(Photo: Pexels) This is an excerpt from my latest newsletter, expanding on how fear based media and marketing have become so prevalent.
As I was leaving my book signing session on Saturday, the radio news featured a clip that went something like, “Experts predict that if global warming continues BC forest fires will reach levels four times greater than the record 2017 fire season.” I googled BC forest fires to get a few facts. Since recording started in 1950, last year was indeed the worst on record consuming 1,200,000 hectares of forest. The previous record was set in 1958 with 855,000 hectares consumed. I also learned there are 95M hectares of forest in BC. Therefore in the worst two years since recording started, which were separated by 59 years of time, 0.9% and 1.3% of BC forest burned. If it got four times worse than 2017, 4.8M hectares or 5.0% of the forest would burn in a single year. I am clearly no expert on BC forests, but what do you think the probability of that would be?
In no way do I wish to be-little the 2017 forest devastation in BC. Like 2016 levels in Alberta, both situations were disastrous. I merely wish to ask the rhetorical question, “Why does the news media focus so much on sensationalism and the negative side of issues, and what’s bad rather than what’s good?”
Why do political parties focus so much on the disaster that will occur if we elect their opponent, rather than what good will occur if we elect them? Why has negative advertising become so prevalent in elections?
When you buy virtually anything but groceries these days, how does the conversation typically end? It usually goes something like, “Would you like the extended warranty so if anything goes wrong you’re covered?” My inside voice usually thinks, “So you’re admitting selling a crap product?” But my outside voice is polite and simply says, “No thank you.” Why does marketing often orient towards what bad might happen, if you don’t buy a product or service?
Let’s think about a couple of other issues. My profession is agriculture. Never have we supplied such high quality food at such low prices, in such an environmentally sustainable manner. Yet we remain mired in a twenty-year fear based debate around genetically modified or genetically enhanced organisms (GMO’s). It is so easy to create fear in people’s minds, that while there has never been a human health issue traced back to GMO’s the debate rages on. Large commercial interests selling “organic food” are often behind the fear based marketing campaigns. Bye-the-way, all food is organic. I don’t have much interest in eating in-organic dirt. Another perplexing agricultural related topic is the supposed environmentalists focus towards glyphosate. Yet this herbicide is instrumental in the ability to farm in an environmentally sustainable fashion as it significantly reduces the need for tillage, an operation that requires diesel fuel and causes the release of carbon and water from the soil. Glyphosate is produced by my fiercest competitor so I have no love for the company from a competitive standpoint, but I recognize the tremendous value this product brings to agriculture and thus all food consumers. There is always room for improvement, and agriculture is constantly searching for new and better ways to improve efficiency and environmental sustainability.
The pipeline debate is another focused on fear. Fear of an oil spill is real, but very low. The facts support that pipeline is significantly safer and more efficient than rail, which is much safer and more efficient than truck. Supposed environmentalists protest the general usage of fossil fuels, yet I’m pretty sure most if not all use fossil fuels themselves. How do they heat their homes? Fossil fuels have significantly enhanced our quality of life. Are there negatives? Sure, as with all things there are both negatives and positives. It just seems that we are in an era where the negatives are given significantly more credence than the positives. Many nations on earth don’t enjoy the standard of living we have in Canada, and these supposed environmentalists are trying to prevent other societies from enjoying the economic and quality of life benefits, of an abundant supply of safe energy.
To me true environmentalism supports the judicious use of all available tools while constantly searching for enhancements, more sustainable and efficient or alternative methods, in order to enhance the lives of all peoples and societies.
Last month’s issue discussed how fear impacts the investing world. This issue expands the topic, hopefully illustrating how fear impacts many facets of life. But why is fear and negative based marketing so prevalent? Why are the negatives given so much more credence than the positives? I think it is because we humans react much more easily to fear, than facts. Which headline will garner greater attention? “The market plunged five percent today as investor’s stampede for cover,” or “The market declined by five percent today which is a fairly normal occurrence?”
Yes, unfortunately it is much easier marketing fear than facts. My little rant isn’t going to change this phenomenon. I have however found it beneficial to listen and read with a healthy sense of skepticism, and think about whether an article is fear or fact based.