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


Friday 24 August 2007

What is biodiversity: looking for a metaphor

“The heart is a pump”, “the eye is a camera”, “the cell is a factory”, “the kidney is a waste filter”, “the brain is a computer”, “photosynthesis is like baking bread”, “global warming is caused by a CO2 blanket”.

Why do we have such a difficulty in communicating biodiversity? RSPB addressed this issue some years ago from the branding perspective. The Frameworks Institute recently studied the framing of global warming and touched on the same issue. This is what I learned.

There are many definitions of biodiversity. The CBD description is technical, other definitions are descriptive, emotive, or motivational. They are not easy to remember. They do not ‘stick’ or ‘click’ with the general public.

For a communicator trying to ‘sell’ biodiversity, the concept does not seem to address any specific human needs or segmented audiences. Biodiversity has no brain position at all (it does not ring a bell among the public). There is no big story. There is no flavor that resonates with emotional values. What is the added value?

Analyzing other scientific concepts that do resonate with the general public, we see that one has be willing to concede a little scientific and philosophical purity if one wants to communicate these concepts to the public. Analogies or metaphors have proved to be very effective in this respect, if they are:
• Catchy in brief exposures (a few sound bites)
• Easy to understand and remember
• Contagious to think, talk and learn more.
So lets brainstorm metaphors: the magic of life, the engine of nature, the natural health service, the capacity for change, the game of consequences, the missing link in decisionmaking - what other analogies would fit?

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