VIEWPOINT: Why some facts are worth crying over

Posted on 19 November 2013    
Lida Pet-Soede, WWF Coral Triangle programme Leader
© Richard Stonehouse
By Lida Pet-Soede, WWF Coral Triangle Program Leader

Many people hate to say “I told you so,” for fear of being seen as righteous or wanting to have the last word. Often though, one does not have to say it, like when your 10-year old daughter eats too much ice-cream and complains about a tummy ache. You know that she will remember the experience and will avoid the same situation next time.

Listening to my colleague Lory Tan, CEO and Vice Chairman of WWF-Philippines, as he relates how his government is in need of help now that every point in our commissioned climate change scenario report back in 2009 has become true, I wonder if we should just be more clear and say “we told the world so.” But the scale of human loss and devastation is so huge and makes us so sad, that somehow it does not feel right to say it.

Sticking to facts

Decision makers like to see facts and figures before they make their decisions. Emotions may be powerful in convincing single individuals for changing their mind, but sharing emotions hardly ever result in change at global or national levels on matters that will impact hundreds of thousands of people.

This weekend I watched Dear Governor Cuomo, the wonderful concert protest film by Jon Bowermaster who I just met last week at the SlowLife Symposium. The film is part of the protest organized by thousands of New Yorkers against fracking in their state. While the concert features some of the most soulful music I have heard in the longest time, I see how the campaigners–normal New Yorkers who have turned sick, who do not understand how the finance math adds up, or who see how their community is starting to polarise and fall apart–try to control their emotions on stage, as they relate the facts and figures and scientific results. When they started their protest a few years ago, they were asked not to be so emotional and return with facts and figures. One of the protesters almost apologizes for starting to cry a little as she appeals to the logic of the decision makers with the facts and figures that she summarises very clearly.

The power of emotion

Yet, some things seem to be changing. The world saw and commiserated with how Naderev Saño, the chief representative of the Philippines at the Warsaw Climate Change Conference, remained obviously highly professional and very respectful of the international process for collaboration, and yet could not hold back his emotions and launched his personal pledge to get a climate change deal that will be a change maker for good forever.

Because of such an emotional appeal, Avaaz and other campaign support networks are now helping his plight become a movement for change. I also hope my colleague Sam Smith and her team running the WWF energy campaign will get heard this week as they show what beautiful and important parts of our planet are under immediate and direct threat from the illogical and unsustainable race for fossil fuels.

“Everybody is telling everybody they told them so.” The facts don’t lie; we are making our planet sick. It is time we all get very emotional about that.

Lida Pet-Soede, WWF Coral Triangle programme Leader
© Richard Stonehouse Enlarge

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