Who let the dogs out? (Yippi-yi-yo)

On Tuesday I got a bit provocative, asking why science communication hasn’t tapped into really diverse forms of communication. Today, I found out about the climate dogs.

It’s an initiative by the Victorian agriculture department, aiming to reach out to farmers. It looks at the four main drivers of rainfall, personifying them as trained dogs who chase around atmospheric moisture. The embed code for the videos is not wordpress-compatible, but click on the image below to see the short clip of Ridgy strutting his stuff!

Click to see Ridgy working his cartoon magic!

It’s a bit silly and draws heavily on stereotypes – the Australian drawl narrator, the lab-coated science boffins and the like. However, it’s also easy to watch and summarises the science well. It deliberately steers clear of statistics and words like ‘anthropogenic global warming’, because they have become attached to ideological positions and policies, not real-world effects.

I like it. I’m not sure if it does much for the image of scientists, but it’s playful and an easy gateway to a more advanced understanding of the topic. It’s also well produced!

What I worry about is whether it’s condescending. Farmers are very much in touch with weather systems. I’m not sure if they monitor and ascribe impacts to each of the four main drivers concerned, but I’d guess at least some do. I see this bridging the gap between short-term, local drivers – which farmers would understand as well as, or better, than anyone – and the medium term, larger-picture forcing effects. These effects, such as ENSO and the poleward shift in blocking high pressure systems, are where we can detect forcings from human CO2 output, and relating these to rainfall impacts is important.

Best, though, it’s a jumping-off point which can help to build a conversation. It doesn’t preach or ask for action, but it opens the door to interaction. I’ll be interested to see whether it lasts. And while I’m at it – what’s the most radical, silly or interesting example of climate change communication you’ve seen?

Categories: communication, Science, Thoughts | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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