I’m Going To Slip Gently Into Your Infobubble

bubble pokeMuch of this site will be given over to my brilliant (read: not brilliant) ideas regarding how to raise awareness about the urgency of the climate change threat.  Here’s the first one.  First some background:

There are two things that any Climateer worth her carbon should do:

  1. Persuade skeptics and fence-sitters that climate change is a real, urgent problem, and that they should pay attention to it.
  2. Persuade believers to get off their duffs and join the effort to fix it.

Today’s idea is designed to accomplish the first task.

The difficulty of the task lies in finding a way to put climate change in front of people who aren’t looking for it.  This is hard because, especially now, we have great power over the information coming to us.  The information economy has gotten us all stuck inside of self-reinforcing infobubbles.

Jumping into someone’s infobubble without permission is intrusive, and requires delicacy.  If you stand on a street-corner, screaming passages from “An Inconvenient Truth” at passersby, you’ll fail.   Most of us would take even the Guy-Who-Screams-Leviticus over the Guy-Who-Screams-Gore.

You’ve got to slip gently into the infobubble.

Here’s my new idea about one way to do it:

Bars and coffee shops all over the US, in every city, hold weekly trivia-nights.  Weekly trivia-nights I say.  The attendees aren’t thinking about climate change; they come for a good time.  Nobody gets offended at the trivia presented at these events, because it’s incidental.   The idea is to persuade trivia-night organizers to include Climate Change trivia.

Here’s what you do:  You go to the trivia-night organizer and tell her that as a public service, you wonder if it wouldn’t be a good idea to hold a trivia-night with a Climate Change theme.

If she says no, ask if she’s willing to incorporate just a few Climate Change questions.  If she still says no, don’t sweat it.  Move on to the next place.  There are a lot of bars.

When you approach the organizer, you should do so with carefully constructed Climate Change trivia questions already in hand, in the right format, to show you mean business and that the organizer won’t have to do any extra work.

Also, request that there be no special announcement about the event beforehand.   If people know beforehand that there will be a special theme, the audience might self-select.

Ok, what should the trivia questions be?  I’m working up a set (and would love help if you, beautiful reader, want to suggest questions), and I have a guiding principle: the questions must be factual.   The more factual they are, the less offensive they’ll be to skeptics, and the more credible you’ll be.  Plus, duh, trivia is about facts.

Caveat: I don’t know how brilliant my idea is because I haven’t acted on it.  But I will, and I’ll post on how it goes.  It’ll either confirm my cleverness or it’ll be a big fat fail that I can milk for yuks.   Works for me either way.

If successful, I’ll recruit others to try it.  Since this blog is new and my readership puny, I need help.  Please share this post to help me find people interested in trying the idea out.  If you are, contact me here.

-From the Sea

Posted January 01, 2011 in Smashing Ideas | 10 Comments on I’m Going To Slip Gently Into Your Infobubble


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  1. sandcanyongal says:

    Hi. You asked for a trivia question, here is one that can be referred to from the article I sent you on grist.org entitled A Scientist, his work, and a climate reckoning.
    url: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/22/science/earth/22carbon.html?ref=earth

    Q: The greatest question in climate science is: What will that do to the temperature of the earth?

    A: Scientists have long known that carbon dioxide traps heat at the surface of the planet. They cite growing evidence that the inexorable rise of the gas is altering the climate in ways that threaten human welfare.

    Fossil fuel emissions, they say, are like a runaway train, hurtling the world’s citizens toward a stone wall — a carbon dioxide level that, over time, will cause profound changes.

    The risks include melting ice sheets, rising seas, more droughts and heat waves, more flash floods, worse storms, extinction of many plants and animals, depletion of sea life and — perhaps most important — difficulty in producing an adequate supply of food. Many of these changes are taking place at a modest level already, the scientists say, but are expected to intensify.

    Reacting to such warnings, President George Bush committed the United States in 1992 to limiting its emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide. Scores of other nations made the same pledge, in a treaty that was long on promises and short on specifics.

    But in 1998, when it came time to commit to details in a document known as the Kyoto Protocol, Congress balked. Many countries did ratify the protocol, but it had only a limited effect, and the past decade has seen little additional progress in controlling emissions.

    Many countries are reluctant to commit themselves to tough emission limits, fearing that doing so will hurt economic growth. International climate talks in Cancún, Mexico, this month ended with only modest progress. The Obama administration, which came into office pledging to limit emissions in the United States, scaled back its ambitions after climate and energy legislation died in the Senate this year.

    Challengers have mounted a vigorous assault on the science of climate change. Polls indicate that the public has grown more doubtful about that science. Some of the Republicans who will take control of the House of Representatives in January have promised to subject climate researchers to a season of new scrutiny.

    One of them is Representative Dana Rohrabacher, Republican of California. In a recent Congressional hearing on global warming, he said, “The CO2 levels in the atmosphere are rather undramatic.”

    But most scientists trained in the physics of the atmosphere have a different reaction to the increase.

    “I find it shocking,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the government monitoring program of which the Mauna Loa Observatory is a part. “We really are in a predicament here, and it’s getting worse every year.”

    Q: Who is the first person to take CO2 measurements and when did this begin?

    A: As a young researcher, Dr. Keeling built instruments and developed techniques that allowed him to achieve great precision in making such measurements. Then he spent the rest of his life applying his approach.

    In his earliest measurements of the air, taken in California and other parts of the West in the mid-1950s, he found that the background level for carbon dioxide was about 310 parts per million.

    That discovery drew attention in Washington, and Dr. Keeling soon found himself enjoying government backing for his research. He joined the staff of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, in the La Jolla section of San Diego, under the guidance of an esteemed scientist named Roger Revelle, and began laying plans to measure carbon dioxide around the world.

    Some of the most important data came from an analyzer he placed in a government geophysical observatory that had been set up a few years earlier in a remote location: near the top of Mauna Loa, one of the volcanoes that loom over the Big Island of Hawaii.

    He quickly made profound discoveries. One was that carbon dioxide oscillated slightly according to the seasons. Dr. Keeling realized the reason: most of the world’s land is in the Northern Hemisphere, and plants there were taking up carbon dioxide as they sprouted leaves and grew over the summer, then shedding it as the leaves died and decayed in the winter.

    He had discovered that the earth itself was breathing.

    A more ominous finding was that each year, the peak level was a little higher than the year before. Carbon dioxide was indeed rising, and quickly. That finding electrified the small community of scientists who understood its implications. Later chemical tests, by Dr. Keeling and others, proved that the increase was due to the combustion of fossil fuels.

    The graph showing rising carbon dioxide levels came to be known as the Keeling Curve. Many Americans have never heard of it, but to climatologists, it is the most recognizable emblem of their science, engraved in bronze on a building at Mauna Loa and carved into a wall at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington.

    Q: When did Al Gore first become aware that the climate temperatures were rising?

    A: By the late 1960s, a decade after Dr. Keeling began his measurements, the trend of rising carbon dioxide was undeniable, and scientists began to warn of the potential for a big increase in the temperature of the earth.

    Dr. Keeling’s mentor, Dr. Revelle, moved to Harvard, where he lectured about the problem. Among the students in the 1960s who first saw the Keeling Curve displayed in Dr. Revelle’s classroom was a senator’s son from Tennessee named Albert Arnold Gore Jr., who marveled at what it could mean for the future of the planet.

    In later years, as the scientific evidence about climate change grew, Dr. Keeling’s interpretations became bolder, and he began to issue warnings. In an essay in 1998, he replied to claims that global warming was a myth, declaring that the real myth was that “natural resources and the ability of the earth’s habitable regions to absorb the impacts of human activities are limitless.”

    Still, by the time he died, global warming had not become a major political issue. That changed in 2006, when Mr. Gore’s movie and book, both titled “An Inconvenient Truth,” brought the issue to wider public attention. The Keeling Curve was featured in both.

    In 2007, a body appointed by the United Nations declared that the scientific evidence that the earth was warming had become unequivocal, and it added that humans were almost certainly the main cause. Mr. Gore and the panel jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize.

    But as action began to seem more likely, the political debate intensified, with fossil-fuel industries mobilizing to fight emission-curbing measures. Climate-change contrarians increased their attack on the science, taking advantage of the Internet to distribute their views outside the usual scientific channels.

    In an interview in La Jolla, Dr. Keeling’s widow, Louise, said that if her husband had lived to see the hardening of the political battle lines over climate change, he would have been dismayed.

    “He was a registered Republican,” she said. “He just didn’t think of it as a political issue at all.”
    * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
    These are some decent examples of trivia questions that you can play with. The entire article is usable for your purposes and I didn’t even get to the What are the Numbers.

    Have fun, fellow warrior!

  2. Nick B. says:

    Thanks very much! I’ll have to convert them to multiple choice of some kind, since most trivia nights are multiple choice. But this is some fantastic input. Thank you thank you!

  3. Anna Haynes says:

    I’ve been working on a set…and I think that’s a great idea.

  4. Nick B. says:

    Great! I’m so happy that someone else is going to try these besides me. I’ve got a bunch of questions outlined, but not too many of the multiple choice answers yet. Perhaps we should exchange questions.

    ps nice blog.

  5. anna says:

    these are kind of obvious, but how about some really simple multiple choice ones, like which country is the biggest emitter of methane or which household appliance has the biggest carbon footprint? or maybe a positive example: which european country has the lowest carbon emissions, or the highest percentage of homes w/ solar panels?

  6. Nick B. says:

    These are exactly the kinds of questions that I’m working on. Because the questions will be for a very general audience, they should be simple. Another requirement is that they accurately convey the risks we face as a result of climate change.

  7. Anna Haynes says:

    Nick, I’ve sent you an email with a link to a draft set of quiz Qs.
    (and fyi there’s more than one of us Annas here)

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This site is about one total amateur’s half-cocked attempts to do something about Climate Change.
Why is it here?

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