Australia<p>Governor Inslee this month invoked the phrase climate fires for arguably the first time in the U.S., according to Ricketts.</p><p>But the term was also used as fires burnt out of control in Australia in late 2019. In the face of a 2000km (more than 1,200 miles) fire front, and government officials and media who <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/trump-climate-change-denial-emissions-environment-germany-fake-heartland-seibt/a-52688933" target="_blank">played down the link to climate change</a>, Greens Party Senator Sarah Hanson-Young and a friend decided that reference to bushfires was inadequate. </p><p>"We both just said, we've got to start calling them climate fires, that's what they are," the Australian Senator told DW.</p><p>Hanson-Young says scientists have been warning for decades that these would be the effects of global heating. "We've been told these kinds of extreme weather events and destruction is what climate change would look like, and it's right here on our doorstep," she said from her home state of South Australia — where by early September fire warnings had already been issued.</p><p>"Calling them climate fires was making it absolutely crystal clear. It is essential that there's no ambiguity," she said </p><p>Having deliberately invoked the term, Hanson-Young soon started to push it on social media via a #climatefires hashtag. </p>
How to Talk About the Urgency of Global Heating<p>The need to use more explicit language when talking about extreme weather events linked to climate change is part of a broader push to express the urgency of global heating. In 2019, activist Greta Thunberg tweeted that the term "climate change" did not reflect the seriousness of the situation. </p><p>"Can we all now please stop saying 'climate change' and instead call it what it is: climate breakdown, climate crisis, climate emergency, ecological breakdown, ecological crisis and ecological emergency?" she wrote. </p><p>"Climate change has for a long time been talked about as something that is a danger in the future," said Hansen-Young. "But the consequences are already here. When people hear the word crisis, they understand that something has to happen, that action has to be taken."</p><p><span></span>Some terms are now used in public policy, with state and national governments, and indeed the EU Parliament, declaring an official climate emergency in the last year. </p>
Words That Reflect the Science<p>But while the West Coast governors all fervently link the fires to an unfolding climate crisis, U.S. President Donald Trump continues to avoid any reference to climate. In a briefing about the fires, he responded to overtures by Wade Crowfoot, California's Natural Resources Secretary, to work with the states on the climate crisis by stating: "It'll start getting cooler. You just watch." Crowfoot replied by saying that scientists disagreed. Trump rejoined with "I don't think science knows, actually." </p><p>It was reminiscent of the anti-science approach to the coronavirus pandemic within the Trump administration, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/donald-trump-admits-playing-down-coronavirus-risks/a-54874350" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">at least publicly</a>. Fossil fuel companies are also benefiting from his disavowal of climate science, with the Trump administration having <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/opinion-trumps-paris-climate-accord-exit-isnt-really-a-problem/a-51124958" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pulled out of the Paris Agreement</a> and reopened fossil fuel infrastructure like the Keystone XL pipeline. </p><p>But the science community has responded, with Scientific American magazine endorsing Trump's Democratic presidential challenger Joe Biden, the first presidential endorsement in its 175-year history. </p><p>Hanson-Young says the use of explicit language like climate fires has also been important in Australia due to the climate denialism of politicians and the press, especially in publications owned by Rupert Murdoch. As fires burnt out much of Australia's southeast coast, they were commonly blamed on arson — a tactic also recently used in the U.S.</p>
Climate Rhetoric Could Help Decide Election<p>The language of climate has begun to influence the U.S. presidential election campaign, with Democratic nominee Joe Biden labelling President Trump a "climate arsonist."</p><p>Biden is touting a robust climate plan that includes a 2050 zero emissions target and a return to the Paris Agreement. Though lacking the ambition of The New Green Deal, it has been front and center of his policy platform in recent days, at a time when five hurricanes are battering the U.S. Gulf Coast while smoke blanketing the West Coast spreads all the way to the East. </p><p>People are experiencing the climate crisis in a visceral way and almost universally relate to the language of an emergency, says Ricketts. "They know something is wrong."</p>
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World's Richest One Percent Are Producing More Than Double the Carbon Emissions as the Bottom 50 Percent
A new report from Oxfam found that the wealthiest one percent of the world produced a carbon footprint that was more than double that of the bottom 50 percent of the world, The Guardian reported. The study examined 25 years of carbon dioxide emissions and wealth inequality from 1990 to 2015.
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By Jessica Corbett
This story was originally published on Common Dreams on September 19, 2020.
Some advocates kicked off next week's Climate Week NYC early Saturday by repurposing the Metronome, a famous art installation in Union Square that used to display the time of day, as a massive "Climate Clock" in an effort to pressure governments worldwide to take swift, bold action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and rein in human-caused global heating.
<div id="0bde7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="002ce26d8d0c627f76d752e14d234d6e"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1307397838884741121" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">LIVE: #ClimateClock about to go live at Union square replacing the atronomical clock, with a carbon countdown!… https://t.co/5OzxwUwWDf</div> — Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖) (@Greg Schwedock🌹(⧖))<a href="https://twitter.com/GregSchwedock/statuses/1307397838884741121">1600542909.0</a></blockquote></div><p>A mobile climate clock that Swedish youth activist Greta Thunberg "now carries with her, as well as the larger Climate Clock project, was assembled by a team of artists, makers, scientists, and activists based in New York, and is part of the Beautiful Trouble community of projects," according to <a href="https://climateclock.world/" target="_blank">Climateclock.world</a>, which details the science behind the numbers displayed and how to install clocks in other cities.</p>
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The passing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg means the nation's highest court has lost a staunch advocate for women's rights and civil rights. Ginsburg was a tireless worker, who continued to serve on the bench through multiple bouts of cancer. She also leaves behind a complicated environmental legacy, as Environment and Energy News (E&E News) reported.
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