- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2009

Selling o’ the green

Al Gore got his point across about global warming through eco-guilt, alarmist notions and sympathy for polar bears. Therapists have taken notice of such things.

“While most Americans think climate change is an important issue, they don’t see it as an immediate threat, so getting people to ‘go green’ requires policymakers, scientists and marketers to look at psychological barriers to change and what leads people to action,” says the American Psychological Association.

The group is puzzling over a Pew Research Center poll that found 80 percent of respondents said that climate change is important — yet still ranked it last in a list of 20 “compelling” issues.

“We must look at the reasons people are not acting in order to understand how to get people to act,”says psychologist Janet Swim of Pennsylvania State University, who is leading a task force on the issue.

“Many of the shortcomings of policies based on only a single intervention type, such as technology, economic incentives or regulation, may be overcome if policy implementers make better use of psychological knowledge,” the task force wrote.

Yowsuh.

The ever nimble Mr. Gore, meanwhile, is mastering the nuances of green marketing. Scare fare is so over. The green mind-set is now good for the economy. It will create jobs. And harmony. His nonprofit Alliance for Climate Protection has launched a new TV campaign with a spot called “Family Values.” It does not chat up good parenting and sit-down meals — but a father figure who insists that clean energy will ultimately better his employment prospects.

“This is also a values question: What type of economy, environment and future do we want to pass on to our children? Lower energy bills, good jobs and a healthy planet are family values,” says Maggie Fox, president of the activist group.

Dabble in babble

Twittering, Tweeting.

Sarah Palin approves of it. So does Newt Gingrich, President Obama, Sen. John McCain and a host of political and media heavies who are convinced the social media will help them stay on message and exhibit their personal touch.

But woe is us. New research finds that despite the hype, 41 percent of Twitter messages amount to “pointless babble,” according to Pear Analytics, a San Antonio market research company that actually bothered to sample the actual content of 2,000 messages. Another 38 percent of the messages are bits and pieces of trite conversations. Missives with “pass along value” amounted to about 8 percent while strictly promotional fare made up 6 percent. Meaningful Tweets from the mainstream media accounted for a paltry 3 percent.

Yet all of the aforementioned politicos have broken credible news at Twitter, which reaches 27 million users a month. And those little 140-character Tweets are eagerly sought by prowling journalists who act like they are on a treasure hunt, seizing and immediately publishing what they find.

“As long as you follow a palatable number of people, even allegedly mundane actions bring, on a day-to-day basis, a certain flavor to your view of the world that day. Just like being out on the streets and observing,” says Chris Matyszczyk of CNET News. “Pointless babble?

To a number-cruncher, perhaps. But when did number-crunchers ever tickle the soul?”

Days of yore

On this day in 1814, first lady Dolley Madison

left her own belongings behind but rescued a full-length portrait of George Washington as she fled British troops advancing on the White House.

Happy birthday to the Washington Redskins’ very stalwart quarterback, Hall of Famer and famous No. 9 — Sonny Jurgensen, born in Wilmington, N.C., in 1934. During his career, Jurgensen threw for 32,224 yards and 255 touchdowns on 2,433 completions.

Margaret Truman, daughter of President Truman, gave her first public performance as an opera singer on this day in 1947 at the Hollywood Bowl. Three years later, Washington Post music critic Paul Hume wrote a snippy review of her singing, prompting her father to threaten to punch him in the nose, calling him an “eight-ulcer man on three-ulcer pay.”

And for no particular reason, we announce that the world’s largest frog — weighing in at 7.27 pounds — was caught by the Spanish naturalist Jordi Sabater Pi in Equatorial Guinea along the river Mbia on this day 49 years ago. Legs extended, the mammoth frog, a female Conraua goliath, was 32 inches long.

Quotes of note

“I don’t know about the sequins.” — Tom DeLay, on his new “Dancing With the Stars” gig on ABC.

“Bromance.” — Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s description of MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and President Obama, to Fox News.

“Politicians become disconnected from the way everyone else lives in the world … and it’s easy to drink your own Kool-Aid.” — South Carolina first lady Jenny Sanford, to Vogue.

Michael Vick is back in the NFL. He said he never killed any dogs. He was merely counseling them on end of life issues.” — Bill Maher on HBO.

Poll du jour

67 percent of American voters say Washington politics will become more partisan in the next year.

16 percent say they will be more cooperative.

59 percent say congressional Democrats are acting partisan.

50 percent say the same of congressional Republicans.

51 percent say the next president will be a Republican.

36 percent say a Republican president is unlikely.

Source: A Rasmussen Reports survey of 1,000 likely voters conducted July 18 and 19.

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