I read about this poster yesterday, and I was curious and looked it up. It’s all over the internet, so the chances are you’ve seen it before. It’s a public information poster from the US during the Second World War, encouraging people not to waste fuel by driving alone.
As public information posters go, it doesn’t pull its punches, but I was more interested in the modern parallels. In age of climate change, we urgently need these kinds of messages to be filtering through to the general public. Awareness of energy conservation and CO2 emissions needs to take a massive step up. We need positive peer pressure to make it normal to save energy and cut carbon wherever we can – including car sharing.
What struck me about the poster is how useful it is to have a villain with a face. In a war situation, everyone knows who the enemy is, they’re personified and easy to identify. (Easy to demonise too of course, and plenty of propaganda is based around justifying war that way) The contrast with climate change is stark. The enemy is an invisible gas. The damage done is in slow motion, over decades.
As Adrian Monck and Mike Hanley say in their book Crunch Time, “our adaptive strategies make us peculiarly ill suited to mobilising to tackle environmental issues. The war on terror can be personalised with names and faces – ‘bad guys’ – the war on global warming can’t.”