You (Tube) Can Make A Difference

Whilst on YouTube, idly browsing through videos, I stumbled across one called "The Most Terrifying Video You Will Ever See."
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Over the last week or so, I have spent an inordinate amount of time online. This is largely owed to the fact that I have a book releasing in the spring, and the hour is nigh for coming up with some creative marketing ideas (according to my publisher, anyway.) So I have been scoping YouTube, perusing Facebook and MySpace, checking out the hottest (non-porn) websites -- all in hopes of stumbling on some brilliant means of affordable and effective advertisement. After hours of mind-numbing and fruitless forays into cyber-space, today I finally found some serious inspiration. Although it wasn't exactly the kind of inspiration I had been looking for, I think that it was exactly the kind I needed.

Whilst on YouTube, idly browsing through videos, I stumbled across one called "The Most Terrifying Video You Will Ever See." Created by someone with the YouTube screen name "wonderingmind42," it is a homemade video, nothing flashy. It uses a dry-erase board and a sharpie wielded by an earnest narrator to posit a re-framing of how people approach the issue of global warming. I was intrigued by the hit count -- it's hard to tell with YouTube, but it looks to be well over 100,000 hits on that one incarnation, and I later saw its viewings estimated at anywhere from 300,000 to one million. Wonderingmind42 has actually recently re-filmed and re-titled that first video, so that it would address questions and issues his "critics" on YouTube raised -- the newest version, which is similar in tone but a bit snappier, is called "How it All Ends." He also has created separate videos that address some of the more common questions raised by his guiding thesis. In everything I watched, (and I ended up watching darn near all of them), I was taken by the sincerity and creativity with which this man put forward his theory, and the grand vision he had for what his simple video message could achieve. Happy for the distraction, I spent the afternoon furiously Googling in an attempt to know more about this geeky everyman's heroic quest.

I discovered that wonderingmind42 is really Greg Craven, a high school science teacher in Oregon with a wife and two young daughters. All in all, Greg has made 61 YouTube videos about global warming, as well as creating a website dedicated to the subject. It is difficult to estimate how much time, and to a lesser degree, money, he has devoted to this. At the very least, we all know websites aren't free. And the videos, while not highly professional, have doubtless taken hours and hours to write and film. The amazing part is that none of this appears to have been done with an eye towards financial reward, or, possibly even stranger, given our digital day and age, fame of any kind. It was downright difficult to even sleuth out his real name. And his MySpace pages (he has two) only boast a few "friends," although he has the video posted up there as well, for all to see. Everything I found out about him brought me to the same inescapable conclusion -- this man is doing a selfless thing. He is using what resources and intelligence he possesses (in my opinion, although the former may be meager, certainly the latter is far more than what most of us get) to propagate a message he believes in, for no reason other than he believes it desperately needs to be heard. As I scrolled through the comments on his MySpace page, most of which were from former or current students, I saw a remarkable thing -- these kids really respect and like their chemistry teacher. One of them, now in college, comments how a teacher like him should be working at a university. Another thanks Mr. Craven for "giving up his Saturday" to send her some "volcano information" for a friend. For me, that sealed it -- this guy is for real.

Although I know the reasons Greg Craven isn't doing this, I found it more interesting to ponder the reasons he is. He says, in his videos, that it is because he thinks knowledge and education have the power to change the direction of our current national debate on the subject of climate change. I suspect it might also be to insure a better tomorrow for his two young daughters, given his evident "newish dad" pride and adoration. So yeah.....Greg Craven, at least as far as I can tell, stands for education, truth, and family. I could pay a marketing team tens of thousands and still not come up with a better advertising -- or even campaigning -- motto than that. Except that Greg, you must remember, isn't trying to sell anything, or get elected to office. He just believes that if people watch his videos, they might act, or at the very least, think differently. So the next time you are feeling cynical, or hopeless, or uninspired (like I kinda was), check it out: Because maybe...just maybe.... he isn't wrong.