[Part 6 of the Beyond the Underpants Gnomes series, a response to Bill McKibben]
Taking on corporations around the globe may sound insanely ambitious, but boring it’s not. But using local/state government? It’s more Kumbaya than Mortal Kombat. Sure, there’s evil here — just ask the environmental justice groups who fight against toxic dumps and pollution-induced childhood asthma in inner-city neighborhoods. But if mayors like Bloomberg are on your side, we’re not talking social justice-style bloodsport. And that makes it a lot harder to get massive numbers of folks fired up enough to mobilize big-time. So how do we add some sizzle?
Here’s one way to do it: turn it into a sport. Cities around the globe could compete against each other to see who could make the biggest drops in CO2 emissions — like the Solar Decathlon only with a lot more smack talk.
And like real sports, we could tweak the rules to make it a more exciting contest — one where Dallas or Seoul might stand a chance of wiping the smug off San Francisco’s face.
The key to making this work is to make it as fun and as head-bangingly competitive as possible to really get folks bloodlust up. To take very geeky discussions about, say, the right kinds of solar panels or filtration systems and tie them back to a bigger picture of who’s the bigger badass. To take the stats and serve them up with style. In other words, to actually treat it like a sport and try to use the same kind of tricks that help rev up cadres of obsessed sports fans. Call it ESPNization.
The best way to pull this off? Bring the “obsessive entertainment behavioral economics” experts — sportscasters and sportswriters from around the globe — into the mix from the beginning. You’d end up with a much better result than if enviros just did it on their own (not to mention better media coverage).
There are plenty of ways to play off the idea. Cities could pull in their actual sports teams to help rally folks. And for cities that already have sports rivalries, it’s another great way to go at each other.
Mind you, it’d take some effort to work out the details of the contest. For example, does it make sense to have different leagues so cities in undeveloped countries that don’t have the kind of resources a San Francisco has could still have a chance of winning? Or maybe teams of cities could go head-to-head — take the usually bland “sister city” concept and juice it up, giving cities with more money and incentives to really help out cities with less?
We might also want rules to promote sharing ideas across cities. Maybe you’d win points for new innovations — even more points if other cities used your innovations.
And we’d certainly want to think about how we incorporate social justice/equity. Maybe you’d win points for a Green for All-style approach – or lose them if all the benefits skipped inner cities and slums.
Yes, working out the rules – and dealing with attempts to game the rules or cheat – would take a lot of work. But we’ve got that problem right now. The difference is that today nobody except for a handful of Enviro nerds pay attention to the details that tell you cities are really reducing their CO2 emissions. With the games, we’d have obsessed fans around the globe watching the details like a hawk. In fact, if we do it right, fights over scoring, over refs, over all of the nitty gritty details would actually strengthen the drive to stop global warming.
How would we know it’s working? My “metric” would be when Lou Dobbs started ranting that Koreatowns across the US were acting as a fifth column for Seoul.
I don’t know enough about global politics to know if this idea would work, or if it would create more problems than it’s worth it. And no, I’m not crazy enough to think that creating bike paths will have more drama than a mid-court three point basket. My point in spinning this out is just to show that with a little creativity, there are plenty of ways to play on the Local Board that would get folks fired up.
Up Next: Ready, Fire, Aim!