Plug-in hybrids, windmills, and clothes lines? Dude, that stuff is for chicks, right?
All glibness aside, a new survey of what Americans believe about the climate crisis -- and why -- reveals that a majority of those surveyed consider the issue to be more soft and feminine than strong and burly.
"It's culturally "macho" to dismiss global warming as a problem and solving problems (including global warming) is perceived as feminine," the authors note. "To the extent men are concerned, climate is about the cost and other tradeoffs involved in solving the problem."
The American Climate Values Survey, released earlier this month by marketing and research nonprofit ecoAmerica, examines current environmental values and motivations. SRI Consulting Business Intelligence conducted the study with sponsorship from Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection, the California Department of Conservation, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and The Nature Conservancy.
While women have a more positive view of being environmentally friendly, the researchers conclude, "men are less concerned about global warming and more likely to think that addressing it will entail negative personal and economic consequences."
"In every respect, women in general are much more aligned with environmental and climate values than men," the authors conclude. "They are more aware, more concerned, more motivated and more likely to see global warming solutions as opportunities."
Meanwhile, in the current energy debate, drilling for oil and gas, and mining for coal -- the planet-heating "business as usual" strategies championed by John McCain and Sarah Palin -- are viewed as far more manly and macho. "They resonate well with people who have a masculine cultural perspective," the report says.
The research is intended to help green-leaning non-government organizations craft more effective climate messages and behavior-change campaigns. It suggests that social marketers might consider injecting a little horsepower into the climate-solutions conversation.
Global warming solutions such as 'green tech' don't have a tough edge. They are seen as soft - more feminine. Being 'tender' can be an obstacle. Given that 'finding solutions' is perceived as culturally feminine, finding and framing arguments with macho appeal is key to communicating with a broader swath of Americans. This is an important marketing challenge - 'real men' need to fight global warming too."
Prediction: Watch for the next "We Can Solve It" spot to feature the all-electric 248 horsepower Tesla Roadster, blazing down a lonely highway. All they'd need to do is dub in a little old-fashioned engine rumble.
James Glave is the author of Almost Green: How I Saved 1/6th of a Billionth of the Planet (Skyhorse Publishing, $25). He blogs at glave.com.