Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change

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Saturday, 23 June 2007

Not bio-fuels: agro-fuels!

The power of framing. A table was still free at the restaurant overlooking the sculpture garden of the Kroller-Muller Museum, in the middle of our National Parc De Hoge Veluwe (picture). We had spent almost an hour looking at the large Van Gogh collection and now sat down and sipped our large well deserved cappuccinos. We talked about biodiversity, sustainable development and communication. Yolanda Kakabadse, former President of IUCN, had a day off in between meetings and I had offered to take her around. Somehow our conversation touched on the issue of bio-fuels and Yolanda pointed at some of the big question marks of this development.

Actually we should not talk about bio-fuels, but about agro-fuels", I interjected, a bit didactic. Immediately Yolanda’s eyes lighted up: “Yes, I have to write that down”, was her reaction, recognizing that framed this way, it is much easier to talk about the down sides of this development. A week earlier in Brussels I had had the same reaction when I heard the term agro-fuels for the first time from Sonja Ribi, representative of the Swiss National Committee for IUCN. We have to spread the message, I had promised.

If we talk about bio-fuels, our mind immediately associates bio with positive connotations such as biological, environment friendly etc. And we do not want to listen anymore to negative connotations. Agro is associated with large scale industrial production and intensive land use etc. That makes it much more easy to talk about. For e.g. land taken away from local food production etc.

The CEPA toolkit on page 27 of section 1 talks about framing: People have conceptual maps in their minds – or frames - that help them sort incoming information quickly and to make sense of it. The first words of a story can trigger a certain “mental model” in people’s minds so that they say to themselves “Aha, so this is about....” and stop listening to the details. This can make it difficult to change people’s ideas. Research shows that "framing" is a valuable tool for redefining an issue. Good examples from the political discourse are e.g. right-wing catch phrases such as ‘tax relief’ (positioning tax as negative; not as the basis of all the collective provisions we benefit from in our society) etc.
The creative challenge for communicating climate change or biodiversity is ‘how to frame the discourse’.
You can find more on the issue at: 'Framing Science' or 'Media attacked for climate porn'.

3 comments:

Yolanda Kakabadse said...

Frits,
It was great to see you and catch up with our lives! thanks so much for the visit to the park and museum and the ride to Sassenheim. And ..... for the agro-fuels word - I have already started to use it in a paper!
Un abrazo

Yolanda

Sonja Ribi said...

Dear Frits and Wiebke,

Thanks for taking up the term agro-fuels and planting it. I can see you got the message!!!

Warm regards,
Sonja Ribi

Ron Kingham said...

Dear Frits,

Thanks for the link to your blog and the information on "Not bio-fuels: agro-fuels!" which includes the lines:
“Actually we should not talk about bio-fuels, but about agro-fuels", I interjected, a bit didactic. Immediately Yolanda’s eyes lighted up: “Yes, I have to write that down”, was her reaction, recognizing that framed this way, it is much easier to talk about the down sides of this development.

I'm sharing the link with Tom Spencer, our Vice-Chair who is also following the this issue closely.

Regards,
Ron