In May 2019 it was election time in New South Wales, the Australian state that is home to 7.5 million people.
In one of the regional newspapers, a short article appeared during the campaign period that used the word ‘bulldozed’ twice and the words ‘clearing’, ‘destruction’, and ‘destroyed’ three times each.
The article also contained several emotive words like axed, loss, ban, and excessive.
And there were some choice phrases peppered through the 338 word total including
- bulldozing of native bushland
- habitat was destroyed
- in the past year’s destruction
- wiped off the map
- opening the floodgates to the destruction of forests
- devastating spike in deforestation
- just the tip of the iceberg
- matter of urgency
- destruction of habitat is accelerating
- on track to be extinct
- stop this excessive tree-clearing clearing
- destroyed habitat
- forests that were bulldozed
Any idea what the article was about?
Remember it just before an election and at these times people or AI engines can be prone to a little hyperbole.
Well, here is the headline
Koala habitat destruction nearly doubles in North West since repeal of native vegetation lawsMoree Champion
I know, you guessed it, the koala.
The devastating floodgates of excess have destroyed this cute and cuddly animal with bulldozers.
I added the cute bit.
Except this is a lie.
Of course it is. The article was most likely generated by a bot from a few seed words, even though it claims to be quotes from real people.
The truth is nobody knows how many koala there are in NSW, not even the science specialists have any idea and no obvious way of finding out anytime soon.
Instead of using evidence, the appeal is blatant play on emotions.
Why run with evidence when the truth is that the koala is an adaptable and persistent species that actually benefits from human intervention in the landscape. Regrowth of vegetation provides higher quality food sources than mature forests.
What sustainably FED suggests…
Sustainably FED’s response to the concerned is “Is that the best you can do?”
And if it is, then God will have to help the koala because this kind of nonsense will not.
Here are some more facts.
- Species go extinct. That is how evolution works. As species go extinct so new species evolve for a net gain in diversity over evolutionary time.
- The koala is cute.
- We do not know how soon the koala will go extinct. We do know that it will, eventually.
- The koala is an iconic species that is feted by overseas tourists who value seeing this species as a big part of the reason they come to Australia. This tourist revenue generates significant employment.
We could go on. The point for this post is that the evidence is very different from the rhetoric.
That the normative words are believable is more to do with the emotion they invoke than any of the facts.
This is one of the most important messages of sustainably FED.
We have to be more objective and pragmatic. The facts need to be the facts and not the opinions or emotional triggers.
- some of the facts will be uncomfortable and set off a wave of emotional responses that cloud judgements
- innovation requires open minds and innovation is essential to maintain the resource base
- many of the old ways will have to change and that is never easy but the best way to accept change is to understand why it is necessary
- destruction can be avoided if we stick to the facts and act on what they tell us and not be too swayed by emotions
How do you cope with the emotive word jumbles of modern media? Do you love it or manage somehow to ignore it all?
Maybe you have a trick that would help others cope.