Spinning the Web
Nestle has been forced to change its environmentally-destructive business practices after a social media coup; what can netroots activists learn from the victory?
After it was revealed that the Swiss food giant sourced its palm oil through Sinar Mas—a company whose operations contribute to the destruction of the Indonesian rain forest—Greenpeace produced a video comparing eating a Kit Kat bar to eating an orangutan. The video certainly makes its point with graphic imagery, but such shock campaigns don't always translate into tangible action. Nestle really started to feel the heat, however, when they ordered the video taken down from YouTube for copyright infringement. Then Greenpeace sent out their call to action: supporters sent emails, made phone calls, and, most importantly, posted angry comments on Nestle's own Facebook page. I say "most importantly" because, unlike emails and phone calls, the Facebook comments didn't just reach the company, they were public for anyone to see. Nestle's PR department only made matters worse by responding rudely to aggressive commenters and also by trying to delete certain comments. Anyone who has tried to moderate a website's comments section knows that nothing can deter some users from posting.
Eventually, the criticism became too much, and Nestle announced Monday that it has begun a new partnership with The Forest Trust to ensure that all their palm oil comes from sources practicing sustainable forestry. As the Guardian points out, this kind of partnership is a first for the palm oil industry, so kudos to Greenpeace.
But how applicable are this battle's lessons to Facebook and web activism in general? As Jeremiah Owyang points out over at Forbes, the need to develop a presence online means that "many companies jump into social marketing before they are ready," leaving themselves open to very public criticisms if their brand falls out of favor with the public. Owyang's overall point is a cynical one, in that it sees in Nestle's unmasking a failure of public relations rather than a success of consumer pressure, but because of this his article emphasizes the fact that a more media-savvy PR department might have been able to spin the Sinar Mas connection into a non-event.
BP seems to have pulled off something of the sort as their rig continues to pour oil into the Gulf of Mexico. They are pretty much ignoring their main Facebook page and instead focusing their web efforts on a collaborative website, Deepwater Horizon Response. As Caitlin McDevitt writes at The Big Money, "The name and collaborative nature of the page is going to discourage people from posting negative comments about BP. And the company can still use it as a platform to tout BP’s coordination of volunteer activities." The best spin makes it seem that nothing's being spun. Someone should tell that to Tony Hayward, BP's CEO, the next time he starts trying to convince the world how "tiny" his company's latest environmental disaster really is.
Explore how alcohol affects your brain, from the first sip at the bar to life-long drinking habits.
- Alcohol is the world's most popular drug and has been a part of human culture for at least 9,000 years.
- Alcohol's effects on the brain range from temporarily limiting mental activity to sustained brain damage, depending on levels consumed and frequency of use.
- Understanding how alcohol affects your brain can help you determine what drinking habits are best for you.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx a team of DNA sequencers has figured that out.
- A team at UMass Amherst recently sequenced the genome of the Canadian lynx.
- It's part of a project intending to sequence the genome of every vertebrate in the world.
- Conservationists interested in the Canadian lynx have a new tool to work with.
If you want to know what makes a Canadian lynx a Canadian lynx, I can now—as of this month—point you directly to the DNA of a Canadian lynx, and say, "That's what makes a lynx a lynx." The genome was sequenced by a team at UMass Amherst, and it's one of 15 animals whose genomes have been sequenced by the Vertebrate Genomes Project, whose stated goal is to sequence the genome of all 66,000 vertebrate species in the world.
Sequencing the genome of a particular species of an animal is important in terms of preserving genetic diversity. Future generations don't necessarily have to worry about our memory of the Canadian Lynx warping the way hearsay warped perception a long time ago.
Artwork: Guillaume le Clerc / Wikimedia Commons
13th-century fantastical depiction of an elephant.
It is easy to see how one can look at 66,000 genomic sequences stored away as being the analogous equivalent of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. It is a potential tool for future conservationists.
But what are the practicalities of sequencing the genome of a lynx beyond engaging with broad bioethical questions? As the animal's habitat shrinks and Earth warms, the Canadian lynx is demonstrating less genetic diversity. Cross-breeding with bobcats in some portions of the lynx's habitat also represents a challenge to the lynx's genetic makeup. The two themselves are also linked: warming climates could drive Canadian lynxes to cross-breed with bobcats.
John Organ, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey's Cooperative Fish and Wildlife units, said to MassLive that the results of the sequencing "can help us look at land conservation strategies to help maintain lynx on the landscape."
What does DNA have to do with land conservation strategies? Consider the fact that the food found in a landscape, the toxins found in a landscape, or the exposure to drugs can have an impact on genetic activity. That potential change can be transmitted down the generative line. If you know exactly how a lynx's DNA is impacted by something, then the environment they occupy can be fine-tuned to meet the needs of the lynx and any other creature that happens to inhabit that particular portion of the earth.
Given that the Trump administration is considering withdrawing protection for the Canadian lynx, a move that caught scientists by surprise, it is worth having as much information on hand as possible for those who have an interest in preserving the health of this creature—all the way down to the building blocks of a lynx's life.
The exploding popularity of the keto diet puts a less used veggie into the spotlight.
- The cauliflower is a vegetable of choice if you're on the keto diet.
- The plant is low in carbs and can replace potatoes, rice and pasta.
- It can be eaten both raw and cooked for different benefits.
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