A low-budget, low-tech YouTube video on climate change policy decisionmaking sets an exceptional example of effective communications on a complex subject.
What the Toronto Star has called a “viral sensation” by a 38-year-old Monmouth, Oregon, high school science teacher now is among the most viewed videos in YouTube’s news and politics category, with total views exceeding three million.
Sitting in a blue tee-shirt before a video camera, Greg Craven – “hopped up on Red Bull and Little Caesars pizza,” the Star reported – delivers what he told the Star is “my midlife crisis and my magnum opus, and my nervous breakdown and my enlightenment experience all rolled into one.”
To University of North Carolina Knight Journalism Chair Philip Meyer, author of Precision Journalism and The Vanishing Newspaper, it’s quite a bit more too.
“Nice!” Meyer said by e-mail after viewing The Most Terrifying Video You’ll Ever See. “It’s an application of game theory to decision making, and I’m going to share it with my reporting class in the spring.”
Rather than spoil it – and your enjoyment of it – by translating it into cold words here, better that you visit the site and experience it for yourself.
See for yourself how the science teacher constructs a simple grid with two horizontal rows representing “False” for concerns about global warming are unjustified, and “True” for those concerns being justified; and two vertical columns representing actions taken or not taken to control greenhouse gas emissions. He paints equally positive and dire consequences for taking or not taking actions in terms of costs and benefits.
By his logic, which Craven invites viewers to challenge, we humans can only influence which actions, if any, we take to mitigate adverse climate change impacts. His reasoning leads unequivocally to moving forward with addressing what he says is “likely to be the greatest threat that humanity has ever faced.”
Asking if that characterization is “overstated,” he replies, “Maybe, but can you be so certain that you’re willing to bet everything? Because we only get to run this experiment once.” He says he hopes his risk-management exercise will end the societal debate given that “it’s time for the best of us to come out.”
What makes Craven’s video so fetching for many is the “plain guy next door” nature of the messenger. No fancy make up. No big title or Hollywood stars. No klieg lights. No pans and fancy fades, not even a “crawl” across the bottom of the screen. In the various iterations of the video, a cheap prop here and there, a blackboard and chalk. Not much more.
But don’t read about it here. Go see it for yourself. You’ll be glad you did.