What Renaissance Literary Theory Tells Us about Climate Communication
As they develop stories meant to inspire the public to engage with climate change and resist the social forces preventing us from decarbonizing, climate advocates often turn to sociological research to shape their narrative models. I wonder whether... Renaissance literary criticism, in particular, might be especially relevant here, because... Taking a historical leap... we can envision climate campaigns that activate people’s tribal identifications to give them deeply-felt reasons, and role models, for climate heroism...
Let’s think for a moment about the public response to the Wonder Woman film of earlier this year.
I realize that at this point it’s not entirely clear what this means for climate communication. Am I recommending that environmental NGO’s run ads on Facebook showing women who look like Wonder Woman putting solar panels on their roofs? Well, not exactly — or at least not only.
The goal is to visually and artfully convey what those effects would feel like in the bodies of the people represented in the campaign. Yes, the idea is to scare people. The goal is to enact vivid scenarios that, as Sidney puts it, “strike, pierce, and possess the sight of our souls.”Of course, as social-science research tells us, we shouldn’t just scare people and then leave them hanging...
Rather, we should scare people with the truth, and then show them what to do — ... As Sidney himself insists, paraphrasing Machiavelli: “the only means of avoiding contempt are love and fear.” We need stories that inspire these emotions as fuel for the climate heroism of our ideal selves.
Wasn't it Sidney who warned credulity is the only disadvantage of an honest heart ?