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I clearly remember being amazed to hear -on an old fashioned radio show- of these wonders named the internet (the Web!) and electronic mail. Actually seeing it for the first time in 1994 just blew me away; this text and image on the screen was directly served from a computer on the other side of the world! And I didn't even have to log in like I was used to do with BB Systems! A giant interconnected system of people and computers, such potential for sharing worthwhile information and gossip!
Fast forward to 2007: The internet has grown up. We live in interesting times. Never has communication with your favourite actor, nemesis or fellow neoclassical poetry enthusiast been this easy. Never has the world felt this small. Globalisation truly is an awesome development when it comes to communication with our fellow earthlings (the ones who are connected that is, we'd better make sure everyone benefits). Most importantly: my girlfriend and I would never have been together, or even known of each others existence, if not for this wonderful mesh of copper, computers and human brilliance. While we still needed to meet in real life to actually fall in love we already knew each other well before knowing what the other looked like.
All this is leading to the following, rather obvious, statement: the internet is an extremely powerful medium, used properly it empowers people to change their own life and affect global issues. More traditional media as newspapers, radio or television don't give people (at least) the idea they are there, where it happens, making a difference. Internet communication encompasses and supports all the ground works of what makes campaigning and direct action great; speed, interaction, communication between various levels and most importantly the ability to be passionate about something.
When I think of Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth and Oceana (to name but a few) I think about passionate people on a mission, people with a fire inside to change the world for the better. I think of organisations with a personality, boiling with energy and bright ideas, organisations with an attitude. However, visiting the website of many an environmental NGO you might as well end up on the Exxon environmental homepage. It's green communication in a fancy corporate jacket all the way. Naturally the issues are neatly stacked in a list to pick from, angry words regarding the current situation are smoothly wrapped in policy statements, and the obligatory blogs or diaries are well represented to provide some "insight".. These organisations seem to be run by a dull bunch of people. However..
However, however.. thing is that I've been there. I KNOW the volunteers, activists and campaigners are all fiercely passionate, all fired up with energy and willing to put on a non-violent fight any day of the week. I've been walking around a fair number of Greenpeace, and a number of Friends of the Earth, buildings and events and can safely say these buildings were vibrating from the energy emitted by the passionate action (pardon me for being corny). It just seems to be lost in translation, lost between activist campaigner and (surely equally passionate) public relations official. It's a damn shame!
A good writer and motivator would now come with a nicely formatted list of ideas and suggestions. I do not. Instead I have a simple plea to make: Dear environmental NGOs, would it be too much to ask to show some more of a human face in your web communication from time to time, some more real opinions from real people; your CEO, a campaigner or a scientist. An insightful post on a group blog would be something already. Maybe your public relations people are afraid of possible image loss, not being seen cuddly or political correct enough? Stand up! You're an NGO with guts, not some cold and alien insurance company. People -who might be donating money and time- want to hear reasoning, why certain decisions are made and which issues are currently important. Environmental NGOs are supposed to be organisations on a mission, so talk about it, let us hear you are angry Mr. NGO!
Maybe I'm completely wrong. Maybe it's not possible, in these times of public relation strategies and constantly monitored click through rates, to show too much of a human touch. Maybe it's too much of a risk for the wider PR strategy to risk having a rogue comment on the loose. It's a damn shame to loose out on such an opportunity though. I've been there, I've seen the passion, the energy and the ideas people have. That corporate image is a fake one, show your real, world-changing faces, greenies!
Update: I just stumbled upon a post by Brian Fitzgerald writing about the same issue. Now to be clear: I'm not asking for secrets or daily diaries, I'm just pleading for some more online environmental passion from my beloved campaigning organisations! :)