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Burnies versus Greenies ?

Refocusing the communication challenge for the Greens (Part #1)

Variety of environment-endangering processes associated with Burnies
Complicity of Greenies and Burnies?

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Groups promoting environmental conservation in any form are frequently labelled as Greens. The term is used both by themselves, as in Green Party, and by those critical of them or opposed to their policies. Use of "green" is of course consistent with a range of colours in the natural environment, typically forest leaves and grass. In an increasingly urbanised world, the term may be used with respect to any "green belt" protected by planning regulations around cities.

The variant, "Greenies" is notably employed as a term of deprecation to refer to opponents of unchecked urban development and industrialisation. It then carries implications of innocence and ignorance to frame the Greens as misinformed and misguided in their arguments and policies. Another connotation is "wet" -- as associated with immature and "wet behind the ears". This usage then exploits some qualities valued and promoted by the Greens, namely the innocence of nature unsullied by industrialisation, and a precautionary principle in the light of potential ignorance regarding the consequence of ill-conceived development. Use of "Greenies" is readily associated with the strategic arguments of those who rely on the slogan There Is No Alternative (TINA) -- an implicit disparagement of Green strategies.

For communication purposes, the Greens do not appear to have been able to frame, with an equivalent term, those promoting policies endeavouring to endanger the natural environment. The question explored here is the possibility of facilitating the promotion of Green policies through identifying such a term in relation to the policies and mindsets associated with such problematic attitudes. The term of deprecation proposed here is "Burnies" -- as a variation of "Burn", namely analogous to the deprecatory use of "Greenies". This gives a focus to what Burnies stand for -- effectively naming the, as a problem, from the Green perspective.

As with "Green", "Burn" also has valued qualities for those with whom it can be associated -- being a notable feature of the industrial revolution and processes characteristic of industrialisation. Recognition of this ambiguity helps to avoid the extremes of negative campaigning.

This exploratory exercise is seen as a contribution to reflection on the communication processes essential in a highly media-sensitive environment. As with respect to other political campaigns, it is a question of identity and image. The argument being that the "Greens" have been deprived of an advantage by allowing qualities associated with their identity to be reframed for purpose of deprecation by their opponents. In a political context, consideration can be usefully given to returning the favour and providing a label with which policies and groups endangering the environment can be associated -- hence "Burnies".

With respect to the environment, an earlier framing envisaged counterparts to Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (Wanted: Enemies of the Earth and Greenwar International, 1992). In an effort to transcend "negative campaigning", use of "Burnies" could then be understood in terms of creative "negative strategies" (Liberating Provocations: use of negative and paradoxical strategies, 2005).

The approach follows from previous consideration of the misuse of military metaphors to frame sustainable development initiatives (Enhancing Sustainable Development Strategies through Avoidance of Military Metaphors, 1998). Such use of metaphor is seen as characteristic of emergent "memetic warfare", as separately discussed (Missiles, Missives, Missions and Memetic Warfare: navigation of strategic interfaces in multidimensional knowledge space, 2001; Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008; Globallooning -- Strategic Inflation of Expectations and Inconsequential Drift: Global, Glo-Bull, Glow-Ball, Glow-Bawl, 2009).

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