Would You Like to Hear a Nightingale ? If so, please help this Petition

Slowly, year on year, Britain has been losing its Nightingales but as so few of us ever hear them, very few people will have noticed.  The BBC once brought the song of the Nightingale to the nation, with its first Outside Broadcast.  Here’s the text of my petition to try and enlist the help of the BBC to once again bring Nightingale song into every home, and hopefully lend support to the efforts to conserve these fabled songsters.

Sign the petition here: https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/broadcast-nightingales-live-on-bbc-radio-this-may-18th

Nightingale close

Broadcast Nightingales live on BBC radio this May 18th


Dear BBC

At midnight on 18th May 1924 a million people tuned in to BBC radio to hear your first ever live Outside Broadcast: of a Nightingale singing in a Surrey wood as cellist Beatrice Harrison played music.  50,000 people were so moved that they wrote letters in response.  It became an annual BBC tradition – until World War II in 1942.

We ask you to re-start these broadcasts and re-connect people all over Britain with the song of the Nightingale, live, this May 18th.  This and many of other songbirds are in steep decline: by broadcasting the song of the Nightingale you will enrich our lives, and may inspire us to keep a place for Nightingales in the lives of our children, and theirs.

Why It Matters

Anyone who has ever heard the song of a Nightingale, knows the extraordinary heart-lifting, soul-penetrating power of the voice of this bird.

Keats N

Once they were commonplace: Keats wrote ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ while listening to one in his Hampstead garden.  As a teenager growing up in Ruislip in the London suburbs, I heard just one signing Nightingale, despite the large ancient woodlands there, yet I was told that during WW II, they were common enough that people living next to the woods complained about the noise of singing Nightingales keeping them awake at night.

Fewer and fewer people now get to ever hear the song of a real live Nightingale.  They have declined 55% just since 1995.  Why ?  It is a mystery almost as deep as how it is that the song of the Nightingale mainlines straight to our hearts.  But we do have some idea.

Back in 1942, the BBC’s hugely popular ‘Midnight Nightingale Broadcasts’ were brought to an abrupt end when an engineer realized that they were about to broadcast the background sound of RAF bombers massing overhead, before setting off to strike Germany. So he pulled the plug.

Today the Nightingale is under a very different sort of threat: researchers think a combination of climate change and farm development in its African wintering grounds, the destruction of nesting habitat by introduced Muntjac deer in this country, poor woodland management and pesticides, may all play a part.

The Nightingale is but one of many songbirds, which for similar reasons, are rapidly vanishing from our countryside, our urban green sanctuaries and suburban woods, and thus from our lives.  It seems that developers and politicians do not care enough to keep even the clearest most obvious threats at bay – for example at Lodge Hill in Kent, Britain’s only woodland specifically designated as a valued breeding site for Nightingales, over 80 singing Nightingales are threatened with development for new houses.

If our society cannot save the Nightingale, it cannot save very much of what makes life really worth living.  Yet as David Attenborough has said, “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced”.

You can hear the evocative, liquid song of that lone, long-dead Nightingale from 1942, with the drone of bombers in the background, here.  It was recorded but never broadcast.  Now it’s time for the BBC to re-start the tradition, not to run a campaign but to enrich our quality of life, to at least give its millions of listeners the chance to hear a real, live Nightingale signing, if only once a year.


Beatrice Harrison and her sister lived at Foyle Riding near Oxted in the 1920s.  Their home became famous for the Nightingales and thousands of people traveled from London to visit and listen to them singing.  After the sisters moved, the BBC continued the broadcasts until 1942.  Beatrice was a friend of composers such as Delius and Elgar.  I don’t know what has happened to their home but it appears that the woodland around it may have been built on for housing.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) conducts surveys of Nightingales.   BTO experiments have shown that deer browsing – ie eating the low vegetation that Nightingales need to nest in – have a negative effect.   The BTO’s 2012 survey estimated that there were 3300 pairs in the whole country – about one Nightingale for every 9,000 people.  The BTO says “the Nightingale is in danger of being lost as a UK breeding bird” and showed that it declined by over 50% between 1995 and 2008.

Nightingales are small Rufus brown birds a bit larger than a robin – not much to look at and hard to see but with an amazing song.  The sing in the day or at night but the night-time singing makes the biggest impression.  May is regarded as the best month to hear them.

The RSPB, Kent Wildlife Trust and others have been campaigning to save the woodlands of Lodge Hill in Kent from being destroyed for new housing.  1.3% of the UK Nightingale population lives at Lodge Hill.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains

    My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,

Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains

    One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:

‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,

    But being too happy in thine happiness,—

    That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees

    In some melodious plot

    Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,

    Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

Part of ‘Ode to a Nightingale’ by  John Keats: full poem here

Thy liquid notes that close the eye of day First heard before the shallow cuckoo’s bill, Portend success in love.

John Milton Quotes , Source: Sonnet–To the Nightingale’

 Nightingale tweet

David Attenborough presented the Nightingale on BBC Tweet of the Day

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The Values Behind #nomakeupselfie

What motivated people to do #nomakeupselfie   ?  It went big on twitter and on facebook as women posted pictures of themselves without make-up, to support cancer charities.

#nomakeupselfie engaged millions and hit the UK national news.  It also spread beyond the original demographic of young women: for example the two sisters, with a combined age of 174, who recently posted a #nomakeupselfie.

With the sort of response that professional e-campaigners dream of achieving, pundits of all colours took to the blogs to puzzle and argue over the rights and wrongs of the action and the “messages” sent or implied; about women, about image, values, cancer etc, and about the reasons behind the uptake.   Below I’ve posted a data-based illustration from Pat Dade at CDSM which might shed a bit of light on the psychology (motivational values) behind the response but first, what actually happened ?


Metro magazine gives a good account of the legend.  Fiona Cunningham, an 18-year-old young mum set up ‘No Make Up Selfie For Cancer Awareness’ Facebook page while in her bedroom in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.  Family members had suffered with cancer. She saw actress Kim Novak attend the Oscars without any make up on, and that gave her the idea.

So with the help of a friends she encouraged others to post #nomakeupselfie shots of themselves and donate £3 to cancer charity.  Metro notes: ‘Just days after her page was created on March 18, she had received hundreds of likes and Cancer Research UK announced they had received over £1million in donations as a result of the campaign on 21 March’.  By late March the charity, which had no role in starting the ‘campaign’, had received over £8m in donations, and several other charities, including one for adopting polar bears, had benefited from the numerous donations which got accidentally mis-directed.

Motivational Values

Amongst the hundreds asked in its British values Survey, Cultural Dynamics asks lots of questions about image, having fun, looking good and a host of other attitudes and behaviours relevant to #nomakeupselfie.  Being seen, online or otherwise, can obviously be something to do with esteem, and getting your post seen is an ‘achievement’, while having it seen by your friends, means it is a peer group connection.  As readers of this blog will know, the psychological group most drawn to any activity which is fun, social and about receiving the approval, especially the visible approval, of others, is the (outer directed) Prospectors.

CDSM defines them by asking hundreds, sometimes over a thousand questions and comparing the result but one ‘Attribute’ drawn from those questions which seems very relevant to #nomakeupselfie, is ‘Image Aware’. Someone scoring high on ‘Image Aware’ would have responded positively two statements (on a 1-5 scale) ‘It is important to me to standout in a group by the way I look or talk’, and ‘I always dress for effect’.  Other Attributes which plot close to Image Aware on the statistical values map (see below) include Persona (effectively being someone else to be noticed) and Looking Good but the five Attributes which it is most associated with are Pleasure, Aspiration, Visible Success, Buzz and Simmer.

Image Aware

Here’s what values-measuring-guru Pat Dade says about these Attributes in relation to #nomakeupselfie.

a) Pleasure: The act of posting the selfie probably is a bit of indulgence and curiously a bit of a sensual experience – showing the real me is both fun and liberating in a “real way”.

b) Aspiration: The selfie poster might say: “I may not subscribe to the more strident form of feminism held by my grandmothers and mothers generations – and making up is fun – but I think I am woman enough to hold my own with most feminists. I am confident that I can carry this off no matter what the outcome is”.

c) Visible Success: They may say: This is a tweetstorm and I’m part of it!

d) Buzz: They may say: I’m part of something that gives me a buzz by i) being invited to post and ii) living with the reactions from the post and then iii) reading about what is going with the whole behaviour set and being part of something that is “serious” – but easy for me to be involved in.”

e)Simmer: They may say: And it pisses me off that as a woman I have to even think about this – made-up or barefaced – because men don’t have this issue, only women.

(For the meaning of these Attributes see CDSM’s Values Alphabet).

Pat says: “this needs to be seen in the context of many behaviours including Movember (only men) and the presentation of self and “doing good”  but using an “unusual self” to present when doing good – something a Prospector would find more “natural” than a moralistic Settler or an ethical Pioneer, who both would be more likely to feel slightly ambivalent about equating non-normal with good”.

For students of Values Modes it looks like the networking started with young women comfortable with the technology, and much more with Prospectors than other Maslow Groups, and probably Now People (NP) rather than Golden Dreamer (GD).  As it got bigger and seemed more normal, older women and GDs joined in.

Dade comments: “The technology is enabling them to say “look at me” and is just a normal part of their life and not something different. The thing that makes it fun (having fun rather than doing good is the prime driver) is that they are sharing face pictures with each other. Many psychological and anthropological studies show the importance of face in interpersonal relations.  However they are also sharing their “un-natural” self with others: creating a secret “un-natural” self that is in fact, the natural self before the fetishized “natural make up face” is applied !”

“Enough already !” I hear you cry. Are there any lessons here for campaigners ?  Probably a few.

  1. Chance: for every similar personal action that achieved a similar result, many thousands went ‘nowhere’, and there is probably no way to determine which will ‘work’.  So you must sow many seeds, and the mainstream appeal of the Cancer Research UK brand, and the guaranteed approval attached to helping fight cancer, lies behind the potential.  This sort of chain reaction is contigent on there being no alignment or comprehension problem to overcome.
  2. Have a big brand to get #1.  Put it another way, this is a game for the big brands, and if you don’t have one, ask yourself if you can work with one.
  3. Pilot your behaviour at the Oscars (the Kim Novak factor) with an actress or actor who will appeal to the relevant demographic (see 4#).  Greenpeace has had some success there with dresses and Naomie Harris.  The Prius was elevated from obscurity to green icon car by Leonardo di Caprio and Cameron Diaz at the Oscars.  Get your individual role model behaviour seen on the red carpet, or thereabouts.  The audience for the Oscars is fertile territory.
  4. Audience and social bonds: it started with friends and spread through friends.  Prospectors are the key drivers, especially the young who spend a lot of time connecting online, and especially females.  Pioneers, who in ‘real life’ often dominate NGO staff (especially on issues),  are more likely to post stuff they find ‘interesting’, which often equates to ‘different’, rather than pictures of themselves or a network of friends who know each other.  CDSM’s research suggests that Prospectors tend to have a fairly large group of friends who all know each other, whereas Pioneers have more friends but they tend not to know each other, so the potential for positive feedback is much less amongst the more cause-oriented Pioneers.  The Pioneers will also spend time debating the idea, or interrogating the idea behind the action, rather than just getting on with the ‘ask’ and enjoying it socially.  See also analysis of Stop Kony where a similar thing happened.
  5. The ask (engagement mechanism) was actionable by those contacted.  No special equipment or trip was required (eg visit to MP or even a shop); not even putting on your make up.  Just leave it off, take a picture, and post.  A small thing but connected to a big cause.  The Rule of Small – I just made that one up but it’s true.  For Prospectors especially, quick and easy with a discrete and instant result is cool.  The small-cool-rule.  But emotionally it needs to signify big, like carrying the right Big Brand carrier bag: small action, big connection/statement.

Cancer selfie

So thank you Fiona.  Metro says you are studying for a degree in criminal psychology with the Open University.  Good luck with that but you may already have earned yourself a place in the annals of psychology in a rather different area.

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UK Politics and Values – Beyond Class

With European Elections due to take place within weeks, and a UK General Election looming on the political horizon, British politicians and press talk a lot about ‘values’ but they rarely have any measurements of values to inform the ‘conversation’.   A question on political affinity, asked as part of the 2000-person British Values Survey, is reported for the first time here, and may help put some facts and figures alongside the rhetoric and guesswork.

  • Supporters of the Liberal Democrats and Conservatives are massively divided over their most powerful (and unconscious) values, even though the parties are in a governing coalition.

  • The very narrow values bases of UKIP and the Libdems will make it hard for them to break out.

  • Support for the Conservatives is low amongst Pioneers and the young

  • The key battlegrounds between Labour and Conservative include the younger, especially female voters, and most of all Prospectors.

British political parties have traditionally looked at voters in terms of age, sex and class (Socio Economic Group or SEG), and at themselves in terms of left-right political ideology, or ‘managerialism’ v ideology.  A huge amount of commentary and analysis proceeds from these starting points, and a lot of time is then spent trying to explain public opinions, aspirations and voting behaviour in these terms.  For example puzzling over who the ‘Middle Class’ are, and arguing about what ‘working class’ now means.

Analysis of motivational values provides an alternative or additional insight into the politics of the ‘public’, which goes beyond class.  This report Beyond Class C Rose Final April 2014 details a December 2013 British survey by CDSM (Cultural Dynamics Strategy and Marketing www.cultdyn.co.uk), involving 2,000 representative British adults over 16.

This asked hundreds of questions about attitudes and beliefs, and the question “At heart, which political party do you identify with most strongly?”   This is not a question about voting intention but about feelings of support.

The options given were:  Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru, UK Independence Party, British National Party and ‘Other’, together with ‘don’t know’.   Respondents were also asked a set of questions developed over decades of running the BVS which segment them by values, into the three main ‘Maslow Groups’ (MGs) of Settler, Prospector and Pioneer, and the twelve more distinct Values Modes (VMs), which lie four within each of the MGs.  They were also surveyed for age, sex and SEG.

The same question “At heart, which political party do you identify with most strongly?” has been asked in a number of previous surveys.   Reports of a 2005 British ‘Values and Voters’ survey can be found here, a 2009 article in Total Politics here and a 2013 report by Nic Pecorelli at IPPR ‘The New Electorate: Why Understanding Values is the Key to Electoral Successhere, while there are several blogs with values and UK political data at CDSM’s website (see links in main report).


The most popular choice was Labour, followed by Conservative, UKIP and Liberal Democrat.   There is a large 19.9% ‘don’t know’ which is of course of interest to politicians.   Below: actual numbers from the survey by MG and political affinity.

Pols bar chart 2013

The data on political choices by values group (MG):

Pols uk sig and skews 2013 The warm colours indicate significant over agreement (over indexing), the cool colours the opposite.  (For further explanation see main report).

Individual values maps  of party support show a large overlap between Conservative and Labour support in the Prospectors but that the Conservatives have more support in the Settlers.   To gain more support here, Labour would need to resonate with Settler values such as safety, identity, security and belonging.  The attempts to win support on the issue of immigration are perhaps one such example but Labour is in a three way fight with UKIP and Conservative for the core Settler vote.  UKIP has little support outside the Settler values area but eroding it would be difficult without a long bottom-up process because the UKIP vote is a result of sustained neglect by other parties.  Finding another Settler-resonant battleground might be more fruitful for Labour but its main gains can probably be made in the Prospectors.  Labour currently has more support in the GD Golden Dreamers and the Conservatives more amongst the NP Now People.

uk pols terrain landsc 2013

Above: ‘terrain maps’ of values for some political choices in the British Values Survey. Warm colours indicate higher agreement.   For further explanation and key to VMs see main report.

The main deficit for the Conservatives is support amongst the Pioneers.  The more it tries to play to the issues that excite UKIP voters (eg against onshore wind turbines), the more acute this problem may become because there is a huge divide on many attitudes between VMs such as RT and BNW (Settlers) and TX and CE (Pioneers).

Liberal Democrat support is concentrated in just two VMs, the TX  Transcender and CE Concerned Ethical Pioneers.  Values of LibDem supporters are almost the diametric opposite of the main Conservative supporter values, indicating the uneasy nature of their ‘marriage of convenience’ in the governing coalition.   Any government politicians who have convinced themselves that they really share a common cause are deluding themselves: their supporters do not feel it.

The LibDem support base really shares more values with the Greens but they have an even smaller base centred in the TX, and they heavily overlap with Labour.

[It should be remembered in looking at these values maps that the attitudes and beliefs involved are not mainly political-ideological but about the importance of things like tradition, benevolence, justice, ethics, hedonism, conformity, respect and success, power and universalism (see main report for the 2012Values Map showing the CDSM Attributes , and for an explanation of the current Attributes see here).]

The BNP’s tiny base is centred in the RT Roots VM, which is the one with least sense of self-agency.  These people are those least likely to go out and proselytize.   The SNP has an interesting map which may be analysed in a future post at www.cultdyn.co.uk by Pat Dade.

The parties with the most distinct values profile – UKIP and the Liberal Democrats – face the most difficult task in breaking out of their ‘natural’ base and attracting wider support.   Realistically this would involve the Liberal Democrats appealing to more Pioneers but for that they are in direct competition with both the Green Party and Labour, as well as to more Prospectors, especially Now People (NPs).  The shortest answer for the LibDems to appeal to NP Prospectors is that they need to look more fun, and less earnest and ethical but that in turn might upset the CE Concerned Ethicals in their base.

Pioneers are the most universalist, global minded and civic minded of the MG values groups.  Prospectors are the most transactional, assessing political offers more as a deal – “what’s on offer for me ?” – but are also on an active search to be entertained, so they are most attracted to celebrity and ‘star quality’.  Part of Tony Blair’s appeal to Prospectors, which was a key component of the ‘New Labour’ brand,  was his charisma, youthful energy and ‘modern-ness’ compared to both the Conservatives of the time and to Old Labour.  Indeed the fact that New Labour seemed to be more a ‘brand’ in the commercial sense, and less an ideology (not about ideas – Pioneer, and not a dogmatic creed – Settler), was attractive to Prospectors in itself.

The extent to which people then declare a right or left affinity for parties depends not just on their values but the offer being made by the parties.  In the past, UK politics was dominated by Settlers (who formed the majority of the population) and both the Conservatives and Labour had identity based (in the UK ‘class based’) followings who voted ‘instinctively’ or ‘traditionally’.  Those certainties have broken down since the mid C20th, and few ‘progressive’ parties have any ‘identity’ offer, often leaving the right wing as the only identity-based option for Settlers.  This is discussed further in main report, which also gives demographics showing that UKIP and Conservative over-index amongst the over 65s but Labour has an advantage over the Conservatives in appealing to the under 34s.

Don’t Knows

The large 20% who say ‘don’t know’ tend more to be younger and female.  This profile, together with the Prospectors in general who are fairly equally divided between supporting Conservative and Labour, looks to be the key values-demographic battle ground.

The report also gives data on occupation and class (Socio Economic Group).  Although there are skews in relation to values, the political affinities divide more clearly over values, than age, sex or class.


Thanks to CDSM for permission to publish parts of the 2013-14 BVS results in this paper.

CDSM is continuing to develop its current British Values Survey in 2014 and plans to conduct several waves with different sets of questions.   Enquiries should be addressed to Pat Dade at CDSM pat@cultdyn.co.uk

You can contact me at chris@campaignstrategy.co.uk

[1] Explanations of the ‘Values Modes’ system can be found at www.cultdyn.co.uk where you can also take an online survey to identify your own values.  An introductory explanation is here, and The differences between the four Pioneer Values Modes (VMs) in each of the three MGs, are explained here: Settler, Prospector, Pioneer.  The book What Makes People Tick: The Three Hidden Worlds of Settlers, Prospectors, and Pioneers provides many examples of how the system works and is available here. There are numerous blogs and articles at www.cultdyn.co.uk and www.campaignstrategy.org (including ‘three worlds’ blog).

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Pure values dog whistle: Daily Mail calls for overseas aid claw-back

Flood victims D Mail cover

The UK is currently suffering significant flooding, following unprecedented rainfall.  The climate-sceptic newspaper the Daily Mail has begun a petition, closely aligned to the demands of the anti-European party UKIP, to recall UK Overseas Aid to help the flood British victims.

This is a pure values ‘dog-whistle’, guaranteed to polarise debate by pitting Golden Dreamer Prospectors and Settlers, against Pioneers.  Presumably the Mail‘s intention, apart from resonating with the values of its frequent readers, which it does (below), is to drive the Conservative-led UK Government further ‘right’, in fear of UKIP (whose electoral base is strongly Settler).

Daily Mail, frequent readers:Mail freq readers

(data from CDSM  www.cultdyn.co.uk  )

The values antagonism this plays on is ‘power versus universalism’, discussed in earlier blogs.  At the top left of the values map (above) are the Golden Dreamers, Prospectors who, along with the ‘Brave New World’ Settlers located next door in the Settler part at the top of the map, espouse values including “material wealth” (getting it) and “power over others”.  This most often manifests itself as resisting power-by-others-unlike-me-over-me or over-us.  Both power and wealth are perceived as a zero sum game – if someone else has it, I’ve must have less of it.

This part of the values map is also the seat of climate scepticism.  These factors come together in the Daily Mail‘s well-timed clarion call to ‘get our money back off foreigners’.

power v universalism


Footnote:  Predictably this has already sparked a counter petition cut fossil fuel subsidies, not foreign aid, for flood victims relief inspired by universalism (stopping global climate change).  The more the debate kicks off along these lines, the greater the polarisation.  If the second petition (which I have signed) was instead about “getting our money back from coal and oil companies” it might appeal to the same values as the Mail one but as it does not offer a very direct benefit to UK flood victims, it probably won’t even get noticed in Daily Mail land.





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Shaun Keaveny’s take on climate change, floods, bat-killing heatwaves and UK govt policy

Transcript – Shaun Keaveny BBC 6 Music Breakfast Show

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03np79z - from 01 hrs 55 mins 

9 January 2014

“Just quickly though, a bit of news … extreme weather events … I’m sure it’s all coincidence and there’s nothing to worry about … no climate change issues here.

[squeaky voice of politician] ‘Nothing to see here – go and buy something’. 

Disappointing sales figures over Christmas.  Didn’t I tell you specifically, to get off your backsides and go and buy stuff ?!  But you didn’t, did ya ? Eh ?

[plaintive listener] ‘But we’ve already got a telly’

I said ‘get another one !!’

Anyway it’s a bit miserable here.  It’s freezing in America of course … Around a thousand bats have fallen from the sky and died in Australia.  Temperatures of up to 43.C are to blame for the mass deaths, in at least twenty-five colonies.  So it’s actually been raining dead bats in parts of Australia. Now I know we moan about our weather over here but I don’t know about you but I would rather have a bit of chilly drizzle than be smacked on the back of the neck with a dead bat.

It’s just all I’ve got to say about it”.

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Yeb Sano Should Become Famous

Was this the moment when the tragedy of climate change finally made landfall in the corridors of climate politics ?

The BBC has reported, ‘Typhoon prompts ‘fast’ by Philippines climate delegate’: delegates stood and cried and gave a standing ovation to Yeb Sano,  Head of the Philippines delegation, who promises not to eat until the climate talks make meaningful progress.

“What my country is going through as a result of this extreme climate event is madness, the climate crisis is madness. We can stop this madness right here in Warsaw”  said Mr Sano.

So today, thousands are dead and dying because of a super-Typhoon in the Pacific.  Meanwhile Greenpeace campaigners are imprisoned in Russia for opposing the expansion of fossil fuels that cause climate change.  And in Poland, the chief representative of a country devastated by a super-heated atmosphere is going on hunger strike to try and save others from the fate that has befallen his people.   Theirs are cries of sanity – is there a political leader who will join them ?

Let us hope there is because the Super Typhoon is a portent that the world cannot afford to ignore.  Climate change is not a game or a political option, it is a reality as dangerous as a tide which threatens to overwhelm your family.  So let’s hope the media make Mr Sano famous, and that he becomes the man whose statement marked the turning of the tide.

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The Cornered Dinosaur and the Carbon Hostages

While the climate is still being more and more destabilised, climate advocates are making headway.  But campaign groups should beware, because as tightening emission regulations, the encroachment of renewables into energy markets and ratcheting public demands for action on pollution, all start to combine, they threaten to strangle the market for fossil fuels. The industry may see that its very future is at stake, and react accordingly.

Having given up on transforming themselves into a benign energy industry (see below), the fossil fuel producers have nowhere to go.  Without some form of rational government intervention to plan a phase-out pathway, and to guide investment, the end game of fossil fuels could get very nasty indeed.

The current furore over the ‘Greenpeace Arctic 30’ held in Russian jails after protesting against Gazprom’s Arctic drilling, is a dramatic collision of ethics and business as usual but future conflicts may spread far wider.  The Arctic 30 have not literally been taken hostage by Russia or even Gazprom but they are hostages to an ethical imperative to restrain the growth in carbon pollution, and the failure of governments to do the same: carbon hostages.

Many more NGOs could soon find themselves in the firing line, even those who do not leave their desks.  If the industry sees all those advocating action on climate as a vital link between public opinion and political leadership which needs to be severed, campaign groups might seem one of the softer available targets.

Unfortunately, the lumbering UNFCCC process (next stop Poland) is ill equipped to deliver political custody of the carbon end game. Instead it is being left to play itself out in ways which may prove as chaotic as climate change itself.

Why The Industry Is Right to Worry

The coal industry has particular reason to be worried but oil and gas are not far behind.  Without government intervention to give investors certainty, conflicts over energy and climate may soon get a lot more acute, as profits and investments are on the line.  There are a number of reasons. Here are just seven of them.

First, coal markets are starting to close.  Despite the surge in coal production over recent years, and the current boom in gas, the fossil fuel industry has good reason to feel that the walls may be closing in.  Demand for coal in international markets is dropping with US and Australian exports both affected.   Goldman Sachs has warned that “the window to invest profitably in new thermal coal mines is closing”.

A major factor, is China’s new energy plan, driven by changing demands of the Chinese public, who want cleaner air, which means burning less coal.  As Harri Lammi has pointed out in my blog, renewables investment may end growth in coal emissions in China in the next few years.

Second, renewables are eating into the market for fossil-fuelled electricity. The costs of renewable energy, especially solar pv for electricity are plunging, itself driven by consumer demand, scaling up and ‘Moore’s Law’ type technological advances.  It is a structural reality.

In April Bloomberg New Energy Finance forecast annual investment in new renewable power capacity rising two and a half-fold to more than four and a half-fold between now and 2030, driven by improving in the cost-competitiveness of wind and solar technologies relative to fossil fuels, and, more hydro, geothermal and biomass.  IEA’s second-annual Medium-Term Renewable Energy Market Report predicts renewable generation will grow 40% in the next five years and power generation from renewables will exceed natural gas, and be twice that of nuclear energy globally by 2016. The ‘gas bridge’ then, looks much shorter than expected.

In 2011 global investment in renewables hit a record $257.5 billion, exceeding by $40 billion the amount invested in new fossil fuel capacity.  Worldwide, UNEP reported that renewables made up over half of all new electricity capacity in 2011-2.

Third, coming over the horizon, are electric cars.  Imagine the impact on the collective consciousness once ‘gas stations’ no longer sell ‘gas’ (petrol and diesel to the majority of us, living outside the US).

Fourth, while cash flows into renewables it is ebbing away from fossil fuels thanks to growing disinvestment campaigns. Damian Carrington has reported that an Oxford University study shows ‘A campaign to persuade investors to take their money out of the fossil fuel sector is growing faster than any previous divestment campaign and could cause significant damage to coal, oil and gas companies’.  The direct financial impact, most prominently associated with student lobbying of universities to delete fossil fuels from their portfolios is , as it noted, is far less than the political, social and psychological impact.  These are the decision-makers of tomorrow.

Nor is this restricted to activists and students. For example last week WWF Norway called for 5% of the $750bn Sovereign Wealth Fund of Norway to be spent on renewables and disinvested from Tar Sands.

Fifth, regulatory action is still driving a shift away from fossil fuels, especially coal.  Not just the Chinese energy plan for example but Obama’s carbon limits for new coal plants.  The World Bank has said it will now only grant finance to coal power in “rare circumstances”.

Sixth, although media commentary still tends to paint the opposite picture, an avalanche of polling data shows the public believes climate change is real, happening, a bad thing and that renewable energy is preferable to fossil fuels.  Moreover, despite great anxiety amongst climate-advocates in advance of the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report released in September that sceptic lobbyists and their media allies would spin the idea that climate change was no longer such a threat, overall the media coverage focused on growing scientific certainty.  If the sceptics were going to win a major battle for public perceptions, that was probably it.  They failed.

Seventh, with oil increasingly hard to find more of, the prospects for making money from fossil fuels increasingly rely on gas, which in many applications (eg power generation) is also in direct competition with renewables.

In his essay ‘Collision of Climate and Carbon’ for Montrose Journal in September, Tom Burke of E3G noted that because solar and wind are at grid parity with fossil fuels,

“This led a recent report from UBS to talk about an ‘unsubsidised power revolution’. This is a prospect that was previously unthinkable for the electricity generation. In 2012, renewable power in Germany took a 22% share of consumption. This sparked an 11% fall in natural gas fuelled electricity and a steep fall in the share price of German utilities RWE and EoN, both of whom were forced to mothball gas fired plants that had become uneconomic to operate”.

Then there is fracking. In large scale development in some places, ‘fracking’ to get at ‘unconventional gas’ is also proving highly controversial and often unpopular in affected regions.  And in countries like the UK, rising gas prices are widely resented.  Gas has gone from being unobtrusive, and often seen as a relatively clean and benign fuel, to an expensive and controversial one. Many politicians are wary.

Nowhere to Go

It used to be good, if you were concerned that industry transitioned to sustianability, if the fossil fuel industry was worried about its future, because it could turn to green energy production. Now the industry is not in a position to exploit the growth in the renewables market, because for practical purposes it has abandoned green energy.  It has nowhere to go but to continue down the fossil route and to fight for it like a cornered dinosaur.

Many campaigners may never have believed it but back in the 1990s, in some oil companies at least, there were serious attempts to explore alternatives.  I took part in a ‘futures’ strategy exercise with Shell, where their planners spoke openly about their assumption that fossil fuels were going to be replaced by electrical energy, well before they ‘ran out’.  On another occasion a Shell executive told me “at least we are not in Tar Sands” (or at the time, not in them very much).  BP also became the world’s biggest solar pv maker.  But, as I wrote in a blog earlier this summer, the fiscal signal that they expected from governments – making investment in renewables more rewarding than looking for new oil or gas – never came.  The industry reverted to ‘business as usual’.

So Shell withdrew from investing in wind and solar in 2009.  BP, which had once rebranded itself as “Beyond Petroleum”, abandoned solar in 2011, and dropped wind power in 2013.  The picture is much the same for other oil majors: none make any significant investment in renewable energy, although many still heavily feature renewables in their advertising.

Consequently, in the end game for fossil fuels, Arctic oil and gas, fracking for gas, and Tar Sands (which require those pipelines), are vital last resorts for the industry.  Tax breaks and other political support for new reserves, are necessary for the industry to keep profitable.  Which means in turn that public opinion is critical, and that means in turn, that public perceptions of campaigns to disinvest, to oppose new oil and gas, or to stop using coal, are crucial.

Unfortunately, when that signal failed to materialise and then politicians tried to distance themselves from the failure of the Copenhagen political climate talks, the fossil fuel industry plunged into investments in new fossil fuel developments.  It will feel more and more cornered if they see the chances to convert geological resources into marketable ‘reserves’, slipping away. Carbon Tracker has pointed out that last year the industry spent $674billion to find and develop new potentially stranded assets.  Earlier this year HSBC Global Research calculated that if carbon emissions are cut so as to limit climate change to 2.C, it could wipe 60% off their share value.

That’s quite an incentive, and is a reason why it would be better for governments to give investors certainty, by regulating to create phase out pathways so that money could be used most effectively, rather than encouraging an increasingly urgent conflict between those trying to save the climate and those trying to develop fossil fuels.



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Two Good Reasons Not To Play The ‘China Card’

Some weeks ago I had the privilege of spending some time with Harri Lammi, one of Greenpeace’s campaigners who works in China. A few days after I saw Harri, the Chinese Government revealed its new air pollution action plan designed  to cut fine particle PM2.5 pollution which is damaging to health,  and clear the skies above the country.  Harri has posted a detailed commentary on that, and the campaigning which Greenpeace did on the subject,  here. Although the blog below is mine, many of the insights are his.

China, Coal and ‘The West’

For decades, the easy resort of those in the ‘West’ who looked for an excuse not to take action to reduce global pollution (eg to protect the ozone layer or climate) was to cite “China”.  Such a large population, such economic growth: surely, until “they do something” there’s “no point in us acting ?”.  Perhaps those of us in “the West” don’t hear it so much now, as the environmental case is more widely accepted and many aspects of modern China confound preconceptions.  For example, although Chinese air pollution is disastrous, it leads the world in production of solar panels and has a huge wind turbine industry.  Growth in solar and wind is so rapid that it may be able to stop growth in China’s coal emissions in the next three to five years or so. The timeline depends on growth of electricity demand, and of course, how fast solar would be growing in the next years.

I’m no expert on China and have never even visited but I recently heard someone who has worked there for several years who made several interesting points.

* Power politics in China goes on inside the Communist Party, and the huge Chinese social media is a way for those expressing various opinions as to how to move forwards, to build or undermine public support for options and to gauge public acceptability of ideas and policies but without any formal public plebiscites.  Of course there is hardly any conventional ‘civil society’ (NGOs etc) as would be recognizable throughout most of the developing and developed world.  Social media is an ever more important factor in maintaining a connection between the Party and public opinion, especially the burgeoning Middle Class.

* Censorship is measured and not always absolute, and in the case of channels such as the microblogging platform Sina Weibo, can be adjusted over minutes or hours, sometimes allowing comments to spread for a while before being taken down.  In this way the Chinese Government, or parts of it, sense public opinion.

Sometimes critical issues are allowed an airing while not causing too much disturbance. On the other hand,  once a ‘Weibo storm’ starts they can become effectively un-stoppable. In the environmental field this is sometimes catalysed by the fact that China still has an appetite for ‘facts’ which has been progressively eroded in the Western media in favour of ‘communication ghettoes’ dominated by shared values outlooks, so that (especially in the US) many people live their communication lives in exclusive, closed communities, each with its own independent reality, in which ‘facts’ are selected to reinforce existing views.

* Senior leadership and international corporations operating in China, and even global market analysts, look to the few groups like Greenpeace, and some independently minded Chinese academic researchers who are sometimes able to provide independent information on matters such as harmful pm2.5 air pollution, or toxic content of food or water, to obtain facts that are not reliably available through official sources.

Harri says: “During a 2013 ‘Weibo storm’ on air pollution, a Greenpeace Weibo post got retweeted so much so that Greenpeace’s top 10 posts received a total 36 million readers, on average 3.6 million per tweet. Greenpeace blogs have much smaller readership but its campaign publications, such as a water and coal publication done together with a China Academy of Sciences research team, are reportedly read regularly by the very highest leadership in China.  They are also read by bank analysts, and companies which the organisation targets in campaigns”.

He adds: “Greenpeace was approached by a top energy company asking for more copies of our water report. Rarely in the West would we see a major energy company approaching an NGO, asking for more copies of  their research report, saying it contains important facts about environmental challenges they will be facing, and asking for cooperation on the issue.  This shows the interest in facts in China”

How Much Do People Link Coal to Air Pollution in China ?

When we conducted survey of 2,000 people in China’s major cities, we found overwhelming belief in climate change and support for a switch towards renewable energy systems. Asked if they agreed with the statement:

“I support China reducing coal burning and increasing clean renewable energy such as wind power or solar power as the main source of electricity”, some 56.8% of the national sample “strongly” agreed and over 30% slightly agreed”.  Harri points out that many Chinese people you meet on the street blame traffic emissions rather than coal from power stations, for air pollution which directly affects them.  However the poll certainly shows support for renewables, and of course the Chinese Government is well aware that huge amounts of particulates in fact come from power stations burning coal.

One reason for the demand for change has undoubtedly been that an enormous number of Chinese middle class people now visit western countries where they experience much cleaner air and bluer skies.  There is a high demand for a similar quality of environment in China, not just comparable goods and esteemed foreign brands.

“Yet”, says Harri “while seeing that westerners are wealthy and live in relatively nice environment, your average Chinese would not recognize a high commitment in the West to solve the fundamental environmental problems of our times. As many of previously western environmental problems are now exported to China, together with the global manufacturing industry, the Chinese are increasingly seeing the downsides our material culture, coming together with the demand for ever more stuff. What they fail to see is readiness to start solving our common problems by those who already got rich in the West”

In China in the internal arguments about how much to spend on reducing air pollution, the ‘China Card’ gets played in reverse: “if they (US, Europeans) are not really serious about climate change – why should we be ?”

So for anyone in the ‘West’ where you can pretty much say what you like (although often with no local effect) , to take the easy option and paint China as ‘the problem’, even if you believe that, is a doubly bad idea.  Not only does it play into the hands of western laggards but it helps those in China, who are tempted to tolerate more pollution because they think it is a cheaper route to more stuff.

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Using the Three Stories – Case Study

In How to Win Campaigns, I promote the idea that every campaign needs the Three Stories.  These don’t usually win the campaign for you but are an explanation of why you are doing it.  Useful in your ‘elevator pitch’ situations.  Each has a test.  (I think I originally got this from Ed Gyde).

The Popular story – understandable (test it out) by your relatives, neighbours etc.. The default story to use if in any doubt, and the only one to use with ‘the public’.  No jargon.

The Professional story – the way the policy community see it.  Jargon usually required here.  This is the default internal campaign language but must not be allowed into the general public or media domain except maybe with trade/ professional press or policy community blogs etc.

The Political story – what’s in it for me as a politician (or CEO etc).  This is not to be confused with the Professional story.  Top decision makers are not interested in your campaign goals (that only annoys them), they are interested in the benefits to them and their organisation in terms of profits, career prospects, gaining advantage, being popular, not losing their job, and so on.  These are your ‘benefit’ selling points.  See also Bryceson’s Political Checklist.

Below is a case study in this, contributed by Nikki Williams at the UK charity The Woodland Trust, which combines practical conservation with campaigning.   Thanks Nikki.

Dear Danny – a case study from the Woodland Trust

Early in 2013 the Woodland Trust decided to break out of its mould. Instead of the usual ancient woodland threat or woodland policy campaigning, we decided to hit the big guys at the Treasury. We knew that with a Spending Review looming and all the noise that would build up around it, we needed to remind the Treasury of the huge value for money, trees and woods provide.

Having been able to share the idea with Chris at the E Campaigning Forum, he had given me a top tip that we had never really put in place before – write 3 stories for the campaign: a public, a political and a professional one.

Now, the Woodland Trust places itself as a conservation charity first, with a campaigning ‘arm’ rather than calling itself a campaigning organisation. As a result we usually have a bit of a bun fight when everyone tries to get their audience’s point into the single narrative, each trying not to undercut the other. This, quite frankly just forced compromise that often reduced the strength of our message.

Using the 3 stories approach created a much more productive way of working across the teams. People felt they could place their key issues for their audience better, rather than trying to make a ‘one size delivers for all’ narrative. The 3 narratives positively influenced across each final draft and tweak, keeping them relevant to their audience starting point but clearly showing the golden thread of our issue running through all three. I don’t think we have achieved quite such clarity before.

As a result, our energy was able to be put into the creative interpretation of the campaign which resulted in us producing a play on our iconic banknote for supporters to send to the Treasury.

On the side of the note designed to engage the public was their narrative, aimed to inspire them to be the voice for woods and trees during the spending review. It worked a treat! The public responded fantastically by posting over 5,500 Bank of Woodland notes with Danny Alexander’s face on, to the Treasury in 2 weeks.

The message they sent reminded Government that woods contribute £4.7 billion to the English economy every year and that if every household in Britain had access to quality green space it could save £2.1 billion in health care costs – or in other words, the political narrative!

And on the back of the campaign we got a thirty minute meeting with George Osborne’s Special Adviser at the Treasury and Danny Alexander recorded a message to Woodland Trust supporters from one of our woods in Scotland.

But our favorite anecdote was the Treasury advisor who told us he loved the campaign so much, he’d taken hard copies home for his mother in law to send back in to the Treasury!

Links – http://wtcampaigns.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/dear-danny-chief-secretary-responds-to-your-note/

Original call to action with full messaging http://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/en/campaigning/our-campaigns/Documents/sr-download-full.pdf



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Magic Boxes campaign planning tool – Little Picture, Connector, Big Picture

Magic boxesHere’s an uber-simple campaign planner that might be of use.  I made it for working with  a client who was trying to compare proposals for a ‘major campaign’ but it seems to work in a lot of situations. For example when you want to:

  • convert an issue statement or campaign proposal into something that can yield a brief for audience research, or for communication creatives
  • quickly communicate a campaign idea to colleagues or funders
  • take a very Pioneer idea and make it real and actionable for Settlers or Prospectors (or indeed, Pioneers)
  • interrogate a very Pioneer campaign idea (all big picture) to see if there’s actually anything actionable (little picture)  in there at all
  • not get stuck in a conversation about “theories of change”

The inside box is what you’d see in the campaign. What you’d see happening.  Real stuff – apply the photo test.  Can you take a picture.  If not, it’s not real.  Real things which can involve real people can be put into testing, eg focus groups, or presented to potential “engagement” or “mobilisation” targets.  By and large Settlers and Prospectors mainly focus on the real things – the “little picture”.  Start here with them (and probably stay here, or at least return here).  These are the activities.

The next box, the ‘connector’ is the effect of the activities.  Why we do them.  This is where your critical path comes in (if you are good), or your theory of change (if you are theoretical …).  At any event it’s why you’re asking people to do the activities.  Or asking them to get others to do so.  But only rarely is it a good idea to make this your selling point for the activities, on its own.  Eg as John Scott put it to me “confectioners don’t say ‘buy this chocolate bar because we’ve had a worrying dip in sales of chocolate recently …’”.

Finally on the outside are all those reasons why we need to get that change.  Aims, “goals”, missions etc.   Save the planet, make the world a better place, and so forth.  Pioneers love this big picture stuff.  But most other people don’t.  And on its own, it’s not a campaign.

Tip: draw stick man or cartoony pictures in, starting in the middle. It’s quicker and better than words.  Use bubbles and ” ” marks where you need to add words.  Go on until the paper is full, then stop.



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