The Alberta government and various partners have been funding a mass public climate indoctrination project under the title of the Alberta Narratives Project.
After its debut in the early spring of 2018, Climate George Marshall of the UK Climate Outreach, returned to Alberta to report on the program’s findings, and we offer this report on Climate George and his MacEwan University presentation.
Contributed by William Kay © 2018
William Kay blogs at Ecofascism.com
Being born in Britain in 1964 preordained George Marshall’s induction into the green crusade. While still in his early twenties George found himself working full-time for the deep ecologist Rainforest Information Centre and moonlighting for Edward Goldsmith’s The Ecologist magazine. Marshall went on to grab plum gigs at Greenpeace USA, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Sting’s Rainforest Foundation. In 2004 he broke out on his own, founding Climate Outreach.
As Director of Programs, George is one of 15 staffers operating out of Climate Outreach’s City of Oxford headquarters. Self-defining as: “Europe’s leading climate change communicators,” Climate Outreach collaborates with several universities, including Oxford and Cambridge, and does contract work for a dozen outfits (IPCC, UNFCCC, Greenpeace, Friends of Earth, WWF and Royal Society for Protection of Birds etc). Additional funding comes in grants from the likes of Cadbury, Rowntree and the European Climate Foundation (a “flow-through” annually disbursing $50 million).
In 2017 Climate Outreach launched a “Global Narratives” pilot project in India to showcase the “Narratives Workshop” methodology they had been honing for a decade. In 2018 they took their show to Canada for the Alberta Narratives Project – “the largest climate change communications project ever conducted.”
Alberta Narratives Project’s “promotion and partner recruitment” phase scored 19 major partners and funders; among them: Alberta Real Estate Foundation, Calgary Foundation, Donner Foundation, Ivey Foundation, University of Calgary, University of Alberta, Government of Alberta, City of Calgary, Suncor and Telus. Prominent on the Steering and Advisory Committees are the Anglican Church and Pembina Institute. The full complement of 75 organisations signing on furnished sufficient resources to employ several operatives for one year, including Marshall and three Climate Outreach subordinates.
The Project’s second phase trained 87 Albertans in narrative workshop technique. These nube “climate communicators” represented 11 cohorts, to wit: rural, youth, faith, farmers, business, environmentalists, policy-makers, immigrants, energy professionals, oil and gas workers, and “small c” conservatives. The oil and gas workers workshop took place in Grande Prairie aided by the enviro-group, Iron and Earth. “Small c” conservatives were corralled by Canada West Foundation.
The Project’s indigenous outreach failed. The final report abjectly re-prints three statements from aboriginal activists who rejected the process for being insufficiently centered on themselves. To further bow and scrape, Marshall held an indigenous-only roundtable after the report’s publication.
The Project’s main phase consisted of 55 “narrative workshops” held across Alberta between April and June. Although “narrative workshop” is flogged like a Climate Outreach trademark, it is synonymous with “focus group.”
The US Government deployed focus groups during WWII to gauge propaganda effectiveness; and has used them ever since. Focus groups became a standard marketing tool for business; particularly helpful in the roll-out of new products. Focus group professionals assemble representative samples of identifiable cohorts and then lead them through informal conversations about specific topics. Trained moderators keep the group focussed.
Back in the day, focus group conversations were secretly observed through one-way mirrors. Today videos are standard. Inserting covert participants into the conversing group remains common. Climate Outreach does not deploy secret agents, nevertheless both the intention and the main topic of their workshops are kept from participants. The climate change topic is surreptitiously injected into the conversation around the 40-minute mark.
Climate Outreach’s “narrative workshops” copy corporate practises. While “mini” focus groups have as few as four participants, the industry standard is to have around 9 attendees. Dividing the total number of Alberta Narrative Project attendees (482) by the number of workshops (55) yields an average attendance of 8.8. Marketing pros prefer a 2-hour focus group session. Dividing the total number of hours of Project workshop conversation (120) by the number of workshops yields a 2.1 hour average. George goes by the book.
Each “narrative workshop” followed the same script. Discussions ascended seven steps: values, identity, change, climate change, climate change impacts and fossil fuel dependency, before rising in ecstatic communion to: renewable energy.
The “evaluation and analysis” phase follows the workshop phase. George’s team poured over 720 pages of conversation transcripts strewn across tables in their “bunker” at Alberta Eco-Trust offices. They also evaluated 2,410 pages of forms filled out by participants. Participants were asked to agree or disagree with statements on five-page lists. Participants located their own political orientation on a spectrum from “very left” to “very conservative.”
It distressed Marshall to see how few participants thought fossil fuel burning caused climate change. He bemoans how the “conventional narrative does not work well in Alberta.” This is a land where “climate change has a low profile.” Asked if “Climate change is the most important issue” less than 10% agreed. Albertans remain divided over whether climate change is human-caused.
Marshall concluded Albertans are under-informed about climate change; especially about the threat’s imminence. He records this and other conclusions and recommendations in his 70-page, Communicating Climate Change and Energy in Alberta.
The Project affirmed one Climate Outreach mantra: political values predict climate opinions. The report references a 2016 overview of 171 studies from 56 countries that found one’s political orientation determines one’s level of concern about climate change; especially among English-speaking people.
Marshall envisions a new, more trustworthy battalion of climate communicators capable of improving Albertans’ climate literacy. These communicators will recognise facts and move on. They will build the cross-party consensus enjoyed by Germans, Danes and Swedes – nations reaping the rewards of green tech leadership.
Marshall recommends Albertan climate communicators not mention pipelines as this topic is too polarizing. Climate communicators should use the word “transition” sparingly, and never suggest renewables will completely replace fossil fuels. Communicators should avoid “green absolutism.” Don’t warn of “huge immediate threats.” Don’t allocate blame for climate change. (George adds that the NDP’s “Made in Alberta” slogan tests poorly.)
To initiate positive conversations, climate communicators should exude an “attitude of gratitude” toward the oil and gas sector. They should turn the pride Albertans feel toward oil sands development into an exemplar of what Albertan values and skills can achieve in the coming renewable energy boom. They should turn Albertans’ pride in their natural resource endowment into pride in Alberta’s wind, water and solar potential. Communicators should stress the benefits of economic diversification. Communicators should never stop experimenting with their climate-message testing; and always ask what narratives resonate best.
The report references 5 recent Canadian climate-message testing experiments.
The Federal Government’s “Generation Energy” held 60 “engagement sessions.”
The Alberta Climate Dialogue ran from 2007 to 2014 and involved researchers from 15 universities. Discovering that anthropogenic climate change was not widely accepted in Alberta, the researchers recommended using multiple rationales, including public health, to pitch energy transition.
In 2016 Environics’ held focus groups in Calgary to test slogans on: active allies, passive allies, passive opponents, and active opponents.
The 2017 Energy Futures Lab germinated climate leaders through public engagement and a Leadership Bootcamp.
Most recently, Alberta Message Testing posted 100 news combos on Facebook then tallied the reads, shares and comments each combo generated. Their “Alberta youth don’t see a future in oil and gas” concept was re-tested in the Alberta Narratives Project.
A Climate Outreach video shows George spouting: “this (climate change) is the single most important issue of our time.” George, however, counsels climate communicators not to use this line with the semi-literate plebes, as such messaging does not “test well.” This is one example of a pattern of condescension and manipulation; a pattern of disingenuity; of pretending to know less than one really does. George recommends flattering Albertans; pandering to their chauvinisms to gull them into accepting renewables.
The most damning revelations from the Alberta Narratives Project are its gleanings around “climate silence.” Participants found it hard to talk about climate change. For most this was their first chance to speak about climate. These people have been bombarded and browbeaten with climate alarmist propaganda for their entire lives; yet this was the first opportunity they were given to express themselves on the topic; and this opportunity turned out to be a Big Green psyop. Some democracy we have.
Abruptly at noon George bolted from the volunteer send-off at MacEwan U so he could make his luncheon date with Alberta Government mandarins.