Wednesday, July 19, 2006

PR Challenge of a Century 

According to this population projection, by 2025 billions will have moved near oceans, just at a time when the sea level rise becomes critical to dwellers anywhere near shores. How does one stop or at least slow the movement?

The answer, if there is one, is that any one agency doesn't. Governments in affected areas need to work with groups bit by bit to achieve change. It is a public relations exercise that requires many parts to solve, including providing means to work in interior locations.

If I read this map correctly, urbanization will contribute to shoreline density -- people leaving subsistence lifestyles for greater opportunity in cities. This is happening in China where tens of millions of peasants have migrated creating sprawl, difficult living conditions and low-paid employment. It happened in the US less visibly where the Great Plains emptied while US coastlines increased in population. We see what is happening here as hurricanes grow in intensity.

Encouraging citizens to protect themselves by not doing something is a difficult task. People don't listen. Short-term self-interest trumps long-term danger. Yet, in this case, the danger is there, as we saw in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast. Some people have listened and are not returning to shorelines along Louisiana, but shamefully, local governments encourage rebuilding in affected zones.

How does one persuade politicians of the right thing to do? Perhaps that's the greater challenge.


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