Bluewashing vs. Vertical Agitation

Bluewashing, a phenomenon I first described in this article about Al Gore getting hammered for eating sea bass, has made it in Schott's Vocab at the New York Times. The confusion involved in seafood consumer campaigns was also recently highlighted by Marc -- Mental Masala at The Ethicurean and also by Frank Nelson at Miller-McCune. Nelson points out:

While the influence of consumers alone may be open to question, many believe such campaigns are a vital first step, seeding the idea of change and influencing those higher up the decision-making chain, such as restaurant chefs and wholesale seafood buyers.

This point is often made and there seems to be no doubt that wallet cards have helped lay the groundwork for working with retailers. However, was the awareness that was raised with walletcards superior to other types of awareness campaigns? Was a wallet card the best medium? Wallet cards still has us primarily engaged as consumers. Could there have been something that engaged us also at citizens?

These were a few of the questions I hoped to address on Friday at the World Affairs Council in San Francisco, speaking alongside environmental lawyer Meg Caldwell and Captain Charlie Moore of the Agalita Foundation. In my talk on vertical agitation and marine conservation, I pointed toward the non-regulatory efforts by Greenpeace (such as the Traitor Joe's campaign, which ran full ads in the New York Times and sent volunteers to every Trader Joe's store in America), Fish2Fork, and the revitalized effort to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on CITES Appendix I (which the EU now supports) -- the meetings opened on Saturday and many marine species are up for listing. I hope to follow what happens...


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I'm usually not a fan of adversarial action by e-NGOs because I see it as more often than not being used for fundraising rather than to achieve measurable environmental outcomes. However, I would be interested to see the outcomes of Greenpeace's (and other e-NGOs) focus on retail chains. How many were targeted? How many/what percentage changed their purchasing procedures? What percentage of seafood sales (by pound and value) did those chains represent?

If those kind of results came back positive, it would be an excellent model for those that support a more adversarial approach to environmental activism.

By Bradley Soule (not verified) on 15 Mar 2010 #permalink