Archivo del June, 2016

Anthropocene is coming

“Winter is Coming” is the motto of House Stark, and a current example of metonymy: winter implies a warning, meaning we should all be in a constant mood of vigilance. Marketing uses metonymies, in that these substitute words make it possible to increase the experiential component of our communication.

The term Anthropocene was popularised by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen in an article entitled “Geology of mankind” in the journal Nature. The word has taken root, and even jumped to other fields such as management (see “Welcome to the Anthropocene”, The Economist, 2011). As a word, it encapsulates the idea that Holocene – the scientific term referring to the present era – is no longer an adequate description: we now live in an age in which human behaviour has modified the geology of the Earth.

Many climate scientists are reluctant to use the Anthropocene concept, offering various reasons: it has no exact meaning, its scientific validity is under scrutiny, alternative words such as Capitolecene (the geological era from capitalism) are available. But these scientists don’t see the same utility in words that we see in marketing: words are powerful, they change the way people speak and think, and they cause their recipients to reframe their perception of the world. And reframing is a key element in a changing culture. As the American cognitive linguist George Lakoff once said, reframing is social change.

Anthropocene is a word that contributes more emotional experience to our attempts to bring about a behavioural change. The model proposed by the Australian researcher Gillian King exemplifies this social marketing approach: there’s Pain Island – the place where we are now – and Pleasure Island – the wonderful place where there is no pain and all is good. And there’s also the Boat, the mechanism to get there.

Pain Island is the Anthropocene. We have created a word that conveys stories, narratives and images of climate change. And it provides a complementary view of a real alternative for the future, thereby helping people visualise the direction in which we should aim our social change.

“Winter is coming”: we need to be prepared for what’s coming. As in House Stark, it’s not pessimism; it’s pragmatism.

Collaborations | Leave a comment Permalink