J500 Media and the Environment

I’ll Frame It, But It Better Be Cheap… by michellemcgown
October 24, 2008, 9:01 pm
Filed under: Society + Media | Tags: , , , ,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Swaffar from the Kansas Farm Bureau. He wrote a great article about carbon credits and no-till farming and today I got to dig a little deeper into the subject with him and, more importantly, get his take on conveying a message about climate change to Kansas farmers.

Bless Steve’s heart for his honesty. I guess I secretly hoped that he’d give me a magic communication tool to help convey our messages. Sadly, it all seems to come down to “how much money will this save/make me?” His opinion was that no-till farming isn’t going to grow like wildfire over the fact that it benefits the environment (at least not right now) but more for the fact that it’s a time saver, equipment saver, soil saver etc.

Does this mean that we have to frame this idea of climate change around ways to save you money in the long run and then be a little sneaky and slip in the pieces that actually do help the environment? It almost feels a little like we’re tricking people into battling climate change. Not that it’s dirty and wrong, but it’s defiantly disappointing that money is the driving force. I suppose I really hoped it would be a warm, fuzzy, “We are the World” type thing where you just had to pull at people’s heart strings and talk about what earth would be like for their children and children’s children but it seems to be that, for now, it all comes down to a little green piece of paper.
            Steve said farmers are really not seeing the greatest effects of climate change yet and, for now, things are still going ok. Unfortunately, reality won’t set in until it’s drastically affecting their livelihood. The challenge of communicating a concept that’s initially tied to their bottom line and will actually save their livelihood in the future is a daunting one. I suppose at this point, education is key along with a little bit of “sneakiness,”  in a good way of course.

 Michelle M


3 Comments so far
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Hi Michelle,

What you learned from your interview are the same concerns I have when thinking about my upcoming interview with the Chamber of Commerce. While researching businesses and green initiatives, it seems to also come back to the bottom line, and saving or making money. I agree that it’s disappointing. I’m crossing my fingers that businesses will also be interested in creating more jobs and revitalizing communities. I think you’re right, though. We have to frame messages that address our constituents’ concerns and interests about money, and slip in the green stuff in a way that connects to those concerns.

Comment by staceyc08

I went into the health care group with the same thought. Something along the lines of, “Doctors want people to be healthy. So they’ll be gung-ho about becoming environmental champs!” Well, sort of. But saving money and making money are the most important things at the moment.

Aside from missing out on the “We are the World” moment, I don’t see their focus on the bottom line as being a dissapointment. We just have to focus on those positive points, like you have on no-till farming.

The part that scares me is how Mr. Swaffer mentioned the big effects of climate change haven’t hit farmers yet, so things are still OK. As we know, by the time the big effects hit, it will likely be too late in the game to do anything about it.

Comment by chrisr11

You’re right – I really shouldn’t be disspointed wih the money as motivation thing. I guess it’s not as much dissapointment as I just hoped that there would be this genuine interest in making things better for the next generations.

I couldn’t agree more on how Steve’s comment was scary. It’s interesting to think that the more carbon dioxide we create is actually helping plants to grow, for now at least. Here’s an interesting article about why that’s happening.


I’m pleased to see that Farm Bureau is trying to help people find more incentives to adopt no-till and other methods that do go back to finances for now. That way, they’re making a difference at they still reap the benefits.

Comment by michellemcgown

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