The meaning of the message

When I think about the number of messages that my brain processes in one day, it’s a bit overwhelming.Research shows that the average person is bombarded with over 6000 distinct messages a day, and it seems like that number is increasing at an exponential rate.

So what makes a messages tick? Why do I remember her name and not his, one newspaper story but not the next? Relevance. A message has to personally mean something to me, or it’s gone.

The question, ‘what does it mean to me’ is especially salient when it comes to environmental issues. Global warming has become the message of the century and every environmental issue wants to get a bit of the limelight. In many cases, the ‘what does it mean tome’ question has been replaced by ‘how does this connect to global warming’.

Global warming touches every part of the world, but I’m still trying to figure out what it means to me. I know sea levels are rising, the arctic ice sheets are melting and vegetation is steadily moving northwards, but somehow these things don’t feel tangible. As a world-wide problem, global warming affects us all, but sometimes being part of an audience of 6.6 billion can be strangely isolating.

The environmental messages that stick with me are the ones that answer both questions; ‘what does it mean to me’ and ‘how does this connect to global warming’.

Example: Dogwood’s No Tanker campaign

1. What does it mean to me?
Oil tanker spills and pipelines in Northern British Columbia mean massive ecosystem destruction in one of the most beautiful parts of our province and in a place I think is at the heart of our cultural heritage and character.

2. How does this connect to global warming?
Transportation infrastructure like oil tankers and pipelines support the expansion of the global warming behemoth, the Alberta tar sands. Plus, the accelerated development of the tar sands and planned oil exports to Asia do nothing to help Canada transition to alternative energy sources and our long-term energy security.

As the new OutreachCoordinator at Dogwood, I’m trying to figure out how to connect supporters with our No Tanker message. It’s a bit daunting to think that I’m up against 6000other messages a day to try and get people to think about the impact of oil tankers on British Columbia’s north coast.

But the more that I learn about the issue, the more I realize how potential  tankers on our coast do matter to so many different people, in so many different ways. Northern communities face increased corporate control over local lands, coastal fishing and tourism sectors will beat risk of oil spills and First Nations aboriginal title and rights potentially undermined.

If we allow massive oil and gas infrastructure projects such as oil tanker traffic and the construction of oil pipelines, we are determining the future of  our region, and collectively hindering any action to slow global warming in this province. This message should mean something to all British Columbians.

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